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The United Kingdom is a preferred destination amongst those aiming to pursue higher studies or work opportunities abroad. Numerous people from all around the world enter the UK every year to work or study at one of its globally revered universities. If you are originally from a non-English speaking country and are applying for a UK visa, you will have to fulfill the required English language qualifications by taking one of the tests listed among the Secure English Language Tests (SELT tests) determined by the UK Home Office. The International English Language Testing System or IELTS is among the widely accepted tests for getting a UK visa. Read this blog to know about the different types of IELTS for UK visas and find the right one which suits your visa requirements! 

Types of IELTS

The IELTS is one of the most popular English language proficiency exams amongst international students as it is widely accepted by top universities around the world. It is also among the globally preferred English proficiency tests required for migration and work purposes. The IELTS aims to test your reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in the English language. There are two types of IELTS exams: 

IELTS Academic

The IELTS Academic is for students aiming to pursue higher studies abroad. It aims to assess your proficiency in the English language to determine if you are qualified to study a course taught in the language at a global university. The IELTS academic test has 4 sections, one each for evaluating your speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in English.

IELTS General Training

The IELTS General Training is for those who wish to migrate to any English speaking country abroad for work or training purposes. The focus of the test is on the basic language and communication skills needed to survive in a broader social or work context. Although the speaking and listening sections of the IELTS general training test are similar to the IELTS academic test, the reading and writing sections are different.

What is IELTS for UKVI?

The IELTS for UKVI is exactly similar to the IELTS exam, with the exception that it is an approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) by the UK Government Home Office for visa applications to the UK. This means that students who are planning to study or immigrate to the UK might take the IELTS UKVI in order to obtain their UK student visa. When you give the IELTS UKVI instead of the IELTS exam, the difference will be in the Test Report Form, which will indicate that the student has taken the exam at an approved IELTS for UKVI center. The IELTS for UKVI exam is applicable for all degree levels in the UK. Therefore, a student applying for Undergraduate, Postgraduate and PhD level-courses in the UK can take the IELTS for UKVI exam, as an alternative to IELTS Academic. However, unlike the IELTS Academic, if a student fails to meet the minimum score requirements, the IELTS for UKVI allows students the flexibility to take a pre-sessional English course, if they fail to meet the minimum requirement of a course required by the University.

To know more about the visa requirements, check out our detailed blog on UK Visa Application!

Who Needs IELTS for UKVI?

If you are a student who is planning to study, work or migrate to the UK, the IELTS for UKVI exam is a suitable option for you. You can take the IELTS for UKVI exam if,

  • You wish to enroll in Bachelor’s or Master’s programs in the UK.
  • You wish to immigrate to the UK for work, or undertake pre-University level courses in the UK.
  • You wish to obtain permanent residency in the UK after the completion of your degree program.
  • You wish to obtain British citizenship.  

What are the Types of IELTS for UKVI?

The following are the three types of the UKVI IELTS exam: 

  • IELTS Academic – The UKVI IELTS Academic test is for the students who wish to enroll in Undergraduate or Postgraduate programs in the UK, or for the students applying for professional registration to work in the UK. Similar to the IELTS Academic, this exam evaluates a student’s proficiency in Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing skills in the English language. 
  • IELTS General Training – The UKVI IELTS General Training exam is meant for the students who wish to migrate to the UK or want to undertake foundation programs, or enroll in courses below the degree level at a UK university. 
  • IELTS Life Skills – The UKVI IELTS Life Skills exam is designed for the students who are applying for the Family, Spouse or Partner Visa to immigrate to the UK or for obtaining permanent residency or UK citizenship. Available at CEFR levels A1 and B1, the Life Skills IELTS tests the student’s Listening and Speaking skills in the English language.

What is IELTS Life Skills?

IELTS Life Skills is another approved SELT exam which is for people who want to prove their proficiency in English Speaking and Listening Skills for visa applications and immigration purposes. This 20-minute test is available for the proficiency levels A1 and B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The IELTS Life Skills Test is commonly taken by a student whose family or spouse is already living in the UK, or if a student wants to become a permanent resident in the UK, or a British citizen.

Where can I take the IELTS Life Skills Test?

IELTS Life Skills can be taken at  multiple locations across the UK and throughout the world, that are specified by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). 

What is the format of the IELTS Life Skills test?

