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Navigating English Exams: Your Visa Screen Guide 

By Kara
|Nov 24, 2023

Kara and Ervin Nil Temporal, Founder & CEO 9.0 Niner walk nurses preparing for their Visa Screen English exams in this detailed live session. Ervin provides an in-depth overview of the exams accepted for Visa Screen to help nurses prepare better. 


He breaks down the exam requirements and explains the key variables essential when selecting exams. Kara and Ervin discuss different types of exams including TOEFL, IELTS, OET, and PTE Academic to help nurses decide which one is the best fit.


Whether you’re just starting your journey or looking for that final push, this session is for you. Don’t miss out on Ervin’s valuable insights and guidance. 


Start of Video 


Kara Murphy  (0:02)   

Well, hello, Ervin.  


Ervin (0:06) 

Hi Miss Cara. It’s been quite a while and I’m glad I’m back. I like to greet all the nurses of PRS global worldwide. Thank you for watching our show.  


Kara Murphy (0:15) 

Yeah, thank you for that, Ervin. I’m thrilled to get some time with you. Once I knew I had some time with you, I was like, “Oh, gosh, this one’s gonna be good.” So I’m thrilled to have some time to get your insights. I know that last August, everything changed a little bit for visa screens or a few new English tests, and we still get questions about them. And, you know, wanting to know, what are some pros, what are some cons? What do we do? How do we prepare? So I am looking forward to sharing some of that insight. 


The other thing that’s on my mind is with retrogression. I think we have some people that are holding off before taking it because we don’t know when things will move forward and how quickly things will move forward. So one of the things on my mind is, “Gosh, I don’t want anybody to miss their opportunity when their priority date gets current.” And so just making sure today we encourage everybody to let’s get rockin’ and rollin’ with that. 


In addition, Ervin, PRS Global is very excited to announce today that we are going to give away four unlimited life review packages to individuals. So go ahead and put your name in the comments, and we are going to be drawing four individuals for these unlimited review packages tomorrow. So excited about that. 


So, start us off with just helping us understand the visa screen English requirements.  


Ervin (1:49) 

Okay, to our dear nurses worldwide: For the longest time, only IELTS was accepted as the official English language test for a US visa screen application. However, all of that changed in August of last year when CGFNS announced that, apart from IELTS, there are other English proficiency examinations now accepted for a visa screen application. So, first, there is OET, Occupational English Test. Another equally popular high-stakes English examination is the PTE or the Pearson Test of English. And, number three, TOEFL or the Test of English as a Foreign Language. 


I’d like to emphasize, though, that even if all four of these examinations are accepted by CGFNS for the USA visa screen, not all of them are accepted by the different boards of nursing. So, this is when PRS enters the picture because you have to double-check with them which state accepts which English examination. It all boils down to not asking which English examination is easier because it’s useless to take an easier English exam that’s not accepted in the particular state where you’re planning to go. Instead of asking which English exam is easier, I guess the best question to ask is, which English exam is required or accepted by the state that I’m planning to go to? So, do you agree with me on that, Miss Cara? 


Kara Murphy (3:12) 

Oh, my goodness, yeah. So, you definitely want to look into that on which state you’re going to. And, I also, Ervin, sometimes I’m like, “gosh, which one is mostly accepted for the Board of Nursing in many different states?” Because I would hate for somebody to choose their new life in the United States based on an English exam. 


Ervin (3:33)   

That’s correct.  


Kara Murphy (3:34) 

Yep. So, well, let’s dive into it. We definitely know we need to take the English exam. Don’t want to prolong it because you don’t want to miss out on your priority date going forward. So maybe give us an overview of the different English exams. And I would love to get your insight on just some of the pros, the cons, you know, some of those secrets that you might have. 


Ervin (3:56)   

Okay, so the first question that people ask is, what are the advantages of one English examination over the other, and I prepared for this Facebook Live session; that’s why I have them on my phone just to make sure that I don’t forget any. So let’s begin with PTE. 


The advantages of PTE, probably number one, for most nurses, they consider this the easier English examination because of the band score requirement—it’s 50 per component and 55 overall band score. It’s just that certain stakeholders in the United States feel that this might be a little low. So there have been conversations with CGFNS and some of these stakeholders, and one solution is to make sure that the required band score for IELTS and OET are exactly the same as PTE. I’d like to make this clear—there haven’t been any formal announcements, but in case there will be, and that’s not something surprising because CGFNS already announced that certain stakeholders are requesting to make the required band scores for IELTS, OET, and PTE the same. 


So that’s the first advantage—relatively, it’s easier to pass. And number two, some people feel that other English examinations might be draining because they’re longer—like three hours or sometimes up to four hours if we include the speaking subtests. But PTE is the shortest of them all because in just two hours, you get to complete all the four subtests: speaking, listening, reading, and writing, all completed in just two hours. Another advantage of the PTE is that the results are usually out in just one or two days, depending on the volume of candidates. Before the popularity of PTE, the results were out in just 15 minutes or 30 minutes, but now, because there are a lot of people taking PTE, sometimes it will take one day or two days, but still faster as compared to other English examinations. 


But apparently, like any English test, there is also a disadvantage to the PTE, like number one—there is no paper-based version. There are a lot of people who love the other English examinations because they get to choose. Sometimes they are more comfortable with paper, sometimes they prefer a computer. But for PTE, it’s not for you if you prefer to take a paper-based examination. Now, one more thing, if I may say, that this is the case in the Philippines, and it might also be the case in some of the testing centers in the Middle East. The slots for PTE exams are always full. So you have to book in advance. Some of our nurses tell us we have to book for a PTE test like two to three months before the actual test date because the slots are always full. These are things for you to consider if you’re thinking of PTE. 



