Standardized Tests - IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

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The International English Language Testing System is an international standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. It is jointly managed by Cambridge English Language Assessment, the British Council and IDP Education Ltd, and was established in 1989. IELTS is one of the three major English-language test in the world, the others being the TOEFL and PTE.

There are two versions of the IELTS:

  • 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.


IELTS tests the ability to listen, read, write and speak in English. Band scores are used for each language sub-skill (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking). The Band Scale ranges from 1 ("Non User") to 9 ("Expert User") the four Band Scores, one for each section are added together and averaged for an Overall Band Score. Each Band has a statement giving a summary of the English at that level. There are nine Band levels, from one (non-user) to nine (expert user).

All candidates must complete four Modules are Listening, Reading, Writing and speaking to obtain an IELTS Test Report Form. Total Test Time is 2 hours 45 minutes. The first three modules – Listening, Reading and Writing – must be completed in one day. 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.


The module comprises four sections of increasing difficulty. It takes 40 minutes: 30 - for testing, plus 10 for transferring the answers to an answer sheet. Each section, which can be either a monologue or dialogue, begins with a short introduction telling the candidates about the situation and the speakers. Then they 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. At the end of this section students are given 10 minutes to transfer their answers to an answer sheet.


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.


In the Academic module, there are two tasks: in Task 1 candidates describe a diagram, graph, process or chart, and in Task 2 they respond to an argument. In the General Training module, there are also two tasks: in Task 1 candidates write a letter or explain a situation, and in Task 2 they write an essay.


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. This last section is more abstract, and is usually considered the most difficult.

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