IELTS – a guide for overseas doctors

  • February 14, 2023
 

Doctors looking to register with the GMC and find a job in the NHS are required to demonstrate their level of English is suitable via the IELTS or OET exam.

Here we take a closer look at the IELTS exam, which is an International English Language Testing System used worldwide. 

IELTS is used by overseas doctors to demonstrate their ability to communicate effectively in English and support their application to the register and practice medicine in the NHS. 

In this article, we outline the key facts about IELTS, including the following topics: 

What is IELTS? Content and structure:

IELTS is designed to test your English skills needed to be successful in the workplace. It covers the following sub-test areas: 

  • Listening (30 minutes) 
  • Reading (60 minutes)
  • Writing (60 minutes)
  • Speaking (11 – 14 minutes)

Listening: 30 minutes

The listening sub-test consists of four sections, each including 10 questions. You will listen to four separate recordings and then answer questions. 

The recordings will include a general conversation, a monologue on a general topic, a conversation of up to 4 people in an academic setting, a monologue on an academic subject.

Questions are varied in type, including multiple choice, matching, labelling, note completion and sentence completion. 

Reading: 60 minutes

The reading sub-test consists of three long texts, usually taken from journals magazines, newspapers or books. 

They are not specific to any one topic, however the texts are appropriate for people entering university or professional registration. 

The test consists of 40 questions, testing a range of reading skills. 

Writing: 60 minutes

The writing sub-test consists of two writing tasks. 

Task 1 – describe, summarise or explain the information presented in a graph, table or chart. 

Task 2 – write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. 

Both tasks require a formal style of writing. The topics covered are general interest, and suitable for people applying for university or professional registration. 

Speaking: 11 – 14 minutes

The speaking sub-test comprises of three parts, delivered by an IELTS examiner face to face: 

Part 1 – you will be asked general questions about yourself, covering a range of topics. 

Part 2 – you will be given a topic to talk about. You will have 1 minute to prepare, and then speak on the given topic for two minutes. You will then be asked a few questions by the examiner on the same topic. 

Part 3 – You will be asked further questions on the same topic as part 2. Here you will have the chance to elaborate and discuss more ideas. 

The topics covered are general interest, and suitable for people applying for university or professional registration. 

What scores do I need? 

To register with the GMC, you must obtain an overall score of 7.5 with minimum scores of 7.0 in each sub-test. 

Remember, to sit the PLAB test, you must obtain the required IELTS overall score of 7.5 with minimum scores of 7.0 in each sub-test. 

There are a few IELTS options, what test should I take? 

IELTS has two versions, Academic and General. To register with the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK, an IMG must take the Academic test, which is designed for people applying for professional registration. 

However

You can use your IELTS certificate for both the GMC and your visa application.

IELTS Academic UKVI is the only version acceptable for both GMC and Tier 2 Visa applications, and for this reason is the best route covering all application purposes in one go. Not only will this save on fees, but also will ensure that only one test is taken. 

 

What scores do I need for GMC and Visa applications? 

For the GMC to accept your IELTS certificate you must achieve an overall score of 7.5 across all four areas, with no less than a 7.0 in in each testing area. The pass score for a Tier 2 General Visa is 4.0 overall, and in each of the four skills. 

Paper or computer version? 

IELTS can now be taken on paper or computer. Both are exactly the same content, the only difference is the manner in which the answers are complete on the test. 

Paper IELTS: 

Reading, writing and listening sub-tests will be sat at a desk with questions papers and answer sheets. 

The speaking section is carried out face to face with an IELTS examiner. 

Computer IELTS: 

Reading, writing and listening sub-tests will be taken at a computer with questions on screen. The speaking section is carried out face to face with an IELTS examiner. 

Does time matter? 

Each sub-test is timed, and you will need to practice how to give each section the right amount of time. You will have to be efficient and work quickly, dedicating the right amount of time to each question and text. 

Where and when can I take the test? 

IELTS can be taken in more than 1,200 locations worldwide, with 48 test dates in the calendar year. For more information on venues take a look at the official website.  

