IELTS Exam – A Complete Overview

ielts exam guide

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the world’s most popular English language test for higher education and immigration abroad. This exam is designed to test the language proficiency of the candidates who want to study or work where English is used as the language of communication. The exam is important to evaluate and assess the English language proficiency and skills of non-native speakers who are interested in working and studying in an English-speaking country. IELTS is a globally recognized standardized test that is accepted in countries like the UK, the USA, Canada, Europe, Singapore, Germany, and Ireland. These countries are globally ranked for a prestigious educational system and a robust job market. The Government of these countries and educational institutions accept IELTS scores as a general eligibility criterion to grant admission and immigration services. It is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge Assessment English. IELTS is a computer-based examination held at various test centers. It is conducted 48 times a year. There is no official eligibility or prerequisite as set by the conducting bodies. 

The IELTS exam is broadly classified into two types, IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. IELTS Academic is meant for applicants that are willing to study abroad, whereas IELTS General Training is suitable for those applying to study below degree level. It can also be taken for work experience or other employment training. There are four test papers in IELTS- Writing, Reading, Speaking and Listening. IELTS speaking is a face to face informal interview with the examiner. The writing section includes two tasks, an essay, and a letter. The reading section involves passages to be read and questions related to the passage need to be answered. The listening section involves audio clips and related questions to attempt. All the sections assess English language skills and proficiency as per the standards of communication in English-speaking countries. 

The test is valid for 24 months and the band ranges from 0-9. The total duration of the IELTS examination is 2 hours and 45 minutes. There are options to cancel and reschedule the exam with the refund policy, as per the guidelines and rules stated by IDP and British Council. The test is intended and compulsory for all non-native English speakers to reside in an English-speaking environment. The registration fee is INR 14,700 for Indian applicants. To know everything about the IELTS exam and prepare for band 9, keep reading. 

Read More: How to crack IELTS exam in first attempt?

Importance of IELTS examination

IELTS is a standardized English language test that assesses and measures language proficiency among non-native English speakers. It is a compulsory eligibility criterion set by the English-speaking countries to allow applicants to immigrate and take admission in the reputed and ranked Universities and colleges. Here are all the reasons why an IELTS score is very important for an applicant:  

  • Study abroad facilities

The top-ranked overseas education destinations like the UK, the USA, Canada, and Germany offer a robust and excellent education system. They offer varied specializations, notable degrees, and promising placement opportunities with reputed faculties and research infrastructure. The top-ranked and leading educational institutions require an IELTS score to grant admission to international students. It is a general eligibility criterion along with degree and academic scores to get admission. The more reputed the institution, the more will be the requirement of IELTS score. Academic IELTS is not only a prerequisite for university entry for non-native speakers but is also essential for those wishing to register with professional bodies and organizations. IELTS is truly a goal setter and it helps the meritorious students take admission in some of the leading institutions worldwide. 

  • Global employment opportunities

The top brands and multinationals require a valid IELTS score, as communication stands to be the most basic prerequisite for jobs. To work with a global employer, applicants must be eligible enough to speak, write and communicate in the English language. English language skills are very important for organizations with an English-speaking ambiance and environment. General IELTS is the test that helps job seekers to apply and get a work visa to work for the best global brands. Developed economies of the world like the USA, Australia, Europe, Canada, and the UK accept a high IELTS score at the time of providing employment opportunities. A good IELTS score is important to get a work visa. 

  • Access to permanent residence and immigration services

The immigration services require an IELTS score to offer visas and permanent residency to non-native English speakers. The government agencies of English-speaking countries use the IELTS score as a prerequisite part of the application process when applicants apply for PR or immigration. It is always a lucrative and promising aspect to settle down in countries like the USA, Australia, Europe, Canada, and Germany. They have a dynamic job market, excellent living style, opportunities, and various benefits like free education and health facilities that attract individuals from all over the world. An IELTS score is important to evaluate the English language skills, to understand if the applicants can integrate, communicate and settle down in an English-speaking environment. The immigration authorities and process accepts and recognizes visa and immigration applications only with an IELTS score. IELTS score helps applicants to immigrate and settle down in the leading countries. 

Important Resources to Read for IELTS:

Types of IELTS exam

IELTS is an English language test with four papers. All four types of tests- Writing, Reading, Speaking, and Listening is focused and designed to evaluate the language skills of the applicants. To prepare well, let us take a close look at each of the four parts of the test. 

Speaking test: Speaking test is similar for both Academic IELTS and General Training IELTS. It is an informal face-to-face interview and interaction with an IELTS examiner. There are three sections in the speaking test. The first section will have questions related to you, the second section will have a cue topic on which the applicants need to speak and the third one will be a detailed and abstract discussion related to the topic discussed in the second section. The speaking section is the shortest one with a duration of 10-15 minutes. During the test, the speaking skills of the applicants are checked and evaluated by the highly experienced and trained IELTS examiner. Some of the skills like vocabulary, grammar, coherence, fluency, and pronunciation play a vital role in determining the band. 

