Lesinda Leightley, Business Development Lead LanguageCert UK and Europe North says: “Depending on their reason, applicants for a UK visa are required to take one or more SELT exams, all of which are available through LanguageCert’s global network of SELT centres. Here’s an overview of how the exam process works, from beginning to end.”

Visa requirements

Different UK visa applications require different SELT exams.

Family visas, Settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain) and Citizenship require two-skill exams – A1, A2 and B1. The A1 exam, for example, is required for a spousal visa. Many people will take it at home to join their spouse in the UK.

But, when that spousal visa expires, they must apply for an extension – Further Leave to Remain – which requires the A2 exam, after which they can apply for Settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain) which requires a B1 exam. However, while the A2 is valid for two years, many people will immediately start improving their English to take the B1, the exam required for Settlement and Citizenship.

The B1 four-skill SELT exam serves a different purpose and is used in visa applications for those that wish to study or work in the UK.

Regardless of their purpose, the booking process is the same for each level.

Booking a SELT exam

Broadly, there are two ways a candidate can book a SELT exam.

Those that feel comfortable online, are independent, and have a decent grasp of the English language, will typically go directly to our website. Here, they can specify the exam they require, their nearest centre and their preferred date and time slot.

Alternatively, candidates can choose to book their exams through agents, working on our behalf. These include immigration lawyers, whose job is partly to help people with the legal aspect of visa applications.

They’ll advise candidates to sit their SELT exam and bring them the results when they’re done, allowing them to continue with the application process. Other agents will support candidates that aren’t as comfortable in making bookings themselves, helping them over the phone to make their booking in their native language.

Once an exam has been booked, either directly or via an agent, the candidate is then able to access preparation materials on our site. Practice tests allow candidates to familiarise themselves with the testing environment, so they know what to expect when the day arrives.

Exam day and results

On the day itself, candidates must arrive at the exam centre 30 minutes before the test begins to allow staff to carry out any security checks, and bring with them all relevant documents as specified on the confirmation documents sent to them at the time of booking the exam.

Once inside, a two-skill exam – speaking and listening –will typically take between 10 and 15 minutes depending on the level. A four-skill exam, on the other hand – speaking, listening, reading and writing – can take two and a half hours or more.

Speaking and listening exams are carried out face-to-face, albeit remotely. In the exam centre, candidates will speak with another human, via a PC, who’ll assess whether they understand what’s being said to them and that they can respond properly.

In four-skill exams, the speaking portion is taken separately to the listening, reading and writing. This means that, if they’re no more than 14 days apart, candidates can take them on different days and in different centres.

For two-skill exams, candidates will receive a preliminary result within 15 minutes following the exam, indicating whether they’re likely to have passed or failed. However, these are not the official results. Official results for all exams follow within three to five business days, and contain a unique reference number (URN), which candidates can use when submitting their visa application and is shared with the Home Office for verification purposes.

And, to ensure applicants have the best possible chance of acquiring a UK visa, we offer an insurance package – Take Two – which allows them to retake their exam in the event they don’t pass.

Looking to the future

There are obvious advantages to taking SELT exams with LanguageCert, not least that our test results are faster than with any other provider. Our centres are conveniently located – in the UK and beyond – and, being computer-based, there’s a continuation of service regardless of any issues that might arise, as was proven during the pandemic.

We’re always looking at ways to improve our service. In 2023, we’ll be expanding our presence more into local communities, sponsoring events and hosting workshops for people that know they need to take an English exam. Meanwhile, we continue to work closely with the Home Office to ensure we can deliver the knowledge and learning people need for a successful UK visa application.