What is the IELTS?
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an English language proficiency rival to the TOEFL.
There are two versions of the test: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. The first version, IELTS Academic, is designed for those who are looking to attend an English-speaking institute of higher education and is also sometimes used as a pre-requisite to join certain professional organizations in English-speaking countries.
The second version, IELTS General Training, is designed for those who are either immigrating to certain English-speaking countries or for those working in or entering training programs in English-speaking countries. Immigration to Australia, Canada, and New Zealand currently requires applicants to pass the IELTS General Training Test.
The Format of the Test
Generally, the IELTS is composed of four sections:
The listening and speaking sections of both the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General Training are the same while the reading and writing sections between the two versions of the tests differs.
The Listening section, which takes 30 minutes, involves listening to four recorded conversations or monologues.
The Speaking section, which lasts between 11 and 14 minutes, involves answering set questions from and speaking in front of a live examiner.
The Reading Section, which lasts for 60 minutes and involves answering 40 questions, focuses on the comprehension of three long texts for the IELTS Academic and the comprehension of extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, etc. for the IELTS General.
Finally, the Writing section, which takes 60 minutes, involves the writing of two tasks. For the IELTS Academic, this involves writing an essay and summarizing presented information; for the IELTS General, this involves writing an essay and writing a letter.
How is the IELTS Scored?
Each section of the IELTS is marked out of a raw score which is then converted to a band scale from 1 to 9 with 9 being the best. Each of the sections is equally weighted and the final score, known as the Overall Band Score, is calculated by taking the mean of the total of the four section scores. The Overall Band Score is thus also a score from 1 to 9.
Where and When Can I Take the IELTS?
With more than 900 test centers in more than 130 countries around the world, there are numerous options for taking the IELTS. There are 48 fixed test dates and tests are administered up to four times a month. The IELTS Academic is available during all 48 tests, while the IELTS General Training is only available 24 times.
Information on where the test is offered and what the test dates are for individual countries can be found on the official IELTS page.
What Study Guides Can Help Me Prepare?
See our reviews of the best IELTS prep books, or, if you are interested in additional resources, browse all available IELTS study materials.