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IELTS

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IELTS Introduction

IELTS is an English language exam that is required to be taken by international candidates considering studying or working in a country where English is the main language of communication. The full form of IELTS is International English Language Testing System. Most popular countries where IELTS is accepted for university admissions are UK, Australia, New Zealand, USA & Canada. The exam mainly measures the ability of test-takers to communicate in the four basic English language skills – listening, reading, speaking, and writing.

IELTS is an English language exam that is required to be taken by international candidates considering studying or working in a country where English is the main language of communication. The full form of IELTS is International English Language Testing System.Established in 1989, IELTS has become the most popular high-stakes English-language certificate in the world. There are currently around 1,000 test locations in more than 140 countries, carrying out over two million tests each year. Over 9,000 organisations worldwide accept the certificate as a proof of proficiency in the English language. IELTS is jointly owned and managed by the British Council, Cambridge English Language Assessment and IDP Education Australia.

What is the IELTS test like?

You can choose between the Academic or General Training versions of the test. All candidates do the same Listening and Speaking sections.The test has four sections:

  1. Listening - 4 sections, 40 questions, 30 minutes
  2. Speaking - interview, 15 minutes
  3. Reading - different for Academic or General Training - 3 sections, 40 questions, 60 minutes
  4. Writing - different for Academic or General Training - 2 pieces of writing, 60 minutes

Types of IELTS tests

There are currently three versions of the IELTS test: Academic, General Training and Life Skills. These differ in content and address different target groups.

  • IELTS Academic  is intended for people who want to attend study programmes at universities and other institutions of higher education which are taught in English. You will need an Academic test band score to enrol for an undergraduate or graduate degree where the teaching is in English. You can also take this version of IELTS to register within a professional body in an English-speaking country. Therefore, if you intend to join professional associations in disciplines such as medicine, nursing, law or engineering, you may need to pass the IELTS Academic exam.
  • IELTS General Training is a good choice if you want to migrate to an English-speaking country and work there, or if you plan to attend a secondary school. An IELTS score is often required by the government authorities of English-speaking countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. These countries accept the General Training certificate as evidence of language competences on the part of immigration and study visa applicants. Sometimes, even native English speakers need an English language qualification to migrate to certain English-speaking countries.
  • IELTS Life Skills, the test for UK Visas and Immigration, is appropriate if you wish to immigrate to or obtain citizenship in the United Kingdom. Unlike the other two versions, the Life Skills test assesses only your speaking and listening English skills, at levels A1 or B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). You will need IELTS Life Skills A1 to apply for a UK Visas and Immigration family, spouse or partner visa, and IELTS Life Skills B1 to obtain citizenship or the right to permanent residence. The purpose of this exam is to determine how well you communicate with other people in everyday English. 

IELTS characteristics

IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training are designed to cover the full range of ability from non-user to expert user. The Academic version is for test takers who want to study at tertiary level in an English-speaking country or seek professional registration. The General Training version is for test takers who want to work, train, study at a secondary school or migrate to an English-speaking country.
The difference between the Academic and General Training versions is the content, context and purpose of the tasks. All other features, such as timing allocation, length of written responses and reporting of scores, are the same.
IELTS Academic and General Training both incorporate the following features:
  • IELTS tests the ability to listen, read, write and speak in English.
  • The speaking module is a key component of IELTS. It is conducted in the form of a one-to-one interview with an examiner. The examiner assesses the test taker as he or she is speaking. The speaking session is also recorded for monitoring and for re-marking in case of an appeal against the score given.
  • A variety of accents and writing styles have been presented in test materials in order to minimise linguistic bias. The accents in the listening section are generally 80% British, Australian, New Zealander and 20% others (mostly American).
  • IELTS is developed by experts at Cambridge English Language Assessment 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.
  • Band scores are 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 nine bands are described as follows:

9 Expert User Has full 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 own field.
4 Limited User Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.
3 Extremely Limited User Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
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. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
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.

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