All About IELTS
The decision about whether or not to take the IELTS exam can be a daunting one. This article aims to clear any confusion regarding the IELTS exam and help you make informed decisions regarding your enrollment and preparation. It's basically an All in One Guide to IELTS.
In this article you you learn about:
- What is IELTS?
- Who should take the test?
- How the test is scored?
- How to book a test
- The four test components
- Methods of preparation for the exam
Here's a detailed look at what this article contains:
1. What is IELTS?
IELTS is the International English Language Testing System. It is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration purposes.
It is a standardized English language test designed for foreign speakers, who wish to study, work and live in an English-speaking environment. IELTS is designed to assess the language ability of candidates who need to study or work where English is used as the language of communication. It is required for entry to university in the UK and other English speaking countries like Canada, the USA and New Zealand.
Who Manages the IELTS Exam?
IELTS is jointly owned and managed by the British Council, University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL) and IDP Education Australia.
IELTS testing materials are written by international teams of writers from different English-speaking countries, so that the content reflects real-life situations.
Where can IELTS Take You?
It is by far the most widely accepted and trusted English language test. IELTS is accepted by more than 10.000 organizations worldwide in over 140 countries. These include universities, schools, immigration authorities, government agencies, professional bodies and multinational companies.
It is accepted by the key immigration authorities in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK for migration purposes and visa applications In short, IELTS can help you move around the world, get the job you've always wanted or just demonstrate that you have improved your English.
Why is the IELTS Exam so Popular?
IELTS Test Format
The IELTS test consists of four sections in the following order:
The listening, reading and writing parts of the test occur first and on the same day, with no breaks in between. The speaking test is usually taken in the afternoon of the test day.
Here is a short summary of the IELTS Exam Format:
2. Who Should Take the Test
To take the IELTS Exam, your minimum age should be at least 16 years and you must have a valid passport.
You will be eligible to take the exam if you fall into one of these categories:
- Planning to study in UK/Australia/Canada/New Zealand/USA.
- Being a medical professional, planning to work or study further in UK/Australia/USA.
- Planning to emigrate to Canada/Australia/New Zealand.
The Different Types of IELTS Tests
There are different types of IELTS tests you can take. The test you should choose depends on what you want to do. Its important to have a clear idea about which test you need to take before booking your test.
Here are some of the common forms of the IELTS test:
Key Differences between the Academic and General Training Modules
The IELTS Writing and Reading tests are different in the Academic and General Training tests.
- The General Training reading tests contain 3 sections with up to 2 texts, while the academic test has 1 reading passage per section
- The General Training Reading passages are usually much easier than the Academic passages
- The first Writing Task for the Academic Module is a Formal Report
- The first Writing Task for the General Training Module is a letter, which can be formal, semi-formal or informal
The Difference between the Paper Based and Computer Based IELTS Test
In addition to the above mentioned tests, there is one further important distinction within the IELTS Exam and that is the Paper Based IELTS exam and the Computer Delivered IELTS Exam. There isn’t much difference between the two tests. To put it simply, during the Computer Delivered test the candidate uses a keyboard, while in the Paper Based Test test takers write their answers in either pen or HB-pencils.
Both tests have the same level of difficulty, question types, and marking criteria
3. How is the IELTS Test Scored?
So now that you know which test to take, you need to understand what score you need to get. This can vary depending on the reasons for which you are taking the IELTS Exam as well as some other factors.
The band score you need will depend on:
- The requirements of the institution where you plan to study
- The organization you want to work for
- The visa requirements of the country you want to work, study or live in
What are the Band Scores?
The IELTS exam results are graded from 1 - 9, with 1 being the lowest score you can get and 9 the highest. Each component of the test – Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening – is given an individual score, so your overall exam result will be made up of a score for each component and an overall band score. The overall band score is the average of the four individual scores.
In cases where the test takers average of the four individual scores ends in 0.25 Or 0.75 then the overall IELTS score will be rounded off to the nearest half band.
What do the Band Scores mean?
The IELTS results are designed to be easily understandable and fairly simple. Each band score corresponds to a particular level of English proficiency
Which Band Score do you need?
The band score you need depends greatly on the reason for which you are taking the exam. In some cases both the individual scores and the overall band score are important.
Universities generally require a score of 6 or 7. Please note that they may also require a minimum score for each section. For example, a university might require an overall IELTS band score of 6.5 with no component less than 5.5.
If you are taking IELTS for a university application, be aware that requirements differ between universities and even between different courses at the same university. Always check what score is required.
3. How do I Book a Test?
You can either book your test online or visit an IELTS official center in your country.
Who Should you book with?
Singapore IELTS Test Dates
In Singapore the IELTS Paper Based tests are offered up to four times a month. The General Training test occurs about 24 times a year while the Academic test occurs on 48 pre-determined dates. These are usually on a Saturday or a Thursday. Saturday test dates are more frequent than Thursday ones, but any given month will have at least one Thursday IELTS date. The Computer Based tests are available 3 times a day for the entire year, except public holidays. Places are available on a first-come first-served basis.
The speaking test can be booked on the same afternoon or within a 7 day window. The decision on whether to take the speaking test on the same day as the other 3 components depends on your circumstances and preferences. Some students travel great distances to get to a test center, so its not vey practical to schedule the speaking test on another day. However, if this is not the case, then I would strongly advise taking the speaking test on a separate day. This is because during the IELTS Exam you will be under pressure for around 2 hours and 40 minutes, and this can be exhausting. It would be better to get some rest and then take your speaking test interview on a day when you are more composed and better prepared.
When is the Best Time to Book Your Test?
How Much does the IELTS exam cost?
There is not that much variation between IELTS Exam costs between centers. However, prices vary depending on the type of IELTS exam you wish to take. You can pay online using a debit or credit card or in person at an Official IELTS Test center.
