When you apply to a university abroad, you will be asked to prove your English language proficiency through standardised test like IELTS. One of the world’s most popular English proficiency tests, IELTS is taken by more than 2.5 million people across the globe. The test is considered as a crucial element of the admission process. While different universities abroad have different admission requirements, IELTS scores are accepted by majority of universities across the world.
The English proficiency test is scored on a 9-band scale while other standardised tests like TOEFL and PTE are scored out of 120 and 10-90 respectively. The scoring process for IELTS is different from that of standardised tests, therefore, it is necessary to understand how to calculate and understand IELTS scores.
IELTS is divided into two parts -- Academic and General. IELTS Academic is preferred by aspirants who plan to take undergraduate or postgraduate programmes in a foreign country. IELTS General focuses on learning survival skills in social and workplace environment. In both cases, listening, reading and writing sections are completed on the same day while the speaking section can be accomplished up to a week or before or after other tests.
The total duration of the test is 2 hours and 45 minutes: listening 30 minutes, reading 60 minutes, writing 60 minutes and speaking for approximately 11-14 minutes.
FOCUS OF THE TEST
IELTS Listening section:
The Listening section of IELTS has four sub-sections. The first one is a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context. Second is a monologue or a speech. Third section is a conversation among a maximum of four people set in an academic setting and the final one is a monologue on an academic subject, for instance, an academic lecture. Each section is heard only once.
IELTS Reading section:
According to the IELTS syllabus 2017, the Reading section assesses the test taker’s skill in reading as she/he answers the questions (multiple choice, sentence completion, summary writing, matching information, short-answers etc.) after reading one long text in each of the sections. The Reading component consists of 40 questions. A variety of question types like reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument, recognising writers' opinions, attitudes and purpose are used in order to test a wide range of reading skills.
The Academic version of the syllabus of IELTS includes three long texts which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. The texts are authentic and are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. These have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for candidates entering university courses or seeking professional registration.
IELTS General Training:
According to the IELTS 2017 Syllabus, the General Training version requires candidates to read extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines. These are materials you are likely to encounter on a daily basis in an English-speaking environment.
IELTS Writing section:
The IELTS writing section varies for the two versions. In each version, the section consists of two tasks:
The writing component of IELTS Academic includes two tasks. Topics are of general interest and suitable for candidates planning undergraduate and postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration.
You will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. You may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event.
You will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Responses to both tasks must be in a formal style.
IELTS General Training:
The writing component of IELTS General Training includes two tasks which are based on topics of general interest.
You will be presented with a situation and asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal in style.
You will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The essay can be slightly more personal in style than the Academic Writing Task 2 essay.
IELTS Speaking section:
The IELTS Speaking test which is in recorded form consists of three parts that simulate a face-to-face oral interview with an examiner. The Speaking component assesses your use of spoken English, and takes between 11 to 14 minutes to complete. Every test is recorded. The Speaking component is delivered in such a way that it does not allow candidates to rehearse set responses beforehand.
The examiner will ask you broad questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics, such as home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts between four and five minutes.
You will be given a card which asks you to talk about a topic. You will have one minute to prepare before speaking for up to two minutes. The examiner will then ask one or two questions on the same topic to finish this part of the test.
You will be asked further questions connected to the topic in Part 2. These questions will give you the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issue. The part of the test lasts between four to five minutes.
Since there is no minimum eligibility criterion for IELTS, aspirants who wish to pursue opportunities in English speaking countries can register for the test by applying through the IELTS application form. It should be noted that the selection procedure through IELTS varies from institution to institution. Hence, it is advisable that the candidate should be knowledgeable about the selection procedure and minimum IELTS result requirement for their respective organisation.
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I first started teaching English in 2005 after a successful career in the Oil & Gas industry. My first job was in an English school in Libya, teaching young adults to prepare for university or their first jobs. I went from Libya to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. In all my travels, I met many thousands of people wishing to learn English and made many, many new friends! I was also very lucky to visit new countries and learn about their culture and history.