In this article, we will discuss what you need to know about the IELTS Life Skills A1 test, including:
- Do you even have to take the IELTS Life Skills A1 Test?
- What level IELTS Life Skills Test do you have to take?
- What level IELTS Life Skills Test should you take?
- What happens in the IELT Life Skills exams and how much do they cost?
- How do you best prepare for the IELTS Life Skills Test A1 test?
- How do you book the IELTS Life Skills A1 Test?
- What happens on the day of the exam?
- What happens after the exam?
What is the IELTS Life Skills A1 Test?
The IELTS Life Skills A1 test is Home Office approved Secure English language test (SELT) for partners and parents who want to apply for a UK visa.
It costs £150, tests speaking and listening and can be booked via this link.
Do you have to take the IELTS Life Skills Test?
Consideration 1 – Are you exempt from the English language test?
Applicants who are applying as a partner will be exempt from the English language requirement if:
- They are over 65 years old when the application is submitted; or
- They can prove that they have a medical condition (physical or mental) which stops them from learning English at the required level.
Physical or mental disability
If the applicant can prove that it would be unreasonable for them to pass the English language test at A1 level due to a mental or physical condition, then the Home Office may determine that the applicant is exempt and therefore does not have to take the test.
I use the word ‘may’ as this is discretionary – each application is considered on a case-by-case basis.
When can discretion be exercised?
The Home Office will have to agree that they are exempt if one of the following applies:
- They have been professionally diagnosed with a condition that results in them not being able to speak English at the required level; or
- They have been professionally diagnosed with a condition that prevents them from learning English to the required level.
When is it likely that discretion will be exercised?
This depends on the particular physical or mental disability.
If the applicant is mute, deaf or suffers from a speech impediment that makes it difficult to talk, they will likely be deemed exempt.
Again, it is important to stress that this is not an automatic exemption. Rather, each application will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
If the applicant is aged 65 years or over at the date of application, then they will be exempt from the English language requirement and will therefore not need to take an English language test.
The date of application is usually when the online application is submitted.
The only thing that they will have to do to satisfy the requirement is to submit their passport or travel document.
Consideration 2 – What visa do you want to apply for?
The following is a list of visas that have an English language requirement at A1 level that can be satisfied by sitting the A1 IELTS Life Skills test:
#1 Out-of-country spouse visa UK applications (spouse visa applications made from outside the UK)
Betty, an Albanian national, would like to join her British husband in the UK.
For her to satisfy the English language requirement, she will need to sit an English language test at A1 level or above.
#2 Out-of-country fiance visa UK applications (a fiancé visa application that is made from outside the UK)
Chevan, a Sri Lankan national, would like to marry his British wife in the UK and live there.
For him to satisfy the English language requirement, he will need to sit an English language test at A1 level or above.
#3 Entry clearance or leave to remain as a parent visa
Misa, a Japanese national, would like to apply for a UK parent visa from Japan.
The English language requirement for the first application as a parent will require A1 level or above.
She would therefore need to sit an English language test at A1 level or above.
If the applicant has already been granted a partner or parent visa and is looking to extend their 33 or 30-month partner or parent visa, the required level of English language test that they will be required to pass is A2 level.
There are two other ways of satisfying the English language requirement without taking a Home Office approved English language test.
By being a national of a majority English-speaking country
If the applicant is a national of one of the following countries, they will not have to sit an English language test.
- Antigua and Barbuda;
- the Bahamas;
- the British Overseas Territories;
- New Zealand;
- St Kitts and Nevis;
- St Lucia;
- St Vincent and the Grenadines;
- Trinidad and Tobago; and
- the United States of America.
In such a case, all that the applicant will need to do to satisfy the English language requirement is to simply submit a passport or travel document.
If their travel document or passport has been stolen or lost, is currently with another department of the Home Office or if it has expired and been returned to the relevant authorities, this should be made clear in the application.
As long as this is made clear in the application, applicants should then be able to submit a letter from your national government, High Commission or Embassy that confirms their name, nationality and date of birth.
Alternatively, they will be able to submit a current national identity document.
Relying on an undergraduate degree level or above qualification that was taught in English
If the applicant has an undergraduate degree level or above qualification that was taught in English, they may not have to sit the IELTS Life Skills test.
