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Demonstrating your English Language Proficiency

Before any healthcare professional that is trained outside of the UK can work within the UK, they are required to demonstrate their ability to speak the English language by passing one of the following English language exams: 

  • IETLS test - UKVI IELTS or Academic IELTS  
  • OET test - OET  


What is the IELTS? 

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the world's most popular English language proficiency test for non-native English language speakers. The test is universally recognised by universities, professional bodies, immigration authorities and government institutions as a measure of an individual's grasp of the English language.    

IELTS exam format 

There are two different types of IELTS exams: 

1. The academic module 

The IELTS academic module is designed for students who wish to study in English-speaking universities at either degree level or postgraduate masters or PhD level. It is also taken by those wishing to work in specific professions, such as medicine or dentistry. 

2. The general training module  

The IELTS general training module is for those hoping to migrate to the UK, Australia, New Zealand or Canada. It can also be taken by those hoping to study in an English-speaking country below degree level. 

Doctors and nurses moving to the UK will need to take the academic module. 

For both IELTS modules, there are four parts, each one focusing on a specific skill: reading, writing, listening and speaking. The reading and writing sections are different for the two modules, whereas the listening and speaking sections are the same.

How much does it cost? 

  • IELTS UKVI Academic - £215
  • IELTS Academic (Regular) - £160

IELTS scores

There is no pass or fail for the IELTS exam. Instead, you receive a band score between 1 and 9. This may include a half-point, such as 6.5 for example. 

Doctors need to achieve an IELTS score of 7.5 overall. Nurses must score at least 7.0 in their reading, listening and speaking, and a score of 6.5 in writing.

Your dedicated Medacs Healthcare consultant will help you through the process and explain where you can take your test. Globally, the IELTS exam is available in 120 countries at over 1,100 test centres. To find your nearest IELTS test centre, click here

How long does it take to get IELTS results?

IELTS results can be received online and in paper form. You will receive your results online five to seven days after taking the IELTS exam. You will receive your results in paper form 13 days after you take the test.


What is OET?

The Occupational English Test (OET) is an English language test that assesses the language and communication skills of healthcare professionals who seek to register and practise in an English-speaking environment, such as the UK. Just like IELTS, it provides a valid and reliable assessment of all four language skills - reading, writing, speaking and speaking - however, unlike IELTS, the emphasis with OET is on communication within healthcare settings.  

OET test structure 

Skills Format  Duration
 Listening   2 parts A and B  50 minutes
Reading   2 parts A and B 60 minutes
Writing 1 task 45 minutes
Speaking  2 role-plays 20 minutes

OET scores  

OET uses a grading system from A to E, where A shows a very high level of competency through to E which shows a low level of competency that requires considerable improvement.  

Doctors need to take the medicine version of the test and get a grade B in each testing area.  

Nurses also need to achieve at least a grade B across all four areas. However, as with IELTS, the NMC will accept two OET test results which are a maximum of six months apart and with a minimum of two skills achieved at grade C or above. The combined result must show the required band score of B. 

At Medacs Healthcare, we often work with NHS clients who are happy for us to interview nurses that have a combined grade of C. If a nurse is successful at interview, they are then given support by the client to get them to the required B grade, which is the minimum requirement to start the application process with the NMC.

How much does it cost and how do I register?

The cost of OET is approximately £325 and you can register online via the OET portal.

Test results and validity

Grades can be viewed via the online profile on the OET website 15 business days after each test day. Five business days after the publication of results in online profiles, a Statement of Results should be received via post. This is their official hard copy statement which gives the band conversion of the fair score and details the scores obtained at the most recent sitting, as well as scores for all sittings within the last three years. 

Alternative methods

Alternative methods of verifying your English language proficiency include: 

Primary Medical Qualification – If your primary medical qualification was taught solely in English and you obtained it within the last two years.  

Employer Reference – If you have worked in a country where English is the native language for the last two years.  

For information on these alternative methods please visit the GMC website if you're a doctor and the NMC website if you're a nurse. 

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