Reading test: The reading test is a 60 minutes examination with 3 sections and 40 questions related to the passage. This section assesses the English reading fluency and skills including the student’s ability to understand, skim passages and recognize the writer’s opinion, attitude, reasoning, and argument. It tests the proficiency among students to understand the important ideas, opinions, and details in a reading passage. IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training have different reading question patterns, as well as the topics are very different. For IELTS General Training the passages are a combination of small and long ones, with topics related to the general interest. However, for Academic, the section becomes a little challenging as all the three extracts will be long and purely based on academic modules and extracts. The test band ranges from 0-9. 

Writing test: The writing test is focused on checking the writing skills of applicants in the English language. There are two tasks in the writing test, and the pattern is different for both IELTS Academic and General Training. Task 2 of IELTS Academic and General Training is similar, but task 1 is very different. Task 1 of General Training is letter writing. It is a formal and semi-formal letter writing of 150 words where the applicants are judged based on their functional writing skills. It is evaluated whether they can write a letter for various situations like a job application, asking for information, an apology, or an invitation. Task 1 of the Academic test is a graphical representation where the students need to write an academic summary of 150 words in response to the diagram or graphical representation as given in the question. There can be a diagram, process, bar graph, map, or pie chart, from which the applicants need to derive the important features, ideas, facts and write a summary. Task 2 is a 250 words essay descriptive essay writing on a particular topic. 

Listening test: The IELTS Listening test will take about 30 minutes, and you will have an extra 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. The listening test is similar for both IELTS Academic and General Training. The section carries 40 questions of 40 marks. There will be audio clips, each being played only once, after which the students need to answer questions related to the audio clips. It is an important way to check English language proficiency in terms of accent, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and writing skills as well. 

Read More: Why the IELTS Exam is Required?

IELTS exam eligibility

There are no official eligibility criteria as set by the conducting bodies, IDP and British Council. Both IELTS Academic and General Training are open to all test-takers to prove their English language proficiency and skills before taking admission or opting for immigration services to English-speaking countries. IELTS examination can be taken by any student, as there are no official eligibility criteria set by IDP and British Council. There is no official restriction regarding the minimum or maximum age limit for students to appear for the test. The IELTS test is designed as per the university level and it is recommended that the test is taken by students who have completed a minimum class 10 or high school or class 12 from a recognized board of study. In terms of academic qualification, there are no minimum and maximum academic qualification requirements for the test takers. However, what stands important is every test taker must have a valid passport or any other national photo ID proof with them at the time of registration as well as on the day of the examination. 

Read More: Difference between IELTS Academic and General

How to register for the IELTS examination? 

There are two ways to apply for IELTS: online and in person. Applicants can get themselves registered through phone, SMS, e-mail, or online mode. To register through call, applicants need to locate the nearby test center and get the contact number. They need to call, offer all the details with the help of ID proof, and then book the date and time slot. Payment is to be done through online mode. When we talk about the essential documents for IELTS exam registration, it is only a valid national ID proof like passport, driving license, etc. 

The online registration process is the fastest and convenient way. Here is the process: 

  • Log on to www.ieltsidpindia.com 
  • Select the option “Register for IELTS”
  • Select your test date and test city (you will see the seat availability status)
  • Complete the online application form
  • Pay the test fee by credit card (Master / Visa)
  • Get instant seat booking and acknowledgment. 

Read More: How to Register for IELTS Exam?

IELTS examination fee

The fee for the IELTS examination is INR 14,700. It is subject to changes, so applicants must confirm the amount when booking the test slot and then pay using the digital mode of payment. 

IELTS exam dates

IELTS is conducted all year round. It is conducted a total of 48 times a year, 4 times a month. The test is usually held on Saturdays and Thursdays. Here are some of the most important upcoming test dates of 2021 : 

  • October 9, Saturday
  • October 14, Thursday
  • October 23, Saturday
  • October 30, Saturday
  • November 6, Saturday
  • November 11, Thursday
  • November 20, Saturday
  • November 27, Saturday
  • December 2, Thursday
  • December 4, Saturday
  • December 11, Saturday
  • December 18, Saturday

Read More: Difference between computer based and paper based IELTS

IELTS exam pattern and syllabus

The IELTS examination is of two types, IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. There are four sections in IELTS: Writing, Reading, Speaking and Listening. Below listed is the syllabus and exam pattern of the following sections. 

Speaking section: Speaking section will have three questions and the duration will be 10-15 minutes. Here is the test syllabus and format listed below. 

Task 1 – General questions will be asked about yourself and topics that are generally related to you, like family, home, studies, career, hobbies, and interests. The duration of the section is between 4-5 minutes.  

