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All about IELTS


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is undoubtedly the most popular of all the standardized English Tests available today. This test is widely accepted by more than 10,000 organizations across the globe which includes government bodies, educational institutions, and employers. All the Universities in the UK, Australia and a growing number of US Universities require this test as part of their admission process.

What is IELTS?

IELTS evaluates the candidate’s proficiency in English Language skills - reading, writing, listening and speaking. This test is jointly owned by the world’s leading language experts British Council, Cambridge English Language Assessment and IDP Foundation Australia. With the test being conducted separately by two official bodies - IDP and the British Council, students might have doubts about which one is better? There is no difference between the tests conducted by both these agencies and you can opt for any of these agencies for taking your test.

Who Takes IELTS and Why?

This test is for people who want to study, work and migrate to countries where English is a main language of communication. Popular countries that accept IELTS results as part of their university admission process are the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand. The reason behind this is that the immigration authorities and the Universities want to make sure that the candidate doesn’t face any communication issues during his stay in their country.  Some universities don’t require these test scores for their admission process. But, it is recommended to take this test to increase your chances of visa approval.

Types of IELTS

There are two types of IELTS Tests

  • IELTS Academic
  • IELTS General Training

IELTS Academic is for people who want to apply for higher education i.e., Undergraduate and Graduate degrees in English speaking countries. This test contains some features of academic language and will assess whether you are ready to take up your higher education in that country or not.

IELTS General Training test is for people who want to migrate, do their training programs and pursue their secondary education in English speaking countries. This test will assess your basic survival skills.

In this article, you will have complete information about Academic IELTS.

How can I take this Test?

Students in India, who want to take IELTS, can opt for any of the below two styles -

·         Paper-Delivered Test or

·         Computer-Delivered Test

Paper Delivered Test

If you opt for Paper-Delivered Test, you need to write Listening, Reading and Writing sections of the Test on paper. The Speaking section is a face-to-face session with an expert IELTS Examiner and is conducted a week or 10 days before or after the regular test. Your test results will be delivered in 13 to 15 days.

Computer Delivered Test

This is the same as your paper-delivered test but, you need to do Listening, Reading and Writing sections on the Computer instead of Paper.  The Speaking section will be conducted face-to-face by an IELTS Examiner and is usually a week or 10 days before or after the test. In the computer-delivered test, you will receive your test scores in 5 to 7 days.

IELTS Exam Fee

The registration fee for IELTS (Academic or General Training) is Rs. 14,000 for registrations from 1st-Apr-2020.

IELTS Academic Test Duration

The duration of the IELTS test is 2 hours 45 minutes. Except for the Speaking section, all other sections including Listening, Reading and Writing sections of IELTS tests are completed in the provided time. The Speaking section can be conducted on the same day or within a week or 10 days based on the availability of the slot. It hardly takes 15 minutes (speak time).  

Eligibility Criteria for IELTS

There are no eligibility criteria that you need to meet to take this test. All that you need to have is your Passport. No other identity cards like Voter ID, Aadhaar or PAN card are accepted as ID proof to take this test. You can take this test regardless of your age, gender, race, and nationality. However, it is recommended for individuals with age above 16 years.

Exam Pattern

There are four sections - Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking through which your English language skills are tested. Listening and Speaking sections remain the same for both Academic and General Training. Reading and Writing sections change based on the type of test you choose.

Listening Module - Test Pattern

In this section, you will get to listen to 4 different recordings. The total time given for the Listening test is 40 Minutes. 30 minutes is for listening and noting down the answers on the question paper itself and the last 10 minutes is to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

1st Recording - This will be a conversation between two people on any day-to-day context.

2nd Recording -  A Monologue (Speech on some social context).

3rd Recording -  It is a conversation between three or four people in an educational context (Student and Tutor discussion on some assignment).

4th Recording - A Monologue on any academic subject (Lecture).

You will be assessed on your ability to understand the main ideas, facts, opinions, and attitudes of the speakers.

Based on these four recordings you will be asked 40 questions.  These 40 questions are divided into 6 tasks. They are -

  • Multiple-Choice

In this task, you are asked a question and are given a choice of three answers to choose from. Sometimes, you will be given a long list of answers where you need to choose more than one answer. In such cases, you need to read the question and all the answers carefully to understand how many answers are required.

  • Matching

Here, you are required to listen to the recording carefully and match the list of the items you heard to the set of the options available on the question paper.

  • Map, Plan or Diagram Labeling

Here, you will be given a Map (ex: city, town or a country), Plan (ex: building) or a Diagram (ex: device) and you need to complete the labels as required. You will be given options to choose from in the question paper. However, you need to listen to the recording carefully to understand the concept and complete the labels.  

