The IELTS incorporates the following features:
- A variety of accents and writing styles have presented in text materials in order to minimise linguistic bias.
- IELTS tests the ability to listen, read, write and speak in English.
- Band scores used for each language sub-skill (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking). The Band Scale ranges from 0 (“Did not attempt the test”) to 9 (“Expert User”).
- The speaking module – a key component of IELTS. This is conducted in the form of a one-to-one interview with an examiner. The examiner assesses the candidate as he or she is speaking, but the speaking session is also recorded for monitoring as well as re-marking in case of an appeal against the banding given.
- IELTS is developed with input from item writers from around the world. Teams are located in the USA, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other English-speaking nations.
IELTS test structure
All candidates must complete four Modules – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking – to obtain a band score, which is shown on the IELTS Test Report Form (TRF). All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking Modules, while the Reading and Writing Modules differ depending on whether the candidate is taking the Academic or General Training Versions of the Test.
The listening module comprises four sections. Each section begins with a short introduction telling the candidates about the situation and the speakers. Then they have some time to look through the questions. The first three sections have a break in the middle allowing candidates to look at the remaining questions. Each section is heard only once. SID
In the academic module the reading test comprises three sections, with 3 texts normally followed by 13 or 14 questions for a total of 40 questions overall. The General test also has 3 sections. However the texts are shorter, so there can be up to 5 texts to read.
This consists of two sections. In the first section, in the academic module, candidates need to describe a diagram or chart. In the general module, candidates need to write a letter. The second section takes the form of an essay.
The speaking test contains three sections. The first section takes the form of an interview during which candidates may be asked about their hobbies, interests, reasons for taking IELTS exam as well as other general topics such as clothing, free time, computers and the internet or family. In the second section candidates are given a topic card and then have one minute to prepare after which they must speak about the given topic. The third section involves a discussion between the examiner and the candidate, generally on questions relating to the theme which they have already spoken about in part 2.
The total test duration is around 2 hours and 45 minutes for Listening, Reading and Writing modules.
- Listening: 40 minutes, 30 minutes for which a recording is played centrally and additional 10 minutes for transferring answers onto the OMR answer sheet.
- Reading: 60 minutes.
- Writing: 60 minutes.
- Speaking: 11–14 minutes.
(N.B.: No additional time is given for transfer of answers in Reading and Writing modules)
The first three modules – Listening, Reading and Writing (always in that order) – are completed in one day, and in fact are taken with no break in between. The Speaking Module may be taken, at the discretion of the test centre, in the period seven days before or after the other Modules.
The tests are designed to cover the full range of ability from non-user to expert user.
IELTS is scored on a nine-band scale, with each band corresponding to a specified competence in English. Overall Band Scores are reported to the nearest half band.
The following rounding convention applies: if the average across the four skills ends in .25, it is rounded up to the next half band, and if it ends in .75, it is rounded up to the next whole band.
The nine bands are described as follows:
|9||Expert User||Has full operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.|
|8||Very Good User||Has full operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.|
|7||Good User||Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriateness and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.|
|6||Competent User||Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.|
|5||Modest user||Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.|
|4||Limited User||Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in using complex language.|
|3||Extremely Limited User||Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations.|
|2||Intermittent User||No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs.|
|1||Non User||Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.|
|0||Did not attempt the test||No assessable information provided at all.|
A 6.5 IELTS score lies roughly between B2 and C1 levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and >8 scores are C2.
This table can be used for the Listening tests to convert raw scores to band scores. This chart is a guide only, because sometimes the scores adjust slightly depending on how difficult the exam is.
|Raw score||40 – 41||37 – 39||35 – 36||33 – 34||28 – 32||26 – 27||23 – 25||21 – 22||18 – 20||15 – 17||12 – 14||10 – 11||8 – 9||6 – 7||4 – 5||2 – 3||1||0|
Locations and test dates
The test is taken every year in 500 locations across 121 countries, and is one of the fastest growing English language tests in the world. The number of candidates has grown from about 80,000 in 1999 to over 1,200,000 in 2009.
The top three locations in which candidates took the test in 2007 were:
There are up to 48 test dates available per year. Each test centre offers tests up to four times a month depending on local demand. There used to be a minimum time limit of 90 days before which a person was not allowed to retake the test. However this restriction has been withdrawn and currently there is no limit for applicants to retake the test.
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