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IELTS introduction

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is used as a language of communication. It uses a nine-band scale to clearly identify levels of proficiency, from non-user (band score 1) through to expert (band score 9).

Who owns IELTS?

IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English. 

IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training

IELTS is available in two test versions: Academic – for people applying for higher education or professional registration, and General Training for those migrating to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK, or applying for secondary education, training programmes and work experience in an English-speaking environment. Both versions provide a valid and accurate assessment of the four language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Test Format

The IELTS test assesses your abilities in listening, reading, writing and speaking – in less than three hours.

There are two types of the IELTS test:  IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Listening and Speaking are the same for both tests, but the subject matter of the Reading and Writing components differs depending on which test you take.

The Listening, Reading and Writing components of all IELTS tests are completed on the same day, with no breaks in between them.

The Speaking component, however, can be completed up to a week before or after the other tests. Your test centre will advise.

The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Scoring System

  • The IELTS test does not pass or fail a student, instead, the IELTS scoring system uses a band scale of 0 – 9 to assess the proficiency of the candidate.
  • There are different band requirements for each country, institution, organization, and candidates will need to score accordingly.
  • Sometimes the band requirements differ for visa and your chosen institution/ organization/  profession/ employer.
  • The IELTS test results have a validity of two years and you will be required to retake the test beyond that time period.

ACADEMIC - IELTS Academic is divided into four sections

The test is of 30 minutes, an additional time of 10 minutes is given for transferring the answers to the answer sheet. The candidates are tested on their ability to understand lectures and conversations in various Western accents, primarily British.

The test is of 40 questions divided in 3 sections. The test is 60 minutes long and it measures the the ability of candidates to understand descriptive, factual, and analytical passages.

In this test 2 tasks have to be completed in 60 minutes. Task 1 comprises of describing tables, graphs, charts, diagrams in a minimum of 150 words and in task 2 candidates are required to write a 250 words long essay on the given topic. The contribution of task 2 to the total writing score is twice of task 1.

The speaking test is generally 11 to 14 minutes long and is conducted in a face to face interview format . This test has 3 sections, in the first section the examiner asks questions related to the candidate’s introduction etc. In the second section the candidate is asked to speak for 2 minutes on a general topic and in the third section followup questions related to the topic in section 2 are asked.

GENERAL - IELTS General Training is also divided into four sections

The test is of 30 minutes, an additional time of 10 minutes is given for transferring the answers to the answer sheet. The candidates are tested on their ability to understand lectures and conversations in various Western accents, primarily British.

The duration of this test is 60 minutes in which three passages are given. Each passage forms one section of the test and is accompanied with 10 to 14 questions. There are a total of 40 questions.
Section 1 generally has two or three short paragraphs on factual texts.
Section 2 mostly has on two short paragraphs based on factual texts.
Section 3 is likely to be a long passage on a general topic.

In this test 2 tasks have to be completed in 60 minutes. Task 1 comprises of writing a 150 words long formal or an informal letter on the given situation and in task 2 candidates are required to write a 250 words long essay on the given topic. The contribution of task 2 to the total writing score is twice of task 1.

The speaking test is generally 11 to 14 minutes long and is conducted in a face to face interview format . This test has 3 sections, in the first section the examiner asks questions related to the candidate’s introduction etc. In the second section the candidate is asked to speak for 2 minutes on a general topic and in the third section followup questions related to the topic in section 2 are asked.

Validity of IELTS Score

Candidates are judged on a band scale of 1 to 9 in each part of the test. These bands clearly mentions a candidate’s ability to use and understand English. IELTS results are valid only for 2 years. There is no pass or fail system in IELTS test.

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