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For nurses who are aiming to work abroad, there are certain mandatory registration standards that are required to be met before registration can be completed. There is a need for nurse applicants to take extra licensure and English competency exams to be able to practice the profession overseas. For people who want to study, work or migrate to countries where English is spoken as a first language, taking the IELTS exam is almost always mandatory.

What is IELTS?

The IELTS, which stands for International English Language Testing System, tests a person’s proficiency with the English language in four bands: speaking, reading, writing and listening. It is the world’s most popular high stakes English language test. It is the test that opens doors to a world of academic and professional opportunity in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, USA and many other places around the world where English is a language in the workplace or the classroom.

IELTS is accepted by more than 6,000 organisations worldwide. These include universities, immigration departments, government agencies, professional bodies and multinational companies. It is jointly owned by British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment and offered through more than 1,000 test centres and locations in over 140 countries.

Exam Formats

There are two versions of the IELTS exam: the academic version and the general training version.

The academic version is for people who want to pursue higher education in universities or other institutions or for professionals such as doctors and nurses who want to practice in a country that primarily speaks English.

The general training version is for people who want to undergo training or gain work experience, or for those who are planning to migrate.

Nurse applicants who want to practice the profession overseas should register for the academic version.

Exam Parts

The IELTS test has four parts – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Examinees are required to accomplish all four parts to receive an IELTS result. The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes.


The Listening Module or the first past of the exam has 4 sections for 40 items to be accomplished in 30 minutes. For this part of the test, examinees need to be very attentive to the conversation played on the audio device. There will be no repetition, meaning, the test takers are not allowed for second chances. Try to catch up with every item as fast as you can if you do not want to get left behind.


The Academic Reading Module or the second part of the exam has 3 sections for 40 items to be accomplished in 60 minutes. This part of the exam examines your reading comprehension skills. Examinees are given 1 hour to complete this exam.
You can skim the questions first if you believe you can answer them, unless the section is unfamiliar to you. Reading and understanding at the same time is really a must because of the time constraint.


The Academic Writing Module or the third part of the exam has 2 tasks to be accomplished in 60 minutes. Here, you get to exhibit your writing skills on paper. There are 2 questions. For the first question, you should allow yourself to use at least 150 words. And for the last one, you should express your thoughts in 250 words. The second question is worth more in points than the first question.


The last part of the exam is the speaking test where you will be interviewed by a native English speaker. This one-on-one interview will last for 15 minutes. This module is delivered in such a way that it does not allow examinees to rehearse set responses beforehand. Allow yourself to relax, be comfortable, so you can respond sensibly to the interviewer.

Listening, Reading and Writing must be completed in one day. The Speaking test may be offered on the same day or up to a week before or after the other parts.

Required Passing Rates

The highest score that can be obtained is 9.0 while the lowest score is 0. There is no passing or failing grade, but most institutions requiring the IELTS exam will ask for a grade of higher than 5.5. A profile score is reported for each skill. The four individual scores are averaged and rounded to produce an Overall Band Score. Overall Band Scores and scores for each sub-test (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking) are reported in whole bands or half bands.

For Australia

All international qualified nurses and midwives applying for registration in Australia, must demonstrate English language proficiency.

You must complete the academic version of the IELTS test and achieve:

  • Completed the international English language testing system (IELTS) examination (academic module) and achieved a minimum score of 7.0 in each of the four components.
  • Results must have been obtained within the two years prior to applying for registration.
  • An IELTS (or approved equivalent) test report form more than two years old will be accepted as evidence of present level ability, if accompanied by proof that a candidate has actively maintained employment as a medical practitioner, in a country where English is the native or first language.
  • For the purpose of exemption the Medical Board of Australia requires a minimum score of 7.0 in each of the four components of the academic module of the IELTS examination.
  • To prove English proficiency an applicant can also complete the NZREX.
  • To prove English proficiency an applicant can also complete the PLAB test.
  • Please note that the applicant bares all test and registration fees.

For New Zealand

The Nursing Council of New Zealand (the Council) has deferred making changes to the English language standards until research conducted by Dr. Leslie Hawthorn (commissioned by AHPRA) is available. This means the English language requirements remain at a 7 in all bands of IELTS and a B or A in all bands of an OET. The scores can be achieved over a succession of tests within 12 months of first sitting the test.

When a nurse who is registered with an overseas authority applies to the Council for registration in New Zealand, each application is assessed on an individual basis. The Council operates a system of reciprocal registration with Australia.

For UK

All non EU trained applicants to the nurses or midwives part of the register must complete and provide evidence of the International English Language Test (IELTS) before submitting their application to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

You must complete the academic version of the IELTS test and achieve:

  • At least 7.0 in the listening and reading sections
  • At least 7.0 in the writing and speaking sections
  • At least 7.0 (out of a possible 9) overall
  • NMC will not accept applicants who score lower than this standard.

