All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About IELTS, And More!
Are you looking for a comprehensive English language exam that will boost your chances of getting a great job or a coveted position in a prestigious college?
Then, IELTS is the test you’re looking for.
Taken by over three million people every year, the IELTS exam is accepted by more than 12,000 universities, employers, and immigration bodies around the globe. If you’re being asked to reach a certain IELTS score to enrol in a university programme or to move to a new country, here’s all you need to know!
IELTS, or International English Language Testing System, is an English-language test taken by international candidates who want to pursue studies or work opportunities in English-speaking countries. This exam was jointly developed by some of the biggest names in the English Language Teaching industry: the British Council, IDP Education Australia, and Cambridge English Language Assessment.
Though the results of your IELTS certificate are valid for 2 years from the moment you take the test, the validity of your certificate may depend on the specific requirements of the institution, university or company that has required you to take the test. So, we recommend you always check this out with your target organisation.
Both IELTS and Cambridge exams (such as First FCE or Advanced CAE) are very popular throughout the world.
They are developed by the University of Cambridge (although the IELTS is jointly conducted with the British Council and IDP), so you can rest assured that your certificate will be internationally recognised as proof of your linguistic competence in English.
However, there are a few important differences between these two kinds of tests that you need to consider before deciding which one to take.
First, choosing whether to sit for the IELTS or for a Cambridge exam will depend on the reason why you need an English certificate. While there are some scholarships or university programs that may require you to take tests like CAE or CPE, the main reason to take a Cambridge test is to improve your chances of getting a good job in a country where English is the main means of communication.
Students who take the IELTS, on the other hand, usually do it either for migration purposes (for example, to apply for a resident visa in the UK, Canada or Australia) or because they need a good IELTS score to be accepted into a university program in an English-speaking country.
Another important difference between these two exams is that, while Cambridge tests have no expiry date, IELTS results are normally valid for two years. So, if you want to have a certificate to add to your CV, probably the Cambridge exams are the best way for you to go.
Plus, the format of the exams is slightly different. The IELTS exam consists of 4 sections or papers: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Cambridge exams follow a similar structure, but they have an extra “Use of English” section within the Reading paper, that will test you on your use of grammar and vocabulary.
So far, these exams don’t look too different, don’t they? That’s because the biggest difference between Cambridge and IELTS is how they measure your linguistic ability. The IELTS is a single exam that awards candidates a grade from 0 (non-user) to 9 (expert) according to their level. Cambridge courses, on the other hand, have exams at each level (from KET Elementary to CPE Proficiency) which are graded according to the Common European Framework of Reference, from A1 (basic user) to C2 (proficient user). So, while you can’t fail the IELTS (you’ll just get a certificate stating your current level of English), you certainly can fail a Cambridge exam if you take one that is beyond your abilities.
IELTS is the leading test of English language competence in the world, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossibly difficult. In fact, it’s not even particularly long. In around 2 and a half hours, it assesses your ability in the four main linguistic skills through highly standardised questions and tasks.
What does a standardised structure mean for you? It’s actually good news! It means that it should be easy for you to predict the kind of abilities that you will be required to show, and to find specific preparation materials. In this way, you’ll know what to expect and how to get ready for the test.
If you want to get an excellent score, however, studying on your own might not be enough. Taking a few lessons with a nativeEnglishteacher remains the best way to study prepare for the challenges of an international test —especially the speaking part, which students usually find the hardest.
Whether you should take the Academic or the General version of IELTS will depend on your objectives. Are you doing it for migration purposes or to qualify for a job? If so, then the general version will do.
However, if you want to get a scholarship or do a master’s in an English-speaking country, you will naturally need to take the Academic test. What’s the difference between these two? Keep on reading and find out!
First, let’s see the similarities. Both IELTS exams can be done online and each of them has 4 parts:
- Writing (Tasks 1 and 2)
The Listening, Speaking and Writing Task 2 sections are the same for both IELTS General and IELTS Academic. This is what you’re expected to do:
- The Writing Task 2 consists of an essay question that you’ll need to answer in 40 minutes and no less than 250 words.
