The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS™ is an international standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. It is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English, and was established in 1989. IELTS is one of the major English-language tests in the world, others being the TOEFL, TOEIC, PTE:A, and OPI/OPIc.
IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand academic institutions, by over 3,000 academic institutions in the United States, and by various professional organizations across the world.
IELTS is the only Secure English Language Test approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for visa customers applying both outside and inside the UK. It also meets requirement for immigration to Australia, where TOEFL and Pearson Test of English Academic are also accepted, and New Zealand. In Canada, IELTS, TEF, or CELPIP are accepted by the immigration authority.
No minimum score is required to pass the test. An IELTS result or Test Report Form is issued to all test takers with a score from "band 1" ("non-user") to "band 9" ("expert user") and each institution sets a different threshold. There is also a "band 0" score for those who did not attempt the test. Institutions are advised not to consider a report older than two years to be valid, unless the user proves that they have worked to maintain their level.
In 2017, over 3 million tests were taken in more than 140 countries, up from 2 million tests in 2012, 1.7 million tests in 2011 and 1.4 million tests in 2009. In 2007, IELTS administered more than one million tests in a single 12-month period for the first time ever, making it the world's most popular English language test for higher education and immigration
The IELTS format
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a test that measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work in environments where English is used as a language of communication. The IELTS is widely accepted by many countries namely the UK, Europe, Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand as the highest parameter in English Language testing. It is accepted by more than 9,000 organizations worldwide. These include universities, immigration departments, government agencies, professional bodies and multinational companies. It is available on 48 fixed dates a year – up to four times a month, depending on local demand. The score is valid for 2 years from the date on which the test is undertaken. The registration for the test can be done through us.
'The IELTS test structure consists of two test formats: Academic and General Training.
The IELTS Academic test is undertaken for the purpose of pursuing higher education or professional registration in an English speaking environment. It assesses whether or not one is proficient enough in the English language to comprehend academic language, graphs, pie charts, line & bar charts and other research material which form the core of academics abroad.
The IELTS General Training test is undertaken for the purpose of gaining work experience abroad or secondary education. Those who wish to enroll for training programs should also clear this test. It is also a basic requirement for migration to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The test analyses the ability of a person to survive in broad social and workplace environments.
Format of the tests
Listening and Speaking are the same for both tests, but the content of the Reading and Writing components differs according to the test. 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.
Test format – Listening (Academic & General)
The listening test lasts for approximately 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes' transfer time).
There are four recordings with 40 questions. The recordings are heard once only and answers are written simultaneously on the test paper. At the end of the recordings,10 minutes transfer time is provided to transfer the answers from the test paper to the answer sheet. Caution should be exercised when writing answers on the answer sheet as poor spelling and grammar are penalized. Answers are to be written down in pencil only as the answer sheets are scanned and assessed by systems.
Types of recordings:
Four recordings of native English speakers are played. The recordings include a range of accents from British& Australian to New Zealand and American.
- Recording 1 – a conversation between two people set in a daily social context.
- Recording 2 - a monologue set in a daily social context (e.g. a speech about local park or playground)
- Recording 3 – a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student talking about a project.
- Recording 4 - a monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture.
A variety of questions based on the following types occurs in the test: multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labeling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, sentence completion.
What is assessed?
Assessors look for proof of one’s ability to comprehend the main ideas and detailed facts, opinions and attitudes of speakers and the purpose of an utterance and evidence of one’s ability to follow the development of ideas.
How is the IELTS Listening marked
The Listening test is marked by certificated markers, who are frequently monitored to ensure reliability. After marking at the test centre, all answer sheets are sent to Cambridge English Language Assessment for scrutiny.
Band score conversion
The total score of 40 on the test is converted into an IELTS band scale of 9. A band score calculator/conversion table translates the scores out of 40 into the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole bands and half bands. One mark is awarded for each correct answer in the 40-item test..
