What is IELTS?
IELTS is the International English Language Testing System which tests English proficiency across the globe. IELTS conforms to the highest international standards of language assessment. It tests the four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking. IELTS is a secure, valid and reliable test of real-life ability to communicate in English for education, immigration and professional accreditation.
Candidates can sit an IELTS test in over 800 centres and locations around the world. This global test has the highest levels of quality control. Conducting 1.4 million tests globally, IELTS is the world’s most popular English testing system.
IELTS tests are held in over 500 centres with tests up to four times a month. IELTS respects international diversity and is fair to anyone who sits the test, regardless of nationality.
You can choose from two types of IELTS test: Academic or General Training, depending on whether you want to study, work or migrate. Both modules are made up of four parts – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. IELTS results are graded on the unique IELTS 9-band scale.
To help you prepare, IELTS provides test samples and Official IELTS Practice Materials. The test covers the full range of ability from non-user to expert user. You are not limited in how many times you can sit the test.
You can trust the quality and security of IELTS because it is managed by three reputable, international organisations: British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL).
British Council connects people worldwide with the learning opportunities and creative ideas from the UK and builds lasting relationships between the UK and other countries. British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunity and cultural relations and is represented in 109 countries worldwide.
IDP: IELTS Australia is one of the world’s leading international education and development organisations offering international student placement, English language training and testing services, and the management of international aid projects on behalf of government sponsors.
IDP Education was established in 1969 by Australian universities and has placed more international students into Australian educational institutions than any other organisation.
IDP Education, through its subsidiary IELTS Australia, manages a network of IELTS test centres in more than 30 countries.
University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL) is the world’s leading provider of exams for learners of English. Each year the exams are taken by around 1.4 million people, in 135 countries.
Through decades of progressive change, IELTS has remained committed to assessing all four language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) with a face-to-face speaking component. This continues to set IELTS apart from other English language tests.
IELTS – a history of innovation
The forerunner to IELTS was the English Language Testing Service (ELTS) introduced in 1980. The test had an innovative format that reflected changes in language learning and teaching theory and developments in language testing. In particular, the ELTS was influenced by the growth in ‘communicative’ language learning and ‘English for specific purposes’. Test tasks were based on an analysis of the ways in which language was used in academic contexts and were intended to reflect the use of language in the ‘real world’.
Ongoing research and development by the British Council and UCLES EFL (now known as Cambridge ESOL) led to a revised testing system and broader international participation with the involvement of the International Development Program of Australian Universities and Colleges (IDP), now known as IDP Education Australia.
IDP, British Council and UCLES formed an international partnership, reflected in the new name for the test: The International English Language Testing System.
IELTS 1989 – 20 years of setting the standard
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) first became operational in 1989. From 1989 IELTS candidates took two non-specialised modules, Listening and Speaking, and two specialised modules, Reading and Writing.
test. A revised IELTS Speaking Test was introduced in July 2001. New assessment criteria for the Writing Test were operational from January 2005. A computerised version of IELTS was also introduced in 2005 at a number of IELTS centres. Information on all these projects can be found in past issues of the IELTS Annual Review, and in Cambridge ESOL’s quarterly publication – Research Notes.
The current test retains many of the features of the 1980 ELTS including the emphasis on the comprehension of extended text in the receptive papers (Reading and Listening), and the direct testing of performance through a face-to-face Speaking test and the use of the essay and report formats in the Writing test.
Ongoing research and development
International teams of writers contribute to IELTS test materials. Ongoing research ensures that IELTS remains fair and unbiased – wherever and whenever the test is taken – and that IELTS encourages, reflects and respects international diversity and is fair to anyone who sits the test, regardless of nationality, background, gender or lifestyle.
The rigorous processes used to produce the test materials ensure that every version of the test is of a comparable level of difficulty, so that candidates’ results are consistent wherever and whenever they take the test.
These and the other benefits of IELTS today build on our history of English language testing over many decades.
Research shows that IELTS motivates test-takers to develop real and well-rounded English rather than learning by rote. This means your understanding of English is improved and valid for real life in an English-speaking country.
IELTS is owned by three reputable, international organisations. It has the highest quality control and security procedures. More than 6000 organisations, including many government departments and universities, rely on IELTS. The IELTS scoring system is recognised globally, giving you a truly international result.
Academic or General Training. All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking modules but different Reading and Writing modules.
Listening, Reading and Writing must be completed in one day. Depending on your test centre, the Speaking test may be offered on the same day or up to a week before or after the other parts. See below for a diagram of the test format.
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.
It should be noted that certain professions require an Academic test result for registration and migration purposes.
IELTS Examiners are fully qualified and follow the IELTS standardised testing around the world. IELTS has a quality-controlled system of recruitment, training, benchmarking, certification and monitoring. IELTS markers are regularly monitored and tested every two years to retain their certification.
IELTS uses a 9-band scoring system to measure and report test scores in a consistent manner. You receive individual band scores for Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking and an Overall Band Score on a band scale from one to nine.
Who sets the ‘pass’ mark for the IELTS test?
There is no pass or fail in IELTS. Scores are graded on the 9-band system. Each educational institution or organisation sets its own level of IELTS scores to meet its individual requirements.
When will I receive my test results?
Your Test Report Form will be posted to you 13 calendar days after your test date. All test centres will post your Test Report Form to you. Keep your Test Report Form in a secure place as you only receive one copy. Some test centres provide SMS alerts and an online results service.
How many Test Report Forms (TRFs) am I entitled to?
You will be given one (1) copy of your test report form. Up to five (5) copies of your TRF will be posted to the relevant institution(s) you have listed on your IELTS application form. Regular postage is free of charge. Charges for courier services and/or overseas postage will be passed onto candidates. Additional TRFs beyond these five can be requested from the Test Centre which issued the TRF. Please note, an administration fee may be charged for additional TRFs. If you have lost your TRF, please contact the Test Centre which issued your TRF.
How soon can I re-sit the test?
There is no limit on sitting the test. However, IELTS recommends you do additional study before taking the test again. Some test centres offer preparatory courses and language classes.
What if I feel my test result is wrong?
You can apply for an Enquiry on Results procedure at your test centre within six weeks of the test date. You must pay an enquiry fee, which is fully refunded if your band score changes. Note that IELTS Examiners and markers follow strict assessment guidelines and are regularly monitored. The IELTS testing process has the highest quality control procedures.
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