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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



Preparing learners for the British citizenship test – IELTS and language skills

Language: EN

In order to become a British citizen, most migrants will need to pass the Citizenship Test, as well as pass an English language test to gain their British nationality status.

The prospect of completing a test can sound daunting, but there are many ways that adults can prepare themselves for the test. This post will look at what is expected of applicants and what teachers and practitioners can do to help prepare adult learners for the test.


Shadows of British citizens on Union Jack flag

ESOL exams 
One of the British citizenship requirements is that those applying need to have Entry Level 3 English speaking and listening skills. This is comparable to CEFR (Common European Framework) Level B1. If the applicant has a lower level, they will need to pass an ESOL exam.

There are several suitable courses, including:

  • IELTS – awarded by Cambridge English Language Assessments
  • IELTS Life Skills – awarded by Cambridge English Language Assessments
  • Integrated Skills in English – awarded by Trinity College London
  • Graded Examinations in Spoken English – awarded by Trinity College London

IELTS is a widely recognised test that not only applies to citizenship, but is also a frequent requirement for certain job posts. For example, those who want to work in a medical position, such as a nurse, will need to have an advanced level of C1 or C2. In the case of obtaining citizenship, the B1 level is considered lower intermediate. It is expected that learners will be able to communicate and understand:

  • the main points of common matters encountered in education, work and leisure
  • situations that may arise while travelling
  • simple connected speech on topics of personal interest
  • descriptions of experiences and events

CEFR levels and IELTS bands
The CEFR levels translate into bands for IELTs. Bands can stretch across CEFR levels, as shown in the table below:

C18, 7.5, 7
B26.5, 6, 5.5
B15, 4.5, 4


English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher writing on blackboard

Courses and resources 
In order to prepare learners for the IELTS exam, teachers should ensure that both they and their learners are well aware of the layout of the exam. As such, resources that mirror the formatting of the test are best suited. There are several publishing houses that cater books, resources and digital products specifically for the IELTS exam. These include:
  • Pearson – Expert IELTS series
    An intensive course that helps teachers support students preparing for the exam. Available in bands 5, 6 and 7.5.
  • Collins – English for IELTS series 
    This series includes all the major skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) as well as grammar, vocabulary, key words and a dictionary
  • Cambridge University Press – IELTS MINDSET series
    Perhaps the best choice, as the material is produced in collaboration with Cambridge Assessment English – producers of the IELTS test. The student’s book is available with access to online modules and the testbank and the teacher’s book comes with class audio. Available from CEFR level A2 up to level C1.

There are also plenty of available free resources online that will reveal themselves after a short spell of browsing that can be used to familiarise yourself with the IELTS exam and allow you to build confidence in teaching this kind of content. Examples include the Online IELTS Test website, the IELTS Essentials website and the IELTS Buddy website, all of which supply a range of practice tests. Teachers should pay attention to any repetitive mistakes that their learners make and allocate time for extra focus on these. Remember that learners need to obtain level B1 results in order to gain British citizenship.

For further information on the requirements for the British nationality test and what is expected of applicants who wish to become a British citizen, please visit the official UK government website.


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