IELTS – International English Language Testing System

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What is IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is designed to help you work, study or migrate to a country where English is the native language. This includes countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and USA. Your ability to listen, read, write and speak in English will be assessed during the test. IELTS is graded on a scale of 1-9. IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English.

Why take IELTS?

If you are looking to work, live or study in an English-speaking country, then you must be able to demonstrate a high level of English language ability. English is the third most spoken language in the world, with 379 million speakers worldwide. Being able to communicate in the native language of the country you wish to work or study in, has a wide range of benefits. It is also essential for job opportunities as well as integration into the community.

IELTS is the most popular test for those looking to migrate to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. It is globally recognized by more than 11,000 employers, universities, schools and immigration bodies including 3,400 institutions in the USA.  

How IELTS is developed?

IELTS is developed to provide a fair and accurate assessment of English language proficiency. Test questions are developed by language specialists from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. The test covers four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. IELTS test content reflects everyday situations. It is unbiased and fair to all test takers from all backgrounds.

What IELTS score do I need?

The higher you can score in your IELTS, reflects a better understanding and ability to communicate in English. Each immigration body, university, workplace or institution will have specific IELTS score requirements. The score you need will depend on what you are looking to do in the country, i.e. work or study. 

IELTS for study

Over 5.3 million students study abroad every year. Many students study in English-speaking countries, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. Studying in an English-speaking country offers lots of opportunities. It can also allow you to specialize in a particular field or gain employment once you have finished your education.
IELTS is recognized by more than 11,000 organizations, including educational institutes and professional bodies. Some universities in non-English-speaking countries also require an IELTS score for courses taught in English.

IELTS Academic

IELTS Academic is suitable for those wanting to study at an English-speaking university. You can also take IELTS Academic for professional registration purposes. IELTS Academic can be taken in a test center (on paper or on computer) or remotely online. Before booking your test, please check which formats of the test your organization accepts.

IELTS at a test centre

If you take IELTS at a test centre, you can request to send your IELTS results to a maximum of five organisations free of charge – there is a fee for sending results to additional organisations. You can request for your test centre to send your results to your chosen organisations.

IELTS Online

If you take IELTS Online, you can send your IELTS results to as many organisations as you wish, with no additional fee. IELTS Online results are provided in an electronic format.

Test format

There are two types of  IELTS:  Academic and General Training. All test takers take the same Listening and Speaking tests but different Reading and Writing tests. Make sure that you prepare for the correct test type.

The Listening, Reading and Writing sections of all IELTS tests are completed on the same day, with no breaks in between them. The Speaking section, however, can be completed up to a week before or after the other tests. The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

IELTS official practice test

Know where you stand before you take your test with an official IELTS practice test. IELTS Progress Check is an official IELTS online marked practice test. The test will give you an indication of your band score and provide feedback on areas to improve. Book your official practice test today.

Speaking

Test format – Listening (30 minutes)

You will listen to four recordings of native English speakers and then write your answers to a series of questions.

  • Recording 1 – a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 2 – a monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.
  • Recording 3 – a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.
  • Recording 4 – a monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture.

Assessors will be looking for evidence of your ability to understand the main ideas and detailed factual information, the opinions and attitudes of speakers, the purpose of an utterance and evidence of your ability to follow the development of ideas.

IELTS Listening description

  • Paper format: There are four parts with ten questions each. The questions are designed so that the answers appear in the order they are heard in the audio.
  • The first two parts deal with situations set in everyday social contexts. In Part 1, there is a conversation between two speakers (for example, a conversation about travel arrangements), and in Part 2, there is a monologue in (for example, a speech about local facilities). The final two parts deal with situations set in educational and training contexts. In Part 3, there is a conversation between two main speakers (for example, two university students in discussion, perhaps guided by a tutor), and in Part 4, there is a monologue on an academic subject.

The recordings are heard only once. They include a range of accents, including British, Australian, New Zealand, American and Canadian.

Timing: Approximately 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes transfer time).

No. of questions: 40

Task types: A variety of question types are used, chosen from the following: multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labelling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, sentence completion.

