The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) evaluates the language proficiency of those aspiring to study or work where English is a native language. A nine-band scale is used to clearly identify levels of proficiency, from non-user (band score 1) through to expert (band score 9).
IELTS can be attempted in two modes:
This version is a normal paper-based test wherein aspirants attempt Listening, Reading and Writing on sheets provided at the test centre. Speaking is conducted within a week before or after the paper-based test.
This version can be attempted only on a computer in an authorized test centre where all modules are tested in the sequence of Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Both versions - Academic as well as General Training - are available on computer. The Listening, Reading and Writing sections of all IELTS tests are to be completed on the same day, without any breaks in between them. The Speaking test, however, will be conducted up to a week before or after the other tests. Total time given for the test is 2 hours and 45 minutes.
IELTS has two variants namely Academic and General Training. IELTS Academic is recommended for applying for higher education or professional registration while IELTS General Training is for those planning to migrate to Australia, Canada and the UK or apply for secondary education, training programs and work experience in an environment where English is the native language. Both versions offer a detailed and accurate assessment of the four language skills: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. The Listening, Reading and Writing (in pen-paper mode) are conducted on the same day while Speaking may be conducted before the written tests or after it.
There are four sections in this test. Each section is of around 07-08 minutes. Each section has 10 questions to answer. Each question carries 01 mark. The candidate gets 10 minutes in paper-based to verify the answers at the end of the sections while in the computer-based test, 02 minutes are given to the candidates to verify and submit the test.
- Multiple choice - one answer
There will be a question/incomplete statement with four options to be selected from. The focus is to assess the ability to assess test-takers' wider understanding of the conversation or lecture. The candidate is to select one option either by clicking or writing the letter representing the option in the answer sheet.
- Multiple choice - multiple answers
There will be a question/statement with multiple options, generally five to six. The candidate is to select the two/three options as asked for in the instructions. This question again is to assess the wider understanding of the candidate about the talk/conversation.
Test takers are required to match a numbered list of items from the listening text to a set of options on the question paper. Here, the candidates' understanding of minute details of everyday conversation is assessed.
- Plan, map, diagram labelling
Test takers have to complete the labelling of a map, plan or a diagram such as the map of a township, plan of the school or a diagram of a machine. You will usually select the answers from a list given on the question paper. This question types assesses the understanding of details of a place, an event etc.
- Note completion
Test takers are required to fill in the gaps to share the details in form of notes in an outline of part or of all of the listening text. The outline will focus on the main ideas/facts given in the text. The focus of the assessment is again on the details here.
- Sentence completion
Test takers read a set of sentences summarizing key information from listening all the text or from one part of it. They then fill in the blanks in each sentence using information from the listening text. A word limit is given, for example, ''NO MORE THAN ONE WORD AND/OR A NUMBER'. Test takers are penalized for writing more than the given word limit.
- Short-answer questions
Test takers are asked to read a question and then write a short answer using information from the listening text. A word limit is given, for example, ''NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER'. Test takers lose score for writing more than the stated number of words. (Test takers should stay within the given word limit for each task.) Contracted words will not be tested. Hyphenated words count as single words. Sometimes test takers are given a question asking them to list two or three points.
- Summary completion
The candidate will complete summary of the whole conversation or talk or part of it with one/two/three words as instructed. This is to assess the listening comprehension of the candidates on a wider level.
- Form completion
It may be a form often used to record factual details such as names.
- Flow-chart completion
A flow-chart is used to summarize a process which has clear stages, with the direction of the process shown by arrows.
- Table completion
A table is used as a way of summarizing information which relates to clear categories - e.g. place/time/price.
The Reading section consists of 03-04 sections with 13-14 questions each, though the total number of questions is 40 only. The passages for both Academic & General Training Reading test are different as per the requirements of the test version. The section has to be completed in the given time as there is no option of taking extra time.
- Short-answer questions
Test takers answer questions, which usually relate to factual information about details in the text and thus, it is imperative for the text to have a lot of factual information and detail.
