IELTS – Visa Guide

Looking to move to Melbourne? 

Preparing for an IELTS visa test can be worrying, frustrating and time-consuming.

You’re probably wondering how many points you need, what the test involves and whether there are any exemptions. However, trying to find this information by trawling forums and government websites can be extremely confusing.

So, the team at True Blue Migration Services have compiled this straight-forward and informative guide containing all the IELTS visa test information you need.

What is IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System (also known as IELTS) is a standardised test of English language proficiency. IELTS tests are held all over the world but follow the same format and scoring worldwide.

IELTS Tests Types

There is a both a General and an Academic version of IELTS. Depending on your occupation, you may need to sit the Academic IELTS for your skill assessment. This may even be the case if you are a native English speaking holding a passport from the UK or Ireland.

IELTS Test Format

The test has four parts

1. Listening (30 minutes). It consists of four recorded monologues and conversations. You are required to answer questions about what you have heard. For example, you may hear a conversation between a shipping clerk and a customer and be asked multiple choice questions about the package that needed to be shipped and the type of insurance available.
2. Reading (60 minutes). It has three sections with 40 questions to answer. The questions include multiple choice, identifying views or opinions, matching sentence endings, short-answers, interpreting flow-charts and sentence completion. For example, you might read a passage on the history of cinema and then answer ten questions regarding cinematic events that relate to the countries mentioned in the passage.
3. Writing (60 minutes). It has two writing tasks of 150 words and 250 words each. In Task 1, you respond to a situation such as writing a letter or requesting information For example, you share a room with another student on campus. There are issues with the arrangement and you find it hard to study. You are asked to write a letter to the accommodation officer at the college to describe the situation, explain your problems, outline why it is hard to study and state and the kind of accommodation you would prefer.
In Task 2, you write an essay in response to a problem or argument. For example, you may get a statement such as “In Britain, when someone gets old they often go to live in a home with other old people where there are nurses to look after them. Sometimes the government has to pay for this care. Who do you think should pay for this care, the government or the family? Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.”
4. Speaking (11–14 minutes). You chat with an examiner, answering questions about yourself and your family. You then speak about a given topic, both generally and then in more depth. For example, you might be asked to describe something you own which is very important to you. This is your chance to say where you got it from, how long you have had it, what you use it for and explain why it is important to you.
The Listening, Reading and Writing tests are done in one sitting. The Speaking test may be on the same day or up to seven days before or after the other tests.

IELTS Scores Explained

In each of the four bands you are given a score out of 9.0. These scores correlate to an overall English skill level:

• Superior English: 8.0 in all four bands
• Proficient English: 7.0 in all four bands
• Competent English: 6.0 in all four bands
• Vocational English: 5.0 in all four bands
• Functional English: An overall band score of 4.5

IELTS scores for your visa application

Skilled Visas

Although certain passport holders are exempt from having to sit IELTS in their skilled visa application, they will get zero points for English if they do not sit the test. Almost everyone who lodges an Expression of Interest in SkillSelect needs English language points to meet the score to ensure an invitation to apply for a skilled visa.

To obtain 10 points, you need to score 7.0 in all four bands. To obtain 20 points, it’s 8.0s in all four that you need. You must get this result in the one test setting. If you do not get the scores you need in your first IELTS, you are able to sit the test again, until you get the scores. But be warned! If you lodge an Expression of Interest without holding the IELTS scores you need – and you are invited to apply – you will not meet the requirements of the visa application as you must have the scores at the time of invitation.

Employer Sponsored Visas

Unless you are exempt from IELTS, the following scores are required for a successful application:

• Employer Nominated Scheme 186 (Direct Entry): 6.0 in all four bands
• Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme 187 (Direct Entry): 6.0 in all four bands
• Employer Nominated Scheme 186 (Temporary Resident Transition): 5.0 in all four bands
• Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme 187 (Temporary Resident Transition): 5.0 in all four bands
• Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (457) visa: 5.0 in all four bands

English Test for Dependants

For permanent residency visas application, all dependants aged 18 or over are required to score an over 4.5 in IELTS, unless exempt. If this score cannot be reached, there is a second visa application charge payable which is almost $5,000.


An exemption from the IELTS varies depending on the visa you are applying for. In some cases, having studied a degree delivered in English will exempt you; in other cases, it will not. You need to be sure about your requirements as Immigration will not allow you to sit a test at a later date.

Nervous About the Test?

There are lots of practice IELTS tests on the internet. Good preparation will help you manage your nerves on the day!

For a free visa eligibility check, contact True Blue Migration today.

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