To be a nurse in the UK, you essentially need two key things: relevant qualifications and experience, and good English language skills. If you were trained in a country that is not classed as a native English-speaking country, you’ll need to either pass the IELTS or the Occupational English Test (OET) with satisfactory scores in listening, reading, speaking and writing.

What pieces of evidence are accepted by the NMC?

To register with the NMC, you will need to be able to satisfy them that you have the necessary knowledge of English to communicate clearly and effectively.

Communication is defined as speaking, reading, listening and writing and your evidence to the NMC will need to demonstrate competence in these four mandatory skills.

This will mean you either:

  • Have recently achieved the required score in one of the English language tests accepted by the NMC, either the IELTS or the OET You must achieve the required score in each of the four skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.
  • Have a recent pre-registration nursing, midwifery or nursing associate qualification which was taught and examined in English.
  • You have recent practice of at least one year in a majority English speaking country. This generally means if you have been registered with the NMC within the last two years; or if you have met the practice hours requirements of either 450 hours in the previous three years or 750 hours in the previous five years in a majority English-speaking country

What is the IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is an international test of English language proficiency. There are a number of countries where IELTS is non-mandatory for NMC registration. Click here to see which countries are exempt.

IELTS is the only English Language Test approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for visa customers applying from both outside and inside the UK.

Importantly, you must complete the ‘academic version’ of the IELTS, according to the NMC’s requirements.

What IELTS score is needed to become a nurse in the UK?

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

  • At least 7.0 in the listening, speaking and reading sections
  • At least 6.5 in the writing sections
  • At least 7.0 (out of a possible 9) overall

What is the OET?

The Occupational English Test (also known as OET) is an international English language test for the healthcare sector. It assesses the language communication skills of healthcare professionals who wish to register and practise in an English-speaking environment. This was introduced by the NMC on 1st November as an alternative to the IELTS.

What OET score is needed to become a nurse in the UK?

If you have completed an OET examination you must provide a certificate that confirms:

  • at least a B grade in listening, reading and speaking, and
  • at least a C+ grade in writing 

The NMC will only accept results from OET tests taken from February 2016 onwards, and will accept the OET on Paper, OET on Computer and the OET@Home.

Why is IELTS/OET so important?

It’s very simple: to be a nurse in the UK, you must complete the IELTS/OET first, unless you have been trained in a native English-speaking country. Your career in the UK depends on it.

But more than that, it represents a level of English skill that will make your life in the UK much more fulfilling. You’ll be better at your job, you’ll settle more comfortably into British life, and you’ll find it much easier to get things done.

Best of all, your CV will look so much stronger with an IELTS/OET pass. Improving your English will improve your career prospects immediately.

NMC Registration FAQs

    • Where does the NMC consider to be English Speaking Countries?

      The NMC does provide a list is based on the UK Border Agency’s list of majority English-speaking countries, and consider the following countries to be majority English-speaking. This means candidates from these countries will not require IELTS or OET exams:

      • Antigua and Barbuda
      • Anguilla
      • Australia
      • The Bahamas
      • Barbados
      • Belize
      • Bermuda
      • British Indian Ocean Territory
      • Canada
      • Cayman Islands
      • Dominica
      • Falkland Islands
      • Gibraltar
      • Grenada
      • Guernsey
      • Guyana
      • Ireland
      • Isle of Man
      • Jamaica
      • Jersey
      • Malta
      • New Zealand
      • Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
      • St Kitts and Nevis
      • St Lucia
      • St Vincent and the Grenadines
      • Trinidad and Tobago
      • United Kingdom
      • United States of America
      • US Virgin Islands
    • Can you combine IELTS and OET test results?

      You can achieve the required mark across two test sittings of the IELTS tests if:

      • you sit the tests within six months of each other
      • you’re tested in all four sections at the same time
      • For the IELTS, all scores in both sittings are above 6.5, and you must achieve at least 6.5 in the writing section and at least 7 in the reading, listening and speaking sections in either of the two test sittings.
      • For the OETs, all grades in both sittings must be above grade C+, and you must achieve at least a grade C+ in the writing section and at least a grade B in the reading, listening and speaking sections in either of the two test sittings.

      Test scores are valid for two years.

Ready to start your application?

Do you already have your IELTS or OET results, or can provide evidence of practice or training in an English speaking country? Submit your CV below to start the conversation with our international recruitment team!

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