Answering: Test takers write their answers on the question paper as they listen and at the end of the test are given 10 minutes to transfer their answers to an answer sheet. Care should be taken when writing answers on the answer sheet as poor spelling and grammar are penalised.

Marks: Each question is worth 1 mark.

IELTS Listening in detail

A detailed look at the paper with links to related resources.

Task type 1 – Multiple choice

Task type and format: In multiple choice tasks, there is a question followed by three possible answers, or the beginning of a sentence followed by three possible ways to complete the sentence. Test takers are required to choose the one correct answer – A, B or C.

Sometimes, test takers are given a longer list of possible answers and told that they have to choose more than one. In this case, they should read the question carefully to check how many answers are required.

Task focus: Multiple choice questions are used to test a wide range of skills. The test taker may be required to have a detailed understanding of specific points or an overall understanding of the main points of the listening text.

No. of questions: Variable

Task type 2 – Matching

Task type and format: Test takers are required to match a numbered list of items from the listening text to a set of options on the question paper. The set of options may be criteria of some kind.

Task focus: Matching assesses the skill of listening for detail and whether a test taker can understand information given in a conversation on an everyday topic, such as the different types of hotel or guest house accommodation. It also assesses the ability to follow a conversation between two people. It may also be used to assess test takers’ ability to recognise relationships and connections between facts in the listening text.

No. of questions: Variable

Task type 3 – Plan, map, diagram labelling

Task type and format: Test takers are required to complete labels on a plan (eg of a building), map (eg of part of a town) or diagram (e.g. of a piece of equipment). The answers are usually selected from a list on the question paper.

Task focus: This type of task assesses the ability to understand, for example, a description of a place, and to relate this to a visual representation. This may include being able to follow language expressing spatial relationships and directions (e.g. straight on/through the far door).

No. of questions: Variable

Task type 4 – Form, note, table, flow-chart, summary completion

Task type and format: Test takers are required to fill in the gaps in an outline of part or of all of the listening text. The outline will focus on the main ideas/facts in the text. It may be:

 1. a form: often used to record factual details such as names
 2. a set of notes: used to summarise any type of information using the layout to show how different items relate to one another
 3. a table: used as a way of summarising information which relates to clear categories – e.g. place/time/price,
 4. a flow-chart: used to summarise a process which has clear stages, with the direction of the process shown by arrows.

Test takers may have to select their answers from a list on the question paper or identify the missing words from the recording, keeping to the word limit stated in the instructions. Test takers do not have to change the words from the recording in any way.

Test takers should read the instructions very carefully as the number of words or numbers they should use to fill the gaps will vary. A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’. Test takers are penalized for writing more than the stated number of words, and test takers should check this word limit carefully for each task. Contracted words will not be tested. Hyphenated words count as single words.

Task focus: This focuses on the main points which a listener would naturally record in this type of situation.

No. of questions: Variable

Task type 5 – Sentence completion

Task type and format: Test takers are required to read a set of sentences summarising key information from all the listening text or from one part of it. They then fill a gap in each sentence using information from the listening text. A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN ONE WORD AND/OR A NUMBER’.

Test takers are penalised for writing more than the stated number of words. (Test takers should check this word limit carefully for each task: the limit is either ONE, TWO or THREE words). Contracted words will not be tested. Hyphenated words count as single words.

Task focus: Sentence completion focuses on the ability to identify the key information in a listening text. Test takers have to understand functional relationships such as cause and effect.

No. of questions: Variable

Task type 6 – Short-answer questions

Task type and format: Test takers are required to read a question and then write a short answer using information from the listening text. A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’. Test takers are penalised for writing more than the stated number of words. (Test takers should check this word limit carefully for each task.) Contracted words will not be tested. Hyphenated words count as single words. Sometimes test takers are given a question which asks them to list two or three points.

Task focus: Sentence completion focuses on the ability to listen for concrete facts, such as places, prices or times, within the listening text.

No. of questions: Variable

IELTS Listening – how it’s marked

The Listening test is marked by certificated markers, who are regularly monitored to ensure their reliability. All answer sheets, after being marked, are further analysed by Cambridge English.

Band score conversion

A Band Score conversion table is produced for each version of the Listening test which translates 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. Care should be taken when writing answers on the answer sheet as poor spelling and grammar are penalized.

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