There are specific rules on exams for non-EEA students on 25 week courses. The information below does not apply to EEA students or short-term students taking classes only during the period of a standard 3 month passport stamp.
Am I required to do an exam as part of my course?
Under regulations that took effect from 20th January 2016, all courses for non-EEA nationals holding student visas must conclude with an exam that meets immigration requirements. Non-EEA students will need to commit to the exam when they start the course. All enrolled students must be registered with the awarding body when they start the course.
The rules list several different exam providers that are acceptable - including TIE, ETAPP, Cambridge, IELTS, Pearson, Integrated Skills in English. A specific list of exams and minimum scores is set out on pages 6-7 of the new regulations.
When did the rules about exams start?
The new requirements for exams were published on 2nd June 2015 and most schools began including arrangements and payments for exams in contracts with students buying new courses where they did not already do so. Payment of an exam fee may be combined with the course fee by a school - or it may require a separate payment.
Can a school expect me to pay an extra fee for an exam, even if I didn't know or agree to it?
If a school expects a student to pay a separate examination fee it should be clearly notified in the contract at the time of booking so that a student can expect to pay this at a later time.
If extra payment for an exam fee was not part of the terms and conditions at the time a course was booked, a school will not have a legal basis to insist on payment later. However, you should remember that the immigration service expects non-EEA students to sit an exam and being able to show you have done this will be important if you wish to renew.
Can I make my own exam arrangements rather than through the school, e.g. IELTS?
The regulations say that a student and their school could face consequences if the student doesn't do an exam so we expect schools to be strict in making sure arrangements are in place for a student to sit an appropriate exam. The wording of the regulations strongly suggests that (i) a school must publish a policy about entering students for exams on its website (ii) a school will be required to make sure that students are registed, not leave this up to individual students. This may mean that students who book for an IELTS exam will still be expected to sit the school's end of course exam as well.
Can I take an exam later, before I renew, when I have had more time practising English?
The regulations for non-EEA students say that a course must 'conclude' in an English exam. Schools will probably interpret this to mean it has to be scheduled close to the end of teaching, but the regulations are not precise on this point. If a school is willing to allow some flexibility in timing, it is likely to want to be certain that an exam date has been booked before a student completes their course.
What will happen if I don't take an exam?
All students buying classes from 20th January 2016 will be expected to do an exam at the end of their course. If you do not do an exam you could be refused permission to renew your GNIB card for another English course.
Many students who paid before 20th January 2016 will also have contracted with the school to sit an exam as part of booking and will be expected to do the exam. If you do not do an exam that you agreed to take you could be refused permission to renew your GNIB card for another English course.
However, immigration service rules do not 'force' you to sit an exam if this was not part of the contract you made with the school when you booked.
Last updated: January 2016