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To apply for Skilled Migration, your English language ability must be proven by all applicants. With four different levels of English, the required English level depends on the visa subclass you are applying for.

These levels include:

  • Superior English: 20 points in GSM points test
  • Proficient English: 10 points in GSM points test
  • Competent English: threshold requirement for General Skilled Migration and ENS/RSMS Direct Entry
  • Vocational English: threshold requirement for ENS/RSMS Temporary Residence Transition Stream
  • Functional English: for secondary applicants seeking to avoid paying the English Language Charge
Timing of English

The English language requirement timing depends on the type of visa you are applying for:

  • General Skilled Migration: time of invitation
  • RSMS and ENS visas: time of application

Due to the length of time to book a test and receive the results can be lengthy, it may be best to take the English test early.

Validity of English Tests

The Department of Immigration will accept tests conducted up to 3 years before lodging an application.

But, functional English stands as the exception, as testing is required to have been conducted 12 months before lodgement, at its latest.

Acceptable English Tests

The IELTS test / IELTS Australia /computer-delivered IELTS is the most common way of evidencing an applicant’s ability of the English language. The Department of Immigration accept the Academic and General Training versions of the test, although certain skills assessing authorities need applicants to sit the Academic version. A minimum score is the required in each band of the IELTS (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking) in a single session.

The Occupational English Test (OET) is accepted evidence for proficient and superior levels of English. The OET is strictly set for medical and allied health professionals.

The Pearson Academic Test of English (Pearson PTE) and TOEFL Internet Based Test (TOEFL iBT) are accepted for all skilled subclasses. While only a few skills assessment authorities recognise these tests, most state and territory governments do.

The Cambridge Test of English is also accepted.

Vocational English

Vocational english is required for all applicants to obtain ENS and RSMS visas through the Temporary Residence Transitional stream. Additionally, this is directly for people who have held a 457 visa for 2 years with an employer. Required scores to establish Vocational English include:
Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 5 5 5 5
TOEFL iBT 4 4 14 14
PTE Academic 36 36 36 36
Cambridge (CAE) 154 154 154 154

Competent English

Competent English is a minimum requirement in order to meet the threshold criteria for most visas. If you have a passport from one of the following 5 countries, you will immediately earn a competent English score without having to complete an English test:
  1. Canada
  2. New Zealand
  3. United Kingdom
  4. United States
  5. Ireland
If you don’t reside in one of the listed countries, you will have to complete a recognised English language test and achieve the following score:
Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 6 6 6 6
TOEFL iBT 12 13 21 18
PTE Academic 50 50 50 50
Cambridge (CAE) 169 169 169 169
  Competent English gives you 0 points in the Skilled Migration Points Test, but it is required in order to lodge a skilled visa.  

Proficient English

Through demonstrating proficient English, you will get 10 points for your English language ability. For an applicant to gain points for proficient English or above, native English speakers must undertake an English language test. Scores required for Proficient English include:
Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 7 7 7 7
TOEFL iBT 24 24 27 23
PTE Academic 65 65 65 65
Cambridge (CAE) 185 185 185 185

Superior English

Through demonstrating superior English, a maximum of 20 points will be allocated to all successful attempts for English language ability. Minimum scores for Superior English are as follows:
Listening Reading Writing Speaking
IELTS 8 8 8 8
TOEFL iBT 28 29 30 26
PTE Academic 79 79 79 79
Cambridge (CAE) 200 200 200 200

Functional English

To cover the English language tuition for a spouse or partner with less than functional English, you will need to pay the “English Education Charge” when applying for skilled migration. Your functional English ability can be expressed through showing evidence of one of the following:
  1. Completion of a degree, higher degree, diploma or trade certificate that required at least 2 years of study in English medium
  2. Completion of all years of primary education and at least 3 years of secondary education in English medium; or
  3. Completion of at least 5 years of secondary education in English medium; or
  4. Scoring at least 4.5 averaged over the four components of the IELTS test within the 12 months before application, or during processing; or
  5. Completion in Australia of at least 1 year of full-time study or equivalent part-time study towards a degree, higher degree, diploma, or associate diploma in English medium.
  6. In some circumstances, functional English can be established via interview
Additionally, functional English can be demonstrated through completing an English test and scoring as follows:
Test component Average across test components only
PTE Academic 30
OET n/a
Cambridge (CAE) 147
Applying for migration to Australia can be complex, so we recommend that you book a consultation to check your likely eligibility for immigration to Australia before you proceed with an application.


The TOEFL iBT is undertaken on the internet. Over 50 test dates are conducted each year, along with a wide range of test locations across the world.

The test takes around 4.5 hours to complete, with the following structure:

  1. Reading: 60-80 Minutes
  2. Listening: 120-180 Minutes
  3. Speaking: 20 Minutes
  4. Writing: 50 Minutes

All TOEFL scores are generally released 10 days after the test date and can be viewed online. A hard copy will then be sent approximately 13 days after the test date. Recipients can have their details allocated for scores to be sent them through an online facility. But once you have taken the test, this can’t be changed.

To undertake the TOEFL iBT in Australia will cost you $240 (at the current rate), but remains to be well below the cost of IELTS ($330).

PTE Academic

The Pearson Test of English Academic is structured as included below:

  1. Speaking and writing: 77 – 93 minutes
  2. Reading: 32 – 41 minutes
  3. Listening: 45 – 57 minutes

The test will take 3 hours to be completed, while the results are generally accessible within 5 working days, and can be retrieved through logging into your online account. Institutions can additionally be forwarded results through the online account. This still is highly more efficient than IELTS, as results currently take 2 weeks to become available, with no online account facility for test takers.

To undertake the PTE Academic test in Australia will cost you $330 (same price as IELTS). Test dates and locations are less extensive than the TOEFL.

Which visas will be affected?

The English tests now apply for the following types of visa:

  • General Skilled Migration, including Skilled Independent Subclass 189, Skilled Nominated Subclass 190, Skilled Regional Sponsored Provisional Subclass 489 and Graduate Temporary Subclass 485 visas.
  • ENS Subclass 186
  • RSMS Subclass 187
  • Business Migration
  • Distinguished Talent Subclass 124
  • Former Resident Subclass 151


  • TOEFL: readily available, inexpensive
  • Pearson: results ready in 5 days, ability to forward results to various recipients after test date
  • OET: no requirement to sit all 4 modules on the same date, results from different dates accepted by Immigration