IELTS for Nurses

It has been Maddie’s dream to live in Australia, to walk around its city and to visit its landmarks. Now that she’s finally a nurse, she finds the opportunity to finally grab her dream, which is to apply as a nurse there. However, included in the requirements is passing the IELTS with a score of at least 7.0 in the reading, writing, listening and speaking sections.

“Wait, what exactly is IELTS? And why is it needed?” she asks herself as she heads to her laptop to search about it.

What is IELTS?

For one to become a registered healthcare professional in Australia, there are certain mandatory registration standards that are required to be met before registration can be completed. There is an English language skills registration requirement stipulated by Section 38 of the National Law before a healthcare professional can be officially registered.

In other words, all international qualified nurses and midwives applying for registration in Australia, must demonstrate English language proficiency.

The International English Language Test System (IELTS) is considered as the world’s most popular test for higher education and global migration. It is designed to assess the language ability of those who wish to study or work where English is used as the language of communication, such as in entry to university in the UK and other countries.

This test is recognized by universities and employers in many countries, such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and the USA as well as by professional bodies, immigration authorities and other government agencies.

What’s in the test?

For this test, you can choose between the Academic or General Training versions of the test. All candidates do the same Listening and Speaking sections, but the Reading and Writing tests are different.

The IELTS has four sections:

  • Listening – 4 sections, 40 questions, 30 minutes
  • Speaking – interview, 15 minutes
  • Reading – different for Academic or General Training – 3 sections, 40 questions, 60 minutes
  • Writing – different for Academic or General Training – 2 pieces of writing, 60 minutes

You can take the test at accredited Test Centres throughout the world. At present, there are more than 500 Centers, in over 120 countries.

You are graded on your performance in the test, using scores from 1–9 for each part of the test: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Your results from the four parts then produce an overall score.

Half scores such as 6.5 are possible, but universities usually demand an IELTS score of 6 or 7. They may also demand a minimum score in each of the 4 sections.

The IELTS 9-band scale

Each band corresponds to a level of English competence.

  • Band 9: Expert user: has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
  • Band 8: Very good user: has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
  • Band 7: Good user: has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
  • Band 6: Competent user: has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
  • Band 5: Modest user: has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.
  • Band 4: Limited user: basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.
  • Band 3: Extremely limited user: conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
  • Band 2: Intermittent user: no real communication is possible, except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
  • Band 1: Non-user: essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
  • Band 0: Did not attempt the test: no assessable information provided.



Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

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