English Language - Requirements For Working Overseas


As today is both UN English Language Day and Shakespeare Day we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share some details on the requirements for Doctors who are interested in working overseas who do not have English as a first language. 

English Language Requirements

When applying for medical registration and visa approval overseas, you must be able to demonstrate an acceptable level of English Language Proficiency. The requirements for each country do vary and there are a number of ways in which you can demonstrate your English language ability depending on your background, where you were educated and where you have worked.


The Medical Board of Australia’s registration standard specifies that internationally qualified applicants for medical registration who have not completed secondary AND tertiary education in English must be able to demonstrate English language skills through either an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) at academic level test or the Occupational English Language Test (OET).

The only exemption to this rule is if you have completed, and can provide evidence of your secondary education in one of the following English speaking countries:

  • UK
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • USA
  • South Africa
  • New Zealand

Medical Board of Australia - English Language Registration Standard

New Zealand

International applicants for medical registration in New Zealand can satisfy the Medical Council of New Zealand that they can communicate effectively and efficiently in English in one of the following ways:

  1. You hold a primary qualification from a New Zealand medical school, or
  2. English is your first language and you hold an acceptable primary qualification from Australia, New Zealand,  United Kingdom, United States, Ireland, Canada or Sound Africa, or
  3. You have completed 24 months full time equivalent of a health-related postgraduate qualification at an accredited New Zealand University within the last 5 years and can provide references from two professors from the university who are registered doctors in New Zealand and speak English as a first language, or
  4. You have worked continuously as a registered medical practitioner in an institution where English was the first and prime language for at least two of the 5 years prior to application, or
  5. You have worked as a registered medical practitioner in an institution where English was the first and prime language for a period of at least 2 years (within the last 5) prior to application and you can provide references from senior medical practitioners who speak English as a first language and who can attest to your English language ability to communicate effectively in English in a clinical setting

If none of the above relate to you, then you will be required to sit the IELTS Academic module or the OET obtaining the following grades:

Results of either test must be obtained in one sitting and you cannot use multiple test result certificates in one application. The results of each test are valid for 2 years.

Medical Council of New Zealand - English Language Policy


Unless your basic medical degree has not been obtained from a medical school where instruction was provided in English, you must demonstrate your English language proficiency to the Singapore Medical Council through IELTS, OET or TOEFL.

Singapore Medical Council - Document Requirements



IELTS is the world’s proven English language test and is held through more than 900 locations in over 130 countries.

If you are required to take an IELTS test, you must sit the Academic Level and achieve scores the following scores:

Australia and Singapore

  • Speaking 7.0
  • Listening 7.0
  • Writing 7.0
  • Reading 7.0

New Zealand 

  • Speaking 7.5
  • Listening 7.5
  • Writing 7.0
  • Reading 7.0



The Occupational English Language Test is an international English test designed specifically for healthcare professionals. Test centres can be found in various countries throughout the world and the test is available on 10 dates throughout the year.

If you are required to take an OET test, you must obtain scores of A or B grade in each of the 4 components: writing, reading, listening and speaking. This applies to applications made for medical registration in Australia and New Zealand.

If you are applying for medical registration in Singapore, and choose to sit the OET you must obtain a minimum score of ‘B’

TOEFL (Singapore only)


The TOEFL test measures your ability to use and understand English at the university level. It evaluates how well you combine your listening, reading, speaking and writing skills to perform academic tasks. The test is run on more than 50 per year in 165 countries around the world.

Minimum score requirements are:

  • 250 marks for computer based test
  • 600 marks for paper-based test
  • 100 marks for internet-based test

Should you have any questions or require any further information regarding the English language requirements for GP or Consultant work in the Asia-Pacific region please do not hesitate to contact a member of our expert Registration and Immigration Team directly. 

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