  • Form, Set of Notes, Table, Flowchart, and Summary Completion

In this task, you are required to fill in the gaps as per the requirement by carefully listening to the recording. The task can be in any of the following formats:

It can be a Form (ex: application form) where you are asked to fill in the factual information like Name, DOB, Age, etc.

The Set of Notes format is another style where you need to summarize the information using a layout to show how different items are related to each other.

A Table format requires you to summarize the listening text and sort them into different categories like the place, time, date, etc.

In a Flowchart, you are required to summarize the listening text to a process of different stages directing them with arrows (step-by-step process).

  • Sentence Completion

Here, you are required to fill in the gaps in the sentences given, using the information from the recording. Please read the instructions carefully as each of these will have a limit on the word count, for example, ONLY ONE WORD/NUMBER. In such cases, you will be penalized if you exceed the stated limit.  

  • Short Answer Questions

Here, you are required to read the question and answer them in one or two words as per the word limit mentioned in the task. Sometimes, you are asked to list down two to three points.

Reading Module - Test Pattern

The Reading section for Academic IELTS consists of 40 questions that are designed to evaluate the candidate’s reading skills. The total time allotted for this section is 60 minutes. Here, you are given three long passages from which a variety of questions are asked. These passages are taken from various magazines, journals, newspapers, and books. The question types include -

  • Multiple choices
  • Short answers
  • Match the following
  • Identifying information
  • Sentence completion
  • Matching the sentence endings
  • Summary completion
  • Table completion
  • Flow chart completion
  • Diagram label completion
  • Note completion
  • Identifying the writer's views/claims

Note that you will not be given any extra time to transfer your answers to answer sheets other than the allotted time. Be careful while transferring the answers as poor grammar and spellings are penalized.  

Writing Module - Test Pattern 

In the Writing section, you will have 2 tasks. The total time allotted to answer these 2 tasks is 60 minutes. In task 1, you will be given visual information for which you are required to write about 150 words description in 20 minutes. Task 2 requires you to respond to a problem or argument in 250 words and you need to complete it in 40 minutes.

Speaking Module - Test Pattern

The Speaking test will take 11 to 15 minutes. However, there will be some wait time before you get your turn, so be prepared for that. In this test, your usage of spoken English is assessed. The speaking test is divided into 3 parts.

Part 1: The first part is all about yourself. The examiner will ask you questions about yourself, your familiar topics, interests, family and studies. This will be for around 4-5 minutes.

Part 2: Here, you will be given a card where you need to talk about the topic written on the card. You will be given one minute of time to prepare yourself and you need to talk for two minutes. The examiner will ask some questions from that topic.

Part 3: The examiner will ask some more questions from part 2. Here you might need to give detailed information on the topic (your ideas can be discussed). This will take 4-5 minutes.

How to Register for IELTS Test?

You can register for IELTS either online or offline. If you choose to register online, then

  • Go to British Council or IDP official IELTS registration page
  • Create an account
  • Select preferred test type – Academic or General Training
  • Select preferred style – Paper-delivered or Computer-delivered
  • Choose the desired Test location
  • Once you select the Test location, you will get a list of available exam dates
  • Fill in all the details as per your requirement and complete the application.
  • You are also required to upload the front and back pages of your passport to complete the application process
  • Review all the details and proceed to pay

If you are willing to register offline, then visit the nearest IELTS branch. You need to submit a photocopy of your passport and a duly signed declaration document.

You will receive an acknowledgement of the test registration to the registered mobile or email id once the test is booked. If you are applying online, you can also book a slot for your speaking test in the stated time frame else your speaking test date will be allocated automatically.

Test Dates

IELTS is conducted throughout the year by two bodies IDP IELTS and the British Council. You can choose the test date of your choice based on your University application dates. However, it is required to book your slot early as the IELTS Test Centers work on a First-Come-First-Serve basis.

IELTS Computer-delivered Test is conducted throughout July and August (except on 15th August) by both IDP IELTS and British Council. However, you can check for the availability of the Paper-Delivered and Computer-Delivered tests on the official websites and then book your slot accordingly.

IELTS Test Centers in India

There are about 78 locations across India where the IELTS Test is conducted. Select your test Center carefully (some cities have more than one Test Center). Select the center that is of minimal distance from your residential area so that you don’t need to travel much as you might get exhausted by the time you reach the test center.

IELTS Test Scores

Your IELTS results are reported on a 9-band scale with 1 being the lowest and 9 being the highest. Scores are given for each section - Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking separately.  These individual scores are averaged to produce the final band.

Listening and Reading sections have 40 questions in each section and each correct answer carries 1 mark. Check below on how the raw scores are converted to the band score.

