IELTS Test Format
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The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is widely renowned as a means of assessing the language ability of candidates who wish to study or work in a foreign country where English is the main language of communication. As of today, IELTS is recognized and accepted by many universities in countries like the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and so on. The exam is designed to test all four language skills, i.e the ability to listen, read, write and speak in English. The test is then graded on a 9-band scale (1 being the lowest and 9 being the highest). These Practice Tests are designed to give future IELTS candidates an idea of whether their English is at the required level.
IELTS is owned by three partners: Cambridge English Language Assessment, part of the University of Cambridge; the British Council; IDP Education Pty Limited (through its subsidiary company, IELTS Australia Pty Limited). Further information on IELTS can be found on the IELTS website www.ielts.org.
IELTS Eligibility Criteria
There aren’t any specific eligibility criteria for the IELTS examination. Anyone who is 16 years or above can attempt the IELTS exam.
What is the Test Format?
The IELTS exam consists of four components, Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. But the test format for each section may slightly differ based on the purpose of writing the test and the mode of how you’re writing the test.
Based on the purpose of writing the test
Under this, there are two types of tests, Academic module and General Training module. Under both the formats, the Reading and Writing tests may slightly differ but the Listening and Speaking tests will be the same.
This is for candidates wishing to pursue higher education at undergraduate or postgraduate levels, and for those seeking professional registration.
This is for candidates wishing to migrate to an English-speaking country (Australia, UK, Canada, New Zealand, USA), and also for those wishing look for work experience, enter a training program or look to study at below degree level.
Based on the mode of writing the test
Under this too, there are two types of tests, Paper-based Test and Computer Test.
For those who choose the Paper-Based Test, the Listening, Reading and Writing sections will be done on paper, while the Speaking test will be conducted face-to-face with the IELTS examiner.
For those who choose the Computer Test, the Listening, Reading and Writing sections can be done on a computer, while the Speaking test, like the Paper-based test, will be conducted via face-to-face with the IELTS examiner.
IELTS Test Pattern
As mentioned earlier, the IELTS test includes 4 sections, Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing. The test will be of around 2 hours 45 minutes long.
The test components are taken in the following order:
This section will consist of 40 questions, divided into 4 parts. You’ll be required to complete this in under 30 minutes.
This section also consists of 40 questions, divided into 3 parts and will have to be completed under 60 minutes.
This section will have two task questions and you’ll have a total of 60 minutes to complete both of them.
This section will take around 12-14 minutes and is designed to assess your ability to speak fluently.
Total Test Time
2 hours 44 minutes
This test consists of four sections, with ten questions each. The first section will be a conversation between two speakers and the second section is a monologue. The third section will also be a discussion among 3 – 4 people and the fourth section is a monologue. The final two sections will be concerned with situations related to educational or training contexts.
A variety of question types are given including multiple-choice, matching, plan/map/ diagram labelling, form completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, summary completion, sentence completion and short-answer questions.
Candidates can only hear the recording once and will have to answer the questions as they listen. Ten minutes will be allowed at the end, to transfer the answers to the answer sheet.
This test consists of three sections with a total of 40 questions. There will be three texts, taken from journals, books, magazines and newspapers.
In Academic Reading, the 3 parts will contain texts that will usually be related to topics like science, sociology and can even be a form of illustration.
In General Reading, the 3 parts will have texts of different topics. Part 1 will contain a text that’s mostly related to everyday life, part 2 will contain a text related to jobs and application procedures, while part 3 will contain a long passage on a general topic of interest.
A variety of question types is given, including multiple-choice, identifying information (True/False/Not Given), identifying the writer’s views/claims (Yes/No/Not Given), matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, diagram label completion and short-answer questions.
This test consists of two tasks and the total time given is 60 minutes, so candidates shouldn’t spend more than 20 minutes on Task 1 (150-word essay) so they have around 40 minutes for Task 2, (250-word essay). Task 2 contributes twice as much as Task 1 to the Writing score.
In Academic Writing, task 1 will include a diagram, or some data (in a graph, table or chart) and present the information in their own words. They’ll be assessed on their ability to organise, present and possibly compare data, describe the stages of a process, or explain how something works. While task 2 will contain a topic on which the student will have to write an essay of at least 250 words.
In General Writing, task 1 will be a question that’ll require you to write a letter (formal/semi-formal/informal) to either your friend, family member, manager or landlord. While task 2 will contain a topic for essay writing.
In Task 2, candidates will be assessed on their ability to present a solution to the problem, present and justify an opinion, compare and contrast evidence and opinions, and evaluate and challenge ideas, evidence or arguments.
Candidates are also assessed on their ability to write in an appropriate style. More information on assessing the Writing test, including Writing assessment criteria (public version), is available on the IELTS website.
This test takes around 11 – 14 minutes and will be conducted by a trained examiner.
It has three parts:
Part 1: The candidate and the examiner introduce themselves. Candidates then answer general questions about themselves, their home/family, their job/studies, background, interests and a wide range of similar familiar topic areas. This part lasts for 4 – 5 minutes.
Part 2: The candidate will be given a task card with prompts and asked to talk on a particular topic. One minute’s time will be given to prepare during which they can make some notes if they wish. This speaking part goes on for about 1 – 2 minutes. The examiner then asks one or two questions on the same topic.
Part 3: The examiner and the candidate engage in a discussion of more abstract issues which are thematically linked to the topic in Part 2. The discussion lasts for around 4 – 5 minutes.
The Speaking test assesses whether candidates can communicate effectively in English. The assessment takes into account Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, and Pronunciation. More information on assessing the Speaking test, including Speaking assessment criteria (public version), is available on the IELTS website.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How long does the IELTS exam take?
What is the key difference in the IELTS Test format between the Academic and General Training tests?
Which skills are assessed in the IELTS Writing Task 1 and 2?
What are the different types of IELTS?
Who is eligible to take the IELTS?
What are the skills assessed in the IELTS Speaking test?