Part 2 – You will pick a card with a topic and you will talk about it. You will have one minute to prepare before speaking for up to two minutes. This will be followed by 2-3 questions by the examiner on the same topic.

Part 3 – This part will be a detailed discussion. The topic will be similar to the part 2 question. This section will be an opportunity to speak more about the topic related to more attractive ideas and issues. The duration is between 4-5 minutes. 

Reading section: The reading examination will have 40 questions, three passages, and 60 minutes to complete the examination. One mark is allotted to each question, and there will be no negative marking. Here is the detailed syllabus and format of the reading section: 

  • The reading modules will contain three passages with around 40 questions in total, which are mostly MCQs. 
  • Identifying data for short answer questions, sentence or summary completion, identifying writer’s attitudes and views and matching lists or phrases are some of the areas where the skills of candidates are examined.
  • Applicants will be provided 30 minutes and 10 minutes of transfer to solve the section. 
  • The academic Reading section includes three long paragraphs that are factual, descriptive, or analytical. The extracts are taken from books, journals, newspapers, articles, and research work. 
  • The general training section includes mixed small and long passages with extracts from newspapers and books that are focused on general interest. 

Writing section: In writing, there will be two questions- task 1 and task 2. Task 1 is 150 words and task 2 is 250 words. The time allotted is 60 minutes. 

  • Task 2 is a descriptive essay. It is a 250-word essay that can be related to any Academic and General interest topic. There are various types of essays like two-part, opinion, advantage and disadvantage essay, discussion essay, and direct question essay. 
  • Task 1 for the Academic test is a graphical representation where bars, maps, processes, and charts will be given to represent the features and facts in a 150-word summary. For task 1 General Training, it is a letter-writing of 150 words on general issues and situations. 

Listening test: There will be 4 recordings, 40 questions, and 30 minutes duration. The questions will be monologue and conversation. 

  • Audio 1- Dialogue based on social contexts
  • Audio 2- Monologue about the everyday social issues
  • Audio 3- Conversation between four people regarding education   
  • Audio 4- Monologue on an academic subject. 

How are IELTS exam scores calculated?

IELTS band ranges from 0-9. 9 is excellent and 0 means unattempted examination. The overall band score is the average of the four sections scores, rounded to the nearest whole or half band. The scores in all the sections are weighted equally. If the average of the four individual scores ends in .25, the overall IELTS score will be rounded up to the next half band. If the average of the four individual scores ends in .75, the overall IELTS score will be rounded up to the next whole band. 

Read More: IELTS Exam Centers in India

IELTS exam score and band scale

Listening band score table

Listening band scoreScore out of 40 marks
516
623
730
835

Speaking band score table

Speaking band scoreSpeaking score
0-9 25% fluency and coherence25% lexical resource25% pronunciation25% grammatical range and accuracy

Reading band score table

Reading band scoreRaw score out of 40 
515
623
730
835

Writing band score table

Writing band scoreWriting score
0-925% task response 25% coherence and cohesion 25% lexical resource 25% grammatical range and accuracy

How to get the result of IELTS? 

You can view your results on IELTS official website by providing a few details and you will also receive an email notification with a link to view your IELTS scores. If you took IELTS on paper, you will be able to view your results online 13 days after your test. If you took IELTS on a computer, your results will be available online within 3-5 days after your test. 

More Resources to Read for IELTS:

IELTS important tips

IELTS is a standardized examination and requires good preparation in all four test papers. Here are some very important tips and tricks to score a band 8 and above: 

  • Focus on vocabulary, tenses, grammar, and sentence structure equally. 
  • Write precise, relevant answers. Avoid writing long paragraphs and sentences
  • Time management is important as it is very limited in all the sections. Stick to the word limit of all the tasks so that you can complete all the tasks within the allotted time. 
  • Test yourself in 2 hours and 45 minutes time-frame just like on exam day. This will help you get to know what it feels like to take the reading, writing, and listening tests consecutively.
  • Don’t spend too much time on the questions you can’t find an answer to. Move to the next question and get back to that question if you have any time left at the end.
  • Skim and scan passages in the reading section to utilize all the time in completion of the test. 
  • Practice on both British and American accents, as some numbers and words are pronounced differently.
  • Focus on grammar. Make sure all your tasks are grammatically correct. Do not make any small or major grammatical errors related to tense. 
  • Pronunciation and vocabulary are very important. Make sure you have a good vocabulary and maintain the right pronunciation for all the test papers.

Read More: How to get an 8 band in IELTS?

Conclusion

IELTS is one of the most popular and leading English language proficiency tests accepted by more than 11000 universities, countries, immigration services, and colleges worldwide. It is a general eligibility criterion that evaluates and makes sure that the applicant has good English language proficiency to integrate and communicate in an English-speaking environment.

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