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English Language Test For All Nurses

Guidance on mandatory English Language tests which are required for non native health and social care workers

Guidance on what English Language tests are required and why it’s so important for non-native health and social care workers wanting to move to the UK.



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To be a nurse in the UK, you essentially need two key things: relevant qualifications and experience, and good English language skills. If you were trained in a country that is not classed as a native English-speaking country, you’ll need to either pass the IELTS, with an overall score of at least 7, or the Occupational English Test (OET). That’s why your English skills are so important, and why you should be working on them right away if you are planning on moving to the UK and finding a new role as a nurse.

Pieces of evidence accepted by the NMC

  • You have recently achieved the required score in one of the English language tests accepted by the NMC. You must achieve the required score in each of the four skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.
  • A recent pre-registration nursing or midwifery qualification which was taught and examined in English.

Registration and practice of at least one year in a country where English is the first and native language and an English language assessment was required for registration.

List of countries exempt from taking the IELTS/OET

What is the IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is an international test of English language proficiency. There are a number of countries where IELTS is non-mandatory for NMC registration. Click here to see which countries are exempt.

IELTS is the only English Language Test approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for visa customers applying from both outside and inside the UK.

Importantly, you must complete the ‘academic version’ of the IELTS, according to the NMC’s requirements.

What IELTS score is needed to become a nurse in the UK?

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

What is the OET?

The Occupational English Test (also known as OET) is an international English language test for the healthcare sector. It assesses the language communication skills of healthcare professionals who wish to register and practise in an English-speaking environment. This was introduced by the NMC on 1st November as an alternative to the IELTS.

What OET score is needed to become a nurse in the UK?

If you have completed an OET examination you must provide a certificate that confirms:

  • at least a B grade in listening and reading, and
  • at least a B grade in writing and speaking.

The NMC will only accept results from OET tests taken from February 2016 onwards.

Combining tests

You can achieve the required mark across two test sittings if:

  • you sit the tests within six months of each other, and
  • you are tested in all four skills at the same time, and
  • if you take an IELTS test, all scores in both sittings are above 6.5 and you achieve 7.0 or higher in all four fields when the results of both sittings are viewed together, or
  • if you take the OET, all grades in both sittings are Grade B or higher in all four fields when the results of both sittings are viewed together. You must not score below Grade B in any of the four fields.

Test scores are valid for two years.

Why is IELTS/OET so important?

It’s very simple: to be a nurse in the UK, you must complete the IELTS/OET first, unless you have been trained in a native English-speaking country. Your career in the UK depends on it.

But more than that, it represents a level of English skill that will make your life in the UK much more fulfilling. You’ll be better at your job, you’ll settle more comfortably into British life, and you’ll find it much easier to get things done.

Best of all, your CV will look so much stronger with an IELTS/OET pass. Improving your English will improve your career prospects immediately.