Exam Fees

The payment for the exam depends on the test centre location, but you should bring more than that amount in case the agency asks for additional fees. IELTS has more than 1,000 test centres and locations in more than 140 countries. Here are the common exam fees for some countries:

  • In the Philippines, the payment for the exam ranges from P8,640 to P9,000 depending on test centre location;
  • India: ranges from INR 9300 to INR 9,900 depending on test centre location;
  • Indonesia: USD$195; China: ¥ 1700; Japan: Yen 24,675;
  • Malaysia: ranges from MYR 610.00 (630RM from April 2014);
  • Singapore: S$310 to S$320 depending on test centre location;
  • Vietnam: VND 3,200,000 to VND 3,500,000 depending on test centre location;
  • Brazil: R$500.00.

To find out upcoming test dates and the test fees on various countries, click here.

Documentary Requirements

  • Accomplished IELTS Application Form
  • (2) passport size colored pictures
  • At least (1) photocopy of a valid national ID (passport, PRC ID, SSS, GSIS, driver’s license or any other national ID such as a Voter’s ID and Postal ID).
  • Bring the same passport or national identity card that you entered on the IELTS Application Form on the day of your exam.

Preparation for IELTS

Make sure you are ready

It is essential to enlighten yourself with every possible detail about the exam. The exam itself, its format, and further information on the content of the exam.

Know the IELTS rules and regulations

Be knowledgeable about the IELTS rules and regulations. These are laid out in the Notice to Candidates which is included with the application form.

Register as soon as possible

As soon as you started reading this article, you are one step closer to applying for the exam. When you feel you are ready to take the test, you need to register with your nearest IELTS centre. Follow the steps below.

Application Process

To register for an IELTS test, follow these six simple steps. You can also download the Information for candidates booklet (PDF, 935KB). IELTS centres have friendly, helpful staff who will help you with the registration process.

Step 1. Locate the nearest IELTS centre in your place and check the test dates to find options that suit you. Note the deadline for registering for each test date. You can also see the cost of the test at your centre in local currency on the IELTS Worldwide Search.

Step 2. Check with your organisation or on the Global Recognition System whether you need to sit an Academic or General Training test. Nurse applicants who want to practice the profession overseas should register for the Academic version.

Step 3. Print out the IELTS Application Form (PDF, 273KB) or ask your test centre for a copy. Read the information for candidates, terms and conditions, complete the form and sign it. Please make sure you have a valid postal address and use the same name as on your passport.

Applicants shall accomplish the official IELTS application form which can be downloaded through the IELTS website. Download the Application Form here.

In some centres, candidates may be able to register for the test online. Please refer to the test centre’s website for further information.

Step 4. Take a photocopy of your current passport – this must be valid and not expired. (Some centres will accept a national identity card.)

Step 5. If you want your results to be sent automatically to a university or educational institution, include the correct details in the section on the IELTS Application Form (PDF, 273KB).

Step 6. Take your application into your IELTS test centre with your money. If you send it by mail, please talk to your centre about the method of payment.

Exam Schedule

Once you have registered, the test centre will confirm your IELTS test date, time and venue. Please note the Speaking test can be up to 7 days before or after the test date.

On the test day, you must bring the same passport or national identity card that you entered on the IELTS Application Form.

Exam Results

Usually, the results will be available 13 days following the examination date. Other test centres issue the results via mail on the 13th day. You can go through the results online by entering your candidate number, id number, date of birth and the date of the exam. Test centres are not permitted to give results out over the phone or by fax or email. If you are not satisfied with your score, you can file for a re-mark.

How to apply for a re-mark

To file for a re-mark, you must fill out the Enquiry on Results Application Form and send it to the address displayed on the form. The Enquiry on Results Application Form and the original IELTS Test Report Form, must be submitted within 6 weeks of completing the written tests.

You also need to pay an amount for the re-mark request. The amount is more or less two thirds the price of the IELTS exam. This amount will be refunded to you in case the re-mark is successful. The result of the re-mark request will arrive in 6 to 8 weeks after the IELTS governing body has received the form.

Test Report Form validity

Your IELTS score will only be valid within 2 years following its release. It would be necessary for you to utilize it within that time frame or take another exam when it reaches the expiration.

Re-taking the Exam

There are no limits on re-taking IELTS. If you are not satisfied with the result you got, you can apply and register for another exam as soon as you feel you are ready to do so. Please be mindful that your score is unlikely to increase unless you make a significant effort to improve your English before re-taking the test.