By Petra Olsson from Cambridge English Language Assessment
In 2015, the UK’s Visa and Immigration service (UKVI) changed its rules affecting the English language tests needed to work or study in the UK. Many students are unsure if they need to take a Secure English Language Test (SELT) or another kind of English test. This quick guide outlines the key facts about who needs to take a SELT and, more importantly, who doesn’t!
First of all, let’s look at the different types of English tests:
1. SELTs – These are the tests that the UKVI accept for visa purposes (e.g. IELTS for UKVI).
2. Non-SELTs – these are other English tests that are not on the UKVI list (for example Cambridge English: Advanced and Proficiency), but some can still be used to obtain a study visa.
So, who needs to take a SELT?
1. If you need a study visa (a Tier 4 visa) and are going to study at a level below undergraduate level (for example a foundation course) you will need to take a SELT.
2. If you need a Tier 4 visa and are going to study at undergraduate level and above, you may need to take a SELT, but only if the university asks you to.
Most universities in the UK will not ask you to take a SELT.
Who does not need to take a SELT?
1. If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen or do not need a visa for other reasons.
2. If you are a student who is a national of an English-speaking country listed on UKVI’s website (or have a bachelor’s degree or higher from one of these countries).
3. If the above two categories don’t apply to you and you are intending to study at undergraduate level or above (unless the specific university asks for a SELT).
Even if you do not need to take a SELT, the university may still need you to prove your English ability. The university can choose which English tests they accept, and they will decide what scores you will need to achieve.
What do you need to think about before choosing an English test?
• First of all, check with the university what English tests are accepted. IELTS and the Cambridge English exams are widely accepted, but always check what score you will need to achieve for your specific course.
• Check for test centres and dates well in advance to make sure that you will have time to sit the exam before the university deadline.
• Will you need to use your English certificate after your studies? Some tests scores will only be valid for 2 years. Others will not officially expire (for example Cambridge English: Advanced and Proficiency) and you will be able to add your achievement to your CV.
Find out more
Check your visa requirements on the UKVI website, but remember – the rules can change.
Contact your chosen institution to find out what the English requirements are for your course, and which exams and grades they accept.
If you do need to take a SELT, two exams are currently accepted by UKVI:
IELTS for UKVI – available in the UK and overseas
Integrated Skills in English – available in the UK only.
About Petra Olsson
Petra is Stakeholder and Key Account Manager (UK & Ireland) for Cambridge English Language Assessment– a not-for-profit department of the University of Cambridge.
Cambridge English provides qualifications for learners and teachers of English, including exams widely accepted for applications to UK higher education providers, such as: Cambridge English: First; Cambridge English: Advanced; and Cambridge English: Proficiency. For more information about the Cambridge English exams please visit www.cambridgeenglish.org/.
Cambridge English, together with IDP: IELTS Australia and British Council, are the producers of IELTS for UKVI.