Category Archives: About the IELTS test

About IELTS

General advice about preparing for IELTS

General advice about preparing for IELTS

Become familiar with the test format

About IELTS

When you have decided that you need to take the IELTS test, it is worthwhile making sure you are prepared. The first step is to be aware of the format of the test. How long is the reading test? What do I have to do in the writing? What is the examiner assessing in the speaking test? You can find out a lot of the basic information about IELTS by using the links on this site.

Take reliable practice tests

A quick search on the internet for ‘free IELTS practice tests’ will give you hundreds of results (it might even be how you found us!), but it is essential that you are taking tests that are truly preparing you for IELTS. There are many sites written by people with only a very limited knowledge of IELTS offering practice material and tests that are likely to cause more harm than benefit. It should be no surprise that we are recommend our online course, which been written by IELTS trainers with over 10 years of experience in IELTS preparation, so you can be confident that our lessons, exercises and practice tests will prepare you for the real thing.

Join a preparation course

Of course we recommend you enrol in our complete online course as a member –  you will have instant access to the lessons, exercises and practice tests in our complete online IELTS course. To create your enrolment, click here – it takes less than 30 seconds!

Just before test day

One of the most common questions we are asked by candidates about to take their test is what they should do in the final days beforehand. Our advice is to study up to 24 hours before your test, but in that final 24 hour period, it is very important to relax, do something that you enjoy doing but isn’t too tiring and get plenty of rest. Eat a good breakfast on test day and take an iPod or some music on your mobile phone when you go to the test, and don’t start talking to other candidates in your native language. You need to make sure that your brain is already thinking in English before the test begins.

Common myths about IELTS

Common myths about IELTS

Is the IELTS test harder in some countries? Is IDP easier than the British Council? Can you predict the next writing topic?

In the years that we have been teaching and preparing candidates for IELTS, these are some of the comments we have heard and our responses to them.

Is it better to take the IELTS test with IDP or the British Council?

There is absolutely no difference. All of the tests are prepared in exactly the same manner, are pre-tested equally and are marked in exactly the same way. Regardless of whether ‘a friend of a friend got a better result with…’, there will be no difference (and in some cases, they will use exactly the same test materials on the same day).

Do some test centres give higher marks?

No. All test scores are checked by Cambridge, the British Council or IDP and must be marked using the same criteria. However, there are some test centres where the facilities are better (comfortable headphones for the speaking test or speaking examiners who are friendly and encouraging, for example). It is worth asking to look at the testing rooms before you apply to a specific test centre, as many cities have more than one test centre and it can sometimes be worth travelling a little further to find one that you think suits you best.

IELTS tests are reused so you can get a test that you have seen before

Before 2007, this was potentially a possibility (although it was unlikely). However, since 2007 all IELTS have become unique – they are used once only then not used again, so it is impossible to predict what will be in the next IELTS test.

I have to speak in a British or American accent or I will lose points

Pronunciation is important in IELTS, but this does not mean you have to sound like you are from the UK or the USA. You are being assessed only on your ability to communicate and you will only lose marks if your accent makes it too difficult for the examiner to understand.

The more I write in the writing test, the better my result

You have to reach the word limits in the writing test, but writing too much beyond that is likely to actually reduce your score as you are risking showing more errors to the examiner and also being penalised on not being sufficient cohesive or coherent in what you write. Ideally, aim for about 10-15% beyond the required word limit.

Previous comments:
About IELTS

How to book your IELTS test

Booking your IELTS test

Visit the official website

bookingThe first step in booking your IELTS test is to find out the location of your nearest testing centre by clicking here (this will open a new window to the official IELTS website).

Complete the application form

You will then need to complete an application form (click here to download the pdf application form).

Get 2 passport photographs

You need to sign the back of the photographs and make sure that you are not wearing glasses.

Photocopy your ID

This is generally your passport, although in some test centres alternative forms of ID are accepted. Contact your nearest test centre directly. Your ID needs to be valid at the time you are applying for the test.

Take your application form, photos, ID photocopies and the test fee to a test centre

Some test centres actually allow you to post this, but this varies so again, contact the test centre you are applying for.

