IELTS Guide for Aspiring US Registered Nurses (USRN)

June 02, 2020  |  Unistaff

If you are a registered nurse wanting to continue your career in the USA, you will need to pass an English proficiency test. Not only is this an essential requirement for US Visa issuance, but being able to fluently communicate in English is also key to making the best of living and working abroad.


IELTS Guide Article Header

You may have come across the terms “IELTS” or “TOEFL” during your own research about working abroad or from your friends who are planning to apply for a job overseas or are already working abroad right now. This is especially relevant when looking into opportunities to work in countries including the USA, UK, and Canada, among others.

The International English Language Test System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are exams recognized worldwide. They measure a person’s level of knowledge and ability in using the English language for communication. Passing these exams would mean that a person would not encounter any issues practicing a profession in a country that uses English as its main language.

If you’re planning to work as a registered nurse in the US, this type of English proficiency test is mandatory. It is one of the VisaScreen requirements. Your chosen state will require either the IELTS or TOEFL exam to ensure that you are fluent enough to understand and communicate effectively, especially since working as a nurse will entail good decision-making, managing and performing multiple tasks within a health care setting. You would want to avoid uncertainty or confusion, particularly in an emergency situation.

There is no time for loss of words, or checking a dictionary during critical moments!


We’ll be focusing on helping you gain a better understanding of the IELTS. This test is more common as compared to the TOEFL.

Note that the English test requirement often does not apply to you if you attended nursing school in Barbados, Canada (except Quebec, the only schools approved for exemption are:  McGill University, Dawson College, Vanier College, John Abbott College, and Heritage College), Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom or United States.


What is the IELTS?

IELTS logo


Established in 1989, the International English Language Test System or IELTS, is an international standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. It is jointly managed by British Council, IDP and Cambridge Assessment English.

The IELTS qualification is recognized worldwide by over 10,000 organizations in more than 140 countries. If you intend to apply for entry to one of these institutions/countries then you need to prove your level of English language proficiency by passing this test.


Which IELTS do I need to take?

IELTS General vs IELTS Academic


Since IELTS offers two types of tests: IELTS Academic and IELTS General, it is important that you choose the right test for you. If you want to be a medical professional in the US, you will need to take the Academic IELTS. This is required in order to apply for higher education or professional registration in an English speaking country. A broad range of medical jobs require this version of the exam, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, among others.


What score do I need to pass?

USRN Required Minimum English Proficiency Test scores


The IELTS score measures your English language abilities on four parameters:

  1. Speaking
  2. Reading
  3. Writing
  4. Listening

The test does not have a pass or fail system. You will be ranked on a scale from 0 to 9, with 9 being an expert.

For international registered nurses, to pass your IELTS and become eligible for a US visa, you will need to score 6.5 overall but must score 7.0 on the speaking section of the IELTS exam to meet visa standards and requirements.

Why it is important to know the IELTS test format?

IELTS Exam Format Guide


The IELTS has 3 parts that you have to take on the same day, in the following order: (1) Listening, (2) Reading and (3) Writing – with no breaks in between.

Your Speaking test will be held either on the same day or seven days before or after that, depending on local arrangement.


Note: It is an advantage if you understand the format, duration and arrangement of the IELTS so that you are mentally ready to manage and face each subtest. 


IELTS Guide Listening Header

Listening. The IELTS Listening test is designed to assess a wide range of listening skills, including how well you:

  • understand main ideas and specific factual information
  • recognize the opinions, attitudes and purpose of a speaker
  • follow the development of an argument


IELTS Guide Reading Header

Reading. You will need to read quickly and efficiently, and manage your time. You will be asked to read three different passages and respond to related questions in your IELTS Reading test. The content of the Reading test is different for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests.

The IELTS Reading test is designed to assess a wide range of reading skills, including how well you:

  • read for the general sense of a passage
  • read for the main ideas
  • read for detail
  • understand inferences and implied meaning
  • recognize a writer’s opinions, attitudes and purpose
  • follow the development of an argument


IELTS Guide Writing Header

Writing. The IELTS Writing test is designed to assess a wide range of writing skills, including how well you:

  • write a response appropriately
  • organize ideas
  • use a range of vocabulary and grammar accurately


IELTS Guide Speaking Header

Speaking. You will talk to a certified examiner in the IELTS Speaking test. The IELTS Speaking test is designed to assess a wide range of skills.

The examiner will want to see how well you can:

  • communicate opinions and information on everyday topics and common experiences; to do this you will need to answer a range of questions
  • speak at length on a given topic using appropriate language
  • organize your ideas coherently
  • express and justify your opinions
  • analyze, discuss and speculate about issues
  • make sure that you relax and talk fluently. You will need to speak naturally.


Where can I book and take the IELTS exam?

British Council and IDP Education logos

The IELTS is administered by the British Council and IDP Education.

IDP, British Council, and Cambridge English Language Assessment compile the test, while IDP and British Council conduct it.

Our advice is for you to choose a center that is not far from your home, regardless of whether it is IDP or British Council. The test contents are generally the same, so there should be no dilemma on your part as to where you should take the test.

However, you might be considering other factors including perks and discounts. If you want to know what savings might be applicable when taking the test under a certain company, then we advise you to consult with your review center. Check out our partners below.

You can find an IELTS test center in over 1,200 locations across 140 countries. Wherever you’re based, finding a suitable location should not be too much of a problem. You may visit the IELTS page: Find a Test Location to review your options.


Our Accredited IELTS Review Center Partners

We have worked with thousands of nurses and helped them successfully accomplish their dreams of working in the US. We have developed solid partnerships with accredited IELTS centers to help you prepare for your exam. From the registration, to your review, and even the arrangement of your exam date. They will make sure you don’t miss any required step.

We are dedicated to helping nurses like you to build a thriving career in the US. That’s why we created the United States Candidate Development Program (USCDP).

Thanks to our generous partners, you are entitled to exclusive discounts on review services. All you need to do is become a USCDP Member!


Here is a list of accredited, top-level IETLS review centers that you can choose from:

Niner logo


ACE logo


JRooz logo


IELTS Advantage Logo


ICSEC Kaplan logo


More than anything, you will need to be determined. This is not going to be easy. You need to set aside time, money and focused effort to prepare and study, to increase your chances of passing the IELTS exam. Most who do not pass on their first take did not seek help to strengthen their reviews.

Based on our years of working with nurse applicants, we highly encourage you to work with an IELTS review center that’s most convenient for you to reach. Their insight and training are valuable. Keep in mind that the sooner you can pass your test, the closer you become to making your American Dream come true.

Do you want to learn more about the discounts offered by our partners to our USCDP members? Join one of our orientations! Subscribe today and we’ll let you know the upcoming schedules.

USCDP Start your US journey today


Now you might ask, how much is the USCDP membership fee?

Your USCDP membership is absolutely FREE!

The USCDP’s primary goal is to help aspiring nurses to achieve their goals of working in the US. There are no fees to be collected when you sign up to become a member of the program.

Become a member today to enjoy all the benefits and get one step closer to working abroad!

We hope you’ve found this helpful. Sharing is caring! There’s plenty of opportunity for everyone, so share this with your friends today. We look forward to meeting you at one of our future orientations!


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Unistaff Content Team

This article was put together by Unistaff's team of researchers, creative writers and content creators. We pride ourselves by publishing the most updated pieces of content in our blog section to enable you to make well informed decisions.

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