What is the IELTS?

The IELTS, or International English Language Testing System) assesses the reading, writing, listening and speaking of people who either want to study or work using English. It may be used in the workplace in order for employees to get a promotion, a raise, or earn an honor or certificate of some sort. It may also be used for business professionals (doctors, academics) who wish to work or practice overseas. More commonly, the IELTS is used as a prerequisite for admission to universities in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some universities require it (usually a 5.5 Band Score) before allowing students to attend a foundation course, and most universities require a higher score (a 6.5 Band Score) before studying the core curriculum. Also, the IELTS is recognized by professional bodies, government agencies and immigration authorities.

There are approximately 400 IELTS test centers all over the world, and the number is growing. The centers are generally run by universities, language schools, the British Council, and IELTS Australia.

The IELTS consists of four modules, Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. The total time of the test is 2 hours and 45 minutes. Students must sit all four modules.

There are two IELTS tests, the Academic Test and the General Training Test. While the Listening and Speaking tests are the same in both tests, the Reading and Writing tests are a bit different. The Speaking test can take place on the day before, the day of, or the day after the test, and in some cases a couple days before or after the test.


The IELTS listening test is 30 minutes in length and is made up of four sections. Each section consists of either a monologue or a dialogue. The audio is played only once. At the end, after the audio is finished, 10 additional minutes are given for students to check their answers and write them neatly on the answer sheet.


The Reading test is 60 minutes in length. There is an Academic Reading test that consists of three academic readings, and there is also a General Training Reading test that consists of a few short texts and one of medium length.


The IELTS Writing is 60 minutes in length. There are two writing tasks. Task 1 in the Academic Test and General Training test writings are different and require different writing styles. Task 1 in the Academic Test requires students to analyze a graph, chart, table, diagram, etc, whereas the General Training Test Task 1 requires a letter to be written. In Task 2, the writing is the same. Students must write a longer essay, which is often a pro-con, advantage-disadvantage essay, etc. There is no choice of question topics.


The Speaking test of the IELTS requires the student to do a one-to-one interview with an IELTS examiner who will administer three sections. In Task 1, questions about general topics are asked. Task 2 is the Long Turn, which is different that Task 1 in that the candidate speaks for one to two minutes on a topic and specific prompts written on a card that is given to the candidate by the examiner. Task 3 is again a dialogue that is  linked thematically to the Long Turn. The whole test lasts approximately 11-14 minutes.

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