International English Language Testing

The IELTS scores we require from nurses and midwives trained outside EU/EEA

All non-EU trained applicants to the nurses or midwives part of the register must complete the International English Language Test (IELTS) before sending their application to us.

You must complete the academic version of the IELTS test and achieve:

  • at least 7.0 in the listening and reading sections
  • at least 7.0 in the writing and speaking sections, and
  • at least 7.0 (out of a possible 9) overall.

Applicants may provide two IELTS test certificates to meet the above requirements, but must not have scored below 6.5 in any categories, in either of the test sittings.

The two test sittings must be taken within six months of each other to be considered.

IELTS scores are valid for two years.

As a result of public consultations for both nursing (November 2003) and midwifery (October 2005) and evidence from the British Council, the NMC decided that a score of 7.0 was the lowest level acceptable for language skills. This applies equally to nurses and midwives who apply for registration from 1 February 2007.

We will not accept applicants who score lower than this standard.

For example: if an applicant took an IELTS in April 2015 and sat the test again within six months, they can use the scores from both tests to satisfy our requirements. However, no individual score can be below 6.5.

Example scenarios

Example 1

  Listening Reading Writing Speaking
Test 1 7 7.5 6.5 7
Test 2 6.5 7 7.5 8

This application would be accepted.
The applicant has scored 7 in all categories, and no score is lower than 6.5.

Example 2 

  Listening Reading Writing Speaking
Test 1 6 7.5 6.5 7
Test 2 6.5 7 7.5 7.5

This application would not be accepted.
The applicant has a score lower than 6.5.

Example 3

  Listening Reading Writing Speaking
Test 1 7 7.5 6 7
Test 2 6 7 7.5 7.5

This application would not be accepted.
The applicant has scores lower than 6.5.


IELTS test scores from more than two years ago

IELTS partners state they cannot verify an IELTS test score that is older than two years. If your test score is more than two years old you will need to resit your IELTS when submitting your application.

IELTS test centres

Globally IELTS is available in 140 countries at over 1,000 test centres.. A full list of test centres is available on the IELTS website. If there is no IELTS test centre in your country, please visit the IELTS website for more information. Without exception, all overseas applicants who apply for NMC registration must meet the standard for English language.

The NMC uses IELTS because it has international use and recognition within nursing and midwifery. Most other healthcare regulators in the UK also use it.

Language testing applicants from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the USA

All overseas applicants are required to meet the NMC standard for English language regardless of where they come from. This makes sure that all applicants meet the same standard in a system that is equitable, fair and non-discriminatory. There are no current plans by the NMC to waive the IELTS requirements for these countries.

Language testing those trained outside the EU

All applicants who were trained outside the EU are required by the NMC Education Registration and Registration Appeals Rules 2004 to provide evidence that they have sufficient knowledge of English to practice safely and competently as a nurse or midwife in the UK.

The English language score of 7.0 is considered to be the standard of English that is required in order to function competently and expertly in a degree-holding profession and as a registrant. For applicants outside the EU, it is regarded to be a principle competency to make sure the required standard can be met through the overseas nursing programme or the midwifery adaptation course.

For full details read our booklet for information about all stages of the process:

Registering as a nurse or midwife in the UK for applicants trained outside the EU and EEA