IELTS Life Skills A1 Test Guide for 2021

FREE UK Partner Visa Video Series

CLICK HERE to watch our free video series.

In this free video series, we discuss:

  • The financial requirement
  • The online application form
  • Document translations
  • The adequate accommodation requirement
  • The English language requirement
  • Dependent children requirement
  • The unmarried partner visa requirement
  • Other partner visa requirements

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?

But first, let’s make sure you are in the right place…

What is the IELTS Life Skills A1 Test?

The IELTS Life Skills A1 test is Home Office approved Secure English language test (SELT) that is designed for partners and parents who are wanting to apply for a UK visa.

It costs £150, tests speaking and listening and can be booked at this link.

uk spouse visa full legal representation

 

step 1

Do you have to take the IELTS Life Skills Test?

Consideration 1 – 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 IELTS Life Skills at A1 level:

#1 Out of country spouse visa UK applications (spouse visa applications made from outside the UK)

Example

Beatrice, a Russian national, would like to join her British husband in the UK.

In order for her to meet the English language requirement, she will need to sit an 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)

Example

Chevan, a Sri Lankan national, would like to marry his British wife in the UK and live there.

In order for him to meet 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

Example

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 visa is A1 level English.

She would therefore need to sit an English language test at A1 level or above. 

Note

If you have already been granted a partner or parent visa and are looking to extend your 33 or 30-month partner or parent visa, the required level of English language test that you will be required to pass is A2 level.


Consideration 2 – 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:

i) are over 65 years old on the date that they submit the application,
ii) can prove that they have a medical condition (physical or mental) which stops them from learning English at A1 level.

Exemption #1:

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 say that they are exempt and therefore do not have to take the test.

I say ‘may’ as this is discretionary – each application is considered on a case-by-case basis.

When can a discretion be exercised?

The Home Office will have to agree that they are exempt if one of the following applies:

i) They have been professionally diagnosed with a long-term physical condition that prevents them from learning English; or

ii) They have been professionally diagnosed with a mental condition that results in them not being able to speak or learn English at the requiredA1 level.

When is it likely that discretion will be exercised?

The likelihood of the Home Office deciding that the applicant is exempt depends on the particular physical or mental disability.

If the applicant is deaf, mute or suffers from a speech impediment that makes it difficult to talk, it is likely that they will be deemed exempt.

Again, it is important to stress that this is not an automatic exemption – each application will be considered individually.

Exemption #2:

Age Exemption

Applicants will be exempt from having to meet the English language requirement if they are aged 65 years or over at the date of application.

The date of application is usually when the online application is submitted.

The only thing that they will have to do in order to meet the requirement is to submit a passport or travel document – easy!

There are two other ways of meeting the English language requirement without passing the IELTS Life Skills A1 test for partner visas.

Alternative #1:

Majority English-speaking Nationality

If the applicant is a national of one of the following countries, good news, they will not have to sit an English language test.

  • Antigua and Barbuda;
  • Australia;
  • the Bahamas;
  • Barbados;
  • Belize;
  • Canada;
  • Dominica;
  • Grenada;
  • Guyana;
  • Jamaica;
  • Malta;
  • 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 in order to satisfy the English language requirement is to simply submit a passport or travel document.

In the event that their travel document or passport has been stolen or lost, is currently with another department of the Home Office or it has expired and 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.

Alternative #2:

Relying on a degree level or above qualification that was taught in English

If you have a degree level or above qualification that was taught in English, you may not have to sit the IELTS Life Skills test.

I say ‘may’ here for two reasons.

Firstly, for qualifications that were awarded outside the UK, in most cases it will be simpler to just sit the A1 IELTS Life Skills test.

Secondly, if the qualification was awarded outside the UK, there are some additional requirements that must be met.

Requirements for qualifications awarded outside the UK

This qualification must:

i) be an academic qualification;

ii) have been taught in English;

iii) be recognised by 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 NARIC 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;
  • Australia;
  • the Bahamas;
  • Barbados;
  • Belize;
  • Dominica;
  • Grenada;
  • Guyana;
  • Ireland;
  • Jamaica;
  • Malta;
  • 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.

Documents required

If you are going to rely on a qualification that was taught or researched in English, the following are the required documents that you would need to submit:

If the degree was obtained from a UK academic institution:

  • a degree certificate

If the degree was taught or researched in a majority English-speaking country (other than Canada):

  • a degree certificate
  • evidence from NARIC that the degree is the equivalent of a UK degree

If the degree was not taught or researched in a majority English-speaking country (other than Canada):

The evidence required if you have a degree that was taught or researched in a non-majority English-speaking country:

  • a degree certificate;
  • evidence from NARIC that the degree is the equivalent of a UK degree; and
  • evidence from NARIC that the degree was taught using English at or above the required CEFR level.