About IELTS

Differences between the Academic and General Training IELTS test

Differences between the Academic and General Training IELTS test

The two types

Differences between the Academic and General Training IELTS test

There are two types of IELTS test – the Academic Module and the General Training Module. It is important when preparing and applying to sit the exam that you are clear on what test you should be taking.

Is the General Training IELTS test easier than the Academic Module?

Many people believe that the General Training IELTS test is easier because the first two sections of the reading test use less complicated texts, and in Task I of the writing you need to write a letter (in the Academic Module, you need to describe a graph, chart, table or diagram). However, it is important to keep in mind that although the reading may be easier, you actually need more correct answers to get the same bandscore.

General Training reading Academic Module reading
Correct answers Score Correct answers Score
40 9 40 9
38 8.5 38 8.5
37 8 35 8
36 7.5 33 7.5
34 7 30 7
32 6.5 27 6.5
30 6 23 6
26 5.5 19 5.5
23 5 15 5
19 4.5 14 4.5
15 4 12 4
11 3.5 10 3.5
8 3 8 3

What’s the difference?

Both tests cover all four skills but there are a few important differences as shown in the table below.

General Training Module:

 

Listening

Speaking

Writing

Reading

4 sections, 40 questions, 4 recordings 3 parts, 11 to 14 minutes in length 2 tasks – a letter (150 words) and an essay (250 words). Both tasks must be completed within 60 minutes. 3 sections with up to 6 different texts. Section 1 focuses on ‘survival’ English, Section 2 on workplace situations and Section 3 is general reading. A total of 40 questions which must be completed within 60 minutes.

Academic Module

Listening

Speaking

Writing

Reading

[The same as the General Training] [The same as the General Training] 2 tasks – writing about a graph, chart, diagram or table (150 words) and an essay (250 words). Both tasks must be completed within 60 minutes. Each of the 3 sections has a single reading text of between 700 and 100 words. A total of 40 questions which must be completed within 60 minutes.

 

Which one should I take?

The Academic Module is taken by candidates

  • looking for professional registration (e.g. nurse, dentist, lawyer) in an English speaking country
  • aiming to study at university level in an English speaking country.

The General Training Module is taken by candidates

  • moving to live in an English speaking country
  • aiming to study at secondary school level in an English speaking country
  • doing non-academic work experience or training in an English speaking country.

About the IELTS test

About the IELTS test

What is IELTS?

logo
IELTS is the acronym for the International English Language Testing System. It is a test of English language ability. It is increasing in popularity against other English standard tests such as the TOEFL test.

Who accepts IELTS?

The majority of universities and colleges in the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the Republic of Ireland accept IELTS.

Who should take IELTS?

There are three groups of people that commonly need to sit IELTS

  1. People from non-English speaking countries looking for professional registration in an English speaking country. This includes doctors, nurses, dentists etc.
  2. People from non-English speaking countries looking to study at tertiary (university) level in an English speaking country. The exact IELTS result needed depends on the institution and the course required.
  3. People from non-English speaking countries looking to migrate to an English speaking country.

Who owns IELTS?

IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council, the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia.

Where can I get any IELTS practice material?

We have free practice material on this site (click the links on the left hand side) or we have a complete online IELTS preparation course at http://www.IELTStestONLINE.com. The complete course has exercises, videos and practice tests, as well as lessons on other essential IELTS skills like vocabulary, grammar and academic skills (punctuation etc).

How many types of test are there?

There are two types of IELTS test – the Academic Module and General Training module. It is commonly accepted that the Academic Module is slightly more difficult.

What’s the difference?

Both tests cover all four skills but there are a few important differences as shown in the table below.

General Training Module:

 

Listening

Speaking

Writing

Reading

4 sections, 40 questions, 4 recordings 3 parts, 11 to 14 minutes in length 2 tasks – a letter (150 words) and an essay (250 words). Both tasks must be completed within 60 minutes. 3 sections with up to 6 different texts. Section 1 focuses on ‘survival’ English, Section 2 on workplace situations and Section 3 is general reading. A total of 40 questions which must be completed within 60 minutes.

 

Academic Module

Listening

Speaking

Writing

Reading

[The same as the General Training] [The same as the General Training] 2 tasks – writing about a graph, chart, diagram or table (150 words) and an essay (250 words). Both tasks must be completed within 60 minutes. Each of the 3 sections has a single reading text of between 700 and 100 words. A total of 40 questions which must be completed within 60 minutes.

