Intending to apply as an international student to New Zealand?  If you are applying for your first New Zealand student visa, you may be required to submit evidence, by way of some English language exams, to prove that your proficiency in the language will meet the level of study for the course you intend to apply for.  If you don't, then the alternative is to enrol in English language programs of study before moving on to your main program of study.

There is no need to take an English proficiency exam though if you are a passport holder of a country that has a student visa application approval rate of HIGHER than 80%.  The list of countries is published on the Immigration New Zealand website.

We've reproduced below, the table for Internationally recognised English Proficiency Outcomes for International Students.  These are the minimum scores you would need, depending on the NZQA level of study of your intended course*:

Program Level IELTS Test TOEFL Paper-based test TOEFL Internet-based test Cambridge English Examinations NZCEL Pearson Test of English (Academic City & Guilds IESOL
Certificate Level 3 General or Academic score of 5 with no band lower than 5 Score of 500; TWE essay score 4 Score of 35; writing score 20 FCE, or FCE for Schools score of 154; at least 154 in each skill; OET at Grade C in all sub-tests Level 3 either General, Workplace or Academic endorsement Score of 36 B1 Achiever with score of 43
Certificate Level 4 General or Academic score of 5.5 with no band lower than 5 Score of 530; TWE essay score 4.5 Score of 46; writing score 20 FCE, or FCE for Schools score of 162; at least 154 in each skill; OET at Grade C in all sub-tests Level 3 either General, Workplace or Academic endorsement Score of 42 B2 Communicator with score of 42
Certificate or Diploma Level 5 Academic score of 5.5 with no band lower than 5 Score of 550; TWE essay score 5 Score of 46; writing score 20 FCE, or FCE for Schools score of 169; at least 162 in each skill; OET at Grade C in all sub-tests Level 4 with Academic endorsement Score of 50 B2 Communicator with score of 42
Certificate or Diploma at Level 6 or 7; Degree at Level 7; Graduate Certificate or Diploma at Level 7 Academic score of 6 with no band lower than 5.5 Score of 550; TWE essay score 5 Score of 60; writing score 20 FCE, or FCE for Schools, or CAE, or CPE score of 169; at least 162 in each skill; OET at Grade C in all sub-tests Level 4 with Academic endorsement Score of 50 B2 Communicator with score of 66
Post-graduate Diploma or Post-graduate Certificate at Level 8; Master's Degree at Level 9; Doctorate Degree at Level 10 Academic score of 6.5 with no band lower than 6 Score of 590; TWE essay score 5.5 Score of 79; writing score 21 CAE, or CPE score of 176; at least 169 in each skill; OET at Grade C in all sub-tests Level 5 with Academic endorsement Score of 58 C1 Expert with score of 42

* Source: New Zealand Qualifications Authority.  http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/our-role/legislation/nzqa-rules/nzqf-related-rules/the-table/

Further clarification was also released by NZQA (the New Zealand government agency responsible for ensuring the continued excellence of non-university tertiary training providers) in November 2016 regarding these English language proficiency requirements. 

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About the Author

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer S. Aranda is the COO of IVC Immigrant Visa Center, Inc.


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