If you want to study abroad in the United Kingdom, you will need to prove that you speak and understand English at a sufficient level. A Secure English Language Test (SELT) is considered by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) authorities as proof of student applicant’s English proficiency. The difference between a SELT and other types of language tests is that a Secure English Language Test is officially recognised and trusted by the British government.
Who needs a SELT?
Students planning to study in the UK a course under academic degree level (such as a foundation course, or pathway course) will need to take a SELT in order to receive the UK Student Visa.
A sufficient score on the SELT is considered a guarantee that incoming international students will be able to integrate into the community and be able to study in the UK. IELTS and Trinity College London are the few exam boards recognised by UKVI as SELT providers.
The SELT by IELTS is called the IELTS Life Skills or 'IELTS for UKVI'. The IELTS Life Skills test requires you to demonstrate your speaking and listening skills only at level A1 or B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). A pass/fail result will determine if you meet the necessary language level.
Who doesn’t need a SELT?
Not everyone applying for the UK Study Visa (also known as the Tier 4 General Student Visa) needs to pass the SELT.
Here is a list of categories of students who won’t need to take the SELT:
- International students coming from inside the EU, EEA, or Switzerland who do not need a UK Study Visa.
- Non-EU international students who have been admitted to study a higher degree (at Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD level).
- Internationals coming to the UK just to learn English for a period of under 11 months.
- Students under 18-years old, coming to the UK on a Tier 4 Child Student Visa.
- Students who have studied for at least 6 months in the UK in the past 2 years.
- Students coming from an English-speaking country outside the EU.
Not having to take a SELT does not mean you will not have to take any English language test to come and study in the UK. English language proficiency is a requirement for university admission, and universities will require other English test scores (such as academic IELTS).
On 6 April 2015, the UK government confirmed new requirements for secure English language testing for visa and immigration purposes. If you need to apply for a visa for degree level courses (e.g. bachelors, masters and PhD programmes) you do not need to take a Secure English Language Test (SELT) to study at a Tier 4 Sponsor university.
These institutions can decide which exams to accept as proof of English language ability and you will therefore just need to meet their requirements. Most UK universities are Tier 4 Sponsors so you should be able to use a result from an IELTS test taken at any IELTS test centre, as well as other tests such as Cambridge English: Advanced, TOEFL and Pearson.
If you are studying at below degree level (e.g. a foundation or pathway course) and you need a visa, then you will need to take a SELT from IELTS or Trinity College London. IELTS for UKVI is widely accepted by UK universities and is the only SELT that can be taken outside the UK.
If you are from the European Union, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland you do not need to apply for a visa and therefore just need to meet the English language requirements set by your chosen institution for your chosen level of study.