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How NMC rule changes to IELTS writing are good news for international nurses

If you are an international nurse or midwife who is interested in progressing your medical career in an English speaking country, then you may be familiar with the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS as it is more commonly known.

The most common exam for testing language proficiency, IELTS Academic is recognised in English speaking countries across the world and is one of the options available for non-English speaking medical professionals looking to work in an English speaking country.

An IELTS test is divided into four sections; listening, reading, writing and speaking. IELTS tests are graded between 1 and 9, with half marks being awarded where necessary (e.g. 6.5). 

What IELTS score do I need?

Before December 2018, nurses and midwives required a score of 7.0 in all four areas of the IELTS Academic test. However, the NMC’s decision to change IELTS rules means that this is no longer the case.

Under new NMC rules, all international nurses hoping to work in the United Kingdom must still achieve an IELTS score of 7.0 in listening, reading and speaking. However, a score of 6.5 is now acceptable for IELTS writing.

Why have IELTS rules changed?

The decision to change the requirements of IELTS writing came as a result of widespread engagement between the NMC and key stakeholders. It was agreed that, despite scoring highly in listening, reading and speaking, many nurses were narrowly missing out on achieving a level 7.0 across the board.

I received a 6.5 IELTS score before the rule change, does this affect me?

Yes. The new rules surrounding IELTS writing came into force on 5 December 2018. If you scored a 6.5 in your IELTS writing, along with 7.0 in listening, reading and speaking, therefore meeting the new requirements, you may be eligible for reconsideration by the regulator.

Does this IELTS rule change apply to doctors too?

Unfortunately not. As the IELTS rule change was implemented by the NMC, a score of 6.5 in IELTS writing will only be accepted for non-English speaking nurses and midwives seeking work in the United Kingdom.

International doctors hoping to work in the UK or other English speaking country must score at least a 7.0 in all four sections and achieve an overall score of at least 7.5 out of a possible 9.0.

Alternatively, medical professionals can sit the Occupational English Test (OET) rather than IELTS.

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