Listening Scores

Raw score out of 40Band score

Reading Scores

Raw score out of 40Band score

For Writing and Speaking, the examiner follows an assessment criteria to award the band score.

Writing is assessed based on the below four criteria -

  1. Task Completion: The examiner assesses how effectively, accurately and relevantly you have completed the task within the word limit given.
  2. Coherence and Cohesion: Here, your response is assessed based on how logically it is sequenced and how the logical connectors, pronouns, and conjunctions are used.
  3. Lexical Resource: Here the usage of vocabulary, its relevance and accuracy are assessed.
  4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy: Here your response is assessed for accuracy in grammar at the sentence level.

For assessing the Speaking module, examiner focuses on the following criteria -

  1. Fluency and Coherence:  Here the examiner will check your ability to link the ideas and language to form a connected speech. Speech rate and continuity are other factors that you will be assessed on.
  2. Lexical Resource: The usage of vocabulary, its relevance and accuracy and how you express them with meanings and attitude is assessed.
  3. Grammatical Range and Accuracy: How you use the range of vocabulary, its relevance and accuracy while speaking are assessed.
  4. Pronunciation: You are tested on your ability to produce comprehensive speech. Here, the amount of effort required by the listener to understand your speech is taken into consideration.

All the elements listed above are weighed equally in each section and the score is the average of all the individual scores.

On a band scale of 0-9, if you get 9 then you are considered to be an Expert in the English language, 8 means Very Good and 7 means Good, 6 means Competent and 5 Means Modest. Scores below band 5 are not considered by most of the universities. 0 is given when you don't attempt the test. You might also get scores ending with .5, like 6.5, 7.5 etc.   

Overall Test Scores

All your section scores are further averaged to give the overall Test Band score. Here is how it works.

Let’s say you got the individual scores as Listening - 5.0, Reading - 7.5, Writing - 6.5 and Speaking - 6.0. Your overall score will be 5.0 + 7.5 + 6.5 + 6.0 = 25. Divide it with number of components i.e., 4. 25/4 = 6.25 which rounds up to 6.5 band. So, 6.5 is your overall IELTS score.

Score Report

Your Test Score Report Form will be available 13 days after completion of the test. You can request your test center to send it to you or you can collect it in person. Your scores are also available online for about 28 days.  

At the time of the test, you can nominate 5 organizations or institutes for which you want to send your scores to on your behalf. This service is free of cost and if you want to send the scores to any additional institutes then you will be charged a small administration fee.  

Good and Cut-off IELTS Scores

Your scores are considered to be good if they are above 7.0 as per the British Council. But, your score is considered to be good only if your desired university grants you admission for the score you receive. Cut-off scores vary from University to University. With thousands of institutions accepting IELTS as part of their admission process, it is advisable that you need to check with your desired university or college whether they accept the IELTS score and if so, how much is the cut-off to accept your application for admission. Some of the top colleges like New York University and Cambridge University have 7.5 as their cut-off scores. University of California, UC Berkeley and Oxford University have 7.0 as their cut-off IELTS Score. However, some colleges accept admissions with lesser IELTS Scores and some even without IELTS Scores. It is advisable to check the respective university website or contact the Admission department to understand their cut-off scores and admission process.  

How many times can I attempt IELTS?

There is no limit on the number of attempts, you can take the IELTS test as many times as you want until you get the desired score.  However, you need to pay the fee every time you take the test.

IELTS Score Validity

IELTS Test results are valid for two years only. You will not have any option of extending your Test results, so, it is advisable to apply or file your application before the test results expire.

Revaluation of Scores

If you get any doubts about the evaluation of your test results then you can apply for revaluation through a service called Enquiry On Results (EOR). You can request for re-marking on any particular section or for the whole test.

 In this EOR Process -

  • The test papers will be re-examined and marked by the senior examiner who is not aware of the previous marks or results
  • If there is any change in the marks, your test center will get notified and then they will issue a new Test Report Form

This request should be raised within six weeks of the Test Report Form (TRF) date. You are required to pay the fee for re-marking and if at all your score changes your fee will be refunded. The remarking process takes 2 - 21 days depending on how many sections you requested for re-marking.   

IELTS Test Cancellation Fees

If for some reason you want to cancel your test, then you need to raise the request at least 5 full weeks before your test date. In such a case, you will receive a refund equivalent to 75% of your Exam fee. And the rest is deducted as an administrative fee.

You will not receive any refund in case you fail to cancel the test before 5 weeks. Also, for any reason, if you don't attend the exam, then it is considered as test cancellation but you will not receive any refund. If you don't take the test for some medical reason then you will receive a refund after administrative fee deductions only if you submit the medical certificate within 5 days of the test date.

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