The IELTS Life Skills Test is a single paper of 20 minutes that tests a student’s English proficiency in Speaking and Listening skills. The exam basically tests the student’s ability to conduct everyday communication in an English-speaking country. A student will be required to participate in short conversations based on routine subjects such as personal details, weather, work, friends and family, education, health, transport, leisure, and so on, with another appearing candidate, in the presence of an examiner. 

How is IELTS Life Skills assessed?

The Life Skills test will evaluate a student’s ability to listen and respond in a coherent manner. The assessment criteria tests whether the student is able to obtain and understand information, convey information, speak in English to communicate fluently, and engage in conversations in English. The IELTS Life Skills Test will assess the student’s ability to listen and respond in English, understand what others are saying, and engage in coherent conversations with the other test-taker.

Test Results within a Week

IELTS Life Skills test scores are given out within a week of taking the test. A student will either be awarded a Pass or Fail as result of the test. A Fail result indicates that the test will not be considered valid for the visa applications or immigration purposes.

Difference between IELTS and IELTS for UKVI

While the IELTS exam is designed for a student who wants to migrate to, or pursue higher studies in the UK, the UKVI IELTS is usually taken for the purpose of obtaining a UK Visa for immigration to the UK for study or work purposes. The two exams are exactly similar in terms of the exam pattern, syllabus content, scoring, and difficulty level, with the exception that the UKVI IELTS exam is approved by the UK Home Office. A student who takes the UKVI IELTS will get a different Test Report Form, which will indicate that s/he has taken the exam at a center that has been approved by the UK Home Office. Additionally, the IELTS for UKVI exam is more expensive than the normal IELTS exam and costs INR 14,600. 

What are the Advantages of the IELTS UKVI test?

The following are some of the advantages of taking the IELTS UKVI test – 

  • There are over 1000 UK Home Office-approved test locations across the UK and worldwide, giving students the flexibility to take the test from wherever they are. 
  • If a student fails to clear the IELTS for UKVI exam, s/he need not reappear for the same. Instead, the student will be considered eligible for the UK Visa on the condition that s/he will need to enroll in a pre-sessional English language program in the UK.
  • A UKVI IELTS score will make it easier for a student to obtain PR in the UK after completing their degree program.

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Also, you don’t specifically need to take the IELTS Academic for UKVI to be eligible to study at any university in the UK, you can pursue an undergraduate, postgraduate or PhD level course in the UK by qualifying for the standard IELTS academic as well. But, in such a case, you will have to be sure about meeting the minimum requirements in terms of scores as asked for by the university of your choice, otherwise, you will have to retake the exam till you achieve the required scores. Taking the IELTS for UK (academic) is more advantageous for the fact that even if you do not meet the exact criteria for IELTS scores as asked by a university, you won’t need to retake the test. Instead, you will only need to take a pre-sessional English course. 


Is the UKVI IELTS harder than the IELTS exam?

The UKVI IELTS exam has the same level of difficulty as the standard IELTS exam. Everything from the syllabus content, the exam pattern, scoring as well as the difficulty is exactly the same for the two exams.

How often is an IELTS or IELTS Life Skills Test available?

Test dates for IELTS or IELTS Life Skills exam will be available within 28 days of your registration for the test.

What IELTS score is required for UKVI?

If a student is applying for Tier-4 General Student Visa for a pre-degree level program in the UK, a minimum UKVI IELTS score of 4.0 is required. On the other hand, a student applying for a Tier-4 General Student Visa for degree-level programs in the UK will need to have a minimum UKVI IELTS score of 5.0 overall and in each band. 

Do I need IELTS UKVI for Masters?

Generally, all institutions and universities in the UK accept IELTS Academic scores for applications to the Master’s programs in the UK. This means that it is not mandatory for a student to take the IELTS for UKVI exam for Master’s programs in the UK. 

How is my IELTS test different if I take it for the UK Visa purposes?

The IELTS test for UK Visa purposes is held to meet certain administrative requirements that are specified by the UK Home Office. The difference will be in the Test Report Form (TRF) which will indicate that the student has taken the IELTS exam at one of the approved centers. 

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We hope that this blog cleared all your doubts regarding IELTS for UK and helped you find the exam suited for your immigration purposes. Gearing up for IELTS? Leverage Live offers exclusive online classes and doubt clearance sessions by certified IELTS experts along with premium study materials to ensure that you get your dream score! Sign up for a free demo session with us today!

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