The IELTS Reading test has 3 passages with a total of 40 questions. The total time to complete the test is 60 minutes. The passages differ in their format, nature and content depending on the type of test (Academic or general). For both tests, test takers are required to transfer their answers to an answer sheet. Test takers must transfer their answers during the time allowed for the test. No extra time is allowed for transfer. Care should be taken when writing answers on the answer sheet as poor spelling and grammar are penalized. Answers are to be written down in pencil only as the answer sheets are scanned and assessed by systems
IELTS Academic Reading:
Task Types: A variety of questions are used, chosen from the following types; multiple choice, identifying information, identifying writer’s views/claims, matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, diagram label completion, short-answer questions.
Texts are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. All the topics are of general interest. They deal with issues which are intriguing, relevant and accessible to test takers entering undergraduate or postgraduate courses or seeking professional registration. The passages may be written in different styles, for example-a narrative, descriptive or discursive/argumentative. At least one text contains a descriptive logical argument. Texts may contain non-verbal items such as diagrams, graphs or illustrations. If texts contain technical terms then a simple glossary is provided.
IELTS General Reading:
A variety of questions are used, chosen from the following types: multiple choice, identifying information, identifying writer’s views/claims, matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, diagram label completion, short-answer questions.
The first section, ‘social survival’, contains texts relevant to basic linguistic survival in English with tasks mainly about retrieving and providing general factual information, for example, notices, advertisements and timetables. The second section, ‘Workplace survival’, focuses on the workplace context, for example, job descriptions, contracts and staff development and training materials. The third section, ‘general reading’, involves reading more elaborate prose with a more intricate structure but with the emphasis on descriptive and instructive rather than argumentative texts, in a general context relevant to the wide range of test takers involved, for example, newspapers, magazines and fictional and non-fictional book extracts
What is assessed?
Assessors look for the test taker’s ability to execute a wide range of reading skills like a detailed understanding of specific points or an overall understanding of the main points of the text and the ability to identify specific parts of information conveyed in the text. The test taker’s ability to identify and differentiate between opinions or ideas, recognize the main idea or theme in the paragraphs or sections of a text, and the capability to distinguish main ideas from supporting ones combined with the skill to scan for specific information are also assessed.
IELTS Reading (Academic & general) – how it's marked
The Reading test is marked by certificated markers, who are frequently monitored to ensure reliability. After marking at the test centre, all answer sheets are sent to Cambridge English Language Assessment for scrutiny.
Band score conversion
The total score of 40 on the test is converted into an IELTS band scale of 9. A band score calculator/conversion table translates the scores out of 40 into the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole bands and half bands. One mark is awarded for each correct answer in the 40-item test.
IELTS Writing Test
The IELTS writing tests (Academic and General) last for 60 minutes. There are two tasks –Task 1 for 20 minutes and Task 2 for 40 minutes. The band of 9 is divided between the two tasks as 3 for Task 1 and 6 for Task 2. The IELTS Academic writing and IELTS General writing tests differ in terms of Task 1. Pen or pencil can be used as the tests are assessed by humans. Details of both tests are given below:
IELTS Academic Writing test
Topics are of general interest to, and suitable for, test takers aiming to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration. There are two tasks:
Task 1 – Includes a wide range of tasks like graphs, objects, tables, charts or diagrams, flowcharts, stages of a process or events. The use of collocations like rapidly increasing, steep fall, plummeted or nosedived suddenly etc is required to aptly describe the task and to score the maximum band of 3.The minimum word limit is 150 words and the maximum limit is 175 words.
Task 2 – An opinion or statement or a point of view, argument or problem is given to which a detailed response is mandated. The usage of appropriate idioms, quotes, phrases, topic related vocabulary and complex sentence structure is required to touch the maximum band of 6. The minimum word limit is 250 words and the maximum limit is 275 words. Responses to both tasks must be in a formal style.
IELTS General Writing Training
Topics are of general interest. There are two tasks:
Task 1 – A situation is presented and the test taker has to pen a letter requesting information, or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal in style. Descriptive & stylish writing and appropriate letter writing skills need to be exercised to get the maximum band of 3.
