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Australia ends 10-year IELTS monopoly

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) monopoly of the testing of student visa applicants in Australia ended last month, as the government now accepts scores from a range of other tests for the first time in 10 years.

"These additional English language test options will help to create competition in the English language testing market"

Previously, Australia only used the IELTS test (which is co-owned by the British Council, IDP and Cambridge ESOL), to gauge the English language proficiency of student visa applicants from all but 14 countries. But since last month, test scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Pearson’s PTE Academic test and the Cambridge English Advanced test have also been accepted, opening the lucrative testing market to competition.

“These additional English language test options will help to create competition in the English language testing market, while creating more test places for student visa applicants,” said Chris Bowen, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, last May when the idea was first proposed. “They will also provide candidates with greater choice and enable them to more quickly obtain test results needed for visa applications.”

The move will benefit students from key markets such as China, India and Turkey where tests like TOEFL are also commonplace. Equivalency scores benchmarked against IELTS were released in October.

“These tests have worldwide acceptance and students will benefit from sitting for a test which is accepted in many countries, not just Australia,” Jag Khairra, a Melbourne-based education and immigration consultant told the Deccan Herald.

Newly accepted testing companies have welcomed the news. David Hunt, Vice President of the Global Division of ETS, the company that owns TOEFL, said: “We are delighted that the Minister has agreed to the equivalency scores recommended by Educational Testing Service (ETS) for the TOEFL test as an alternative English language test for student visa purposes.”

Emma Stubbs, Senior Vice President, Language Testing, Pearson, added, “We believe PTE Academic is the most reliable and secure test in the market and we are delighted to be able to offer this assurance with confidence to DIAC and to universities in Australia.”

“in November, we opened 21 new centres across China”

Sujata Stead, Cambridge ESOL’s Assistant Director for Business Development, said, “DIAC’s recognition of Cambridge English: Advanced will hugely benefit universities and students. Universities that accept this high-level test will be able to attract really talented students with an in-depth knowledge of English. We’re also significantly expanding our test centre network so they’ll be even more opportunities to take Cambridge English: Advanced in India and China. For example in November we opened 21 new centres across China.”

While the new tests only apply to student visas, DIAC will monitor the success of their use and review whether to extend them to other Australian visa programmes.

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