There are two versions of the IELTS: the Academic Version and the General Training Version:
Introduction to the IELTS
The IELTS is the International English Language Testing System. It is prepared by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations together with its partners, including the British Council. The IELTS is a new test, and it has two versions.
The IELTS General Training (GT) module is for those who need an English language qualification for their work, because they are moving to an English-speaking country or simply because they want to measure their general English ability. Many governments around the world require some of their workers to have the IELTS, and so do many professional organizations and employers. The GT module tests your ability to use English in different social situations, and because this module is suitable for people wanting to do secondary education in an English-speaking country, there is also an educational part, but less than in the academic module. Overall, more than 1,500 organizations accept or require an IELTS qualification.
The IELTS Academic module is often used to check whether a student is ready to study in a university where the teaching is in English. Universities in many countries accept the IELTS as an English Language qualification, and even some universities in the USA now accept it instead, or as well as, the TOEFL test.
The IELTS is becoming more and more popular. Over a quarter of a million people take the test every year. There are more than 400 test centres in 120 countries, and the number is increasing all the time. The test centres are run by either the IELTS organizations or by the British Council, and your nearest British Council will be able to tell you where to take the test. Make sure that they know which module you want to take. You usually get your results in less than a month, and you have to wait for 90 days before you can take the test again. The result is usually valid for two years.
The IELTS exam lasts for two hours and 45 minutes. It has a listening, a reading, a writing and a speaking part. There is no grammar part to the test, and grammar is not tested as intensively as it is in (for example) the Proficiency test, but if you have bad grammar you will not do well. The listening, reading and writing are set in that order, but because it is harder to arrange, the speaking may be the first or the last part of the exam.
The IELTS Listening lasts 30 minutes. There are four sections and 40 questions in all. You will hear a conversation (for example someone wanting to buy something), a general talk, often giving you some kind of information – for example about a town or museum, A conversation related to learning or training, and an educational or training lecture. Recordings are played only once.
The IELTS Reading takes 60 minutes. It has three parts, and like the listening, has a total of 40 questions. The academic test is three passages. These come from books, magazines and newspapers, and at least one of these presents an argument (arranges facts to persuade you of something), which you must show you have understood. The GT reading has a wider mixture of material, mostly the sort of thing that someone living in an English-speaking country would come across every day. As well as books and magazines, there is material from advertisements, pamphlets and instruction manuals. One text will be longer and descriptive.
The IELTS Writing also takes an hour. There are two parts. The academic writing has a report of about 150 words for the first part, in which you have to describe the information shown in a schematic (e.g. a graph, table or diagram). The second is about 250 words, in which you have to discuss an opinion or a situation. In the GT the first part is also 150 words, in which you have to ask for information or explain something. The second part is 250 words, and is discursive (that is, you have to explain your opinion on something).
The IELTS Speaking is somewhere between 10 minutes and a quarter of an hour. You have to answer some questions from the interviewer, about things like where you live and your hobbies or other personal details. You then have talk for some time on a particular topic, though you are given a minute to prepare what you are going to say, and the final few minutes are spent in a more general conversation with the interviewer.
Each module is marked in a band from 1-9, but as each band is divided into two, you can get any one of 18 different marks. There is no 'pass', since the mark you want will depend on what you need the test result for. Some people doing the test might not think listening is important, while it might be vital for others.
IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish and New Zealand educational institutions and over 3,000 universities and college in the United States of America. IELTS is also a requirement for immigration to Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
No minimum score is required to pass the IELTS test. An IELTS result or Test Report Form is issued to all candidates with a score from 1 (no knowledge) to 9 (expert user) and each institution sets a different threshold. The validity of each IELTS score card is for a period 2 years.
Below mentioned are the generally accepted IELTS scores for each country:
- USA – 5.0
- UK – 4.0
- Canada – 6.0
- Ireland – 5.0
- New Zealand – 5.5
- Australia – 5.5
The IELTS score is based on the following scale:
Band 9: Expert user: has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
Band 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.
Band 7: Good user: has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
Band 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.
Band 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.
Band 4: Limited user: basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.
Band 3: Extremely limited user: conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
Band 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.
Band 1: Non-user: essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
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