 

Which one should I take?

The Academic Module is taken by candidates

  • looking for professional registration (e.g. nurse, dentist, lawyer) in an English speaking country
  • aiming to study at university level in an English speaking country.

The General Training Module is taken by candidates

  • moving to live in an English speaking country
  • aiming to study at secondary school level in an English speaking country
  • doing non-academic work experience or training in an English speaking country.

What is the TRF? How long is it valid for?

The TRF is the Test Report Form. It is the certificate that you receive with your test scores on. The report is valid for two years after you have taken the test.

What is the scoring system in IELTS?

You can get a result of between 0 and 9.0 for the test, rising in increments of 0.5. Each of the sub skills (writing, reading, listening and speaking) are measured on this scale, then added together and divided by 4 for the total band. Here are some examples:

Example student 1

Example student 2

Example student 3

Writing

6.0 5.0 7.5

Listening

6.0 6.0 6.0

Reading

6.0 6.5 6.5

Speaking

6.5 6.0 6.0

OVERALL BAND:

6.0 6.0 6.5

 

General Writing #1

About IELTS writing

About IELTS writing

It is very important to note that there are significant differences between the Academic Module and the General Training IELTS writing test.

Parts of the test

writingThere are two parts to the IELTS writing test – Task I and Task II. Task I should take approximately 20 minutes and requires you to write at least 150 words, and Task II should take about 40 minutes and you need to write at least 250 words. Note, however, that time management within the IELTS test is your responsibility – you have a total of one hour to write at least 400 words in total, so you can decide how much time to spend on each Task.

Academic and General Training IELTS writing

Task II for the Academic Module and the General Training Module focus on the same skills. However, Task I is significantly different. In the General Training Module, you are required to write 150 words or more in a letter format – this could be a formal, semi formal or informal, depending on the context, and you may be writing to complain, apologise, request or give thanks. In the Academic Module, you are required to write 150 words or more as a report on a graphic – this could be a chart, graph, table, diagram or process.

What is the IELTS writing test assessing?

The IELTS writing test is assessing your ability to write clearly and coherently, using a range of grammar and vocabulary and addressing the task you are given. Your writing is marked by a trained examiner who will evaluate your work based on a set of criteria given by the IELTS organisation.

In Task I, the examiner is marking you on the following:

  • Task Achievement
  • Coherence and Cohesion
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy

In Task II, the examiner is marking you on the following:

  • Task Response
  • Coherence and Cohesion
  • Lexical Resource
  • Grammatical Range and Accuracy

For specifics of what you need to achieve in each band, there are publicly available descriptions. Links to the PDF documents keep changing, so here is a Google search result that will show you their current location!

Topics you can expect in Task II

There are a wide range of possible topics that you may be asked to write about in Task II, but generally it related to one of the following:

  • education
  • health
  • society
  • transport
  • the environment
  • culture
  • technology
Previous comments:

    i need to improve the writing and reading skills

    Dear Ieltsforfree, the following links are not working: Task I public descriptors Task II public descriptors Thanks for repairing.

    How can one end an informal letter, a semi-formal and a formal letter? I dont know if I used the right words but wat I meant is…. E.g. Sincerely, or Yours Sincerely, or Yours faithfuly, etc. I think those are the Formal ways. How about an Informal way?

    Ieltsforfree says:

    Hi Emmanuel, The ending of informal letters often depends on the topic of the letter. For example, if you were writing to a friend who is coming to visit you soon, you could say this: Anyway, looking forward to seeing you! John or if the letter was about thanking a friend for something they did for you, you could say Well, thanks again for your help, John Hope that helps! The team at http://www.IELTSforFREE.com

IELTS speaking

About the IELTS speaking test

IELTS speaking test format

Timing and requirements

IELTS-speaking*Note that the listening test is the same for the General Training and Academic Module test

There are three parts to the IELTS speaking test, with the whole test taking between 11 and 14 minutes. The test is recorded. At the beginning of the test (before the official test has begun) the examiner will read some details into the recorder (date, name of test centre, candidates name etc). Then the real test begins. Note, however, that it is human nature for the examiner to begin the assessment from the time you meet, so a brief ‘Hello’ or ‘Are you having a busy day?’ as you are walking to the test room will give a good first impression.