Once you have booked your exam you will receive an email confirmation and information about your test location and timings.
4. The Four Components of the IELTS Exam
The Listening test Format:
- It lasts for 30 to 40 minutes.
- It consists of 40 questions, each worth one mark each.
- There are 4 parts, having 10 questions each.
Part 1: A conversation between two speakers in social or semi-official context.
Part 2: A talk by a single speaker in a non-academic situation.
Part 3: A conversation with up to 4 speakers based on academic topics or course related situations.
Part 4: A university style lecture or talk.
Listening Question Types:
- Multiple choice
- Matching questions
- Summary, Note, Form, Flowchart completion
- Map/Plan/Diagram labelling
- Sentence Completion
- Short Answer
Important Things to Note About the Listening Test
- You only hear the recordings once.
- It’s important to stay focused on listening out for the correct answers.
- There are pauses between recordings.
- Use this time wisely to understand the next set of questions.
- The difficulty of questions increase progressively.
The Reading Test Format
- The reading task is one hour long.
- It has three parts for both the Academic and the General Training modules.
- It follows the listening task.
- There are a total of 40 questions.
- You will have 20 min to answer each task with no extra time for transferring answers
The Difference between Academic Reading and General Training Reading Tests
The Academic module contains three reading passages.
- Most of the texts are related to academics.
- Sourced from books, textbooks and journals, etc.
The General Training module contains three sections.
- Each section might have one or two passages.
- The passages in the first usually relate to everyday English life situations
- The passages from the first part are usually sourced from magazines, flyers and advertisements
- The second section relates to work issues.
- These texts are sourced from actual company handbooks or policies
- The third section is about general interest issues.
Reading Question Types
- Multiple choice questions
- Matching Headings
- Matching Features
- Matching Information
- Matching Sentence Endings
- True/False/Not Given questions and Yes/No/Not Given questions
- Summary, Table, Note, Flowchart Completion
- Diagram Labelling
Important Things to Note About the Reading Test
- It's really a vocabulary test , which depends on your understanding of words and phrases
- Different questions require different types of answers, so make sure you read the instructions carefully
- For example some questions require answers in the form of words while others require letters
- Incorrect spelling can reduce your score
- Not all questions follow the order of the passage
- There is no extra time at the end of the test to transfer your answer, so time management is crucial
IELTS Writing Task 1 Academic
In this task you will be given some graphic or pictorial information. This could be in the form of a graph, a chart, a table or a map. You will have to write a descriptive formal report of at least 150 words based on the information provided.
IELTS Writing Task 1 General Training
IELTS Writing Task 2
The second task is more demanding. You are expected to produce a written essay on a given topic. You will have to write at least 250 words
Important Things to Note About the Writing Test
Speaking Score Criteria
- Fluency (25 %)
- Vocabulary (25%)
- Grammar (25%)
- Pronunciation (25 %)
The Speaking Test Format
- This part of the test lasts for about 4 – 5 minutes.
- The examiner will ask questions based on personal information and everyday topics.
- For example: your hometown, the area you live in, travelling
- You will be given a task card, with a topic and questions related to the topic.
- You will have one minute to think about the topic.
- You are required to talk continuously for about 2 minutes on the topic mentioned in the cue card.
- The examiner will take into account the topic in the previous Part 2.
- You will be asked to answer questions related to that topic but on a broader aspect.
- They will be more abstract or general questions.
Important things to note about the Speaking Test
You will be tested on whether you can:
- Communicate opinions and information on everyday topics and common experiences.
- Speak at length on a given topic using appropriate language.
- Organize your ideas coherently.
- Express and justify your opinions.
- Analyse, discuss and speculate about issues.
You will not be tested on:
- The content of what you say.
- Your knowledge or intelligence.
In short, you will be tested purely on your English language proficiency and you are not expected to be an expert on the subjects that you are asked about.
5. Preparing for the IELTS Exam
Actual Level vs Perceived Level
What you know about IELTS and what you think you need to know is usually JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG!
Why Memorization never works
Does Practice really Make Perfect?
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6. Tips for the Exam Day
- 1Make sure to double check your test location and get there early. Latecomers will not be allowed to take the test.
- 2You need to bring your ID / identification document or a passport if you are a foreign national, a pencil and a pen (a pencil will be needed for Listening and Reading), an eraser and a transparent bottle of water. These are the only items that are allowed into the test room.
- 3Wrist watches are also not allowed, but there are wall clocks placed inside every test room. Electronic devices must also be left outside the test room along with all other personal belongings.
- 4Remember to read the instructions carefully, and do not rush into answering. This might sound like common sense, but there are far too many students who have lost valuable marks for simply not understanding what what required of them in certain questions.
- 5You won’t perform to the best of your abilities if you are stressed and tired, so you must eat and sleep well before your test. Remember the initial test lasts for 2 hours and 40 minutes and you need to be mentally prepared to sit for that amount of time.
- 6Above all, it's important to stay calm and collected. Go into the exam with a good attitude and be confident in your aims and techniques for the exam.
7. IELTS FAQs
a. How long are my test results valid for?
IELTS Test scores are valid for two years only. The reason for this is that English proficiency tends to diminish with time if not practiced and maintained for long periods of time.
b. How many times can I take an IELTS test for?
You are allowed to take the test as many times as you want to. For example if you are not happy with your score you can book another test to improve your score. Remember that you will have to pay for each test separately and it can get quite costly! So, its much easier to avoid the risk by preparing well the first time.
c. When will IELTS Test results be available?
For paper based tests, results are available online only after 13 days and a paper copy of the results will be mailed to you after 13 days. Computer delivered test results are viewable online after 3 to 5 days from the test date and a paper copy of the results will also be mailed to you after 3 to 5 days.