IELTS Exam Complete Guide

IELTS is one of the most popular English language proficiency tests, with over three million exams taken every year. It is also recognized by over 10,000 organizations worldwide. 

With the growing number of IELTS Tests taken every year, it has become a leader in English language exams in international higher education. Moreover, this popular English language test is accepted in 100% of universities in the United Kingdom and Australia. It is also trusted in over 3,400 institutions in the United States and by thousands of institutions, especially in English-speaking countries worldwide. And if you are looking to study abroad, work or migrate to other countries, then IELTS can help you with that. 

In this article, you will learn what the IELTS Exam is, the exam format, how it’s scoring, and, information on exam dates and locations. 

What is IELTS? 

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is a standardized and widely recognized English language proficiency assessment test for non-native English speakers. It is commonly used for education and global migration requirement.  

It is considered a structured certification for the English language. Academic institutions accept the certification from the IELTS and companies, private, professional institutions, and government organizations. 

It was established in 1989 and was created by and jointly owned by the British Council, the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, and IDP: IELTS Australia. The IELTS is designed to evaluate the individual’s English writing, speaking, listening, and reading skills.

Moreover, it also assesses one’s effectiveness in using the English language. The IELTS can be taken by anyone regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, and such. However, the test is not recommended for those under 16 years old. 

How Much Does the IELTS Exam Cost?

IELTS test centers fees may vary depending on your country and what version of the test you want to take either the IELTS Academic or IELTS General Test

However, the test costs around USD 200 or EUR 190.

It may also cost around KRW 304,000 or INR 15,750.

To find out more about the different fees applied per location of the IELTS, you may also visit the British Council website

Why Choose to Take IELTS?

As a widely-recognized English exam, there are many benefits of taking the IELTS exam.

The IELTS is one of the pioneers of four skills English language testing 30 years ago. Top universities and employers recognize the IELTS test scores in over 140 countries globally. Moreover, various immigration authorities and government agencies also accept IELTS test scores, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA, and more. 

It is also one of the tests required for professional registration bodies in various fields, including law, engineering, medicine, accounting, nursing, and more. The IELTS test scores are also used for migration purposes. Most governments in countries worldwide prefer IELTS scores to prove your English language proficiency.  

The IELTS has over 1,200 test center locations worldwide, including 50 test centers in the USA alone. It is also considered one of the best and fair tests for assessing one’s English language proficiency as it offers a one-on-one speaking test with an examiner. Also, it accepts the British and American spellings, which are fair to everyone who is or will take the test. 

Below are some of the organizations, institutions, and universities worldwide that accept the IELTS Test. 

Organizations That Accepts IELTS

Governments 

  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau
  • Seoul Metropolitan Government
  • The Canadian Embassy
  • UK Trade and Investment 

Employers

  • Abu Dhabi National Oil Company
  • Uplance Inc.
  • Canadian Systems Inc.
  • Dion Global Solutions
  • Pulse UK

Universities Worldwide that Accepts IELTS 

  1. Canterbury College – UK
  2. Abbey College – UK
  3. Adams State University – USA
  4. Abbott School of Business – Australia
  5. Canadian Arts and Sciences Institute – Canada
  6. Beihang University – China

And many more.

IELTS Test Structure

The IELTS has two types of tests. The IELTS Academic Test and IELTS General Test measure the English language proficiency on the following skills: writing, listening, reading, and speaking.

Below are the two types of the IELTS Test. 

1. IELTS Academic Test

The IELTS Academic Test is applicable for those who want to study in International Institutions and Universities. And to those who wish to proceed to any higher education such as doctorate degrees, master’s degrees, and graduate schools.

Wherein it uses the English language as a medium of instruction. One can also take the IELTS Academic Test for professional registration purposes and the likes. 

This type of IELTS usually measures your readiness to study the English language, and it commonly features advanced English vocabulary that is generally used within an academic setting.

2. IELTS General Test

The IELTS General Test is generally suitable for applying to study below a degree level. It includes an English-speaking school or local colleges. The IELTS General Test can also be taken to assess one’s English language proficiency for work-related requirements and other employment training. 

Also, the IELTS General Test is one of the requirements for migration to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. It is also taken by those who want to study in an English-speaking country below a degree level. This type of IELTS Test features conversational English language skills usage-based in social and workplace type of settings. 

IELTS Test Exam Format 

Here we will discuss more about the exam format of the IELTS test.

The IELTS test parts are as follows, the three examination parts, which include reading, writing, and listening, are all given on the same day. And while the fourth part, the speaking test, can be taken on a different day wherein it is commonly a few days before the other three parts of the test. 

Note that the Reading and Writing tests differ depending on whether you take the IELTS Academic or General Test. However, the other parts of the tests, including the Listening and Speaking sections, are all the same for the IELTS Academic and General test types. The total test time takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes.  

The Four Parts of the IELTS: 

1. Reading 

In the IELTS Reading section, the test taker needs to identify core ideas and essential information, understand the meaning of passages, identify the writer’s opinion, and summarize arguments accurately and effectively. This part of the test usually lasts up to 60 minutes, more or less. 

  • IELTS Academic Test (Reading test section)

In this part, there are three long texts given about different academic subjects. These texts are original texts taken from newspapers, journals, and the likes. Also, these texts may be factual, analytical, or opinion-based. 

  • IELTS General Test (Reading test section)

This reading part of the IELTS General test has a series of shorter and more factual texts. These short texts are usually related to the living and working environment in an English-speaking country. However, it also includes one long and more complex text of general interest. 

The texts in this section are also authentic texts taken from notices, newspapers, documents, magazines, and more. 

2. Writing 

Here, the test takers are scored in a range of criteria. It includes grammatical accuracy, range of vocabulary, the ability to connect ideas, sentences, and paragraphs accurately. 

