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Colour Code

Are the English tests for Aussie visas any good? Have your say

People pay hundreds of dollars for these tests - but are they being set up to fail?

For years, stories have circulated about the compulsory English tests migrants and international students to Australia are required to sit. Now we're investigating, and we need your story!

Australian immigration requires migrants and students to sit compulsory English tests - such as the IELTS, TOEFL, OET, and PTE - to apply for most visas. But these tests come at no small price.

Depending on the specific test required, people are paying up to $580 each time they sit the test.1 That sounds like a large one-off fee - however, it's not only one off.

These test results 'expire' every 2-3 years, meaning people studying and working in Australia end up paying thousands of dollars repeatedly to sit the same test. Who knew that you could forget your English skills while living in an English-speaking country?!

Test results can seem inconsistent, even for native English speakers.2 90% of Irish people who did the IELTS test failed it at least once.3 So - people have to keep sitting them and keep paying until they get the required scores. One woman sat the test 21 times!4

David Ingram, a creator of the IELTS English test, has said that it was never intended for immigration purposes and that such use is 'unethical'.5 Colour Code members have also reported tests having unclear marking processes and a general lack of transparency, meaning many people don't even know why they might have failed.

There has been little research done into the implications of these tests for migrants, and at Colour Code, we want to investigate.

After all, if English tests are going to be compulsory for migrants in Australia - shouldn't they be fair, reliable and accessible?

Can you tell us about YOUR experience with these tests, so we can begin to address the issues?

1 'How much does OET cost?', OET website, 9 April 2019.
2 'Outsmarting the computer: the secret to passing Australia's English-proficiency test', The Guardian, 10 August 2017.
3 'English test derailing Irish dream of Australian citizenship', The Irish Times, 27 September 2015.
4 ''I feel they are harassing me', says woman who took IELTS 21 times', SBS, 6 September 2018.
5 'English test derailing Irish dream of Australian citizenship', The Irish Times, 27 September 2015.
Colour Code is a national movement of multicultural, migrant and First Nations peoples - speaking, advocating and campaigning for our communities.

We are a member driven movement, meaning when our Colour Code members complained about their experiences with these English tests, we decided to investigate!

We don't receive any government funding and are not affiliated with any political party; which means we can represent the issues that matter most to our members.

Colour Code was established by independent campaigning organisation GetUp!

Authorised by S. Narayanasamy, GetUp for Colour Code, Collingwood

Click here for more information.
Colour Code members complained of their experiences with the compulsory English tests for Australian visas. We undertook a preliminary investigation in response, and found that while there were some media stories, and some academic analysis of these tests - very little had been done to systematically understand the breadth and scope of issues experienced with these tests.

This survey addresses that gap, and will allow us to understand what issues exist with the compulsory English tests and the IELTS, TOEFL, OET, and PTE providers, so that concrete action can be taken to address them.

We believe that migrant and international student voices and views should take prominence as this issue disproportionately affects them, and often these voices are ignored. The end result of this research will be a report that will be delivered to the English test providers, and published to the public. No identifiable information will be included in the report without expressed permission.

In addition to this initial survey, Colour Code will also conduct in-depth interviews with affected individuals, and may be in contact with you to request an interview.

We thank you for your participation in this important step towards ensuring Australia's immigration system, and the English tests it relies upon, is fair, reliable and accessible.


Have you or someone you know had an experience of a compulsory English test when applying for an Australian visa?

Please take this short survey to tell us your story!

You have the option to answer anonymously.

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