Information about English language proficiency

Updated 15 February 2021

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many English language proficiency testing centres are currently closed. This means that for many international students, the online form of the tests may be the only option available to them for some time.

To address this situation, the online form of the tests listed in the Table to Rule 18 can be used as evidence of English language proficiency for international students enrolling in New Zealand and offshore. This is an interim arrangement and will be reviewed in late 2021.

Our expectations of providers verifying international students’ English language proficiency

We expect providers to maintain vigilance in continuing to verify the test certificates they accept, as they do for standard face-to-face test results. We recommend that providers keep records of the English language proficiency information they base their enrolment decisions on, should there be any doubt regarding a student’s English language proficiency at a later date.

In addition to checking that online test certificates are genuine, providers should consider other means of verification listed in Outcome 3 of the Guidelines for the Education (Pastoral Care of International Students) Code of Practice 2016. These include:

  • interviews with students (these could take place offshore or via Skype or another form of communication)
  • testing and assessment in skill requirements for individual subject areas
  • the student’s academic record and attendance at previous schools and/or organisations in New Zealand (where relevant) should be examined and taken into account before the offer is made.

Expiring English language proficiency test results

Some international students may have had to delay starting their studies in New Zealand as a result of the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

In March 2020, NZQA made temporary provision for providers to accept expired English language proficiency results, provided a student’s deferred start date is within 12 months of the date of the original offer of place.

From 1 April 2021, NZQA will be discontinuing this arrangement and providers will be expected to meet Rule 18.2(d) of the Programme Approval and Accreditation Rules 2018 as per normal.

For all other questions and enquiries relating to COVID-19 please contact NZQA at

For other information and advice for students, whānau and the education sector, please refer to the Ministry of Education website.

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