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Secure English Language Testing  (SELT) for UK Visa & Immigration Purposes 

UK Government Confirms New Requirements for Secure English Language Testing for Visa & Immigration Purposes


If you want to study abroad in the UK, you will need to prove to the UK government 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 across the country as proof of a student applicant’s level of English proficiency. The difference between a SELT and other types of language tests is that a Secure English Language Test is officially recognised by the British government.


What is the Secure English Language Test?


The Secure English Language Test (SELT) is a test approved by UK Visas and Immigration for ‘Leave to Remain’, ‘British Citizen’ and ‘Tier 1, 2 and 4 Visa’ applications and statuses. The SELT can be taken at Trinity College London.


Different Types of SELT


Graded Examinations in Spoken English


The Trinity Graded Examinations in Spoken English (also known as GESE) exam tests the English speaking and listening skills of people and students whose first language is not English. This focuses on building motivation and confidence in using English and enables students to chart their progress as they improve.


The exams take the form of an unscripted conversation with an examiner while they cover a range of topics and tasks for the individual. They are open to anyone aged 5 years or older and are designed to be inclusive and relevant to every individual.


The GESE Exam information booklet is useful for any student as it sets out the content and format of the exams. This also contains guidance notes and new requirements by the UK for teachers and the exam rules and conditions. GESE exams are available in the majority of countries globally and can be taken throughout the year at Trinity exam centres.


Who needs a SELT?


These are for new students planning to study a course at the academic degree level (such as a foundation course, or pathway course). They  will need to undertake a SELT in order to receive the UK Student Visa.


A sufficient score on the SELT is considered a guarantee that the individual 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 that are recognised by UKVI as SELT providers.


The SELT by IELTS is called the IELTS Life Skills or the alternative is ‘IELTS for UKVI’. The IELTS Life Skills test requires you to demonstrate your speaking and listening proficiency only at level A1 or B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). The result will end in a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ and this will determine if you meet the necessary English language level to pursue your studies in the UK.


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 student categories that don’t need to take a 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 11 months or shorter
  • 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 of the EU


Please note that not having to take a SELT does not mean you will not have to take any English language test when you pursue your studies here. English language proficiency is a requirement for university admission, and universities will require other English test scores that can include IELTS Academic, TOEFL iBT, PTE Academic.


Please note that on April 6, 2015, the UK government confirmed new requirements for secure English language testing for the visa and immigration applicants. If you need to apply for a visa for degree level courses such as Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD programmes you don’t need to take a Secure English Language Test (SELT) to study at a Tier 4 Sponsor university.


These institutions can decide for you which exams to accept as proof of English language proficiency and therefore you would need to meet their requirements. Most UK universities are Tier 4 Sponsors. To enable your sponsorship you need to use a result from an IELTS test taken at any IELTS test centre. There are other tests such as:




  • PTE Academic


  • C1 Advanced (formerly known as Cambridge English: Advanced)


If you are studying at a below degree level such as a foundation or pathway course and you require a visa, then you will need to take a SELT from IELTS, Trinity College London, or PTE. ‘IELTS for UKVI’ is widely accepted by UK universities.


If you are from the European Union, European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland region you do not need to apply for a visa. Therefore, you just need to meet the English language requirements set by your university for your desired major or course.


Do keep in mind that 2020 as well as the first half of 2021 was the last year when EU and EEA international students enjoyed the “local” status. The students from this time period benefited from lower tuition, government loans, and a lack of visa requirements.


For visa info, visit the official website or contact us for any further guidance. 


PTE Academic and PTE Academic UKVI Accepted as SELT


From June 2020 onwards, international students who require a UK visa can also take one of Pearson’s English Tests. This will help to meet the visa requirements established by the UK Visas and Immigration (also known as UKVI).


Different PTE tests and levels are required based on the type of visa you need. International students are still required to pass either PTE Academic or PTE Academic UKVI on their behalf :


  • study visa: PTE Academic or PTE Academic UKVI
  • work visa: PTE Academic UKVI or PTE Home A1
  • family visa: PTE Home A1 and A2
  • settlement visa: PTE Home B2


There is in fact not much difference in test content between PTE Academic and PTE Academic UKVI (not all test centres offer both of them). If you do need to pass PTE Academic UKVI for your visa, please make sure you book the exam at the right test centre to avoid any disappointments.


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