The International English language Testing System, or IELTS™, as it is popularly called, is an English Language proficiency test that is required to be taken by non-native students so as to study in countries where the medium of instruction is English. IELTS™ is accepted by Universities in Australia, UK, New Zealand and Canada.
Although there are other English Language Assessment Tests available, IELTS is preferred over them for a number of reasons.Mainly because it is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test with more than 2.5 million tests taken in more than 140 countries in 2014, up from 2 million tests in 2012; recognized by more than 9000 organizations in 135 countries for study, work and migration purposes.
• IELTS is the only English language test where the Speaking test is one-on-one with an examiner in a private room without any distractions.
• Research shows that IELTS motivates test-takers to develop real and well-rounded English rather than learning by memorizing. This means that the understanding of English is improved and it prepares the test taker for the real life in an English-speaking country.
• IELTS test content is developed by an international team of experts and undergoes extensive research to ensure the test remains fair and unbiased for any candidate regardless of nationality, background, gender, lifestyle or location.
• IELTS Examiners are fully qualified and follow the IELTS standardized testing around the world. They have a quality-controlled system of recruitment, training, benchmarking, certification and monitoring. The markers are regularly monitored and tested every two years to retain their certification.
• The IELTS scoring system grades scores consistently. It is secure, bench marked and understood worldwide. Test materials are designed carefully so that every version of the test is of a comparable level of difficulty.
Who should take IELTS?
• IELTS Academic is required for an admission in undergraduate and postgraduate courses to prove that an aspirant has strong skills in English language, which is important to survive the competition and to communicate the ideas effectively in both academic and campus environments. Apart from this, the General Training format focuses on general survival skills in social and workplace contexts. One should take the IELTS test if he/she:
• is planning to study at a higher education institution abroad.
• is applying for English-language learning program admissions and exit.
• is applying for scholarship and certification.
• is an English-language learner who wants to track their progress.
• is a student and/or worker applying for immigration visa.
What is the format for IELTS?
There are two versions of the IELTS:
• Academic – Institutions of Higher and Further Education
• The Academic format is, broadly speaking, for those who want to study or train in an English-speaking university or Institutions of Higher and Further Education. Admission to undergraduate and postgraduate courses is based on the results of the Academic test.
• General Training – for school, work or migration
• The General Training format focuses on basic survival skills in broad social and workplace contexts. It is typically for those who are going to English-speaking countries to do secondary education, work experience or training programs. People migrating to Australia, Canada and New Zealand must sit the General Training test.
• Academic Training General Training
Listening: 4 sections, 40 questions, 30 minutes
Reading: 3 sections, 40 questions, 60 minutes Reading: 3 sections, 40 questions, 60 minutes
Writing: 2 tasks, 60 minutes Writing: 2 tasks, 60 minutes
Speaking: 11 to 14 minutes
What is the Structure of IELTS?
This is the first section of the IELTS you will have to deal with. Well, the listening part is divided into four sections, each consisting of 10 questions and each with a higher degree of difficulty. The first two sections are concerned with social needs. There is a conversion between two speakers and then a monologue. The final two sections are concerned with situations related to educational or training contexts. There is a conversation between up to four people and then a monologue.
A variety of question types is used, including: multiple choice, short – questions, sentence completion, notes/chart/table completion, labeling a diagram, classification, matching.
The main problem that you have got to deal with is that you will be allowed to listen to the cassette just once. In most cases, you have to write down something you hear (could be a phone number, an address, a name, etc.). At times key words like names and numbers are spelt or repeated, but not always.
In the 30-minutes test, you will have to answer a total number of 40 questions, some of which are multiple-choice. According to us, if you get anything more than 30 answers right, it would means a good score, but at times, you may get good enough marks even with 27 or 28 right answers. Ten minutes are allowed at the end to transfer answers to the answer sheet.
The Reading section is different for Academic IELTS and General Training IELTS. However, for both, in the space of 60 minutes, you will be required to answer as many as 40 questions. This, in effect means 20 minutes to each passage.
