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How to Take the IELTS English Language Test

Updated on June 19, 2013
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Many people need to show how good at English they are by taking a test. The IELTS is taken by over 1.4 million people every year.

It is an entrance requirement for many universities. It is also needed to migrate to several English-speaking countries.

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What is the IELTS?

IELTS means 'International Language Testing System.' It is a test of English language proficiency. There are two versions: the Academic Version and the General Training Version.

  • The Academic Version is for people who want to enrol in Universities or other institutions of higher education. The IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, New Zealand and South African universities, as well as some in the United States.
  • The General Training Version is for people who want to do work experience or migrate to an English-speaking country. The IELTS is a requirement for immigration to Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The IELTS is developed by writers from all over the world.The test does not have a pass mark. You get a score from 'Band 1' (non-user) to 'Band 9' (expert user). Different universities have different requirements. For example, Oxford University requires a minimum IELTS score of 7.0.

Modules of the IELTS

The IELTS is made up of four modules: listening, reading, writing and speaking.

  • Listening. This lasts for 30 minutes. There are four sections. They can either be monologues or dialogues. The first three sections have a break in the middle, giving you some time to look at the questions. Each section is heard only once. A variety of accents are used in recordings.
  • Reading. This lasts for 60 minutes. In the academic section, there are three texts. They are followed by about 14 questions. In the general training, there can be up to five shorter texts.
  • Writing. This lasts for 60 minutes. In the academic test, there are two tasks. In the first, candidates have to describe a diagram, graph, process or chart. In Task 2, they have to respond to an argument. In the general training test, there are also two parts. In the first part, you have to write a letter or explain a situation. In the second part, you have to write an essay.
  • Speaking. This lasts between 11-14 minutes. There are three sections. The first part is a general interview with the examiner about hobbies, interests and reasons for taking the exam. In section two, you have one minute to think about a topic and then talk about it. The third section is a discussion with the examiner, usually about the topic talked about in Part Two. The speaking part is recorded in case there is a dispute about the band given.

How to Take the IELTS

  1. Find your nearest IELTS centre. There are more than 800 test centres in over 130 countries. In the USA there are 49 centres. There are 47 centres in both the UK and Australia. You can search for one near to you on the IELTS website. Make sure you note the deadline for registering.
  2. Check whether you need to sit the Academic or General Training test. You can find out about the requirements of the institution you are applying to here.
  3. Print out the IELTS application form. You can get a copy as a PDF file or you can ask your test centre for a copy.
  4. You need two identical passport size photographs. They should be less than six months old and in colour. You need to sign them each on the back. Don't wear glasses in the photographs.
  5. Photocopy your current passport. It must be valid.
  6. If you want your details sent to a particular university, make sure they are entered on the application form.
  7. Take your application form into your test centre with money. If you send it by post, talk to your centre about how to pay.
  8. On the day of the test, take your passport or national identity document. You should also take pencils and pens to write with.
  9. The results will be available 13 days after the test.

Preparing for the IELTS

You can take a course at a language school which will help you get a higher score at the IELTS. There are also plenty of books available.

The Cambridge Self Study Pack contains four authentic IELTS papers. The students books with answers has four Academic tests, as well as extra reading and writing modules for General training candidates.

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    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      This is new to me but I found this very interesting. I had no idea such a test existed, but I can see from your hub it not only exists but is a very popular test. Thanks for the information.

      Voted up and interesting.

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