An English language test such as IELTS or TOEFL is generally considered a prerequisite for your application to be entertained by your prospective university abroad.
Such a test is said to be an indicator of your skills with the language that is going to be your medium of higher studies for the next few years. If you are not comfortable with the language itself, the chances of you following your studies, understandings your lectures, and doing well in your assignments are low. This in turn may make your financial investment in the course not worth your time.
The purpose of the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is to determine your level of the standard English (and not just Indian English). Typically, a good score in IELTS will strengthen your application as it will tell your prospective university that you have a good command over the language, which will signal to them that you will not have problems following your course in the UK.
But does that mean that those who have not given an IELTS test, or haven’t scored highly in it, don’t stand a chance of being accepted?
Fortunately, that is not the case.
The IELTS can be waived in certain circumstances
But for that to happen you will have to meet some other criteria. The exact assessment criteria will differ from university to university, so you will have to check this before-hand with the universities you are interested in applying to. But generally speaking some of the popular criteria include the following:
An assessment of your class Xth and XIIth English language scores
For students who are keen on applying abroad but don’t have the time to sit for IELTS, there is hope. If your class Xth and XIIth scores in English are good, you can go ahead with your UK applications.
Some British universities will consider your competence in the language based on your high school scores and if they find them good enough they may waive the IELTS requirement for you. Sometimes only your class XIIth score is taken into consideration, since it’s the later of the two scores and a good score in class XIIth implies a decent enough grasp on the English language.
Whether you studied in an English medium school
English as your medium of instruction indicates a high exposure to the language throughout your academic life — first in the school and later on at the university level. If your overall grades are good and your academic background is solid and fulfills a university’s criteria, they may waive the IELTS requirements for you. Here is an example of one such waiver.
Conducting a telephonic/Skype interview
Some universities prefer to speak to the applicants before taking a final decision on their applications. This is an even better way for them to determine your English language competence as they will get to hear your English first-hand. If your spoken English is good and you manage to impress them sufficiently in your conversation, there is a good probability they will give you a waiver on the IELTS.
What if your IELTS score is low?
You will be surprised to know how many students face this problem. The good news is that many UK universities don’t reject applications based on low IELTS scores alone.
The UK is a country where students from all over the world come to study. In many of these countries English is spoken a lot less than it is in India, and their students have a poor grasp on the language. That does not mean that their applications are turned down straightaway. The British education system understands that English is not everybody’s first language and that there are bound to be many students who struggle with it at the higher level.
To help them out many British universities conduct English language programmes before the start of formal courses to help international students improve their English. These courses are mandatory, by the way, if your IELTS score is low.
This also means that you will have to reach the country earlier and pay for this extra course on top of paying for your main course.
These English language courses are usually not expensive but in case you don’t want to pay for one you do have the option of sitting for the IELTS again. English is widely spoken and taught in India. IELTS classes are easy to come by. If you are not confident enough about your English skills, take some vocational guidance and re-appear for the test with good preparation under your belt. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t get a good score!
Is your visa application affected by a missing IELTS score?
Every case is different. Students are required to undergo interviews at the time of submitting their visa applications, in which the interviewers assess your knowledge about the programme you’ve applied for and determine why you are interested in studying in the UK. How well you speak will also be one of the criteria for them to take the final call on your application, in tandem with the assessment process of the university that has accepted you.
If the university is convinced of your good English skills even without an IELTS score, and you manage to convince the visa officers at the time of the interview that you have no problems with the English language, a missing IELTS score will not affect your visa application negatively.
Having said that, a good IELTS score also does not guarantee a visa.
Ultimately, decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis. Think of it as a job interview. Besides fulfilling all the basic criteria of the position you are applying for, you should be able to assure the interview panel that you are the right person for the role. This becomes especially important if you have gaps in your resume. Similarly, not having an IELTS score in hand is a handicap only if you let it be. You can proceed without it as well, as was shown in this post. So don’t let a lack of this score hold you back in applying to the universities of your interest.