English language requirements for medical registration in Australia.

This post is in response to a query via the website from a very nice young anatomical pathologist in South Africa. If any other people have specific questions I will try and answer them. Please feel to DM me on twitter @Drsdownunder or via the website.

Its a fairly dull topic but an important one.

It will come as no surprise to learn that your medical registration and working in Australia depends on how well you speak, read and write english.

The medical board in Australia revises its english language standards every 3 years. The next review is due July 2018.

Since the last revision in 2015, language proficiency is demonstrated by the following methods.

You can do it by proving english is your first language and you were taught and assessed in english at high school in either Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, UK and USA; and your tertiary qualifications were taught and assessed in English.

Now, I’m going to quote directly from the medical board of Australia:

“OR 2. You have a combination of secondary education and tertiary qualifications, where you have undertaken and satisfactorily completed: a. at least two years of your secondary education which was taught and assessed solely in English in a recognised country, b. tertiary qualifications in the relevant professional discipline, which you are relying on to support your eligibility for registration under the National Law, which were taught and assessed solely in English in a recognised country. OR 3. You have undertaken and satisfactorily completed at least six years’ (full-time equivalent) continuous education taught and assessed solely in English, in any of the recognised countries, which includes tertiary qualifications in the relevant professional discipline which you are relying on to support your eligibility for registration under the National Law.”

The other alternative is that you sit a test, such as IELTS.

IELTS (the academic module) tends to be the most popular and recognised testing system that doctors submit themselves too.

For all levels of doctors (except med students) seeking to work in Australia the IELTS score needed is a minimum overall score of 7 (out of 9) and then a minimum score of 7 in each of the 4 communication skills which are listening, reading, writing and speaking.

You will not need to sit a new language test if you passed a test (IELTS or the others listed below) within 2 years before the date of your application for medical registration.

Or, if you have taken IELTS already, and I quote:

“ a. have been in continuous employment as a registered health practitioner in the medical profession (which commenced within 12 months of the date of the test) in one of the recognised countries where English was the primary language of practice, and

b. lodge your application for registration within 12 months of finishing your last period of employment..”

I know doctors who worked in the NHS in the UK for 20 years, with Australian job offers, who have failed their IELTS test on their first sitting

Don’t take your fluency for granted in an IELTS context.

All of the doctors I have known who have failed it in the first setting, pass the second.

There are criticisms of IELTS. It isn’t geared towards the medical profession, for example. However, it is the most recognised one and has a reputation with recruiters, hiring managers and statutory bodies.

Here are estimated costs for IELTS as of August 2017:

GBP160-GBP200 in the UK
R3200-R3900 in South Africa.
CA$300-320 in Canada.
US$215-250 in USA.
€160-€200 in Ireland.
Up to RM845 in Malaysia.
Up to S$365 in Singapore.
Up to Rs11300 in India.
Up to Rs28,000 in Pakistan.

I won’t go into detail of the following testing systems but suffice to note the Australian Medical Council also recognises: OET, PTE Academic, TOEFL iBT.

When you actually take the test depends what level you are at in your career. You can read more on that in my upcoming blogs about process.

The medical board will also accept successful completion of the New Zealand Registration Examination (NZREX) administered by the New Zealand Medical Council; and the PLAB test administered by the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board of the GMC.


Photo credit:

Kelly Sikkema


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s