IELTS: Standard or UKVI?

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When you are applying for a UK visa, you will need to prove your English Language proficiency. You can do this simply by submitting any English Language qualifications approved by the UK Home Office. The two tests relevant to international visa applicants are the standard IELTS and the Secure English Language Tests (SELT tests). You should select the test version depending on their purpose, as shown below: 






This test is for applicants wishing to study at undergraduate or postgraduate levels, and for those seeking professional   registration in the UK.


(for UKVI)

General Training

This test is applicants wishing to live or work in the UK and   for those wishing to train or study below degree level.

Note: effective from 6th April 2015.

IELTS tests for UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are managed by the IELTS SELT Consortium, which includes the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment. If you have completed an IELTS Standard test previously, and your visa application requires submission of a SELT document, you will have to retake the SELT test. This is a policy implemented from 6th April 2015.


The standard test and the SELT test have the same syllabus and format – Listening, Reading and Writing components are taken on a paper or computer and the Speaking component is face-to-face. The difficulty in questions, marking and scoring is equivalent. As such, the UKVI version is an acceptable qualification for other countries also.


The key difference between the Standard test and the SELT test is the testing conditions. Since the SELT test is designed to meet certain administrative requirements that are specified by the UK Home Office, you are required to attend them at specific centres in your location as they have the facilities to record your Speaking test on video. The security protocols at these centres are stricter, with surveillance cameras in the examination halls, entrance corridor and speaking test room.


The Test Report Forms for SELT tests also differ from the ones for Standard tests to show you have taken the test at an IELTS UK visa session. The SELT test is £50 more expensive and the dates of sessions are different from the Standard test, so check the cost and dates when registering. For the most current prices and available dates, please check with your test provider.

All British universities and colleges accept the standard IELTS results. Check if your university is on the Official List of British Universities and Colleges with Sponsor Status. Under the 'proof of proficiency' section in your visa application, according to details in your CAS, you may select 'Higher Education Institution (HEI) sponsor has made assessment'. This means that you do not need to have taken the UKVI version of the test, unless your institution has required you to. In submitting your application, you then submit your standard IELTS test results as the supporting document.


If you are coming to the UK for a pre-sessional course less than 11 months long, you will have to take the UKVI version of the test to be eligible for the Short-term Study visa. If you progress to a course program longer than 6 months, your PBS Tier 4 visa application can be made with the same SELT test or you may be exempted under your university’s assessments because you completed the pre-sessional English language course.


If you are not confident in achieving the required IELTS results to fulfil your university's assessment conditions, we recommend you take the SELT test. This is so you would be permitted entry to the UK to complete a pre-sessional English language course and then progress into your university course program. You are not required to take the standard test later on.

If you are still unsure, the IELTS main website has an infographic to help you decide which test is right for you. Find more advice on preparing for IELTS and further visa applications by contacting Team AppUK on


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