International English Language Testing System, popularly known as IELTS, is an international exam designed to test a candidate’s English language listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills.
The test can be taken by students to boost their chances of studying in countries like USA, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Professionals can also use the test scores to foster their career prospects abroad.
IELTS is recognized by over 9,000 organizations, including universities and employers, across the world.
The popularity of the test has snowballed over time. The number of IELTS test takers was 1.7 million in the preceding year.
In this article, I have detailed all you need to know about IELTS. So, if you are planning to work or study in an exotic location, following information will help you get a step closer.
IELTS Exam Pattern
As already described, IELTS is conducted to test your English listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. Consequently, the test is conducted in four stages. Each stage focuses on each skill. Here is the stage-wise IELTS exam pattern:
Duration of Test: 30 minutes
In this stage, you listen to recordings of native speakers. There is a total of four such audio clips.
Once you’re done with the listening part, you are asked a few questions based on the content of the recordings. It is basically to test how well you comprehend the gist of different conversations and monologues. It also tests your ability to grasp varied accents.
Duration of Test: 60 minutes
No. of Questions: 40
This part is designed to check your reading skills. Like how well you understand the main idea of a passage, how able you are in reading between the lines, skimming, understanding the logics, etc.
This part is conducted in two different styles:
IELTS Academic Test: Here, the test comprises three long texts taken from books, journals, newspapers, and magazines.
IELTS General Training Test: This test comprises extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks, and guidelines.
Duration of Test: 60 minutes
In writing test, there are different patterns for the Academic and Professional tests:
IELTS Academic Test
This part involves two tasks:
Task 1 – In this task, you are asked to describe the information presented in the form of graph, diagram, chart or table in your words.
Task 2 – Task 2 involves writing essays on suggested point of view, argument or problem.
IELTS General Training
This test, too, shall involve two tasks:
Task 1 – Here, you are given a situation and are asked to write a letter requesting information, or explaining the situation. The type of the letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal depending on the situation.
Task 2 – Task 2 involves writing an essay on a given point of view, argument, or problem.
Duration of Test: 11-14 minutes
The test evaluates a candidate’s English speaking skills. It is conducted in three parts:
It comprises some general questions on hobbies, family, interests, work, and studies. This part usually takes around 4-5 minutes.
Here, you are given a card specifying a topic. Your task is to speak on the topic for 2 minutes. You are given one minute to prepare before speaking. Later on, the examiner asks some questions related to the topic.
Here, you are asked some more questions on the topic discussed in Part 2.
Who conducts IELTS in India?
There is no difference in the exam pattern, difficulty level, etc. between the exams conducted by both the authorities.
IELTS Exam Fee
On and before March 31, 2017: Rs. 11,300
After March 31, 2017: Rs. 11,800
How often is IELTS exam conducted?
IELTS is conducted around 4 times a month, in approximately 38 test centres across the country.
What is an Ideal IELTS Band Score?
IELTS results are declared in form of band scores. You can obtain any band score from 1 to 9 in each of the four parts. The final result is an average of the band scores secured in each of the four stages of the test.
According to British Council, different band scores depict the following competency levels:
- Band Score 9: Expert
- Band Score 8: Very Good
- Band Score 7: Good
- Band Score 6: Competent
- Band Score 5: Modest
- Band Score 4: Limited
- Band Score 3: Extremely Limited
- Band Score 2: Intermittent User
- Band Score 1: Non-user
Usually, a band score of 6 and above is considered good. But it also depends on the organization you are willing to work or study with.
For example: Oxford University requires an overall score of 7.0 (with at least 7.0 in each of the four components), while at Cambridge, the requirement is an overall score of 7.5 (with at least 7.0 in each of the four components).
The score requirements are different for different countries and organizations.
So, before you register yourself for IELTS, make it a point to check the specific IELTS score requirements.
You can check the IELTS score that is needed by different organizations here.
Validity of IELTS Certificates
IELTS scores are considered valid for a period of two years from the date of taking the test.
You can find answers to most of the IELTS related questions here.
IELTS Exam Results
IELTS result is announced within 13 days after taking the test. The test report form is communicated through post. You can also preview your IELTS result online here.
IELTS Preparation Books
Here are some of the best IELTS preparation books:
- The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS Student’s Book with Answers with DVD-ROM (Cambridge English)
- Official IELTS Practice Materials 1 with Audio CD
- Official IELTS Practice Materials 2 with DVD
- Books by British Council
Free IELTS Preparation Material
In case you are reluctant to spend any money on books, you can also refer to the following free IELTS preparation material:
- Sample test materials available on IELTS’ official website.
- A free online course called Road to IELTS by British Council.
- Videos, tips, and lessons at ieltsliz.com.
IELTS Preparation Tips
First off, let’s watch this video to learn about the most common mistakes that you can certainly avoid while taking IELTS:
Now, let’s see some smart ways to prepare for each IELTS section:
Listening Tips for IELTS Exam
IELTS listening test comprises 40 questions divided into 4 sections. Listening test is the same for both Academic Test and General Training.
Performing well in this section requires you to be familiar with various accents like Australian, British, American, and New Zealand.
Watching English movies and T.V. series is one of the most fun ways to start practicing.
However, in the test, you only listen to audio recordings, that means you won’t get any chance to guess the idea from the movement of lips, body language, or subtitles.
So, you can take help of podcasts and songs to practice better.
Let’s watch this video to understand the IELTS listening test better. The video also contains some excellent tips on how to attempt the IELTS listening test:
Reading Tips for IELTS Exam
Vocabulary is something you need to put most of your focus on to perform well in IELTS reading test. This part is easier than listening part as you don’t need to be familiar with various accents. You can hone your reading skills by reading magazines, blogs, and books on the topics that interest you.
The other thing you can do to constantly get better at reading is practicing sample and past year papers. You can find IELTS reading sample papers at the following links:
Here is a video, by the experts at British Council, telling us some smart ways to approach IELTS reading questions:
Writing Tips for IELTS Exam
You can start your writing practice by taking a practice test. It will help you evaluate your present level and so you can plan your preparations accordingly.
To practice for this part, you need to start writing frequently. Get your content proofread by the friends who are good with grammar.
Speaking Tips for IELTS Exam
Here is how you can sharpen your English speaking skills for IELTS:
If studying or working in an English speaking country has always been your dream, IELTS is for you.
However, before registering for the test, take your time to figure out the date that would be right and the time and efforts you can practically spare for the exam. As the exam is conducted about 48 times a year, you have no reasons to rush.
Now that you know all about IELTS, it’s time to roll up your sleeves for forming a robust strategy to ace the exam.