Now let’s move on to another English examination that’s equally popular—none other than the Occupational English Test. So, number one, probably it’s the most relatable because the topics are not related to tourism, traveling, gardening, flowers, but they’re related to the medical field. So one passage might talk about vasectomy, and the listening recording might talk about AstraZeneca. So, definitely relatable for the nurses. 


For the writing subjects of OET, you don’t have to compose an essay; you don’t need to give your opinion because it’s a referral letter from one healthcare professional to another healthcare professional. So you don’t have to worry because you must not force yourself to include figures of speech or idiomatic expressions in the writing subjects.  


But some people do not consider this exam because it’s the most expensive of them all. It’s 587 Australian dollars, and to help you so that you don’t have to convert anymore in US dollars, that’s 372. That’s twice as much as the cost of IELTS or PTE. Another reason why some people don’t want to consider OET is they wait forever for the results to be out because usually, it takes more than two weeks. 


Now we move on to probably the most popular English examination for the United States, and it’s IELTS. Why the most popular? More states choose IELTS. So if you are an IELTS passer, you definitely have more opportunities not just in the United States, but in other countries as well. Number one, it’s the most accessible; in the Philippines alone, IELTS is available in 32 cities nationwide compared to the 15 of OET, compared to the three of PTE.  


So IELTS is available in the nearest city or in the nearest province. And it’s very easy to book for the exam; everyone is accommodated because there are plenty of testing centers. At the same time, you can book for your IELTS exam just four days before the test date. And it’s also the most affordable English exam, only 217 US dollars; I bet one consideration of most candidates is the cost. So IELTS is always the cheapest option. And it does not even require a credit card; you can use cash and just go to the bank. 


Now, the disadvantage of IELTS: Some say, “Oh, it’s the most challenging of all the English tests.” That may be because IELTS is the oldest. So you know someone who has taken IELTS in 2006, in 2010, 2015, 2019; you have a lot of stories. You’ve heard a lot of them because a lot of people have taken the IELTS. So maybe because of this misconception, or I heard my friend was not able to make it in IELTS before. But that’s because there have been very few nurses who have taken OET and PTE in the last 12 months as compared to the thousands or even perhaps hundreds of thousands of nurses who have taken IELTS since the ’90s, perhaps. So that’s my report of the three exams. 


Kara Murphy  (10:02)   

That’s great. So thank you for sharing all of those. That was a great rundown. I’m sure everybody’s quickly taking notes or going back 15 seconds to get all of that. That was great information. And there’s a lot of things to consider, but it definitely sounds like coming into the United States, you’re gonna get the most opportunity with the IELTS, which seems to be more universal. All right, well, that’s great. 


So regardless of the tasks, there’s preparation that needs to be done, and I’m sure there’s practicing and things like that. Share with us just your tips. When nurses or other healthcare professionals come to Niners for the review sessions, what are some of your recommendations for passing, regardless of what the test is? 


Ervin (14:14) 

Number one, excuse me, you have to make English a part of your system. How do you improve in speaking, whether it’s IELTS, OET, or PTE? You speak. How do you improve in writing? You write. How do you improve your reading skill? You read because there is no substitute for practice. In high-stakes English examinations, you don’t have to memorize anything because it’s a skill. How do you enhance your skill? Constant, correct practice. 


So I’m sure a lot of you are not native English speakers. That’s why you need to pass an English examination. Temporarily— I’m not saying it’s the case forever, but temporarily—flush other languages out of your system, just until the day of your examination.  


You think in English, you talk in English, you write in English, but it does not end there. There has to be feedback. And that’s the reason why PRS Global worked with 9.0 Niner because we offer daily one-on-one coaching, and that’s every single day, except for holidays. So every day from Monday to Sunday, and we have one-on-one coaching available 24/7. 


So the first step is to learn. Number two is to apply. And number three, get feedback. And that always works regardless of the English examination. 


Kara Murphy (12:12) 

That’s great—to learn, apply, feedback. So, at 9.0 Niners, you incorporate all of that, and what I love, and the reason we went and partnered with you is you have so many opportunities to go to the review with your hours, and there’s just so many different resources, and I really appreciate that. We’ve had a lot of nurses going through that, and what amazed me—I had asked you before we started today, Ervin, how many healthcare professionals have you impacted that have passed, and just in 2020, over 50,000. That doesn’t even count from 2007 up to 2019. That blew my mind. That’s amazing. That’s incredible to have that kind of impact on so many people’s lives. 


Ervin (13:04) 

Thank you for that. And we’d also like to thank the Filipinos for sharing the program of 9.0 Niner to their friends. Because now we have an online presence, for that matter, in 142 countries worldwide. And we’d like to thank PRS as well because you help us gain popularity in other places that personally I haven’t been to, but we were able to reach thanks to the online platform and to all our partners. So thank you so much, PRS Global. 


Kara Murphy (13:30) 

It is absolutely our pleasure. And again today, we are giving away four unlimited review packages with 9.0 Niners, and I’m really excited about that. So, we are going to pull some names. Make sure that in the comments you are putting your names, or if you have a friend that needs to take the review and study, go ahead and put their name in as well, and we will pull that. So, Ervin, as always, I really appreciate your time. Thank you for the insights on the different tasks, things to consider, and ways to prepare. So, thank you again. 


Ervin (14:08) 

My pleasure to help PRS and the nurses.  


Kara Murphy (14:13) 

Okay, bye bye! 


End of Video