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JUL 21/2016

How have the IELTS rules changed for overseas nurses?

IELTS writing test paper

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) has recently announced that the IELTS rules for overseas nurses hoping to relocate to work in the UK are to be changed. 

All nurses previously needed to score 7.0 (out of 9) in each of the four papers (reading, writing, listening and speaking) in the IELTS academic English test in one sitting in order to satisfy NMC criteria. This is advanced level, equivalent to C1 in the Common European Framework, and is actually higher than the score typically required by international students wanting to study at the UK’s top universities, which tends to be 6.5.

New rules

Under the new rules, 7.0 is still required in the four academic IELTS papers, but can now be taken from two separate tests, as long as they are within six months of each other, and the test-taker scores a minimum 6.5 in all papers. This means a nurse can score 7.0 in two papers in the first test and then 7.0 in the other two papers in a subsequent test. IELTS test scores are valid for a period of two years.

Why introduce this change?

IELTS is a highly pressured exam. Candidates take the reading (1 hour), writing (1 hour) and listening (40 minutes) papers in one morning, and then the speaking exam in the afternoon. For many candidates, this is a tiring and stressful experience, especially as 7.0 requires test-takers to meet highly specific criteria they may not be aware of.

Many native speaker test-takers such as nurses from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and Singapore fail to score 7.0 in all four papers without extensive training on exam techniques. One mistake, such as not including a particular structure in an essay, may mean that the candidate fails to achieve this score.

As a result, nurses may score 7.0 and above in two or three papers in one sitting but not all four, thus having to take the test again. Their overall average score may well be 7.0 or more but because of the one paper at 6.5, they still need to re-take the test, even though their English level is clearly advanced.

Maintaining academic standards

Taking the combined results of two IELTS tests continues to maintain academic standards. It allows nurses to really focus on the academic English (not medical English) they need to achieve the 7.0 in the one or two papers they need in the second sitting. 

It is important to remember that nurses still need to score a minimum of 6.5 in all papers in both tests – the score typically required by universities for international students to join their degree programmes.

What does this mean for Medacs Healthcare nurses?

So far this year, we have placed 194 nurses into the UK, who have been assessed on their English language skills and offered dedicated IELTS exam preparation to help them pass their IELTS tests.

Our support includes access to:

  • Daily tutor-led courses ran over a ten-week period
  • Guided self-study sessions each week
  • Webinars delivered by experienced IELTS examiners and trainers which are packed with essential tips and techniques
  • An on-demand IELTS resource library you can access at any time.

Are you looking for support with your IELTS test? Contact one of our friendly consultants today by emailing to find out how we can help you pass your IELTS exam. 

Sources: Specialist Language Courses, NMC

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