Part 1 of the IELTS speaking test

In Part 1 of the test, your examiner will ask you questions about yourself. Topics include your hometown, newspaper, music, shopping etc. Within part three, the examiner will ask you questions related to three random topics – for example, the first topic could be about where you work, the second could be about holidays and the third could be about relaxing. Within each of the three categories, the examiner will ask you up to four questions.

In Part 1 of the speaking test, you can speak quite informally, but remember that if you are feeling nervous it can often help to say things that aren’t true for you. For example, if you are asked ‘Do you often read newspapers?‘ but in fact you never do, then think of someone you know who does read a newspaper and answer as though you that person.

Part 2 of the IELTS speaking test

In Part 2 of the test, you will be given a topic card and will be expected to talk about it for two minutes. Note that the examiner will say ‘one to two minutes’, but higher scores are awarded if you can keep going. In an ideal part 2, the examiner will interrupt you and change the subject, which means you have reached the two minutes. Before you talk you will have one minute to prepare what you are going to say. The examiner will give you a paper and pencil to make notes during your preparation time. Remember that when you do start the two minute speech, you can refer to your notes, but don’t keep your head down and simply ‘read’.

Here’s an example speaking topic card:

Describe a childhood friend

You should say:

  • how you first met
  • how long you were friends
  • what you used to do together

and explain why you liked this person.


Part 3 of the IELTS speaking test

In Part 3 of the test, the examiner will ask you to respond on a number of different topics that will be related to the topic card you spoken about in part 2. At this stage, it is important tat your level of vocabulary is raised so you are speaking more formally.

During the test, the examiner is marking your performance based on four scales:

  1. Fluency and coherence
  2. Lexical resource
  3. Grammatical range and accuracy
  4. Pronunciation
Previous comments:

    Hi again. I have a question again, but now is about part 2 of speaking. I was looking some examples about part 2, and i found this: “Decribe a piece of art that you like… etc.”… But, i am in shock now, because i really don’t know what piece of art describe due to i don’t like art. So, my question is, if at the moment of the speaking test i don’t know the answer, may i, in this case, tell the examiner the situation and talking about other issue, like music,sports, or something like that?… Thanks again.

    From what ive read you do nt need to like art to talk about art. you could say you really dont like art-works like paiting but you do like music as art , then talk about the genre of music you like

IELTS practice tests

About the IELTS reading test

About the IELTS reading test

The IELTS reading test takes 60 minutes to complete, has three sections and a total of 40 questions. You need to make sure that your answers are transferred to the answer sheet within the 60 minutes as no extra time is given at the end of the test.

*Note that there are differences in the first two sections for the General Training and Academic Module test for Passages 1 and 2.

Differences between the Academic and General reading test:

About the IELTS reading testThe Academic Module

The Academic Module has three passages, generally ranging between 700 to 1000 words, with between 12 and 18 questions per passage. The passages are all equal in levels of difficulty, and do not get progressively more difficult. The topics are based on articles from journals, academic magazines, articles and other sources.

The General Training Module

Although there are still three parts to the General Training reading test, the first two sections are broken into two (sometimes three) subsections, with between 5 and 9 questions per sub section. The first section is survival level English, and may require you to read a timetable, notice or short piece of information, and will generally be quite short (less than 300 words). The second section is a little more difficult and will a workplace related topic, such as interview techniques or the first day at work.

The third section (Passage 3) is the same as the Academic Module.

IELTS reading test question types

  1. Headings style questions
  2. Locating information in a paragraph
  3. True / False / Not Given questions
  4. Short answer questions
  5. Sentence completion questions
  6. Form/summary/table/flowchart/notes completion questions
  7. Labelling a diagram
  8. Matching and classifying
  9. Multiple choice

About the IELTS listening test

The IELTS Listening test

*Note that the listening test is the same for the General Training and Academic Module test

Timing and requirements

About the IELTS listening testThere are four sections in the IELTS listening test, with each section having one recording. The recordings are approximately 6 minutes long, and you need to answer 10 questions in each section. At the end of all four sections, you are given 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. This is important, as it means you shouldn’t waste time during the recordings writing answers neatly on the answer sheet; instead, use this time to pre-read the questions for the next recording.