Can I cancel my application?

If you cancel your application more than 5 weeks before the test date, you will receive a refund minus an administration charge. If you cancel within 5 weeks of the test date, you will be charged the full fee unless you have a medical reason. 

Is the IELTS test completed in one day?

This depends on your test centre. The listening, reading and writing components of the test are always complete one after the other, with no break. The speaking test may be taken up to 7 days either before or after the test date. Check with your test centre for more details.

When will I receive my results? 

The test report will be posted to you 13 days after your test date. Some test centres also provide SMS alerts and an Online Results Service, check with your centre for more information. 

Keep your Test Report Form in a secure place as you only receive one copy and you will need it later! 

If I don’t pass, can I re-sit? 

You can sit the test as many times as necessary. 

However, this will cost you more money, so at IMG Connect we advise that you prepare as best you can for every test. If you don’t pass the test, then do additional study before taking the test again. 

How can I prepare? 

IELTS can be challenging. It involves learning a large amount of vocabulary on a range of academic subjects so that you will be prepared to read academic texts quickly and effectively, understand lectures, talks and questions, giving opinion in detail. 

You will have to prepare how to write reports on a variety of data and essay types so make sure you are as prepared as possible before sitting the exam. 

Written texts are to be of a high standard, including complex structures and grammar. 


Successful IMGs who have passed IELTS told us that learning key exam techniques helps you to work quickly and effectively during the test day. 


You don’t need to pay take a course. However, it is highly advisable to attend a course, and/or language classes, successful overseas doctors have advised that this helped them improve their standards in all areas of the test, including improved general levels of English and get used to the test format and timings.

We strongly recommend that you start preparing for the exams as far in advance as you possibly can. 

Establish your level of English, and work out what areas you will need to focus on. Identify your weaknesses, set goals for yourself and plan a revision timetable.

Consider working with an accredited tutor

As an International Brand dedicated to helping international doctors to register with the GMC and find work in the NHS - we have lots of partnerships in place with trusted companies in many areas. One of these key areas is English Language Testing and IMG Connect works closely with a company called Specialist Language Courses. You can take a look at their website here.

Specialist Language courses work very professionally and are the UK's leading provider of online courses and tutoring. They are also one of the few accredited providers of OET and have provided consultation and guidance to the GMC on English language testing. 

Success rates are 70% + for those who sign for their tutoring and you can receive a discount if introduced by IMG Connect.

Register with IMG Connect to request your discount on English Language Courses or get in touch with one of our IMG Consultants to discuss.

 

What resources are available? 

To prepare for the tests, there are lots of online resources and practice materials available. A good start is the IELTS and British Council websites. 

You can also find practice papers online.

We have also written a useful blog series on the English Language Tests for IMGs, which includes tips for studying at home

Passed? What next?

If you have your IELTS in place you are in a prime position to apply and interview for jobs.

Take a look at our job search page if you have not already, alternatively get in touch with an IMG Consultant to put your CV to use!


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Don’t hesitate to get in touch using the buttons above (and below) to discuss doctor job options in the NHS, including discussions regarding a typical doctor salary in the UK and the most suitable hospital locations for you.

 

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An exciting opportunity has arisen within the Acute Medicine Department. They are looking to appoint an Acute & General Internal Medicine Consultant, a great opportunity to further your medical career in the UK. This NHS job offers CESR Portfolio Pathway support, and international applications from IMGs are welcome.

The successful candidate will be the clinical lead and will drive the development and transformation of acute medicine, where patient-centered care is at the heart of the services. The role involves working within the Acute Assessment Unit, which consists of a 25-bed inpatient area including a 5-bed enhanced care area and an adjacent 6-space Ambulatory Emergency Care Unit.

Health Service

Working for this health service is professionally rewarding, offering high-quality, patient-centered care. Their clinicians lead in developing and managing services, supported by strong links with UK specialists. With a generous study leave budget, doctors are encouraged to pursue further education. Exciting developments include a new general hospital and a new mental health inpatient unit. They foster strong relationships between mental health, primary, and secondary care, promoting joint learning and teaching in their modern education center.

