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IELTS Overview

IELTS (International English Language Testing System’, is an international standardized test of English language proficiency. It is jointly managed by University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council, and IDP Education Pty Ltd, and was established in 1989.
There are two versions of the IELTS: the Academic Version and the General Training Version:

  • The Academic Version is intended for those who want to enroll in universities and other institutions of higher education and for professionals such as medical doctors and nurses who want to study or practice in an English-speaking country.
  • The General Training Version is intended for those planning to undertake non-academic training or to gain work experience, or for immigration purposes.

It is generally acknowledged that the reading and writing tests for the Academic Version are more difficult than those for the General Training Version, due to the differences in the level of intellectual and academic rigor between the two versions.
IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, New Zealand and South African academic institutions, over 3,000 academic institutions in the United States, and various professional organizations. It is also a requirement for immigration to Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
No minimum score is required to pass the test. An IELTS result or Test Report Form is issued to all candidates with a score from 1 (no knowledge) to 9 (expert user) and each institution sets a different threshold. Institutions are advised not to consider valid a report older than two years unless the user proves that he has worked to maintain his level.

IELTS characteristics
The IELTS incorporates the following features:

  • A variety of accents and writing styles have presented in text materials in order to minimise linguistic bias.
  • IELTS tests the ability to listenreadwrite and speak in English.
  • Band scores used for each language sub-skill (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking). The Band Scale ranges from 0 (“Did not attempt the test”) to 9 (“Expert User”).
  • The speaking module – a key component of IELTS. This is conducted in the form of a one-to-one interview with an examiner. The examiner assesses the candidate as he or she is speaking, but the speaking session is also recorded for monitoring as well as re-marking in case of an appeal against the banding given.
  • IELTS is developed with input from item writers from around the world. Teams are located in the USA, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other English-speaking nations.

How to Prepare for IELTS Exam

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All candidates must complete four Modules – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking – to obtain a band score, which is shown on the IELTS Test Report Form (TRF). All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking Modules, while the Reading and Writing Modules differ depending on whether the candidate is taking the Academic or General Training Versions of the Test.

Listening

The listening module comprises four sections. Each section begins with a short introduction telling the candidates about the situation and the speakers. They then have some time to look through the questions. The first three sections have a break in the middle allowing candidates to look at the remaining questions. Each section is heard only once.

Reading

In the academic module the reading test comprises three sections, with 3 texts normally followed by 13 or 14 questions for a total of 40 questions overall. The General test also has 3 sections. However the texts are shorter, so there can be up to 5 texts to read.

Speaking

The speaking test contains three sections. The first section takes the form of an interview during which candidates may be asked about their hobbies, interests, reasons for taking IELTS exam as well as other general topics such as clothing, free time, computers and the internet or family. In the second section candidates are given a topic card and then have one minute to prepare after which they must speak about the given topic. The third section involves a discussion between the examiner and the candidate, generally on questions relating to the theme which they have already spoken about in part 2.

Writing

This consists of two sections. The first section is where all candidates need to describe a diagram and the second section taking the form of an essay.

Duration
The total test duration is around 2 hours and 45 minutes for Listening, Reading and Writing modules.

  • Listening: 40 minutes, 30 minutes for which a recording is played centrally and additional 10 minutes for transferring answers onto the OMR answer sheet.
  • Reading: 60 minutes.
  • Writing: 60 minutes.
  • Speaking: 10–14 minutes.

(N.B.: No additional time is given for transfer of answers in Reading and Writing modules)
The first three modules – Listening, Reading and Writing (always in that order) – are completed in one day, and in fact are taken with no break in between. The Speaking Module may be taken, at the discretion of the test centre, in the period seven days before or after the other Modules.
The tests are designed to cover the full range of ability from non-user to expert user.
Band scale
IELTS is scored on a nine-band scale, with each band corresponding to a specified competence in English. Overall Band Scores are reported to the nearest half band.
The following rounding convention applies: if the average across the four skills ends in .25, it is rounded up to the next half band, and if it ends in .75, it is rounded up to the next whole band.

The nine bands are described as follows:

9 Expert User Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate, and fluent with complete understanding.
8 Very Good User Has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
7 Good User Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriateness, and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
6 Competent User Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies, and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
5 Modest user Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in their own field.
4 Limited User Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in using complex language.
3 Extremely Limited User Conveys and understands the only general meaning in very familiar situations.
2 Intermittent User No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs.
1 Non User Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
0 Did not attempt the test No assessable information provided at all.

A 6.5 IELTS score lies roughly between B2 and C1 levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and >8 scores are C2.

Conversion table
This table can be used for the Listening & Reading tests to convert raw scores to band scores. This chart is a guide only because sometimes the scores adjust slightly depending on how difficult the exam is.

Band Score 9.0 8.5 8.0 7.5 7.0 6.5 6.0 5.5 5.0 4.5 4.0 3.5 3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0 0.0

Raw score

40 37 to 39 35 to 36 33 to 34 28 to 32 26 to 27 23 to 25 21 to 22 18 to 20 15 to 17 12 to 14 10 to 11 8 to 9 6 to 7 4 to 5 2 to 3 1 0
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