- In the Listening section, which is around 40 minutes long, you will hear 4 audio clips and have to answer 40 questions.
- In the Speaking part, you will take part in a one-to-one conversation with an examiner. This segment consists of 3 tasks: introduction and interview, individual long turn(you’ll be given a topic so you can talk about it on your own for two or three minutes), and two-way discussion (the examiner will ask you questions about the topic you received in the previous part, focusing on how you express and justify your opinions). In total, the speaking part lasts between 10-15 minutes.
The only difference between the two tests, then, is Writing Task 1 and Reading. Let’s look in detail how these two sections differ!
In IELTS Academic, Writing Task 1 asks candidates to describe and analyse data shown in a chart or a graph.
Students who take the IELTS General, on the other hand, will have to write a formal, semi-formal, or informal letter in 150 words.
In IELTS Academic, you will read 3 academic-style texts increasing in difficulty (journal passages, textbook extracts, etc.). These are related to history, science or literature.
If you take IELTS General, you’ll have to read 4 texts increasing in length and complexity. These are related to social or workplace survival, as well as general topics such as travelling or culture.
So, you’ve studied hard, taken the test, and now you’re waiting for your results. What should you expect? Depending on the format of the test, you will receive your results in 3-5 calendar days (computer-based) or 13 calendar days (paper-based).
What you’ll get is the IELTS Test Report Form, which you can check online or receive on paper via the post. This report will include a score for each of the four abilities, as well as your overall band score. The final score will be the average of the four scores for all the individual sections, rounded to the closest whole or half number. The 4 sections are weighted equally.
Let’s see a few examples:
|Listening||Reading||Writing||Speaking||Average of the four sections||Overall band score|
Depending on your location, the IELTS test fees can range between £170-£195. Normally, exam centres charge a flat fee of £160. However, this fee might change from one year to the next, so make sure to enquire about costs and other details with your local test centre.
To obtain a US student visa, you’ll need to prove that you are proficient in the English language. Being the world’s most prestigious English language test for study, the IELTS is recognised by thousands of American educational institutions. US universities usually require a minimum overall score of 6.5
Depending on what you want to do once you have relocated to Canada, you can opt for IELTS General Training or IELTS Academic. As stated before, IELTS General is the best option for those applying for skilled worker careers, while IELTS Academic is most suitable for candidates who want to pursue academic studies.
All the versions of the IELTS are accepted by the UK government to issue visas. The score you need will vary depending on your objective. For example, for study purposes, each university or educational institution will have different requirements regarding the mark you need to achieve.
The IELTS is an international exam. As such, all accents are welcome. This means that you don’t need to sound British, American, or from any other place in particular.
The IELTS speaking section is very much like an everyday conversation. Your speaking abilities are evaluated against a number of criteria such as “fluency”, “lexical resources”, “grammatical range” and “pronunciation”.
Both your listening and reading scores are measured based on the number of correct answers. Incorrect answers do not add any points, but they won’t make you lose them either.
Test examiners use specific assessment criteria to score writing tasks. These include task achievement, coherence and cohesion, accuracy, and grammatical range.
You can take the test as many times as you like until you get your desired band score. However, you should bear in mind that you will need to pay the entire fee every time you retake the exam.
While you can find practice tests online on the official IELTS website, studying with a teacher is the best option if you want to excel in the speaking and writing sections of the test. Since these are the parts of the test in which you’ll be required to produce your own language samples, you’ll need detailed feedback from a qualified tutor if you want to boost your current abilities and get a great score.
This is where we can help. At Language Trainers, we work with native teachers who are very experienced when it comes to helping students prepare for international exams. Want to try a free trial class with one of them so they tell you everything they’ve learned about IELTS over the years? Contact us now and get started!