I use the word ‘may’ here because for qualifications that were awarded outside the UK, additional requirements apply.
Requirements for qualifications awarded outside the UK
This qualification must:
i) have been taught in English;
ii) be an academic qualification;
iii) be recognised by Ecctis (previously known as UK National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC)) as being the equivalent of a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD qualification in the UK;
iv) be submitted alongside confirmation from Ecctis that the degree was taught or researched in English at or above the required CEFR level.
Regarding point iv) here, if the qualification was taught in one of the following countries, it will have been assumed to have been taught in English at or above the required level:
- Antigua and Barbuda;
- the Bahamas;
- New Zealand;
- St Kitts and Nevis;
- St Lucia;
- St Vincent and the Grenadines;
- Trinidad and Tobago;
- the UK; and
- the USA.
Please note that Canada is not on this list.
Therefore, if the applicant wants to rely on an academic qualification which was awarded in Canada, they will also need to provide documentation from Ecctis that the qualification was taught in English at or above the required level.
Which IELTS Life Skills test should you take?
If the partner visa applicant’s English speaking and listening ability is higher than the minimum level of test that you have to take, you may want to consider taking a higher IELTS Life Skills test than what is required for the application that you’re applying for.
This is because if the applicant takes the IELTS Life Skills B1 test for their partner visa application, in many cases, they will be able to re-use that same certificate for their partner visa extension and/or Indefinite Leave to Remain and British citizenship applications.
This will save you both time and money.
How do we know what level test the applicant can pass?
To answer this, let’s discuss what is to be expected of you to pass the A1, A2 and B1 tests.
The standard of English required to pass the A1 Life Skills test
You will be expected to:
#1 Listen and respond to spoken language, including questions, statements, simple narratives and single-step instructions.
#2 Talk with another person in a familiar situation about something familiar to both of you.
#3 Communicate basic information, opinions and feelings on familiar topics.
The tasks in the A1 test may include:
- Giving opinions
- Giving personal information
- Stating preferences
- Asking for information or descriptions
- Agreeing and disagreeing
- Explaining, giving reasons or justifying
To skip straight to the mock exam, skip to 3 minutes and 50 seconds.
A practice A1 IELTS Life Skills test can be found here.
The standard of English required to pass the A2 Life Skills test
In addition to the A1 tasks shown above, the applicant will be expected to be able to:
A sample practice paper for the IELTS Life Skills A2 test can be found here.
The standard of English required to pass the B1 Life Skills test
In addition to the A1 tasks shown above, you will be expected to be able to:
#2 Show contrast, cause, reason or purpose
#3 Express future certainty or possibility
#4 Ask about past or future events
A sample practice paper IELTS Life Skills B1 test can be found here.
What happens in the IELTS Life Skills A1 exam?
Regardless of the applicant’s English language ability, it would be helpful if they know what to expect in the exams.
This will make preparation much easier (& less stressful).
The IELTS Life Skills A1 exam takes place with an examiner and one other candidate.
It is a face-to-face speaking and listening test.
You will not be tested on writing or reading.
The exam will take place in one short session that will last between 16 and 18 minutes (slightly shorter than the A2 and B1 IELTS Life Skills exams).
During your test, you can take notes to prepare your answers.
These notes will not be marked (only your listening and speaking skills will be).
The IELTS Life Skills A1 exam has two main parts to the test.
In the first part, you will have to ask and answer questions on topics that are familiar to you, for example:
- Personal details/experiences
- Buying goods
- Family and friends
- Housing; and weather
In the second part, there is a combined listening and speaking task.
This test will be done with another test taker so that the examiner can see how well you can communicate with other people in everyday English.
How do I book the IELTS Life Skills A1 exam?
Step #1: Click this link.
Step #2: Choose “IELTS for UKVI and IELTS Life Skills”
Step #3: Find and select your country or territory and then select “Find a test location”
Step #4: Start the booking process by clicking “book now”.
Once step #4 has been done, you will then be given the relevant contact information as well as the option of booking a test.
It is at this stage that the test fee is paid.
After choosing a location and time, it will ask you to register an account. This will allow you to book the test using the online booking system.
