BY:BERNARD LANE , From:The Australian , May 20, 2011

THE IELTS English language test monopoly in the Australian visa business has been weakened.

Today the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said those applying for student visas also would be able to use the US-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

In Australia, the International English Language Testing System is operated by education broker IDP. Globally, IELTS is owned by Cambridge University, IDP and the British Council.

Under the old rules, students from key markets, such as China, had to furnish an IELTS score as proof of English proficiency to qualify for a student visa.

Mr Bowen said he expected two other tests, the Pearson Test of English Academic and the Cambridge English: Advanced tests, would get official recognition for student visas later this year.

“These additional English language test options will help to create competition in the English language testing market, while creating more test places for student visa applicants,” he said.

“They will also provide candidates with greater choice and enable them to more quickly obtain test results needed for visa applications.”

However, most controversy about English tests has focused on their role in selecting former international students for permanent residency as skilled migrants.

This is less of an issue now that the Government has weakened the education-migration link although IELTS also remains the required test for the growth category of skilled migrants sponsored by employers.

Mr Bowen said the Government would wait to see how the new tests performed with student visas before deciding whether or not to open up other visa categories to competition.

Today’s decision flows from a review of English language tests begun by Mr Bowen’s department in 2008.

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Test prep resources:

IELTS – The world’s proven English language test | Cambridge ESOL

STEP 日本英語検定協会 | IELTS | アイエルツについて

http://www.ielts.org/teachers.aspx

http://www.ielts.org/test_takers_information.aspx

http://www.ielts-exam.net/

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IELTS – International English Language test – British Council