The International English language Testing System, commonly known as IELTS, is a standardized test that measures English language proficiency. It is taken by the people who intend to study, work, train or migrate to a country where English is the language of communication. Even though people who have studied in english medium schools and colleges in their respective countries need to give this test so as to prove their english skills as part of recruitment or admission requirements. IELTS is a requirement for almost every educational institution, workplace, professional registration and government agencies. It is accepted in countries like UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA, and various other organizations all over the world.

IELTS vs. PTE

PTE (Pearson Test of English) was launched in 2009 by Pearson and is very new in the field of testing and certifying english language proficiency for non-native english speakers. PTE is a computer based test where as IELTS is paper based test. Both the tests have two versions: Academic and general, but PTE has an additional version known as young learners test which is used to measure english communication skills in children. The structure of both the test is similar consisting of reading, writing, listening and speaking but the content may vary. In the speaking section in IELTS, the candidate has to have a live conversation that is recorded where as in PTE the candidate speaks into a microphone, no live conversation is made. In IELTS time is set for each paper and the candidate can go forward and backward but in PTE the candidate only moves forward and each section is timed. PTE is computer based scoring; grading the candidate in the band 10-90 and IELTS has manual scoring pattern using the band 0-9.

Planning to study in the UK?

IELTS is acceptable worldwide but if someone wants to study or work or migrate to UK, they need to appear for IELTS for UKVI i.e. UK visas and immigration. A standard IELTS score is not accepted in the UK. It is a UK government approved test known as Secure English Language Test (SELT). The UKVI-IELTS score is same as standard IELTS score and is accepted in other countries as well. It also has two versions: academic and general, similar to IELTS. The only difference between the two tests is that UKVI-IELTS is a little expensive as compared to standard IELTS and the test can be taken only at secure test centres that come under the british council.

Versions of IELTS

There are two versions of IELTS:

  • Academic: It is for the people who are seeking admissions in universities and other institutions for higher education or seeking professional registration such as nurse or doctors.
  • General: It is for the people who intend to undertake non-academic training or work experience or immigration purposes.

IELTS test partners also offer a separate test called IELTS life skills which is used to apply for ‘family of a settled person’ visa.

Structure of the IELTS

The test has four sections:

  • Listening

The candidate will listen to four recordings in english and then answer the questions.

  • Recording 1: A conversation between two people will be played set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 2: A monologue set in an everyday social context will be played (e.g.: A speech).
  • Recording 3: A conversation between 3 o 4 people will be played set in an educational content (e.g.: A teacher and his students discussing over a lecture).
  • Recording 4: An academic subject monologue (e.g.: A lecture).

It is a 30 minutes test plus 10 minutes are given to transfer the answer to the answer sheet.

  • Reading

This section comprises of 40 questions from three texts measuring a wide range of reading skills.

  • IELTS Academic: The texts will be from magazines, books, journals or newspapers. The topics will be of general interest for a non-specialist group, appropriate for candidates who intend to go for university courses or seeking registration.
  • IELTS General: The texts will be from newspapers, company handbooks, advertisements or books. The topics will be based on materials one could come across on a daily basis in an english speaking environment.
  • Writing
  • IELTS Academic: The two tasks will be:
  • task 1: A graph, table, flowchart or a diagram will be given and the candidate is asked to summarize, describe or explain the information given in his own words.
  • task 2: The candidate will be asked to write an essay on a point of view, argument or a problem.

The response to both the tasks should be in formal style.

  • IELTS General: This version of the test also has two tasks:
  • task 1: A situation will be given and the candidate will be asked to either explain the situation in his own words or write a letter asking for information. It can be in personal, semi-formal or formal style.
  • task 2: The candidate will be asked to write an essay on a point of view, argument or a problem. The essay can be personal in style.
  • Speaking

This section assesses the use of spoken english. There are three parts in this section and everything is recorded.

  • part 1: The candidate will be asked general questions on the topics like home, family, interests etc. This will be for 4 to 5 minutes.
  • part 2: The candidate will be given a card with a topic written on it. You will be given one minute to prepare before speaking on that topic for up to 2 minutes.
  • part 3: The candidate will be asked questions about the topic in part 2 and a discussion will be held for up to 4 to 5 minutes.

Listening: 40 minutes

Reading: 60 minutes

Writing: 60 minutes

Speaking: 10-14 minutes

The total time of the test is 2 hours 55 minutes.

The listening, reading and writing test are to be completed the same day whereas speaking test can be taken on the same day or within seven days before or after that day. All the candidates take same listening and speaking test but reading and writing test differ depending upon academic or general version of the test.

Things to be careful of

It is a paper based test, so the handwriting must be legible. An examiner puts in all the efforts to understand the handwriting but if the handwriting is completely illegible then the words are considered misspelled. Handwriting is very critical and crucial; if not understandable then it may result in poor scores. The candidate giving the test should be very careful with the english spelling he/she is using i.e. British english or American english spellings.