Specialist Language Courses

NMC to Review English Testing Requirements for Overseas Nurses

SLC welcomes the NMC’s decision to conduct a stocktake of English language requirements for overseas nurses wanting to work in the UK, as reported in the Nursing Times.

While the establishment of an English language level for nurses working in high stakes environments makes complete sense, from the very start we have had concerns about the choice of test and level set by the NMC. These concerns have increased firstly with the research we conducted for the White Paper released earlier this year, secondly, our participation in a recent round table consisting of NHS Trusts and recruitment companies, and thirdly our experience of training 100s of nurses both in exam preparation and in nursing English.

The test, Academic IELTS, and the level set – 7.0 from a maximum of 9.0 in the four papers (writing, speaking, listening and reading) is the same as Oxford University require overseas applicants to achieve in order to study on their undergraduate programmes and higher than that required for overseas candidates attending Nursing degree programmes offered in the UK.

Moreover, Academic IELTS is designed specifically to test the academic English skills of students wanting to study in English-speaking universities. It does not test those vital clinical language skills required by nurses when discussing symptoms and treatments, giving accurate ward handovers, talking to distressed relatives, etc.

SLC works extensively with NHS Trusts, private healthcare organisations, and international healthcare recruitment companies preparing their candidates for the test. We see how nurses are having to spend 100s of hours in many cases learning how to write academic essays, understand seminars, and read articles on subjects ranging from history to the environment to the arts.

Many nurses – as well as their potential employers – cannot understand the relevancy of this and, understandably, motivation levels are low. The required score being so high only exacerbates this, as without the 100s of hours of tuition, achievement rates at this level remain depressed. Individuals and hospitals have to invest months of training and considerable amounts of money to learn language that they may never use in practice.

We believe that an English language test makes good sense and will reassure patients that nurses can deliver safe and effective care. We understand that IELTS has a global reach and nurses from all over the world can take a test in a local centre. However, given the content of the test and the level set, we recommend the NMC consider the following:

  1. requiring an average of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in the 4 papers,
  2. switching to the General IELTS test, designed for vocational purposes more explicitly than the Academic test designed for Higher Education, or
  3. having an optional alternative test focusing on clinical English – the language nurses use in practice – such as the Occupational English Test, already recognised and used in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

SLC Article on IELTS for Nurses in National Health Executive Magazine

NHE article IELTS for Nurses

We’re delighted to have had an article published in the National Health Magazine focusing on how the IELTS 7.0 requirement is impacting on recruiting nurses from the EU.

Given the triggering of Article 50 and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the status of EU workers, the impact of this challenging language requirement is harder than it would have been otherwise, further squeezing a declining supply of international nurses at a time of significant shortages across the NHS.


New SLC IELTS Prep Course at Cambridge University Hospitals

IELTS for the NHS

SLC is delighted to be starting a new IELTS Preparation course for nurses at Cambridge University Hospitals today. CUH is renowned both in the UK and internationally, not only for its excellent care but also for its outstanding academic research work. We wish everyone the greatest of success!

For more information on our IELTS preparation courses designed specifically for nurses and doctors, using the latest in blended learning methodologies, please contact our team, visit the dedicated webpage or just pick up the phone and call us on 01273 900213.


SLC Publish Research Report into the Impact of IELTS 7.0 on the Recruitment of EEA-trained Nurses into the UK

Statistics published last week showed a dramatic drop in the numbers of EEA-trained nurses joining the NMC register, as reported in the Nursing Times[1] and national media[2]. In December 2016, only 101 nurses joined, a year on year fall of 35.7% and the lowest monthly figure for the year.

We believe that the decision taken 1 year ago by the NMC to change the English Language requirements for EEA-trained nurses registering in the UK is fundamental to this drop. This decision was that all new registrants now need to score 7.0 in the international IELTS Academic English language test.


Press Release: SLC Launch Online General English Courses

Specialist Language Courses is delighted to announce the launch of a suite of online General English courses.

There are 5 levels, from beginner (A1) to advanced (C2). Each level consists of 45 hours of integrated skills work – reading, listening, writing, communication – and 15 hours of grammar support and consolidation. Learners can download the accompanying grammar app, with 100s of screens of activity, and there are free lessons based on current newspaper articles uploaded every week.


Medical English Tips: Giving Advice Sensitively

Welcome to the first in a series of occasional posts giving essential Medical English tips. This one focuses on a critical area of practice: giving advice sensitively. Get this right, and your rapport with your patient will be a powerful factor in building a successful therapeutic partnership. Get this wrong, and your relationship may never recover. Read on.


The strange and wonderful world of English idioms

Do you know when in your language you use an expression that, when read literally, seems to make no sense at all, or it’s used to express another meaning altogether? That expression is an idiom or common saying. Every language has many of them.


taking an online English course

1:1 and Small Group Online English Courses

Here’s an article about something we’re doing more of. Teaching. Online. While much of our work in the last 2 years has focused on producing online language learning materials – especially for Technical English such as Medical and Oil & Gas workers – we have steadily grown an army of specialist English language trainers who teach online English courses around the world. Teaching online enables lessons to take place wherever a learner has a half-decent internet connection.


Review of the Language Learning App “Babbel”

In a recent blog post we presented the advantages and disadvantages of learning a new language via Mobile Apps. If you are thinking about starting a course with an app but you don`t know which app to choose you are in the right place.