When planning your study abroad in Australia, you’ll need to prove your proficiency in English if it’s not your first language. In most cases, this involves taking an English language test and achieving a minimum score.
But what happens if you don’t reach the minimum score required?
We’ve put together this handy guide to help you better understand your options, including English language pathway programs provided by institutions such as Curtin University.
How do I know if my English is of a high enough level?
Certain international students do not need to do an English test. This will depend on your previous studies and nationality. The Department of Home Affairs website has a helpful tool to assist you in understanding what English language requirements you need to meet.
However, if you completed previous studies in your home country in a language other than English, an accredited English language test to prove your proficiency may be required.
The most commonly recognised tests are the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Occupational English Test (OET), Cambridge English Certificate and Pearson Test of English (PTE).
Until this year, the TOEFL test was also accepted; however, it has been unavailable for visa purposes since 26 July 2023 until further notice.
Minimum English scores for student visas in Australia
The Australian Government provides a clear outline for the scores that are required to obtain a Student (subclass 500) visa:
IELTS minimum score: 5.5
TOEFL* minimum score: 46
*The TOEFL test must have been taken on or before 25 July 2023.
PTE minimum score: 42
Cambridge English Certificate in Advanced English minimum score: 162
OET minimum score: B for each test component
It’s important to note the requirements might be different based on the school and the course you wish to attend. For example, a master’s or PhD program could require a higher score.
These scores can also vary if you have a conditional offer from a university. A conditional offer enables you to obtain a single visa, if you do an English language course.
Additionally, while government English requirements are correct at time of publication, they are subject to change. Consult the Department of Home Affairs website for the most up-to-date information on the minimum scores you must achieve.
Understanding your options if you don’t pass your English test
If you don’t achieve the required score on one of the accredited tests, don’t worry – you still have options.
One option is to improve your English language skills in your home country. Resources you can utilise include in-person classes with an accredited language school, online courses or private tutors.
Another option is to study an English language bridging course. This allows you to obtain a visa under the condition you complete an English language course prior to your degree. This is a great opportunity to improve your skills in an immersive environment and get accustomed to life in Australia before you begin university.
You can also search for accredited English language courses in Australia and filter them by which English Language test you want to prepare for using the English Australia website.
Why study English in Australia before your degree
Simon Winetroube, Director English at Curtin University, shared with Insider Guides the benefits of studying English in Australia rather than abroad.
Many online or overseas English programs are not specifically catered to each person and what degree they wish to study. At Curtin English, there are three English language courses that provide students with a personalised language pathway:
General English: You will need an overall IELTS score of 3.0 or equivalent for entry.
Gateway English: This course is for students with an IELTS score of at least 5.0
English Language Bridging: The ELB course is for students with IELTS scores of at least 5.5 who need to meet entry requirements for Curtin University or Curtin College programs.
According to Simon, each student at Curtin English is evaluated and given their own individual study plan depending on their level. You can use the English Pathway Calculator to get an idea of the duration of each course.
Making new connections
Studying abroad isn’t just about what you learn and accomplish – it’s about who you meet along the way.
Pursuing a course at Curtin English gives you the chance to meet new people who will shape your international study experience. You’ll meet instructors, tutors, and fellow students from all over the world who have also chosen to move to Australia.
This allows you to connect with fellow students who are also improving their English to prepare for life in Australia.
Whether you’re planning to pursue an undergraduate or postgraduate course, you could be living in Australia for multiple years. That’s why it’s so important to familiarise yourself with the culture early on – so you can better adjust to it.
Studying English on Australian soil is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the Aussie way of life – even before your substantive course has begun.
“[Studying at Curtin English] gives a really nice introduction to different aspects of Australian life that might be new and help make that transition from their own culture to living in Australia,” says Simon.
Familiarity with university life
Similarly, Curtin English can greatly ease your transition to university life.
Curtin’s Gateway English and English Language Bridging courses take place on the Curtin University campus, meaning you get the chance to familiarise yourself with classrooms, learning tools and academic responsibilities. According to Simon, this allows students to get used to university systems and develop an understanding of Australian culture, setting them up for success.
“When their mainstream course starts, they’ve already had a chance to settle in and find somewhere to live and they’re ready to hit the ground running.”
Whether you need to improve your English language score to begin your studies or you simply want to feel more confident in your abilities, Curtin English is the perfect place to refine your skills. Curtin English offers three pathways to improve your language proficiency to meet the English pre-requisites for entry to university, and can even package your university course with your English language course.
You can use your current English language proficiency test score to calculate the Curtin English pathway to your university study. If you are unsure of your English skill level, Curtin English can help provide a free online placement test to assess your current level of English and then to plan your pathway.
Study in the heart of Perth, Western Australia, while gaining the English language skills you need to take the next step in your study journey.