What is IELTS?

International English Language Testing System

IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, is the world's most popular high stakes English language test. It is designed to assess the language ability of people who need to stu.dy or work where English is the language of communication.

The IELTS test is accepted by over 10,000 organisations in 140 countries, and is recognised by universities and employers in many countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

IELTS is can be taken for the following purposes:

  • Study abroad: Students planning to study in English speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, the US, Ireland or wherever the medium of instruction is English need to take an English language test that approves their language proficiency.
  • Work abroad: IELTS score is acknowledged by employers and professional bodies from English-speaking countries in various fields such as engineering, law, nursing, medicine, accountancy, teaching, and more.
  • Immigration: If you are planning to immigrate to an English speaking country, it is mandatory for you to take IELTS. Migration authorities in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, US, and the United Kingdom use IELTS to process immigration.

IELTS test structure

There are two modules for IELTS:

General training Academic
Accredited for daily use of language and is mostly applicable in cases of immigration Usually taken by students planning for education abroad or professionals who are exploring work opportunities overseas.

Test format

There are two modules for IELTS:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking

Listening, Reading and Writing test is taken on the same day, one after the other, without any break in between. The Speaking test may either fall on the same day or any day up to a week before or after the test date. Test takers opting for paper-based IELTS can book a slot for the Speaking test on a preferred date and time. In case you fail to choose a slot within the stipulated period of time, a time slot be allotted automatically.

The total test time is 2 hours 45 minutes.

Here’s an overview of the test format:

IELTS Listening test
(30 minutes)
You will have to listen to four recordings and then answer the questions asked. The recordings are of native English speakers and the duration of the test is 30 minutes.
IELTS Reading test
(60 minutes)
The IELTS Reading test requires you to answer 40 questions and is designed to test you on an array of reading skills. You would have to read for gist, main ideas, details, logical arguments, skimming, and figuring out the writers’ attitudes, opinions and intentions.
IELTS Writing test
(60 minutes)
The IELTS Writing test requires you to complete two tasks and covers topics of general interest based on the module you are taking.
IELTS Speaking Test
(11-14 minutes)
The IELTS Speaking test assesses your spoken English skills. The test is recorded and conducted in three parts.

The Listening and Speaking tests remain same for both, Academic and General. However, questioning differs in case of the Reading and Writing tests.

Academic Reading would include extracts from books, journals, newspapers and magazines appropriate for people seeking education or professional accreditation abroad whereas General Training Reading comprises of extracts from books, magazines and handbooks that one may encounter in day-to-day life in an English speaking culture.

Academic Reading involves two tasks – one explaining data, graphs or charts and the other asking views and arguments on a formal level. General Training Reading involves one letter writing task which may be formal or informal and an essay writing task expressing views in a fairly personal style.

In the computer-delivered Listening test, the timings are slightly different from the paper-based test.

  • You are given some time to read your questions before you start any part of the Listening test
  • You have two minutes to review your answers after finishing the Listening test
  • Duration of the Listening test is approx. 30 – 36 minutes

IELTS scoring

Test takers receive a score for each test component – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. The individual scores are then averaged and rounded to produce an overall Band Score.

In IELTS, scores are graded on the 9-band system. Each educational university or school sets its own minimum IELTS scores to meet its individual requirements. Mostly, an average of 6.5, with a band score above or equal to 6 in each of the 4 sections, is welcomed in most universities and schools.

Band score Skill level Description
9 Expert user The test taker has fully operational command of the language. Their use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and shows complete understanding.
8 Very good user The test taker has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. They may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. They handle complex and detailed argumentation well.
7 Good user The test taker has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. They generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.
6 Competent user The test taker has an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. They can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
5 Modest user The test taker has a partial command of the language and copes with overall meaning in most situations, although they are likely to make many mistakes. They should be able to handle basic communication in their own field.
4 Limited user The test taker's basic competence is limited to familiar situations. They frequently show problems in understanding and expression. They are not able to use complex language.
3 Extremely limited user The test taker conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication.
2 Intermittent user The test taker has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
1 Non-user The test taker has no ability to use the language except a few isolated words.
0 Did not attempt the test The test taker did not answer the questions.

Types of test

IELTS is delivered via two mediums:

IELTS on computer IELTS on paper
Take your IELTS Listening, Reading and Writing test on computer. Choose your own test date – up to 7 days a week and 3 times a day. Take your IELTS Listening, Reading and Writing test on paper. Choose from up to 4 test dates a month or 48 dates available throughout the year.

Results

Test results are available within 5-7 days of the test date when you opt for IELTS on computer. Candidates opting for pen and paper IELTS get their results in 13 days.

A copy of your IELTS result is known as the Test Report Form (TRF). Each candidate is issued only one IELTS test report form, which is valid for two years. Up to five copies of your ATRF will be posted to the relevant institution(s) you have listed on your IELTS application form. Regular postage is free of charge. Charges for courier services and/or overseas postage will be passed onto you.

Available IELTS test dates

With the computer-delivered IELTS, you can choose from multiple test sessions in a day and get your results within 5-7 days.

For paper-based test, dates are available four times a month or 48 times a year and are generally held on Saturdays and Thursdays to provide flexibility and convenience to the test seekers.

The availability of the IELTS dates may differ as per the test type and module you have opted for - Academic or General Training.

IELTS test centres in India

IELTS is available in more than 50 test locations in India. Computer-delivered IELTS is currently available in 19 locations, keep checking for new cities as new centres are added on a regular basis.