The health service, separate from the NHS, is an integrated, taxation-funded system, free at the point of delivery, managed by the Health and Community Services Department. This is a unique opportunity to help shape an integrated care system with closer political engagement than in the UK.

Department & Team

Medicine in this health service is fully integrated by age and specialty, with three medical wards: . The EAU has a 5-bedded Enhanced Care Area and a separate intensive care unit led by intensivists. The AEC Unit is supported by a SAS doctor and consultants. The department comprises a 16-bed EAU, staffed by 11 consultants, 8 SAS doctors, 7 FY1 doctors, 2 FY2 doctors, and 6 Clinical Fellows, organized into 8 medical teams and the EAU team.

The specialty of Acute Medicine is based within the Emergency Assessment Unit (EAU). The service includes a 25-bed Acute Assessment Unit (AAU) featuring 5 enhanced care beds and an Ambulatory Emergency Care (AEC) Unit. The post holder will work across both the AAU and the AEC.

Continued Professional Development

The health service offers further training & accreditation within psychiatry, including CESR Portfolio Pathway Support, access to specialty training, and the opportunity to develop sub-specialist interest. The post holder will have ample opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, and experience through attendance at relevant courses, conferences, and locally organized CME events. Health & Community Services supports Continuing Medical Education with time and financial support, offering study leave of 30 days in 3 years, and an annual study leave allowance. 

Life in the area

Living in the area presents significant financial benefits. The flat income tax rate is notably advantageous compared to the U.K., and they provide a generous public sector pension scheme that isn\'t constrained by U.K. lifetime or annual contribution limits. The Consultant Contract closely mirrors the U.K. model but offers higher incremental levels. Incremental progression is automatic from points 1 to 17 on the pay scale based on satisfactory performance, while formal applications are necessary for points 18 to 20.

Am I eligible for this role?

UK based candidates:

•    Experience in Acute & General Internal Medicine

EEA candidates: 
•    Experience in Acute & General Internal Medicine
•    European Specialist Qualification

Non-EEA candidates:
•    MRCP
•    Experience in Acute & General Internal Medicine

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A Northern English NHS Trust is looking for a Consultant Histopathologist to join their team at. They are considering either UK or overseas-trained doctors for a permanent contract type. The trust will support with CESR support for those who are looking to attain CESR and Specialist Registration. This is a high performing and friendly department for overseas doctors new to the NHS, or UK-based doctors looking to further careers in the UK.

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What is the NHS Foundation Trust like?

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What is the department & team like? 

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Career Development & Opportunities Available

The Trust and Histopathology team are dedicated to supporting their doctors career development through. For example, the new appointee will have the opportunity for the development of teaching experience as they would be expected to undertake formal and informal teaching of trainees within the department, and participate with other consultants in teaching/lectures as part of the Trust’s postgraduate education program. There will also be the opportunity for the development of personal research interests through the Research and Development Department. Research is highly encouraged at this trust and is undertaken during SPA sessions. The new consultant will also be able to increase their experience in MDTs, as these are regularly held within the department. 

Life in North East

The North East of the UK offers a diverse blend of rural and urban settings, providing both tranquility and vibrant city life. Residents can explore scenic landscapes such as the Northumberland Coast or enjoy cultural attractions in cities like Newcastle upon Tyne. The region boasts esteemed universities like Durham and Newcastle, along with quality schools. Transportation links are well-established, connecting the area to major cities and airports. Housing options vary from historic properties in market towns to modern developments in bustling urban centers, catering to diverse preferences and lifestyles.

AM I ELIGIBLE FOR THIS ROLE?

