By Joyce Fegan
Louise Kennedy, 34, from Co Wicklow, has a degree in history and politics as well as veterinary science and underwent a mandatory English proficiency test in Australia in order to seek permanent residency there.
The vet works for a mobile equine unit between north Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.
She decided to seek permanent residency because her vocation has been listed as a “shortage profession”.
While sitting the Pearson Test of English, she passed all components bar the oral proficiency.
In the fluency segment of the mandatory test, Ms Kennedy received a mark of 74, while the government requires one of 79.
“There’s obviously a flaw in their computer software when a person with perfect oral fluency cannot get enough points,” the vet said in a recent interview.
Pearson is one of five test providers the immigration department uses to assess English competency for visa purposes.
However, it is the only one that uses voice-recognition technology to test-speaking ability.
Ms Kennedy thought the low score was a “mistake” when the results came back.
She has now been given an opportunity to redo the A$300 (€200) test free of charge.
“That is based on the fact that there was construction work outside of the test centre at the time which could be a possible interference,” she said.
Pearson told Australian Associated Press there was nothing wrong with its systems or the scoring of tests.
Sasha Hampson, the head of English for Pearson Asia Pacific, told the AAP that the immigration department set the bar very high for people seeking permanent residency.
Ms Kennedy’s experience thousands of miles away is, however, a familiar one for Irish nurses hoping to work in the North.
Last month it emerged that nurses from the Republic of Ireland were being asked to sit a £150 (€165) English language test with a high failure rate in order to work in the North.
New regulations by the UK’s professional nursing body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, now means that all overseas nurses must prove their competence in reading, writing, listening, and speaking English if they wish to register to practise there.
This article first appeared in today's Irish Examiner.