If you have any special requirements, including hearing difficulties, visual difficulties, specific learning disabilities, medical conditions or infant feeding, you should contact IELTS before your test and inform them.
For those who require a modified version of the test (for instance a Braille version or a large print version), the test centre requires 3 months’ notice.
If you require extra time or use access technology such as a screen reader, you will have to provide the test centre with at least 6 weeks’ notice.
This is to ensure that your English language ability is assessed fairly and objectively.
What ID documents do I need to book the IELTS Life Skills A1 test?
|Identity Document||Can this be used for tests taken in the UK?||Can this be used for tests taken outside the UK?|
|Biometric Residence permit
Note: These should only be used for tests taken in the UK if you do not have a valid passport
|Valid photographic Government issued identity cards||No||Yes, but only in the country where the document was issued|
|Identity cards of EEA nationals and Swiss nationals||Yes||Yes, but only in the country where the document was issued|
|Travel documents, including:
Convention travel document
· Stateless person’s travel document
· Certificates of Identity
· Travel document issued by the United Nations
· Travel documents issued by the International Red Cross
· Emergency travel documents
The applicant must use an original document that is still valid. Expired documents will not be accepted.
They are not allowed to use photocopies.
Make sure that the applicant brings the same original identity document with them when they attend the test that they used to book the test via the online website.
What document can I use if the Home Office have my passport?
The applicant should use a valid EU identity card or valid Biometric Residence Permit if they have one.
If they do not have either of these documents, they should contact the Home Office and ask for your passport back.
What if there is no availability for our preferred test centre?
If you try to book a test at your preferred centre on a specific day but there are no available slots, you can either check another test centre or you can look at other test dates.
In most circumstances, you should always be able to take the test within 28 days of booking it.
With this being said, some countries’ test centre availability is worse than others.
Can my partner or other family member pay for my test?
Yes. Just like the Home Office processing fee, they do not care where the money came from – just that they get the money.
What happens on the day of the IELTS Life Skills A1 exam?
Before the day of your test
Before the test day, the applicant should make sure that they know exactly when the IELTS Life Skills A1 exam starts. They should also ensure that they know how they should get to the test centre on time.
One important thing to note is that the IELTS test location may be different to the test centre where you booked your test – so please double-check this.
Please also ensure that you know where the document that you used to book the test is – the applicant will need to bring this document with them to the test.
Arriving at the test centre
The applicant should ensure that they arrive at the test centre on time since if they arrive late, it is possible that they will not be allowed to sit the test.
When they arrive at the test centre, they should turn off all of their electronic devices, including their mobile phone. These must be stored outside of the test room along with all of their other personal belongings.
Only water in a transparent bottle can be brought into the test room – no other food or drink is allowed.
Staff at the test centre will check their identity document – if they do not have this, they will not be allowed to sit the test that day. The documents they receive after having registered for the test online will confirm which ID documents they will need.
IELTS staff will also take a photograph of the applicant before sitting the test. This photograph will be used on the applicant’s Test Report Form.
In some countries, the applicant may be asked to provide a scan of their fingerprints.
What happens after the IELTS Life Skills A1 exam?
Normally, it will take up to 7 days for you to receive the certificate and know the outcome of your IELTS Life Skills A1 exam.
You will either ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.
If you did not pass the test, you will have to resit it to apply for a UK partner or parent visa.
If you passed the test, you will be provided with a SELT test that has a unique reference number. It is this number that should be included in your parent/partner visa application.
How long is the IELTS Life Skills A1 test valid for?
The test certificate will be valid for two years. With this being said, in many instances, these will be able to be re-used beyond the 2 years validity period.
As an OISC-regulated UK immigration law firm that specialises in UK spouse and partner visas, we are especially well-placed to help.
Our full legal representation service is primarily offered by Ed Lowe (who worked in the heart of the Home Office for 20+ years). Matthew French and Wendy Foy, both of whom also worked in the Home Office, help our clients obtain their UK spouse and partner visas in the quickest and least stressful way (whilst ensuring that all of the requirements are met).
We also offer a unique DIY Application Pack service which is for partners who want to save money by preparing and submitting the application themselves but want additional written guidance for their application.