Irish vet fails oral English test for Australian visa

Louise Kennedy, a native English speaker, says there is a problem with the technology

An Irish vet has failed a computer test to prove she speaks English well enough to stay in Australia.

Louise Kennedy, reportedly from Co Wicklow originally, has worked as an equine vet on a skilled worker visa in Australia for the past two years and did the test in order to obtain permanent residenency.

Part of the process is proving your proficiency in the English language.

Ms Kennedy went to Pearson, one of five test providers the immigration department licenses to carry out English assessments for visa applicants.


Unlike the others, Pearson uses voice recognition software to test speaking ability.

A “scoring engine” identifies acceptable and unacceptable answers to questions on a computer screen.

Ms Kennedy did well on the writing and reading elements of the test, but failed to make the pass mark in oral fluency. She got 74, but the government requires 79.

She says there is a problem with the technology. “There’s obviously a flaw in their computer software, when a person with perfect oral fluency cannot get enough points,” she told the AAP news agency.

Pearson denies there is anything wrong with its computer-based test or the software used to analyse candidates’ responses.

High bar

Sasha Hampson, head of English for Pearson Asia Pacific, says Australia sets a high bar for people seeking permanent visas.

Ms Kennedy, who is due to have a baby in October, is now seeking a bridging visa to remain in the country while she pursues the more expensive spouse visa through her Australian husband.

There is a shortage of vets with two or more years’ experience to fill roles in many areas of Australia, meaning the profession is on the country’s list of skilled occupations in demand.

Practices regularly employ vets from overseas on both a short and long term basis.

Pádraig Collins

Pádraig Collins

Pádraig Collins a contributor to The Irish Times based in Sydney