What is IELTS?

IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, is designed to assess the language ability of people who want to study or work where English is the main language of communication. IELTS is the most effective and natural way of testing your English conversation skills and is recognised and accepted by over 10,000 organisations worldwide, including universities, professional bodies, employers, immigration authorities, government agencies and other.

IELTS exam is jointly owned and conducted by IDP Education Australia (International Development Program), British Council, and Cambridge ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). The exam mainly covers the four language skills– listening, reading, speaking, and writing to measure the ability of test-takers for communication. Most popular countries where IELTS is accepted for university admissions are the UK, Australia, New Zealand, USA, and Canada.


Why IELTS Exam is required?

The simple answer to this is that foreign universities and visa granting authorities need to be sure that you will not have communication issues while staying in the country. You need to show a good understanding and strong command of the English language and that is why your overall IELTS scores are so important. Many universities might not even require IELTS scores for admission purposes. But remember that if you don’t give IELTS, your chances of getting the student visa might suffer as the visa officers may not be convinced about your English proficiency without IELTS scores. So, it is safer to appear for IELTS and aim to score at least 6 bands overall.


IELTS Cut-Off

IELTS has been designed to assess the English language skills of students at all levels. Hence, students can never fail the test. The IELTS score is based on each of the four skills on a scale of 1 – 9, and students would also be awarded an overall band score. Candidates are reminded that the IELTS cut-off score varies for different colleges and programmes that students are interested in and not all universities and programmes require candidates to qualify for the IELTS exam. Your overall IELTS band score is important if you intend to apply for university, take up a job or immigrate to an English-speaking country.


Expert user9
Very good user8
Good user7
Competent user6
Modest user5
Limited user4
Extremely limited user3
Intermittent user2
Non user1
Did not attempt the test0
Table: The IELTS band score scale

IELTS Test Types

There are two types to choose from – Academic and General Training.

IELTS Academic is for test takers wishing to study at undergraduate or postgraduate levels, and for those seeking professional registration

IELTS General Training is for test takers wishing to migrate to an English-speaking country (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK), and for those wishing to train or study at below degree level.

Listening and speaking sections are the same for both these tests, however, the subject matter for the writing and reading sections are different depending on which test one takes.

IELTS Life Skills, is the test for UK Visas and Immigration, is appropriate if you wish to immigrate to or obtain citizenship in the United Kingdom. Unlike the other two versions, the Life Skills test assesses only your speaking and listening English skills, at levels A1 or B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). You will need 

IELTS Life Skills A1 is to apply for a UK Visas and Immigration family, spouse or partner visa. The A1 level is within the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR), the equivalent to ESOL Entry 1 on the National Qualification Framework (NQF). The test involves Speaking and Listening.

IELTS Life Skills B1 This test is for those who need to prove their English Speaking and Listening skills as part of their application to UK Visas and Immigration for the citizen or settlement visa. The B1 level is within the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR), the equivalent to ESOL Entry 3 on the National Qualification Framework (NQF).


IELTS Test Modules

The three IELTS versions do not all have the same scoring system. There is no minimum score required to pass the Academic or General Training tests. You will be graded with band scores ranging from 1 to 9 for each of the four parts of the test: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

There are four sub-tests, or modules, to the IELTS test:

1.) Reading
2.) Writing
3.) Listening
4.) Speaking.


Methods to register for the IELTS

Online – You need to go to the British Council IELTS registration page and create an online profile. Then you will be required to pay the exam fee (Rs. 13,250). Online registration on the British Council IELTS India website is the fastest and easiest method. Through the online method, you can register anytime and on any day. You will be required to pay with a credit/debit card.

In person – You can register in person at British Council office or an IDP India office. You may download the online form or fill in a paper application at the office. You will be required to pay the fee through credit card/debit card, demand draft or ICICI bank deposit slip. You will receive an instant confirmation of your reservation.

IELTS Indicator Method only for IELTS Academic. IELTS Partners has launched an IELTS Indicator through which you can demonstrate your language skills while applying to an educational institution. Candidates who are not able to visit an official test centre can take this test safely from their home.


IELTS Test Format

The complete test includes Reading, Writing, and Listening skills. The Speaking test is conducted through Zoom with an examiner. 

Duration: 2 hours and 45 minutes. 

Rule 1: A candidate should require a computer or laptop with reliable internet connectivity

Rule 2: Candidates need to take the test in one sitting without any break. 

Rule 3: The Speaking test is conducted any other day it can be given before or after the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections test. Each section is time-bound. Also, you cannot pause the test.

Rule 4: Currently, the IELTS Indicator is available only for IELTS Academic. IELTS Partners has launched it for students who want to apply to universities abroad.

Rule 5: The test availability is for a limited time and is available in locations where the IELTS test is suspended due to COVID-19.

Reading Section

The reading module consists of three texts of general interest dealing with issues which are appropriate for candidates entering postgraduate or undergraduate courses.

Both reading modules consist of three passages or sections with forty questions. 

Question types include multiple-choice, sentence or summary completion, identifying data for short-answer questions, matching lists or phrases and identifying writers’ views/attitudes.

Total no. of questions: About 40
Duration: 30 minutes

Reading – IELTS Academic

This includes three long paragraphs which can be either descriptive, factual or analytical. These paragraphs are basically excerpts taken from newspapers, research works, journals, books, or even magazines. Targeting a non-specialist audience, the texts are ideal for testing higher education aspirants or for professionals seeking work abroad.

Reading – IELTS General Training

Similar to the academic format, here the excerpts can be passages from advertisements, company guidelines, brochures, and so on. This is relatively easier than the academic format as the selected text is generally something that one encounters on a day-to-day basis.

Writing Section

Responses to the academic writing module are short essays or general reports, addressed to an educated non-specialist audience. There are two compulsory tasks. 

Task 1 requires 150 words, and candidates are asked to look at a diagram, table or data and to present the information in their own words. 

Task 2 requires at least 250 words, and all candidates are presented with a point of view, argument or problem and asked to provide general factual information, present a solution, justify an opinion, evaluate ideas and evidence, etc.

Total no. of questions: 2
Duration: 60 minutes 

Writing – IELTS Academic

It includes two tasks wherein the topics are of general interest and relatable for candidates applying for an undergraduate or postgraduate program.

First task, you will be handed a paper which would contain either a diagram, table or graph. You will be required to recapitulate and define the given data in your own words. You may be asked to explain a certain data entry, process the given information or a flowchart to logically arrive at a conclusion.

Second task, you will need to write an essay as a response to your deduction from the given data and support your argument with relevant examples, through the given data. Please note that the writing style should be strictly formal.

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