The NMC's changes to the English language test

Posted on 09 November 2022

​It comes as a great relief to share that there were very positive developments recently at the

Nursing and Midwifery Council at Portland Square.

The NMC Council submitted and approved a proposal to revise the regulator's English language

requirements for applicants for registration with international training. The regulator said it hoped

the changes "a fair and reliable method" to ensure professionals can communicate "safely

and effectively"; in English.

"This move is designed to provide greater flexibility to allow more people to join the UK Nursing


In short, the move aims to provide greater flexibility to accommodate more people on the UK

Nursing Register without compromising the high standard of English language skills required for

nursing. As a result, many nurses qualified abroad fail the NMC's language tests and are unable to

register despite years of working as medical assistants in the UK. Currently, people joining the

register must demonstrate their English proficiency by studying English, working in an English-

language role as a nurse or midwife, or taking a recognised English language test (the International

English Language Test).

While the NMC won't change the overall score required for language tests, it has approved technical

changes it says will make the system more flexible from next year. It will " the minimum

score it will accept when individuals are asked to combine two English language test scores and

extend the period during which applicants can combine their test scores from 6 months to 12

months. It will allow employers to provide "evidence" of English proficiency if the

applicant has practiced English in a country where English is not the primary language, or if the

individual "near misses"; an English language test.

The two changes are aimed at giving a group of employees who are stuck in unregistered positions

after failing a language test and whose pay grades do not match their skills, qualifications or

experience, a greater chance of registering. For years, there have been concerns that the standard of

English required to pass the test is too strict and that many native English speakers struggle to pass

the test.

This news can only be good for the workforce, career development and, most importantly, patient


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