Language Tests and Registrations

IELTS for International doctors


A comprehensive guide to understanding the IELTS for international doctors

The International English Language Testing System – known as the IELTS – is an international English language exam. The exam assesses the language proficiency of people looking to work where English is used as a language of communication. We’ve written this blog to provide you with all of the information that you need to know about IELTS for international doctors, which includes:

What is IELTS?

The IELTS is an international English language exam which assesses the language proficiency of people who want to work where English is used as a language of communication such as the UK. The exam assesses a person’s English reading, listening, writing and speaking capabilities.

There are two types of IELTS test: IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic.

IELTS General Training: This measures English Language proficiency in a practical, everyday context. This is suitable for people applying for secondary education, training programmes and work experience in an English-speaking environment. 

IELTS Academic: This test measures whether a person’s language proficiency is suitable for an academic environment. This is for people applying for higher education or professional registration.

International doctors wanting to register for a licence to practice with the GMC must sit the IELTS Academic version of the test. 

The IELTS Academic UKVI is the only version of the exam which is recognised by both the GMC (General Medical Council) and the UK Home Office (for Tier 2 Visa Applications). This means that if you are an International Doctor looking to move to the UK, you’ll only need to pass one test for both your GMC registration and visa purposes.

Exam Structure for IELTS

The OET exam assesses all four language skills:

  • Listening (40 minutes)
  • Reading (60 minutes)
  • Writing (60 minutes)
  • Speaking (11-14 minutes)

IELTS Listening

The IELTS listening test has 40 questions, 4 recordings will be played and you will be required to write your answers. 

The recordings will cover conversations in an everyday social context, educational or training context and an academic subject. A variety of question types will be used during the Listening section. These include: matching, multiple choice, plan/map/diagram labelling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion and sentence completion.

The IELTS listening test will take approximately 30 minutes., and you will be allowed an additional 10 minutes to use for transferring your answers from the question booklet to the answer sheet. 

IELTS Reading

During the IELTS reading test, you will be asked to read three different passages, and respond to the questions asked relating to these texts. 

For the Academic version of the IELTS reading test, the three long texts will be taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. The texts will range from factual and descriptive, to the discursive and analytical.

The test will last 60 minutes (including transfer time), there will be 40 questions and, each correct answer will be worth one mark. The tasks will include: filling gaps in a passage of written text or in a table, matching headings to written text and to diagrams or charts, completing sentences, giving short answers to open questions and answering multiple choice questions. 

IELTS Writing

The Writing test involves two tasks and lasts for 60 minutes.

Task 1

In Task 1, you will be presented with a graph, table, chart, or diagram, and will be asked to describe, summarise, or explain the information in your own words (minimum 150 words). For example you may be asked to describe data or describe the stages of a process.

Task 2

In Task 2, you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. This will be minimum of 250 words. 

IELTS Speaking

The Speaking test takes approximately 11-14 minutes and is delivered in three parts:

Part 1

The examiner will introduce themselves and will ask you to confirm your identity. You will then be asked general questions on topics such as home, family and work etc. 

Part 2

You will be given a task card asking you to talk about a specific topic, and details points which should be included in your talk. The talk will be for 1-2 minutes and you will be given 1 minute to prepare. 

Part 3

You will be asked further questions which are connected to the topic of Part 2. The questions have been designed to give you further opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas. 


The IELTS test report will show a score for each of the four tests (writing, reading, listening & speaking). The tests are scored from 0 (lowest) to 9 (highest). You can score whole band scores (i.e. 7.0) or half band scores (i.e. 7.5). 

You will need to score 7.5 across all four areas for the GMC to accept your IELTS certificate. With a score of no less than 7.0 in each individual test.

To qualify to apply for a Tier 2 Visa, you will need a score of 4.0 overall, and in each of the testing areas.

IELTS Fees and Costs for International Doctors

The IELTS costs are as follows:

  • IELTS Academic and General Training: £170-£195 (depending on location)
  • IELTS UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration): £195

Exam Dates

The IELTS can be taken online and on paper and the content for each test remains the same. There are a few differences, such as, for the online version of the test, the reading, writing and listening tests will be taken at a computer with the questions on screen. The speaking section for both the online and paper versions is carried out face to face. 

IELTS can be taken in over 1,200 test centres worldwide.

Click here for further information about exam dates and locations that you can sit your IELTS exams.

IELTS Practice Materials

For Material on the Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking, please click here for the IELTS sample tests.

OET vs IELTS for International Doctors

There are a number of differences between the OET and IELTS exams so for many international doctors, deciding which language test to complete can be difficult and confusing. 

Click here to view our comprehensive ‘OET vs IELTS’ guide for all of the information and differences that you need to know.

If you are interested in working in the UK, want to discuss available job opportunities or may have already begun your journey and need further advice, please contact our team today.