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Difference between IELTS and IELTS UKVI. Which one should you take?

If you are looking to study abroad, it is mandatory that you take a standardized test to prove your English language proficiency. Which test you choose depends on the country you would want to study in. For example, most students looking to study in the US prefer to take TOEFL, PTE for Australia and IELTS for UK. However, the test you choose also depends on the type of visa and the university you are applying to. 

While there are many English language proficiency tests conducted around the world, IELTS is the world’s most popular English language test for both higher education and immigration. It is accepted in more than 140 countries around the world and is prominent with countries like the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and many more. 

Off late, there have been many cases of students complaining about a few universities not accepting their IELTS score, in spite of it being mentioned in the admission criteria on the university page. However, what many students failed to notice before applying and taking an IELTS test was that there is another IELTS test known as the IELTS for UKVI. In this article, I will explain the difference between IELTS and IELTS for UKVI and which test should you take and when. Firstly, let’s learn about the backstory of IELTS. 

What is IELTS?

The International English language Testing System (IELTS) was launched in 1980 by the Cambridge English language Assessment and the British Council. At that time this test was only taken by people looking to study or live in the UK this resulted in a very low number of test-takers. Therefore, it was later revised to increase international participation. 

As a result, the International Development Program (IDP) of Australian Universities and Colleges, which is now known as IDP: IELTS Australia joined the above two organizations in revising the test structure, sharing ownership, and making it more global. This is the IELTS test which is commonly known to everyone today. 


In 2015, the United Kingdom Visa and Immigration (UKVI) has made important changes to the Secured English Language Tests (SELT) for visa and immigration purposes. The notable changes are the introduction of IELTS UKVI and IELTS Life Skills tests. This reduced the number of accepted tests and made changes to the way the tests are conducted. 

IELTS UKVI test is the same as the regular IELTS test with a few changes in the way the test is conducted. The IELTS UKVI is conducted in key authorized locations around the world. While, the content, format, difficulty level and scoring remains the same, the Test Report Form (TRF) differs slightly.  These test locations must follow the procedures specified by the UK government with more secured protocols while conducting the exam. Some of them have more CCTV surveillance and examiners, and lesser people taking the test on the same day. It also costs more than a regular IELTS exam. 

How much does the IELTS for UKVI test cost?

While the regular IELTS test costs around 13,250 INR, the IELTS for UKVI will cost about 18,500 INR.

Where are the test centers for IELTS UKVI?

There are a total of 11 cities in India where this test is conducted. Below are the cities. 

Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Jalandhar, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, and Pune. 

Which IELTS test should I take?

If you are looking to study at a degree (Bachelors) level or above in the UK, you will need to apply for a Tier 4 study visa. In this case, you may take the regular IELTS test. However, make sure that the university you are applying to is part of the British Universities and Colleges of the Highly Trusted Sponsors (HTS) list. 

You will need to take the IELTS for UKVI during the below scenarios:

  • If you are not applying for a Tier 4 study visa and are applying for any other visa required to get into the UK.
  • The university you have applied to is not part of the Highly Trusted Sponsors list
  • You are studying below a degree level
  • The university specifically requests you for an IELTS UKVI score

Will my IELTS UKVI score be valid in other countries?

Yes, if you have taken the IELTS UKVI test, its score will be valid for universities, employers, and governments throughout the world. 

Which test do UK universities accept?

As mentioned above, if you are applying for a degree or above level, a regular IELTS test would be sufficient. You need to take the IELTS UKVI test only if the university is not listed in the Highly Trusted Sponsors list. 

Are there any other English language requirement alternatives to IELTS?

There are no other English language test alternatives to IELTS in the UK. However, the IELTS test can be ‘waived off’ if you secure more than 70% marks in 12th grade in English subject and the medium of instruction in your last 4 years of study is English. Do note that, even if your IELTS test is waived off, you will need to have good English language communication to pass immigration after reaching the UK. 

What if I am not sure which IELTS to take?

If you are not sure whether to take the regular IELTS or the IELTS for UKVI, it is suggested to take the IELTS for UKVI test to be on the safe side if you are pretty sure that you would want to go to the UK for your higher studies. If other study abroad countries like Canada, Australia, etc are also an option, then please take the regular IELTS test. That being said, you can always contact our Student Support Team to get all your queries cleared. 

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