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IELTS is the International English Language Testing System which tests English proficiency across the globe. It was established in 1989 and is accepted by more than 7,000 organisations worldwide which include universities, immigration departments, government agencies, professional bodies and multinational companies.
IELTS is jointly owned by British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL) and offered through over 800 test centres and locations in over 130 countries. IELTS has two versions – Academic and General Training. The Academic test is for those who want to study at a tertiary level in an English-speaking country. The General Training test is for those who want to do work experience or training programs, secondary school or migrate to an English-speaking country. All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking tests but different Reading and Writing tests. As a student, you will take the academic version of the exam. Just like the TOEFL, IELTS has four sections:
Listening (30 minutes)
Reading (60 minutes)
Writing (60 minutes)
Speaking (11–14 minutes)
The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes. The Listening, Reading and Writing tests are done in one sitting. The Speaking test may be on the same day or up to seven days before or after the other tests.
The 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 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.
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.
In the Academic module, there are two tasks: in Task 1 candidates describe a diagram, graph, process or chart, and in Task 2 they respond to an argument. Task 1 is expected to be about 150 words in length while task 2 is 250 words. The writing general test also has two sections(tasks) but the point of difference is in the task 1. The general writing task 1 requires test takers to write a letter describing a situation, evaluating or complaining about an issue. The timing and numbers of words are required
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. This last section is more abstract, and is usually considered the most difficult.
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 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.|
The highest IELTS Band required by a university is 8.5, by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University; the only US institution to require this band. Most IELTS requirements by universities fall between 5.5 and 7.0.
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