- Identifying Information (True/False/Not Given)
Test takers will be given a number of statements and asked: 'Do the following statements agree with the information in the text?' They are then required to write 'true', 'false' or 'not given' in the boxes given on their answer sheets. It is important to understand that there is a difference between 'false' and 'not given'. 'False' means that the passage states the opposite of the statement in question; 'not given' means that the statement is neither confirmed nor contradicted by the information given in the passage.
- Identifying Writer's View (Yes/No/Not Given)
Test takers will be given a number of statements and asked: ''Do the following statements agree with the views/claims of the writer?' They are required to answer by writing 'yes', 'no' or 'not given' in the boxes given on their answer sheet. Note the difference between 'no' and 'not given'. 'No' means that the views or claims of the writer explicitly 'do not agree' with the statement, i.e. the writer has somewhere expressed the view or made a claim opposite to the one given in the question; 'not given' means that the view or claim is nowhere confirmed or contradicted in the passage.
- Summary completion
Test takers are given a summary of a section of the text, and are required to complete it with information drawn from the text. The summary is usually only one part of the passage rather than the whole passage itself. The given information may have several connected sentences of text (referred to as a summary).
- Note completion
Test takers are given a summary of a section of the text, and are required to complete it with information drawn from the text. The summary will usually have only one part of the passage rather than the whole. The given information may be in the form of: several notes (referred to as notes).
- MCQ One answer/multiple answers
Multiple choice tests a wide range of reading skills, including detailed understanding of specific points or an overall understanding of the main points of the text. There can be four to six options to a question or a statement.
- Match sentence endings
Test takers are given the first half of a sentence based on the text and asked to choose the best way to complete it from a list of possible options. They will have more options to choose from than there are questions. Test takers must write the letter they have chosen on the answer sheet given. The questions are given in the same order as the information in the passage: which means that the answers to the questions can be found in the same order in the text as the questions itself. It is the same with any type of text.
- Matching information
Test takers are asked to find specific information from the lettered paragraphs/sections of a text, and write the letters of the correct paragraphs/sections as their answers in the boxes on their answer sheet. They may also be required to find: specific details, like an example, a reason, a comparison, a description, a summary or an explanation. Sometimes, they may not necessarily need to find information in every paragraph/section of the text, but there may be more than one piece of information that test takers will need to locate in a given paragraph/section. In this case, they will be told that they can use a letter more than once.
- Flowchart completion
Test takers are given a summary of a section of the text, and are required to complete it with information drawn from the text. The summary will usually be only one part of the passage rather than the whole passage. The given information may be in the form of: a series of boxes or steps linked by arrows to show a sequence of events, with some boxes or steps that are completely or partially empty (referred to as a flow-chart).
- Matching Headings
Test takers are given a list of headings, usually identified with lower-case Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, etc,). A heading refers to the main idea of the paragraph or section of the text. Test takers are required to match the heading to the correct paragraphs or sections, that are marked alphabetically. Test takers will write the appropriate Roman numerals in the boxes on their answer sheets. There will always be more headings than there are paragraphs or sections, so that some headings will not be used. It can also be possible that some paragraphs or sections may not be given in the task. One or more paragraphs or sections may already be have a matched heading to show as an example for test takers. This task type is used with texts with paragraphs or sections that have clearly defined themes.
- Matching features
Test takers will match a set of statements or pieces of information to a list of options. The options will be a group of features from the text, and can be identified by letters. Test takers may, for example, be required to match different characteristics to age groups, or research findings to a list of researchers or events to historical periods, etc. It is not necessary that all the options have to be used or used only once. It may be possible that some are not used at all. There are instructions for test takers to inform them if options may be used more than once.
- Table completion
Test takers are given a summary of a section of the text, and are required to complete it with information drawn from the text. The summary is usually only one part of the passage rather than the whole passage. The given information may be in the form of: a table with some of its cells empty or partially empty (referred to as a table).
- Diagram label completion
Test takers are required to complete labels on a diagram, which explains or relates to a description contained in the text. There are instructions informing the word limit/numbers that the test takers should use in their answers.
