What is IELTS?

IELTS, commonly known as International English Language Testing System is the most popular English language proficiency test taken by millions of users every year.  IELTS scores are recognized by more than 9,000 organizations, educational institutions, associations all around the world. IELTS test assesses reading, writing, listening and speaking skills of the candidates. It is designed to reflect how students can use English at work or play in a new life abroad.  This test has been developed by the World’s leading English language experts. There are two versions of the IELTS test- IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.  IELTS Academic is for people willing to move abroad for higher education or professional registration, while IELTS General Training is for those who are willing to migrate to English-speaking countries like Canada, Australia and UK for training programmes, work experiences or secondary education.  Both the versions of the IELTS test give a valid and accurate assessment of the four language skills- listening, reading, writing and speaking.

IELTS Test Format

IELTS test consists of four major sections, which are- listening, reading, writing and speaking. The listening, writing and reading sections of the IELTS are completed on the same day. The speaking section can be completed a week before or after the other tests.  The total duration of the complete test is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

IELTS Reading

The purpose of the IELTS reading is to assess the ability of the test takers to read and understand academic passages. The reading section consists of 40 questions, which are designed to assess a variety of reading skills of the test takers.  The various skills assessed in the reading section are- reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical arguments, understanding writer’s purpose, attitude and opinion.  IELTS Academic Reading section includes three long tests , which can be descriptive, factual or analytical.  These passages are usually taken from books, journals, newspapers and magazines.  These passages are selected particularly for the non-specialist audience.  Students may not be acquainted with the reading passages but they can have patience that everything they need to answer the questions will be stated in the passages.

As mentioned above, there are 40 different questions in the reading section and you will be given 60 minutes to complete the reading test.  The test takers are required to transfer their answers to an answer sheet during the allocated time for the test.  The test takers will not be provided extra time for the transfer.  While transferring, care should be taken that there are no spelling or grammar mistakes. Otherwise, you may be heavily penalized.

Some of the types of reading questions are listed below-

1) Headings

2) Multiple choice questions

3) Fill in the blanks

4) Answer short questions

5) True/false/Not Given OR Yes/No/Not Given

6) Matching list or phrases

7) Sentence completion

8) Diagram/ Flowchart

IELTS Listening

The purpose of the listening section is to assess the listening skills of the test takers in academic settings.  Listening section has four sections with ten questions in each section.  These questions are designed to evaluate the various listening skills of the candidates as they hear the audio.  The first two sections deal with everyday situations.   In the section 1, there is a conversation between two speakers and in the section 2, there is a monologue.  The remaining two sections deal with situations in training and educational contexts.  There is a conversation between two main speakers and in the section 4, there is a monologue on an academic subject. The recordings will be heard only once.  The accent of the recordings can be British, Australian, American, Canadia and New Zealand.

The total time given to complete the listening section of the IELTS is 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes for transferring answers).  A variety of questions are asked in the IELTS Listening, which are-  multiple choice, diagram labelling, summary completion, sentence completion, and matching.  Students will be required to write their answers on the question paper as they listen to the audio.  They will be given 10 minutes to transfer their answer to the answer sheet.  While transferring answers, you should be careful that you do not make spelling and grammar mistakes.

Various Listening Tasks

  1. Multiple Choice Questions
  2. Matching Information
  3. Fill in the Blanks/Plan, map, diagram labelling
  4. Map, table, flow-chart and summary completion
  5. Sentence Completion
  6. Short Answer Questions

IELTS Writing

The duration of the IELTS writing is 60 minutes.  There are two tasks in the writing section.  Task 1- where graph, table, chart, the diagram will be presented and you will be required to explain the information in your own words.  You may be asked to explain the date, describe the different stages of a process or describe how something works.  On the other hand, Task 2, is an essay writing task.  You will be required to write an essay in response to a point of view, problem or argument.  The responses must be given in a formal style.

In writing Task 1, the test takers may be asked to describe diagram, facts or figures presented in one or more graphs.  You may be given a diagram, chart, table or topic and asked  to explain how it works.  The test takers will be asked to write at least 150 words. 20 minutes will be given to complete the task and upon writing less than or more than 150 words, your scores may get affected.  You must be careful that your writing scores may get affected if they write irrelevant, incoherent or plagiarized content.  The purpose of task 1 of the writing section is to assess the ability of the test takers to identify the most relevant and important information and give a well-organized overview of it in academic writing.

Task 2 of the IELTS Writing require candidates to write an essay. You must understand the topic of the content clearly and then give your response based on what you are asked. You are given 40 minutes to complete the task. You are required to write at least 250 words and will be penalized for writing too short.  Candidates will not be penalized for writing more than 250 words, but you should keep in mind that if you write more, you will not get time to check your content for spelling and grammatical errors.

