A Postgraduate Guide To International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
With over 3 million active exams every year, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is one of the most popular English language tests for higher education and global migration in the world. There is a reason why it’s trusted by more than 11,000 organisations across the globe.
Our guide covers what you need to know about the IELTS test.
What is IELTS?
IELTS is managed by the British Council, the Cambridge Assessment English (University of Cambridge) and IDP Education Limited. The test helps people prove that they have the standard of English required by higher education institutions, immigration authorities employers and professional bodies around the world.
As an international student whose first language is not English, you’ll be required to undertake either the IELTS Academic or the IELTS UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) Academic. You must take the IELTS UKVI if you require a visa to study. The contents of the exam are the same as the normal IELTS Academic, but it is designed specifically to satisfy the visa conditions set by the UK Government.
How does IELTS work?
IELTS can be taken as a paper or computer-based exam. It consists of four sections, each testing your basic English abilities with a time limit of 2 hours and 45 minutes. The four sections include:
- Listening – You’ll have 30 minutes to complete 40 questions based on four different recordings of native English speakers. The English speakers will have varying accents.
- Reading – You’ll have 1 hour to complete 40 questions on a series of general texts.
- Writing – You’ll have 1 hour to complete two writing tasks. The first is a short writing task of 150 words, writing a description of a piece of visual information. The second longer task requires a written response to an argument or issue in 250 words.
- Speaking – The speaking portion is a face-to-face interview with an examiner and it lasts up to 15 minutes. You will be asked a series of questions and you have to speak on a certain topic, which forms the basis of a discussion at the end of the speaking exam.
This portion can be taken before or after the rest of the exam.
What grade do you need?
You will receive your results within 14 days of completing the paper-based exam, or up to 5 days on the computer-based exam. The grade you need to pass depends on the institution. The base of a successful grade is 6.5, but depending on the university it can be a full grade higher than 7.5.
Generally, the higher the score, the better. The certificate is only valid for 2 years from the date of your exam.
Who recognises IELTS?
More than 11,000 organisations around the world accept IELTS as proof of English language proficiency. This includes the countries of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA. In fact, if you were to study at a university in either of these countries, IELTS would most likely be accepted – but it’s always best to double-check beforehand.
You can view which organisations accept IELTS on their website.
Where to take the exam and How much does it cost?
IELTS has more than 1600 test locations in over 140 countries. The exam is usually broken up into two, one for speaking and the other for reading, writing and listening. In addition, if you didn’t get the results you wanted, you can retake the exam at your time of choice.
The exams cost £185 for IELTS Academic or £195 for the IELTS UKVI. If you have any disabilities, you should contact IELTS or the test centre before booking a test as they will have to make sure they can accommodate your special needs. You can find more information on their website.
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