Academic Training Reading
There are three reading passages, of increasing difficulty, on topics of general interest and candidates have to answer 40 questions. The passages are taken from magazines, journals, books and newspapers. At least one text contains detailed logical argument.
A variety of question types is used, including: multiple choice, short-answer questions, sentence completion, notes/chart/table completion, labeling a diagram, classification, matching lists/phrases, choosing suitable paragraph headings from a list, identification of writer’s views/attitudes – yes, no, not given, or true, false, not given.
General Training Reading
Candidates have to answer 40 questions. There are three sections of increasing difficulty, containing texts taken from notices, advertisements, leaflets, newspapers, instruction manuals, books and magazines. The first section contains texts, relevant to basic linguistic survival in English, with tasks mainly concerned with providing factual information. The second section focuses on the training context and involves texts of more complex language. The third section involves reading more extended texts, with a more complex structure, but with the emphasis on descriptive and instructive rather than argumentative texts.
A variety of question types is used, including: multiple choice, short-answer questions, sentence completion, notes/chart/table completion, labeling a diagram, classification, matching lists / phrases, choosing suitable paragraph headings from a list, identification of writer’s views/attitudes – yes, no, not given, or true, false, not given
The IELTS does not test your knowledge of English in as much as it tests your comprehension skills. It is more a test of your time management skills and your ability to comprehend in a short time frame. Well, in effect you have to complete two writing tasks in just one hour. The Writing section is different for Academic IELTS and General Training IELTS.
Academic Training Writing
There are two tasks and it is suggested that candidates spend about 20 minutes on Task 1, which requires them to write at least 150 words for 40 minutes on Task 2 – 250 words. The assessment of Task 2 carries more weight in marking than Task 1.
In Task 1 candidates are asked to look at a diagram or table and to present the information in their own words. They are assessed on their ability to organize, present and possibly compare data, describe the stages of a process, describe an object or event, explain how something works.
In Task 2 candidates are presented with a point of view, argument or problem. They are assessed on their ability to present a solution to the problem, present and justify an opinion, compare and contrast evidence and opinions, evaluate and challenge ideas, evidence or arguments.
General Training Writing
There are two tasks and it is suggested that candidates spend about 20 minutes on Task 1, which requires them to write at least 150 words, and 40 minutes on Task 2 – 250 words. The assessment of Task 2 carries more weight in marking than Task 1
In Task 1 candidates are asked to respond to give problem with a letter requesting information or explaining a situation. They are assessed on their ability to engage in personal correspondence, elicit and provide general factual information, express needs, wants, likes and dislikes, express opinions, complaints, etc
In Task 2 candidates are presented with a point of view, argument or problem. They are assessed on their ability to provide general factual information, outline a problem and present a solution, prevent and justify an opinion, evaluate and challenge ideas, evidence or arguments.
In this 14-minute section, is usually a conversation about you, your life, your aspirations, your studies and your town. You should be ready to talk on these subjects.
In addition, the examiner will show you a card with an argument and you will have to that. Use simple words and expressions. This is to test your ability to communicate what you think. Your accent, pronunciation, etc are not all that important. What is more important is your understanding of what the examiner says and your ability to communicate clearly and effectively. The conversation usually lasts 15-20 minutes and will be recorded.
How is the SCORING for IELTS?
There is no pass or fail in IELTS. Candidates are graded on their performance in the test, using scores from 1 to 9 for each part of the test – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Your results from the four parts then produce an Overall Band Score.
This unique 9-band system measures scores in a consistent manner – wherever and whenever the test is taken. It is internationally recognized and understood, giving you a reliable international currency.
The IELTS 9-band scale
Each band corresponds to a level of English competence. All parts of the test and the Overall Band Score can be reported in whole and half bands, eg 6.5, 7.0, 7.5, 8.0.
Band 9: Expert user: has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
Band 8: Very good user: has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well
Band 7: Good user: has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
Band 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.
Band 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.
Band 4: Limited user: basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.
Band 3: Extremely limited user: conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
Band 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. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English
Band 1: Non-user: essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
Band 0: Did not attempt the test: No assessable information provided
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