9 Oct 2023

Most residence pathways to New Zealand such as Skilled Migrant, Green List residence, Entrepreneur, Religious Worker, Parent, and Investor visas require applicants to demonstrate their proficiency in English language via an English language proficiency test (e.g., IELTS, PTE, etc.).

Meeting specific English language criteria is also mandatory for some occupations where New Zealand registration is a prerequisite for the role, e.g., doctors, nurses, teachers, etc.

International students are also required to meet the prescribed English language standard in order to enrol for any tertiary studies.

Immigration New Zealand recognises English tests outlined in the tables here. Each test has unique features, focus areas, and test criteria.

Preparing for a test

When preparing for an English proficiency test, it is essential to follow a considered and planned approach to maximize the chances of success.

Firstly, regardless of your English fluency level, it is strongly recommended to familiarise yourself with the specific test format. This can involve taking practice tests and a clear understanding about the marking criteria. Engaging with English-language learning and reading materials, media, and practicing conversations in advance can significantly help in the test preparation.

Many test takers find the freely available online resources beneficial, however a formal English course can provide the added benefit of having your practice tests assessed.

Effective time management is crucial during any of the tests, as poor time management can challenge even the most confident test takers. All of the English tests typically consist of Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing components, however their integration, and the way these components are structured within the test does vary.

It is important to confirm the preferred English for your specific test—either UK English or USA English—and to ensure responses are consistent with this selection throughout the test.

Regardless of the test you choose, always confirm the specific identity verification policies and procedures in advance, and well before taking the test, whether online or in-person. Ensure you have the correct identification if opting for an in-person test and allow sufficient time for the check-in and seating process. Adequate preparation, familiarity with the test format, and attention to these details can all contribute to a successful test outcome.

An English test may not be required.

Not all applicants are required to undertake an English language test. In some cases, they may be able to provide evidence of their competence in English by having an English-speaking background e.g., providing evidence of being taught in English-medium throughout primary school years and at least three years of secondary school.

There can also be other exceptions to demonstrating proficiency in English such as:
• being a citizenship of Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and having resided or studied for at least five years in Australia or New Zealand; or
• possessing a recognized qualification equivalent to a New Zealand level 7 bachelor's degree earned through a minimum of two academic years of study in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America; or
• holding a recognized qualification comparable to a New Zealand level 8 or higher, acquired through at least one academic year of study in the countries listed above.


The choice of which test to take often depends on the reason for the test, such as academic admission, professional certification, or for immigration. It is important to clearly identify which test is actually required, and is most appropriate, for the required purpose – and what test outcome is required.

The friendly team at Pathways to New Zealand™ is familiar with all of the various English language requirements and can provide guidance on which test may be best in the circumstances. Please do not hesitate - contact us today!