If IELTS is one of your official English exam options, here are the 10 important facts you should know about the exam.
We advise you to timely inform yourself about all the options available.
1. What is the IELTS
IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is a worldwide highly recognized official English exam. The IELTS is administered by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment. Its aim is to evaluate the English level of the people that take it. This is one of the most accepted English exams by higher education institutions to certify English language proficiency.
2. Types of IELTS
There are two types of IELTS. The General IELTS and the Academic IELTS. The General IELTS is the exam you should take if your objective is to migrate to an English speaking country for work or training reasons; while the Academic IELTS would be a better option for you is your intention is to study in an English speaking country, especially if it is an undergraduate or postgraduate program. The Listening and Speaking sections are the same in both exams, but the Writing and Reading sections differ as the texts you will have to read and the essays you will have to write in the General IELTS are more related to daily life subjects, while the ones in the Academic IELTS are about more analytical topics.
3. Type of English in the IELTS
Maybe you have heard the myth that the IELTS is a British English exam. However, if you decide to take it, you must know that the IELTS is an international exam; hence, during the different sections you will deal with a wide variety of English accents like American English, British, Australian and New Zealander.
4. Sections of the IELTS
The IELTS measures your English proficiency level in four skills: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.
The Listening section has four parts and a total of 40 questions, during which you will have to listen to four conversations and monologues, and once each record finishes, you will have to answer some questions about what you listened.
During the Reading section, you will have to answer 40 questions. Depending on the type of IELTS you take, you will have to read between 3 and 5 passages. In the Academic IELTS, you will read 3 long texts taken from books and academic journals, while in the General IELTS you will read up to 5 short texts taken from newspapers and other news sources.
In the Writing section, you will have 60 minutes to write two texts. In the Academic IELTS, you will first have to do a text summarizing the information of a graphic, diagram or table that will be given to you; then you will have to write an essay. In the General IELTS, you will have to first write a letter explaining a situation or requesting information; and then you will have to write an essay.
The Speaking section has three parts. In the first part, you will have to speak about you and topics you are related with. After that, in the second part of the section, you will have to answer some questions about a particular subject that will be asked to you. Finally, in the third section, you will have a general discussion about the topic of part two. It is important to highlight that this section of the IELTS, in contrast to the speaking section of other English exams, is made face to face with an examiner.
5. Duration of the IELTS
In total, IELTS' duration is 2 hours and 44 minutes. These are divided in 30 minutes for the Listening section, 60 minutes that last the Reading section, another 60 minutes to write the texts of the Writing section and between 11-14 minutes to answer the three parts of the Speaking section. It is important for you to know that the Speaking section is done in a different day than the other three sections.
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6. Scores of the IELTS
The first thing you should know about the IELTS is that the exam does not have an approve or fail format. The result of the exam will show you your proficiency level in English. The exam has a band scale from 1 to 9, being 1 the lowest band and 9 the highest one. Results can be shown in a full band (ex. 6.0) or in half band (ex. 6.5). According to the European Common Reference Framework for Languages, the bands from 1 to 3.5 correspond to the A1 and A2 levels which is basic knowledge of the language, the bands between 4 and 5 are equivalent to the B1 level that is intermediate, the bands between 5.5 and 6.5 are alike the B2 level with is intermediate advanced, the bands between 7.0 and 8.5 correspond to the C1 level which is advanced and finally the band 9 is a C2 level which is master in the language.
The IELTS results show a score for each section and a general score for the whole exam. The score for each section if given according to four criteria: how good questions were solved, the coherence and cohesion of the answers, how wide is the vocabulary of the test taker and how the grammar level is. Each of these criteria has a similar weight in the final score the test taker gets for each section.
7. Which institutions accept the IELTS
A lot of people think that the IELTS is an exam which is only valid in the United Kingdom or Australia, and that for example, it is not accepted in the United States or Canada. This is also a myth. The IELTS is a global exam, of international recognition which is accepted by more than 8000 institutions in 135 countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom and more than 1100 universities and colleges in North America.
8. Validity of the IELTS results
Once you have taken the IELTS, you will receive a copy of the results 13 days after you have done the written exam. During your registration to the exam, you can ask for copies of your results to be sent directly to five academic institutions. Please keep in mind that the results you obtain will be valid for two years. In case you get a lower score than the one you needed, you will be able to take the exam again at any moment.
9. How to register to the IELTS
You can take the Academic IELTS in 48 dates each year and the General IELTS in 24 dates. These are fixed dates that take place four times per month, usually on Thursdays and Saturdays. It is possible to register to the exam by going to the test center or online, but it will depend on the politics of each center. The IELTS can be taken in more than 900 centers worldwide. To register for the exam, you will have to fill the application form and attach a copy of you ID and two passport size photos.
10. Price of the IELTS
Although the Academic and General IELTS have the same price, this varies according to the country and center where you will take the exam. We recommend you to check out the information of your country in the web page http://www.ielts.org/test_centre_search/search_results.aspx