EEA Candidates:

  • Experience of working in Histopathology
  • Specialist European Qualification in Anatomic Pathology
  • Full and Specialist registration (and with a licence to practise) with the General Medical Council (GMC), or be eligible for registration within six months of interview.
  • An understanding of Clinical Governance

Non-EEA Candidates:

  • FRCPath
  • Full and Specialist registration (and with a licence to practise) with the General Medical Council (GMC), or be eligible for registration within six months of interview.
  • An understanding of Clinical Governance

UK based applicants

  • Full GMC registration
  • Within 6 - 12 months of completing CCT
  • An understanding of Clinical Governance
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The health service, separate from the NHS, is an integrated, taxation-funded system, free at the point of delivery, managed by the Health and Community Services Department on the island. Key benefits of working there are higher salaries than the NHS, lower taxes and sunnier weather.

Consultant Pay range - £110,257 to £164,372
Single rate of tax - 20%.

The Department & Team

The Crisis and Assessment Team (CAT) serves as the primary gateway to adult and older people\'s mental health services, conducting assessments in the community and emergency settings, alongside medical reviews. They collaborate closely with law enforcement, responding to Adult Protection Notices and coordinating mental health law assessments. This role within the CAT focuses on streamlining referrals, providing short-term crisis interventions, and ensuring individuals receive appropriate ongoing care. You\'ll engage with both working-age adults and older adults, with responsibilities extending to police referrals and mental health law assessments during standard working hours, with on-call commitments.

Continued Professional Development

Professional development is integral to their ethos, offering CESR Portfolio Pathway support, access to specialty training, and opportunities for sub-specialist development. They prioritize ongoing learning through conferences, local CME events, and a generous study leave allowance.

Life in the area

Living in this location offers significant financial benefits. The flat income tax rate of 20% is notably advantageous compared to the UK, and a generous public sector pension scheme is provided, not constrained by UK lifetime or annual contribution limits. The consultant contract closely mirrors the UK model but offers higher incremental levels starting at £110,257 and with a top basic salary of £164,372.


Am I eligible for this role?

UK based candidates:

  • Experience in General Adult Psychiatry
  • Specialist Registration or locum consultant experience

EEA candidates: 

  • Experience in General Adult Psychiatry
  • European Specialist Qualification


Non-EEA candidates:

  • MRCPsych
  • Experience in General Adult Psychiatry
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We are looking to recruit a Consultant Psychiatrist to an Old Age role in the Channel Islands, a UK territory sitting off the coast of France and just a 1 hour flight from London. This job presents a great opportunity to advance your medical career in the UK.

The health service, separate from the NHS, is an integrated, taxation-funded system, free at the point of delivery, managed by the Health and Community Services Department on the island. Key benefits of working there are higher salaries than the NHS, lower taxes and sunnier weather.

Consultant Pay range - £110,257 to £164,372
Single rate of tax - 20%.

 

What is the health & community service like?

Working in this location is professionally rewarding, offering high-quality, patient-centered care. Clinicians lead in developing and managing services, supported by strong links with UK specialists. With a generous study leave budget, doctors are encouraged to pursue further education. Exciting developments include a new general hospital and a new mental health inpatient unit. The service fosters strong relationships between mental health, primary, and secondary care, promoting joint learning and teaching in a modern education center.

What is the department & team like?

The inpatient services are currently undergoing extensive refurbishment, including two wards for older adults. One ward offers 14 assessment beds for individuals over 65 experiencing functional mental health issues, with some flexibility for those under 65. The other ward provides 10 assessment beds for patients with dementia. Following the refurbishment, the latter ward will feature 8 acute assessment beds and 8 transitional/step-down beds for those with dementia or enduring mental health problems who cannot be supported in local nursing or residential homes.

The Older Adults Community Mental Health Team (OACMHT) manages a caseload of about 300 patients, including new referrals triaged by the Crisis and Assessment team, providing both short-term treatment and long-term care coordination. The role involves providing medical support to the OACMHT alongside two other consultants and a staff grade doctor.

The post holder will join an established team, comprising 2 WTE older adult consultants, 1.0 WTE Associate Specialist (Memory Assessment Service), 2.0 WTE staff grades (inpatient and community), and 1.0 WTE F1 doctor (inpatients and community). Dedicated administrative support includes a 0.5 WTE medical secretary and ward and team secretarial support.