IMPORTANT TIP: there is a short break in the middle of the recording for Sections 1, 2 and 3. However, there is NO break in Section 4 – this will play through from the beginning to the end. The sections become progressively more difficult, with Section 1 being approximately pre-intermediate level and Section 4 being an advanced level.

Specific timings for the IELTS listening test

  1. Introduction and one example: around 45 seconds
  2. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the first set of questions for Section 1
  3. First part of Section 1: around 3 minutes
  4. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the second set of questions for Section 1
  5. Second part of Section 1: around 3 minutes
  6. Break: 30 seconds to check your answers for Section 1
  7. Section 2 is announced: about 5 seconds
  8. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the first set of questions for Section 2
  9. First part of Section 2: around 3 minutes
  10. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the second set of questions for Section 2
  11. Second part of Section 2: around 3 minutes
  12. Break: 30 seconds to check your answers for Section 2
  13. Section 3 is announced: about 5 seconds
  14. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the first set of questions for Section 3
  15. First part of Section 3: around 3 minutes
  16. Break: 30 seconds to pre read the second set of questions for Section 3
  17. Second part of Section 3: around 3 minutes
  18. Break: 30 seconds to check your answers for Section 3
  19. Section 4 is announced: about 5 seconds
  20. Break: 40 seconds to pre read ALL questions for Section 4
  21. Section 4 played without a break: around 7  minutes
  22. Break: 10 minutes to transfer your answer to the answer sheet

The difference between the sections in the IELTS listening test

Section 1 is a conversation between two people on a non-academic subject. For example, it could be two people talking about membership to a library or a shop assistant talking to a csutomer about a product. Section 2 is a single speaker talking about a non-academic subject, such as buying your own home or a presentation about a holiday destination. Section3 is a conversation between two or more people about an academic subject, such as completing an assignment or working together on a project. Section 4 is a single speaker discussing an academic subject, such as academic regulations at a university.

Recordings are played once only

You only hear each recording once, with the exception of the first example in section 1. All sections of the test have approximately 30 seconds reading time before the recording begins and 30 seconds after the recording ends to pre-read the questions or check your answers. In sections 1 to 3, there is a pause midway through the recording for you to pre-read the remaining questions in the section. In section 4, there is no break in the recording.

IELTS listening test question types

  1. Short answer questions
  2. Sentence completion questions
  3. Form/summary/table/flowchart/notes completion questions
  4. Labelling a diagram
  5. Matching and classifying
  6. Multiple choice

What accents do they use for IELTS listening?

The IELTS test is not a purely British English test. You can expect to hear a range of a accents – British, American, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and even non-native English speaking English. It is important to use a range of different sources in your IELTS preparation so that you can become familiar with them. However, you will NOT be required to distinguish between accents.

Do I need Academic or General Training IELTS?

Do I need Academic or General Training IELTS?

Do I need Academic or General Training IELTSAs you probably know, there are two types of IELTS test – the Academic Module and the General Training Module IELTS test. One of the most common questions we hear from candidates about to being their IELTS preparation is Do I need Academic or General Training IELTS? Here’s some useful advice that will help you decide!

IELTS for migration to an English speaking country

If you are planning to move to an English speaking country, you will often have a choice of which IELTS test you take. However, there are a number of points to keep in mind. If you plan to work in a professional job when you get to your new home, you will often need to take the Academic IELTS (see ‘Professional registration’ below). However, many people find it easier to take the General Training Module, and with all the stress of moving to a new country, you might want to choose the General Training Module to make life easier! If you have an immigration agent, it is always worth checking to make sure though!

IELTS for professional registration

Are you a doctor, nurse, lawyer, dentist or in another professional occupation? Often you will find that English speaking countries require IELTS as proof of your English ability, and if you are registering as a professional you will need the Academic Module.

IELTS for overseas study

If you are going to another country to study, then you will need the Academic Module IELTS test. The exact score you need will depend on the institution you are going to study at, and the course you are taking. For a Masters Degree, for example, you may be asked for a Band 7 or even higher, but to simply study English you may only need a Band 5 (and sometimes no IELTS result at all!). It’s always best to get written confirmation from the school or institution you are applying to before you start preparing.

Do you have a different situation? Post about it below and we’ll give you the best answer we’ve got!