Also, it assesses the test taker’s ability to use the appropriate English language and organize one’s thoughts coherently. The total test time for writing is about 60 minutes. 

  • IELTS Academic Test (Writing test section)

When taking the IELTS Academic Test, you must write at least two texts in the writing section. In connection with that, the first writing test requires you to write a report based on some data given or presented, including statistical tables, graphs, and more. 

The second piece you need to write is an essay, wherein you need to respond or discuss an opinion or statement regarding a particular topic. 

  • IELTS General Test (Writing test section)

In the IELTS General Test, the test takers are also required to write two texts. The first one is a letter responding to a given specific situation. At the same time, the other is an essay that corresponds to an opinion of a statement. In this writing test, the writing can be more informal compared to the IELTS Academic writing. 

3. Listening 

The IELTS Listening Test is consists of four texts, two of which are set based on a social setting or environment. Also, the other two are generally based on a more educational or academic context. The texts given are either conversations, discussions, or a monologue.

It is also important to note that different speakers will use various accents in this test. Also, the test-takers will need to listen to specific information, understand the main context, and recognize the speaker’s attitude and personal opinion of the conversation. This part of the exam usually lasts up to 40 minutes, more or less.

4. Speaking

The IELTS Speaking Test is a face-to-face speaking kind of test. In this test, the test taker is scored based on their ability to express themselves clearly and coherently. Also, grammar, vocabulary, intonation, pronunciation, and eloquence in the language are considered.

There are three parts to this test. The first one is an introductory conversation, and the second one is where the test taker is given a minute to prepare for a short presentation regarding a specific topic. 

The third part of the speaking test is where the examiner and the examinee will discuss a couple of questions connected to the topic discussed in the second part. You can schedule the IEFTL  Speaking test on a different day. The duration of this part lasts up to 15 minutes. 

IELTS Scoring 

Generally, a good IELTS band score for an undergraduate degree or program requires only a minimum IELTS band score of 6.

For a postgraduate level, a minimum of 6.5 band score is required. As for specialist courses like medicine, a band score of 7.0 is needed. 

However, other universities and courses require a different band score for each program.

It is best to know in advance and research the university or colleges you want to apply to regarding their required minimum IELTS score. 

Band ScoreSkill LevelDescription
9Expert UserThe test taker has fully operational command of the English language. The use of the English language is appropriate, accurate, and fluent and shows complete understanding. 
8Very Good UserThe test taker has fully operational command of the English language, with occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. May understand some things in unfamiliar situations. Can handle complex and detailed argumentation well.  
Good UserThe test taker has operational command of the English language, with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage, and misunderstanding in some situations. Generally, you can handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning. 
6Competent UserWith an adequate command of the English language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage, and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations. 
5Modest UserHas partial command of the English language and copes with overall meaning in most situations, although they are likely to make many errors. Able to handle basic communication in their field.
4Limited UserThe English language competence is only limited to familiar situations. Frequently shows problems in understanding and expression. Are not able to use complex language. 
3Extremely Limited UserConveys and understands the only general meaning in very familiar situations, with frequent breakdowns in communication. 
2Intermittent UserHas great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
1Non-userYou have no ability to use the language except for very few isolated words. 
0Did not attempt the testYou did not answer the test questions. 

After taking the IELTS test, you will receive a Test Report Form (TRF) within 13 days after the test date. You will be given one copy of the Test Report Form (TRF). 

And if, in any case, you need more copies of it, one can request up to five additional TRF, which you can use for your university applications. You can request these additional Test Report Form (TRF) within one month from the test date. 

IELTS Exam Dates

The IELTS exams are available on 48 fixed dates per year or four times a month. Therefore, the test takers can freely choose among the scheduled selected dates of the IELTS exams. 

To register for the test, one can do so by visiting their official website. Or by visiting the closest IELTS test center in your location but take note that there are only limited slots per schedule. It is best to contact the test centers for the availability of slots. 

The test taker can register as early as three months before the scheduled IELTS exam date. However, you can also register for the exam a week before. The IELTS test can be taken online via the computer-delivered IELTS and offline, the IELTS paper-based test. 

The test format of both the IELTS online and offline is the same. However, the writing and reading sections slightly differ for the IELTS Academic and IELTS General tests. Therefore, students should take the IELTS Academic, and those who need IELTS scores for Visa and employment purposes can take the IELTS General Test. 

If you have taken the IELTS paper-based test, it takes about 13 days to process the test results after the assigned test date, and then you will receive a Test Report Form (TRF) via mail. However, if you have taken the computer-delivered IELTS test, a preview of the test results will be available within 3 to 5 days after the test date. 

Take note that the preview of the test results you can view in their Test Taker Portal will only be available online for only 28 days. And a Test Report Form (TRF) will be sent to you via mail to use as an official confirmation or certification of your results. The IELTS test certificate is valid for two years, starting from the day the result was released. 

If you have failed the IELTS test or did not achieve the score required by the institution of your choice, you can re-take the test as soon as you can. Likewise, you can take as many tests as you possibly can. 

IELTS Exam Preparation 

Like any other test, you also need to prepare for the IELTS to achieve a higher score band. Regardless of your knowledge of the English language at hand, it is also essential to familiarize yourself with the test beforehand. 

There are many available IELTS Tests preparation for you to utilize. You may also sign up for a free trial of the IELTS Test and practice the entire test for free. And they even offer a premium version of the practice test, giving access to more exercises and mock exams. 

Do your research on the different online practice tests for IELTS. You may also enroll in various programs that focus on basic English language skills. Some test-takers can practice in real exam settings like a mock exam and exercises. You can also try to evaluate yourself and concentrate on specific language skills that need more improvement. 

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