All about the IELTS International Proficiency Test for traveling and studying abroad
First of all, if you are from the U.S. like me and did not have to take the IELTS, this test may seem very foreign to you. Yet, what exactly is the IELTS and how does it benefit you. There are actually several reasons to take a quick look at this guide and the very test itself.
1) You are the student getting ready to take the test: this one is actually quite obvious but still needs to be highlighted.
2) You may be a teacher and need to teach this to your students: very important to own the test so that you can adequately prepare your good students for the exciting test.
3) You are merely a curious mind who wants to broaden your knowledge about test that exists in other parts of the country.
At this point I should announce that the IELTS is a test meant for international students who want to study or travel abroad. IELTS stands for international English language system. IELTS test basically test English Proficiency. Let me break this test down for all curious and serious minds out there.
IELTS is accepted by thousands of organizations in over 135 countries.
- Universities, schools, training colleges, tertiary institutes
- Immigration Departments
- Government departments and agencies
- Professional and industry bodies
- Multinational companies and employers
The IELTS Global Recognition System can tell you exactly which organizations accept IELTS and the scores they require.
IELTS basically has four parts and the order as follows: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.
There are actually two versions of the test or two testing formats: Academic and General Training. All other parts of the test are the same for test takers except for the reading and writing section which are split into Academic or General.
Choose the Academic version if you are planning to apply for a University or College abroad.
The General version as applied by its name is not meant for trying to get into a University or College but rather just to be able to travel abroad through training programs, work placement, secondary school or for migration.
Another thing to note is that you can take all the tests in one sitting but can choose to take the speaking test up to one week before or after the other parts. Only the speaking test is offered to be taken separately.
Quick Background Information on the IELTS test to travel or study abroad:
IELTS is the world’s leading test of English for higher education and migration. Over 1.4 million people take IELTS every year, and this number is growing rapidly. More than 6000 universities, government bodies and professional organizations accept IELTS scores, and there is a growing demand for IELTS preparation services and courses. IELTS is owned and managed by the British Council , IDP: IELTS Australia and University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations .
There are a variety of sample tests and practice materials online but it is recommended to study with others. For one thing, it is less stressful and more interesting or enjoyable to study together. You can tackle difficult parts together. Another reason is having a teacher or someone to accurately guide you through the different sections will allow you to better learn the materials. It will make studying less a burden and task but more enjoyable as you will understand what you are studying as you gain new knowledge and test taking skills.
The test is an international English proficiency test which offers a range of accents from North American, Australian, New Zealand, and British in the listening section. All standards of English are allowed in the tester’s response in the speaking section.
The IELTS test has a Score Scale of 1-9 in which 9 equals Expert User and 1 Non User. There is even a 0 which means you did not take the test. It is not a pass or fail test rather one that test your English proficiency.
There is not a limit to how many times you take this international English proficiency test, and the IELTS tests are given year round.
The simple break down of the different sections:
Listening Section for IELTS (same for both versions of the test)
The first part is listening. In this section, you will have a total of 40 minutes, 30 for listening and 10 for transferring your answers on the scoring sheet. There will be 40 questions ranging from multiple choices, to form completion, to short answer questions, matching and labeling graphs. There are 4 sections. The first section will be a conversation between two people in an everyday setting such as in accommodation agency. The second is a monologue in the same social setting. It could be a conversation about meal arrangements at a conference. The third section is a conversation between up to four people in an academic setting such as universities. In this case, university level students socializing with teachers or with each other. The last second is again a monologue but this time it takes place in an academic surrounding like the university lecture hall.
A variety of voices and accents will be heard so be prepared and train to be accustom to the various pronunciations. You get to read the questions before start listening to the audio. Each section can only be heard once so be sure to note down answers while listening to the parts. Write down quick details on the question paper to help you answer questions if you cannot answer the question right away while listening. Pay attention to word limit. If the question states no more than two words and the correct answer in cotton shirt, the answer a shirt made of cotton is incorrect.
Reading Section of IELTS is 60 minutes for 40 questions and no extra transfer time. There are 3 sections and text lengths are 2,150 to 2,750 words total for all sections. Test question format include multiple choice, true/false/not given, identifying information, matching, sentence completion, labeling, and short answer. These are questions that test reading comprehension and analysis. Test takers must learn how to read a passage and understand it well enough to answer these critical thinking questions.
IELTS | Test Takers – Academic Reading Section
The Academic Reading test is 60 minutes long and materials are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. The above chart is an example of what can be found on the test. This section contains one long text.
General Training Reading contains two or three short factual texts related to everyday life in an English-speaking country. In section two of this version, there will be two short factual texts that focus on work related issues such as company policies or applying for a job. Lastly, the third section is a bit longer and more complex on a topic of general interest. These texts are taken from company handbooks, books, magazines, and newspapers.
The Writing Section of IELTS test
The Academic Writing test is 60 minutes long. It has two writing tasks of 150 words and 250 words. Below are samples of Task 1 and Task 2.
Academic Writing of IELTS test
Task 1 requires test takers to examine graphs, tables, charts or diagrams and describe, summarize, or explain the information. They may describe or explain the data, explain how something works or describe the object or event taken place.
Task 2 asks the test taker to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument, or problem. The topic raised is of general interest and should be easily understood by those who are applying to go to universities or seek professional registration.
General Training Writing of IELTS test
Task 1 asks test takers to write a letter requesting information or explain a situation. The letter can be in all styles, personal to formal.
Task 2 asks that the task taker write an essay in response to an argument or point of view. The style can be less formal than in the academic version writing test.
Note that task 2 is worth twice as much as task 1 to the writing score.
Speaking Test of IELTS test
In the Speaking test, you have a discussion with a certified Examiner. It is interactive and as close to a real-life situation as a test can get.
The test is 11 to 14 minutes long with three parts. In Part 1, you answer questions about yourself and your family. In Part 2, you speak about a topic. In Part 3, you have a longer discussion on the topic. Below is a sample of Part 2 ‘” speaking on a topic.
Speaking Part 2 sample
Describe a teacher who has greatly influenced you in your education.
You should say:
1. Where you met them
2. What subject they taught
3. What was special about them
4. Explain why this person influenced you so much
You will have to talk about the topic for 1 to 2 minutes. You have one minute to think about what you are going to say. You can make some notes if you wish.
Each correct answer receives 1 mark and scores are out of 40 will be converted to the IELTS 9 band scale. Results will be mailed out only 13 days after the test. After understanding what the test is about, what the format is, how it is scored, registration, the next step is rigorously practicing on each section. There are certain tips for taking the test like paying attention to word limit. Review these tips as it will help you score higher. Although, the test is not a pass or fail test, it is always better to get a higher score. It is also a good idea to pace oneself while taking the practice tests. It is of no use to know the answers if you do not have time to answer nearly all the questions. It does not hurt your score to make educated guesses as you get a point for each correct answer.
IELTS | Institutions – What is the test format? IELTS.org
IELTS | Test Takers – Who accepts IELTS? IELTS.org
IELTS – Home > Teachers IELTS.org
IELTS | Test Takers – Academic Reading sample IELTS.org
IELTS | Test Takers – Academic Writing sample IELTS.org