NMC clarifies changes in IELTS, OET exam norms and who can issue supporting letter if test score not met – UKMALAYALEE

NMC clarifies changes in IELTS, OET exam norms and who can issue supporting letter if test score not met

Tuesday 18 October 2022 9:09 PM UTC

By A Staff Reporter

LONDON Oct 18: The Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) has issued an update yesterday providing clarifications and specifications about the changes in English Language requirements for the Internationally Educated Nurses published by NMC on 21/9/22.

Speaking to this website, Dr Agimol Pradeep, who was one of the nurses in the forefront, campaigning in the UK for change to the requirements, told this website: “The news gives more clarification on the norms set out by NMC in regards to English language test qualifications for internationally trained applicants. This time NMC has clarified on the two changes they have brought about in detail. The first is on how the test scores are decided and second who can issue a letter to those not being able to meet the scores required for the IELTS and OET”.

The move is designed to provide greater flexibility to get more people onto the UK nursing register without affecting the high standard of English language skills needed to deliver care. It follows concerns many nurses who qualified overseas have been unable to pass the NMC’s language test and achieve registration, despite working as healthcare assistants in the UK for many years.

Currently, individuals who join the register must demonstrate their English language competence through either training in English, by practising in an English-speaking role as a nurse or midwife, or by taking an approved English language test – either the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Occupational English Test (OET).

While the NMC will not be changing the overall score required for language tests, it has approved technical changes that it says will make the system more flexible from next year. It will “standardise” the minimum scores it accepts when individuals need to combine two English language test scores and extend the period that applicants can combine their test scores from six to 12 months.

Second, it will enable employers to provide “supporting evidence” of English language proficiency where an applicant has trained in English in a country where it is not a majority spoken language, or where an individual has “narrowly missed” passing the English language test.

Writing for NMC, Matthew McClelland, executive director of strategy and insight, explained the new updates. 

What do these changes mean for applicants?

Some internationally educated applicants have asked NMC what these changes mean for them. NMC hope the explanations below will provide some clarity about what the changes will mean when they come into effect next year. NMC are finalising the implementation timetable at the moment and will provide more detail on exactly when the changes will be in place as soon as they can.

Combining your test scores

English language testing is one of the main ways you can demonstrate your ability to communicate well in English if you’re applying to join the NMC register. NMC currently accept two language tests: the academic International English Language Test System (IELTS) and the Occupational English Test (OET). There are four domains NMC test for and the required scores have not changed.

If you don’t pass first time, you can resit and combine scores from two test certificates. Currently, you can’t combine test scores if you achieve less than 6.5 (IELTS) or C+ / 300 or above (OET) in any part of the test. As this is already the required score for writing, it means there’s no flexibility for this part of the test.

From early 2023, this will change. You must still achieve the required test scores for each domain. But to combine test scores, you’ll need to get no less than 0.5 (IELTS) or half a grade (OET) below the required score for every domain. This means you’ll be able to combine your scores as long as you achieve 6 (IELTS) or C / 250 or above (OET) in writing, and 6.5 (IELTS) or C+ / 300 or above (OET) in the other three domains. We call this the minimum score – it makes sure you don’t score too far below the required mark in any test sitting.

This table sets out the new minimum scores accepted for each domain to combine your results.

To combine your scores, you must currently retake your test within six months of sitting the first test. NMC will be extending this period to 12 months to allow for greater flexibility and more time to prepare before retaking the test.

While you have the option to resit if you need to, NMC encourage you to prepare as much as possible so you can pass your test first time around. There’s lots of guidance and support available on the IELTS and OET websites.

These changes will provide greater flexibility if you don’t pass the test first time, without compromising the high standard of English that is needed for safe, effective and kind care.

Until these changes come into effect, you’ll need to continue with English language testing following NMC’s current requirements.

Supporting information from your employer

From 2023, NMC will accept supplementary supporting information from your employer that demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively in English in a practice environment, if:

you narrowly miss out on a score in one of the four domains by 0.5 in the IELTS (6 for writing and 6.5 in the other domains) or half a grade in the OET (C / 250 or above in writing and C+ / 300 or above in the other domains); or

you were trained and assessed in English in a country where English is not a majority spoken language.

You’ll need to have worked for your employer for a minimum of 12 months within the last two years, in practice in a health and social care setting in the UK. To ensure consistency and avoid bias, NMC will also be producing a standard NMC form for employers to complete. Your manager will need to be an NMC registered professional and use this form to provide evidence of your English language competence. A more senior NMC registered professional who’s working for the same employer will also need to counter-sign it.

It’s important to note that while NMC will consider carefully supporting information from your employer, NMC cannot guarantee that they will accept you onto the register.

When will these changes happen and what should you do in the meantime?

NMC knows many professionals want them to implement them as soon as possible. NMC are working as quickly as they can, but NMC can’t rush this process. It’s important that NMC bring in any changes in a careful and considered way that maintains public safety and supports safe, effective and kind care. This will happen from January 2023 at the earliest.

Until NMC new proposals come into effect, professionals looking to join NMC register will need to continue their applications following NMC’s current requirements.

It is also victory for two people in particular who contacted NMC earlier this year about their campaign for change to the requirements.

Dr Agimol Pradeep, who works as Project Lead at NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) and senior transplant coordinator at King’s College Hospital, and Dr Dilla Davis, nursing lecturer at Salford University, have been calling for changes for more than two years.

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