Continued Professional Development

This position offers further training and accreditation within psychiatry, including CESR Portfolio Pathway support, access to specialty training, and the opportunity to develop sub-specialist interests. The post holder will have ample opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, and experience through attendance at relevant courses, conferences, and locally organized CME events. The organization supports Continuing Medical Education with time and financial support, offering study leave of 30 days in 3 years and an annual study leave allowance. Regular case discussions, teaching sessions, and MDT supervision ensure ongoing professional development, meeting the Royal College of Psychiatrists\' CPD requirements.

Living in the Area

Living in this location offers significant financial benefits. The flat income tax rate of 20% is notably advantageous compared to the UK, and a generous public sector pension scheme is provided, not constrained by UK lifetime or annual contribution limits. The consultant contract closely mirrors the UK model but offers higher incremental levels starting at £110,257 and with a top basic salary of £164,372.

Am I eligible for this role?Am I eligible for this role?

UK based candidates:

  • Experience in Old Age Psychiatry
  • Specialist Registration or locum Consultant Experience
EEA candidates: 
  • Experience in Old Age Psychiatry
  • European Specialist Qualification
Non-EEA candidates:
  • MRCPsych
  • Consultant experience in Old Age Psychiatry
110,257 - 164,372

We are looking to recruit a Consultant Psychiatrist to a General Adult role in the Channel Islands, a UK territory sitting off the coast of France and just a 1 hour flight from London. This job presents a great opportunity to advance your medical career in the UK.

The health service, separate from the NHS, is an integrated, taxation-funded system, free at the point of delivery, managed by the Health and Community Services Department on the island. Key benefits of working there are higher salaries than the NHS, lower taxes and sunnier weather. 

Consultant Pay range - £110,257 to £164,372
Single rate of tax - 20%

General Adult Psychiatry Department & Team

The inpatient service features 17 adult acute beds, including an extra-care area, for individuals aged 18 to 65 with severe mental illness requiring admission. The goal is to promote recovery and well-being, helping service users achieve their potential. The service caters to a diverse population with complex needs. The multidisciplinary inpatient team includes doctors (two part-time consultants, staff grade/clinical fellow, and F2), a clinical psychologist, nurses, a social worker, occupational therapists, an art therapist, healthcare assistants, and administrative staff.

The Home Treatment Team functions as a step-up, step-down service to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and facilitate early discharge. They attend ward reviews, support patients on leave, and assist with discharge planning, also gatekeeping inpatient beds. The team includes two part-time consultants, a 0.5 FTE team manager, two FTE senior practitioners, 5.5 FTE nurse practitioners, one FTE social worker, three FTE senior HCAs, and one FTE occupational therapist. Covering all adult ages, there is an arrangement with an Older Adult Consultant for additional support if needed.

Continued Professional Development

This position offers further training and accreditation within psychiatry, including CESR Portfolio Pathway support, access to specialty training, and the opportunity to develop sub-specialist interests. The post holder will have ample opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, and experience through attendance at relevant courses, conferences, and locally organized CME events. The organization supports Continuing Medical Education with time and financial support, offering study leave of 30 days in three years and an annual study leave allowance. Regular case discussions, teaching sessions, and MDT supervision ensure ongoing professional development, meeting the Royal College of Psychiatrists\' CPD requirements.

Living in the Area

Living in this location offers significant financial benefits. The flat income tax rate of 20% is notably advantageous compared to the UK, and a generous public sector pension scheme is provided, not constrained by UK lifetime or annual contribution limits. The consultant contract closely mirrors the UK model but offers higher incremental levels starting at £110,257 and with a top basic salary of £164,372.

Am I eligible for this role?

UK based candidates:

  • Experience in Adult Psychiatry
  • Specialist Registration or locum Consultant Experience

EEA candidates: 

  • Experience in Adult Psychiatry
  • European Specialist Qualification

Non-EEA candidates:

  • MRCPsych
  • Consultant experience in Adult Psychiatry

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