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IELTS Test Explained

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System, and has been developed and designed to assess the language capabilities of students that want to study or work in Native English speaking countries, such as Australia, US, Britain etc.

Why Take an IELT Exam?

Thousands of people across the world prepare to take their IELTS exam every year. What does a pass mark in an IELTS test give you? Well most importantly it gives students the opportunity to study in language schools not only here in the UK, but other world class renowned institutions in countries that require students to have a good level and ability to speak English; these countries include the likes of Australia, America etc.

If students do not attain a certain level of English, those students could have a detrimental effect on the general level of education within universities and further education institutions; having to explain 2 or 3 times what you mean will slow lessons up for others and is unfair practice. Not only is it unfair on the more competent English speakers, readers and writers, but students learning within English speaking based countries that do not have great English skills, will undoubtedly have a negative impact on their own learning; making the IELTS competency test a good idea.

IELT Ownership

IELTS itself is in joint partnership in terms of management, with the University of Cambridge, so it isn’t to be sneered at and is perhaps one of the main reasons as to why institutions across the world use this exam to determine whether or not a student can enter a specific country to be taught; you see, it isn’t all about how much money students need to pay, but the English language competence level (speaking and writing).

What’s involved in the IELT Test?

The IELT test includes four elements, these are; writing, reading, speaking and listening and each student taking the test must sit each of the four parts to the exam. However, depending on what the students select i.e. the Academic IELTS test or the General Training IELTS test, they are required to sit different reading and writing tests, but the listening and speaking tests are the same. On occasion, the speaking test is taken by students on another date.

IETLS Listening Test

The IELTS listening test is split up into four sub-sections and lasts for approximately half an hour. The listening test is played on CD/cassette tape, with the sections played in ascending order of difficulty, so expect the easiest first. There is no going back to any of the questions already played, so you must listen carefully to each question.

IELTS Reading Test 

The reading section of the category is split up into just three sections this time and lasts for an hour.The IELT reading test is one of the tests that can be varied for students, as they are provided with either the Academic Reading test paper or the General Training Reading test paper. Again the difficulty of the sections is in ascending order.

IELTS writing test 

The IELT writing test is rather similar to the reading test; the test lasts for an hour and students take either an Academic test or a General Training test. In addition, all students are required to carry out two writing tasks, both of which are designed to test two styles of students writing skills and techniques. Just to add, there isn’t a choice of writing or question topics.

IELTS speaking test 

The speaking test is a little different from the other three in terms of set-up of the exam, as the test requires students to take part in an interview with a trained examiner, face-to-face.

So, what does the examiner expect from the interviewee;

First of all the examiner will take the interviewee through each part of the test, these include:

  • An introduction
  • Interview;
  • Individual Speaking – each candidate is required to speak about a subject for approximately one to two minutes, with the examiner then involving the student in a two-way discussion in relation to the topic spoken by the student.
  • The speaking test/interview will last for approximately 10-15 minutes, depending on the examiner and length of discussion.


There are four sub-test elements for each student to complete; reading, writing, speaking and listening. Two of the tests are different for students depending on whether they choose to take the Academic or General Training route.

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License: Image author owned
License: Image author owned
License: Image author owned
Mark Johnson has several years experience teaching students English language courses and has provided advice to several students in relation to ielts preparation courses.

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