IELTS Speaking

The purpose of the IELTS speaking is to assess spoken English skills of the candidates in academic settings.  The test takers are given 11-14 minutes for the speaking test.   There are three parts of the speaking section.  In the first part,  the examiner will ask you general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics on hobbies, work, studies or family.  The duration of this part of the speaking section is between four to five minutes. In the part 2, the test takers are given a card, which asks them to talk about a particular topic.  You will be given one minute to prepare and two minutes to speak.  The examiner will ask you two to three questions on the same topic.  In Part 3 of the speaking section, you will be asked further questions about the topic in the part 2.  The duration of the part 3 of the speaking section is between four to five minutes.

Who Accepts IELTS Scores?

IELTS test is recognized by more than 9,000 organizations all around the world including educational institutions, employers, governments and professional bodies.  IELTS test is held in more than 120 countries and is taken by around 1.5 million test takers each year.  It is recognized by the leading universities and colleges in many countries including Canada, New Zealand, UK, USA and Australia. IELTS is accepted by immigration authorities, professional bodies and various government agencies.

How to Register for IELTS?

In order to register for IELTS test, you would require downloading the copy of the IELTS application form.  You can ask for a copy of the application form from your test centre.  You need to complete and sign the application form, and attach a photocopy of your passport and two identical passport-size photograps, which are not less than 6 months old.  The reading, writing and listening tests will be held on the same day. The speaking test can be held 7 days before or after the test date.

Validity of the IELTS Scores

The IELTS Test Report Form (TRF) is valid for two years. At present, IELTS score is valid for a three-year period for Australian General Skilled Migration (GSM) applications.

IELTS Scoring System

There is no pass or fail in the IELTS test. The proficiency of the test takers to use the English language in academic settings is judged on the basis of the scores achieved by them in each module.

IELTS Band 9 Score – Expert User- 9 IELTS band mean that you are an expert English user and have got good proficiency in the English language. It also means that your command over English is correct, appropriate and fluent with complete understanding.

IELTS Band 8 Score– Very Good User– 8 IELTS band mean that you are a very good user and have got operational command over the language. It also signified that you understand reasoning very well and there are irregular random inaccuracies. mean no real

IELTS Band 7 Score– Good User– The IELTS band 7 scores mean that you are a good user. You have got effective command over the English. 7 IELTS band score signifies, there are occasional misunderstandings and unusual situations but you are able to handle augmentation well.

IELTS Band 6 Score– Competent User– Being IELTS Band Score 6 achiever, you will have effectual charge over the language. It also indicates there are a number of inaccuracies, confusion and difficulty as well.

IELTS Band 5 Score– Modest User– IELTS Band Score 5 mean that you are a modest user and have got partial command over English.

IELTS Band 4 ScoreLimited User: It means that you have basic competence in English, which is limited to familiar situations. You face frequent problems in understanding and expression.

IELTS Band 3 ScoreExtremely limited user:  3 IELTS Band Score mean that you are able to convey and understand only general meaning in very familiar situations. You face frequent breakdowns in communication.

IELTS Band 2 ScoreIntermittent user: You face great difficulty in understanding spoken and written English. It also means no real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations.

IELTS Band 1 ScoreNon-user: This means you do not have the ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.

IELTS Reading Tips

The purpose of the IELTS reading is to assess the reading skills of the candidates in Academic settings.  It is one of the easiest and scoring sections of the IELTS test. Below mentioned are several useful tips that can help you score high in the IELTS reading section.

  1. Educate Yourself:- If this is the first time you are appearing for the IELTS test, the first thing you need to do is  to acquaint yourself with the format and different types of questions asked in the test for various modules.  In reading section, there are 14 different types of questions asked and there is a strategy to follow to tackle each one.  Hence,   know the purpose of each  question and what you are expected to do.
  2. Skimming and Scanning:- Skimming and Scanning techniques can help you greatly in the IELTS reading section. The purpose of these techniques is to get the general idea of the content.  You do not need to read word for word, but skim and scan to get the overall meaning of the content.   You should be careful that you do not miss out essential information while skimming and scanning.
  3. Key words:- Each question will have key words, that helps you locate the answers. You should know how to position and use key words correctly.  Most of the students make a mistake of finding key words exactly.  You should note that there can be synonyms  of the main key words.
  4. Know your weaknesses:- Unless your weaknesses are  known to you, you won’t improve.  If you are not able to find the correct answers, know why you are not able to.  Spend some time in reviewing your performance so that you can address the weaker areas.
  5. Practice:- Unless you practice reading passages regularly, you wont improve.  If your IELTS test if several weeks away, it is advised to practice difficult reading passages.  This is the best thing you can do to improve your overall score in IELTS. Practicing would help you develop your reading skills for different types of questions and also enhance your vocabulary.

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