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Changes to visa regulations on English language testing in Australia, students to benefit

INTERNATIONAL students will benefit from changes to visa regulations to accept a range of English language test scores including TOEFL, Pearson – and from January 2015, Cambridge English – in addition to IELTS. Gabriella Ariffin reports. 

english-tests-australia-visas

Students applying for Temporary Graduate, Skilled, Former Resident, and Work and Holiday visas will now be able to use results from the Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based test (TOEFL iBT) and the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic).

This is in addition to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Occupational English Test (OET), which have been accepted in the student visa programme since 2011.

These changes to visa regulations came into effect on November 23, 2014.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) had previously announced in May this year it would accept new tests into their visa programs though could not confirm when the new regulations would take effect. 

Making the announcement, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Michaelia Cash said this development would afford applicants “more choice in providers while also increasing competition within the English language testing market”.

Minister Cash also confirmed plans to further expand the English language test market with the acceptance of Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) test scores from January 1, 2015.

International student peak body the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) has welcomed the changes.

“We strongly believe that international students in Australia should be provided with options and choices of tests… and students can choose the best test for themselves,” CISA said in a statement.

“This is a good news… Particularly for those who underwent financial and emotional difficulties as consequences of previously having to undertake repeat tests.”

The changes are also expected to cut waiting times for English language tests.

“More English proficiency test choices available mean that [students] are no longer hampered by the lack of test spaces,” CISA said.

Pearson Australia and Singapore’s managing director David Barnett said PTE Academic was already widely accepted around the world, including for all UK visas, and it was “good to see the Australian government offering more choice for visa applicants”.

Vice president and chief operating officer for Educational Testing Service David Payne said the Government’s reform would help Australian employers address the skills shortage.

“Employers were missing out in the global competition for skills due to disjointed visa English-language proficiency settings,” he said.

“Skilled migrants were choosing to go elsewhere, like the United States and Canada.”

For more information about alternative English language tests for visa applications, please visit the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website. The list of approved English language tests and links to their respective sites are provided below: 

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Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

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