This test is of 60 minutes with two tasks to complete. Task 2 is same for both Academic & General Training Writing i.e essay while Task 1 is a letter for General Training candidates and description of a image is to be done in the Academic version.
- Task 1 for Academic
In Academic Writing Task 1, test takers may be asked to describe facts or figures presented in one or more charts, graphs or tables on a related topic; or a diagram of a machine, a process or a device and asked to explain how it works. They should write in an academic or semi-formal/neutral style and include the most important and the most relevant points in the diagram. Some minor points or details may be left out. Test takers should not spend more than 20 minutes on this task. They are asked to write at least 150 words and will be penalized if their answer is too short.
- Task 1 for General Training
In General Training Writing Task 1, test takers are presented with a situation and required to write a personal response in the form of a formal, informal, or a semi-formal of at least 150 words. There is an answer booklet provided to write your answers. They are asked to write about general, everyday situations such as: writing to a store manager regarding a faulty product, writing to your friend to invite her on your wedding, or writing to a publication regarding some misinformation in one of their newspapers.
- Task 2 for Academic & General Training
In Writing Task 2, test takers are given a topic to write about an academic or semi-formal/neutral style. Answers should be a discursive consideration of the relevant issues. Test takers must read the task carefully and provide a full and relevant responses. For example, if the topic is a particular aspect of computers, the answer should focus on this aspect in their response. They should not simply write about computers in general. Test takers should spend no more than 40 minutes on completing this section. They are asked to write at least 250 words and will be penalized if their answer is too short. While test takers will not be penalized for writing more than 250 words, if they write a very long answer they may not have time for checking and correcting at the end. Also, some ideas may not be directly related to the question.
This is a one to one interview/interaction with the examiner who engages you in speaking beginning with the basic level to more comprehensive expressions. This speaking test continues for around 14 minutes but no less than 12 minutes.
- Introduction and Interview
In this part, the examiner introduces himself/herself and checks the test takers' identity following which they examiners usually asks them some common questions related to the test taker such as family, work, interests, and studies. To ensure consistency, questions are taken from a script. This part lasts for 4-5 minutes.
- Long Turn/ First Question
Part 2 is the individual long turn. The test taker gets a task card the examiner asking the test takers to speak about a particular topic. The examiner includes points to cover in their talk and instructs the test takers to explain one aspect of the topic. Test takers have one minute to prepare their talk, and are given a pencil and paper to make notes. The test taker then talks for 1 to 2 minutes on the given topic after which the examiner intervenes to ask one or two questions related to the same topic. It is important to structure the talk for two minutes and have clear, crisp ideas for the same without any interruption. The points on the cards and the notes scribbled during the preparation time will help in paving the direction of the discussion.
In Part 3, the examiner and the test takers discuss issues related to the topic in Part 2 in a more general and abstract way and, where appropriate, in greater depth. This part lasts for 03-04 minutes.
IELTS results are reported on a 9-band scale.
IELTS results are designed in a way that is simple and easy to understand. The results are reported as band scores on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest).
The IELTS scales are as follows :
|Band score||Skill level||Description|
|9||Expert user||The test taker has fully operational command of the language. Their use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and shows complete understanding.|
|8||Very good user||The test taker has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. They may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. They handle complex and detailed argumentation well.|
|7||Good user||The test taker has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. They generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.|
|6||Competent user||The test taker has an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. They can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.|
|5||Modest user||The test taker has a partial command of the language and copes with overall meaning in most situations, although they are likely to make many mistakes. They should be able to handle basic communication in their own field.|
|4||Limited user||The test taker's basic competence is limited to familiar situations. They frequently show problems in understanding and expression. They are not able to use complex language.|
|3||Extremely limited user||The test taker conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication.|
|2||Intermittent user||The test taker has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.|
|1||Non-user||The test taker has no ability to use the language except a few isolated words.|
|0||Did not attempt the test||The test taker did not answer the questions.|
A score is given for each test component – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. These individual scores are then averaged and rounded to produce an overall band score.