There are, however, certain conditions you’d have to fulfill to be able to give the IELTS a miss.
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has put in place certain exemptions to IELTS by non-university tertiary education providers for international students whose first language is not English.
As of now these exemptions are confined to Category 1 institutes that have their own ways of determining the proficiency in English of international students. The results of these tests, however, should be at par with those of the IELTS. Meaning, the testing procedures of these institutes should be of a quality as good as the international ones such as the IELTS.
The Process for IELTS Exemption in New Zealand
As already mentioned, only Category 1 institutes can waive off IELTS scores for international students. If you are applying to a Category 1 institute and don’t have an IELTS score on you, you should begin by checking what the institute’s website says about proceeding without an IELTS score.
The exact criteria for acceptance of applications without IELTS scores will differ from institute to institute but in general may include the following:
Proof that your education was carried out in English medium
Having studied in English medium all your academic life makes it very likely that your English language proficiency is good and this may stand you in good stead with Category 1 institutes if you don’t have an IELTS score to present.
Proof that you studied in English medium between Classes VIIIth and XIIth
It’s ideal to have studied in English language throughout your school years if you want an IELTS waiver, but if that is not the case the second best is to have attended high school and higher secondary school in English medium. That comes down to five years of English medium study — from class VIIIth to XIIth.
Undergo the institute’s own assessment
Category 1 institutes are required to assess international students’ proficiency in English language via their own tests. This could happen in person, electronically, or on the phone. If you convince your institute that you have a good understanding and command over the English language, they will likely waive the IELTS for you.
Documents Needed to Gain Exemption from IELTS
In order to get an IELTS waiver you will have to convince your prospective Category 1 institute of your English medium background (as stated above), besides fulfilling their assessment criteria.
The documents needed for this are as follows:
- Your mark sheets from your entire schooling years, clearly stating your medium of instruction to be English, if you have stated in your application that all your schooling was done in English.
- Your mark sheets for five years, from class VIIIth to class XIIth, stating your medium of instruction to be English, if you have stated in your application that you studied in an English medium school at the time. (Note: Only submitting mark sheets for classes VIIIth and XIIth will not do; you will need to submit mark sheets for all the five years in question.)
- A certificate from your school(s) confirming you studied with them for the duration stated and attended exams at the time mentioned in the mark sheets.
Will a Lack of IELTS Score Cause visa Problems?
You need to understand that the whole point of IELTS is to determine your English language proficiency, and that sitting for that test will be ultimately for your own good.
Agreed that as per new updates in the NZQA’s policies certain institutes can waive off the requirement for an IELTS score, but the fact remains that you will still be expected to demonstrate your English language proficiency (even if in some other way).
While the New Zealand visa authorities are well aware of the IELTS exemptions for certain institutes, you will still be expected to convey to them your proficiency in the English language. If you don’t, they may ask you to come over for an interview so that they are able to assess first-hand how good your English is. If they are satisfied with your interview, a lack of IELTS score should not cause any visa problems for you.
What If You Are Not Confident about Your English?
This is the main problem, isn’t it?
For those of you who are confident about your English language skills, we suggest not to worry. But those who aren’t as confident, they should consider taking English classes and/or actively working on improving their command over the language before applying for studies abroad. Ultimately, good English skills will help you in many ways when you are abroad, whether in your studies, in socialisation, or later on in employment. So this is one skill that is definitely worth your time to work on, and the sooner you start the better it will be for you.