Spouse visa DIY Application Pack

step 2

Which IELTS Life Skills test should you take?

If a partner visa applicant’s English speaking and listening ability is higher than the minimum level of test that you have to take, it may be a good idea to take the higher IELTS Life Skills test.

Why?

Because if you take the IELTS Life Skills B1 test for your partner visa application, in many cases you will be able to re-use that same certificate for your Indefinite Leave to Remain and British citizenship application 5+ years down the line.

This will obviously save you both time and money.

But what level of English am I or my partner at?

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 in order 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 that is familiar to both of you

#3 Communicate basic information, opinions and feelings on familiar topics

The tasks in the A1 test may include:

  • Describing
  • Giving opinions
  • Giving personal information
  • Stating preferences
  • Commenting
  • Asking for information or descriptions
  • Agreeing and disagreeing
  • Explaining, giving reasons or justifying
  • Deciding
  • Suggesting
  • Selecting.

The above video shows one of our immigration advisors, Stuart Hanson, conduct a mock A1 English language test.

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 in order to pass the A2 Life Skills test

In addition to the A1 tasks shown above, you will be expected to be able to:

#1 Compare

#2 Prioritise

#3 Plan

#4 Persuade

A sample practice paper for IELTS Life Skills A2 test can be found here.

The standard of English required in order to pass the B1 Life Skills test

In addition to the A1 tasks shown above, you will be expected to be able to:

#1 Show contrast, cause, reason or purpose

#2 Narrate

#3 Ask about past or future events

#4 Express future certainty or possibility

A sample practice paper IELTS Life Skills B1 test can be found here.

step 3

What happens in the IELTS Life Skills A1 exam?

So now hopefully you have a better idea what English language level you or your partner is at.

Regardless of your English language ability, it would help if you knew what to expect in the exams.

This will make preparation much easier (& less stressful).

The IELTS Life Skills A1 exam takes places 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
  • Family and friends
  • Buying goods
  • Work
  • Health
  • Leisure
  • Education/Training
  • Transport
  • 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.

step 4

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.

Those who require a modified version of the test (for instance a Braille version or 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?
Passport Yes Yes
Biometric Residence permit

Note: These should only be used for tests taken in the UK if you do not have a valid passport

Yes No
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 persons travel document

· Certificates of Identity

· Travel document issued by the United Nations

· Travel documents issued by the International Red Cross

· Emergency travel documents

Yes Yes

You must use the original document that is still valid. Out of date documents will not be accepted.

You are not allowed to use photocopies.

Make sure that you bring the same original identity document with you when you attend your test that you used to book the test via the online website.


What document can I use if the Home Office have my passport?

You should use a valid EU identity card or valid Biometric Residence Permit if you have one.

If you do not have either of these documents, you should contact the Home Office and ask for your passport back.


What if there is no availability for test centre that I want to take the test at?

If you try to book a test at your preferred centre on a specific day but there are no available slots for you, 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 country’s test centre availability are worse than others.


Can my partner or other family member pay for my test?

Sure.  Just like the Home Office processing fee, they do not really care where the money came from – just that they get the money!

step 5

What happens on the day of the IELTS Life Skills A1 exam?

Before the day of your test

Before your test day, you should make sure that you know exactly when your IELTS Life Skills A1 exam starts. You should also ensure that you know how you 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 double check this.

Ensure that you know where the document that you used to book the test is, since you will need to bring this document with you to the test.


Arriving at the test centre

Ensure that you arrive at the test centre on time since if you arrive late, it is possible that you will not be allowed to sit the test.

When you arrive at the test centre, turn off all of your electronic devices, including your mobile phone. These must be stored outside of the test room along with all of your 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 your identity document – if you do not have this, you will not be allowed to sit the test that day. The documents you receive after having registered for the test online will confirm which ID documents you will need.

IELTS staff will also take a photograph of you prior to sitting the test. This photograph will be used on your Test Report Form.

In some countries, you may be asked to provide a scan of your fingerprints.

step 6

What happens after the IELTS Life Skills A1 exam?

Normally, it will take up to 7 days in order for you to receive the certificate and know the outcome of your IELTS Life Skills A1 exam.

You will either ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.

Obviously, if you did not pass the test, you will have to resit it in order 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.  

 

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