Task 2 - An opinion or statement or a point of view, argument or problem is given to which a detailed response is mandated. The usage of appropriate idioms, quotes, phrases, topic related vocabulary and complex sentence structure is required to touch the maximum band of 6. The minimum word limit is 250 words and the maximum limit is 275 words. The essay can be fairly personal in style.
What is assessed?
Assessors look out for Coherence, Cohesion, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, vocabulary enrichment, topic related vocabulary, neat handwriting, impressive style of writing, relevant content and examples from international/regional current affairs.
How is the IELTS Writing marked
The writing test is marked by certificated markers, who are frequently monitored to ensure reliability. After marking at the test centre, all answer sheets are sent to Cambridge English Language Assessment for scrutiny.
IELTS Writing Band
The band of 9 is divided between the two tasks as 3 for Task 1 and 6 for Task 2. Scores are reported in whole bands and half bands.
IELTS Speaking Test
The Speaking test consists of an oral face-to-face interview between the test takers' and an examiner. All Speaking tests are recorded. The Speaking test is common for both academic & general. Each speaking test lasts approximately for 11-14 minutes. There are three sections to the test and each section performs a specific function in terms of interaction pattern, task input and test takers output.The Three sections or parts of the test:
Part 1 – Introduction and interview
Part 1 lasts for 4–5 minutes.
No. of questions: Variable
In this part, the examiner introduces him/herself and checks the test takers' identity by putting forth personal questions about their full name and how they would like to be addressed and proof of their identity(passport to shown). Then the examiner asks the test takers general questions on some familiar topics such as home, family, work, studies, and interests and most importantly hometown and the interesting places to visit and the best way to get to those places.
This part of the test assesses the test takers' ability to talk about opinions and information on day-to-day topics and recurrent experiences or situations by answering a range of questions.
Part 2 lasts 3–4 minutes, including the preparation time.
No. of questions: Variable
In this part, the examiner gives the test takers a task card which asks the test takers to talk about a specific topic. It includes several sub tasks to be covered in their talk.Test takers are given 1 minute to prepare their talk, and are also given a pen/pencil to make notes on the task card. The examiner then asks the test takers to talk for 1 to 2 minutes, stops the test takers after 2 minutes, and asks one or two questions on the same topic.
This part of the test analyses the test takers' ability to speak at length on a given topic (without further prompts from the examiner), using relevant language and structured ideas. Test takers can best answer on this topic by going with the order of the subtasks. Long pauses and the usage of too many fillers must be avoided or minimized. In order to keep the flow of talk intact and to complete the response, test takers need to draw on their own personal experiences. Test takers must mentally count the seconds upto 2 minutes to keep themselves assured that they have spoken for 2 mins.
Part 3 lasts 4–5 minutes.
No. of questions: Variable
In Part 3, the examiner and the test takers discuss issues related to the topic in Part 2 in a more general and abstract way and also in greater depth. This is a two-way discussion round.
This part of the test focuses on the test takers' ability to express and justify opinions and to analyze, discuss and speculate about issues.
What is assessed?
Assessors look out for Fluency, Coherence, Cohesion, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, Correct pronunciation, vocabulary enrichment, topic related vocabulary, relevant content and examples from international/regional current affairs.
How the IELTS Speaking is marked
Speaking performances are assessed by certificated IELTS examiners. All IELTS examiners hold relevant teaching qualifications and are recruited as examiners by the test centres and approved by British Council or IDP: IELTS Australia.
Scores range between 1(least)-9(highest). Scores are reported in whole and half bands.
Overall Score Reporting
Test takers receive a Test Report that provides details of their Overall Band Score and the scores they've secured in the Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking sections. The scores of each section are equally important. The Overall Band Score, thereby, is calculated by averaging the scores of the individual sections.
The IELTS exam fees is Rs. 12,600/-.
More information on IELTS and IELTS fees structure can be obtained from the official websites: www.ielts.britishcouncil.org.in (British Council)