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 completed on the same day, with no breaks in between them. The Speaking test, however, will be conducted up to a week before or after the other tests. The total test time 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 are required to complete labels on a plan (e.g. of a building), map (e.g. of part of a town) or diagram (e.g. of a piece of equipment). The answers are usually selected from a list 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 in the text. Here the focus of assessment is again on the details.
- Sentence completion
Test takers are required to read a set of sentences summarising key information from all the listening text or from one part of it. They then fill a gap 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 stated number of words.
- Short-answer questions
Test takers are required 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 are penalised for writing more than the stated number of words. (Test takers should check this word limit carefully for each task.) Contracted words will not be tested. Hyphenated words count as single words. Sometimes test takers are given a question which asks 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. No extra time is given to verify or submit the answers or the test.
- Short-answer questions
Test takers answer questions, which usually relate to factual information about details in the text. This is most likely to be used with a text that contains 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 on their answer sheets. It is important to understand the 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 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 write 'yes', 'no' or 'not given' in the boxes on their answer sheet. It is important to understand the difference between 'no' and 'not given'. 'No' means that the views or claims of the writer explicitly disagree with the statement, i.e. the writer somewhere expresses the view or makes a claim which is opposite to the one given in the question; 'not given' means that the view or claim is neither confirmed nor contradicted.
- 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 will usually be of only one part of the passage rather than the whole. The given information may be in the form of: 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 be of 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. The questions are in the same order as the information in the passage: that is, the answer to the first question in this group will be found before the answer to the second question, and so on. This task type may be used with any type of text.
- Matching information
Test takers are required to locate specific information within the lettered paragraphs/sections of a text, and to write the letters of the correct paragraphs/sections in the boxes on their answer sheet. They may be asked to find: specific details, an example, a reason, a description, a comparison, a summary, an explanation. They will 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 need to locate in a given paragraph/section. When this is the case, they will be told that they can use any 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 of only one part of the passage rather than the whole. 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 of the boxes or steps empty 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 will refer to the main idea of the paragraph or section of the text. Test takers must match the heading to the correct paragraphs or sections, which are marked alphabetically. Test takers 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 is also possible that some paragraphs or sections may not be included in the task. One or more paragraphs or sections may already be matched with a heading as an example for test takers. This task type is used with texts that contain paragraphs or sections with clearly defined themes.
- Matching features
Test takers are required to match a set of statements or pieces of information to a list of options. The options are a group of features from the text, and are identified by letters. Test takers may, for example, be required to match different research findings to a list of researchers, or characteristics to age groups, events to historical periods, etc. It is possible that some options will not be used, and that others may be used more than once. The instructions will inform test takers 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 will usually be of only one part of the passage rather than the whole. 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 relates to a description contained in the text. The instructions will make it clear how many words/numbers 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 graphs, charts or tables on a related topic; or they may be given a diagram of a machine, a device or a process 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 spend no 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 an informal, semi-formal or formal letter of at least 150 words in the answer booklet provided. The situations they are asked to write about are common, everyday ones such as: writing to a college accommodation officer about problems with accommodation, writing to a new employer about time management problems they are having, writing to a local newspaper about a plan to develop a local airport, writing to a renting agency to sort out problems with the heating system in their house.
- 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 should make sure that they read the task carefully and provide a full and relevant response. For example, if the topic is a particular aspect of computers, they 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 this task. 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 and some ideas may not be directly relevant 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. They then ask the test takers general questions on some familiar topics such as home, family, work, studies and interests. 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 examiner gives the test takers a task card which asks the test takers to talk about a particular topic, includes points to cover in their talk and instructs the test takers to explain one aspect of the topic. Test takers are given one minute to prepare their talk, and are given a pencil and paper to make notes. The examiner asks the test takers to talk for 1 to 2 minutes, stops the test takers after 2 minutes, and asks one or two questions on the same topic. Using the points on the task card effectively, and making notes during the preparation time, will help the test takers think of appropriate things to say, structure their talk, and keep talking for 2 minutes. The candidate is given 01-02 minutes for preparation.
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 to be simple and easy to understand. They 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.