What is IELTS exam?

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. This test is to assess proficiency in English language to pursue higher studies in or migrate to many countries.

In IELTS test, you are assessed for all of your English skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening. Your IELTS score is an indicator of your ability to use English as a language in and outside the class, with your peer group, at internships and part-time opportunities and in social life overseas.

Hence, most of the universities in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and other countries will ask you to submit your IELTS (or TOEFL) score along with your application.

Good news is, unlike GRE, IELTS score is not used to assess your academic ability. Those universities want to ensure that you would be comfortable in communicating in English. Hence, at most of the universities, you would be fine with a IELTS score of 6.5 or more in each of the four sections.

With a couple of weeks of preparation, you should be able to achieve a score of 6.5 or more, which would be sufficient for your overseas applications.

IELTS exam has been designed and is jointly owned by the British Council and IDP.

What is IELTS exam pattern?

IELTS exam is conducted in two formats – the General module and the Academic module.

IELTS General version focuses on identifying the ability of people to communicate in a broad social setup and in the work place. This module applies to people who wish to move to English speaking countries for the purpose of secondary education, work experience or training programs.

IELTS Academic version, on the other hand, focuses on assessing the communication skills of people planning to study in higher education or would be taking up professional assignments in the country abroad. The test assesses the ability of the candidate who plans to study in an environment where English is the primary medium of instruction. This is the test that you need to take to pursue higher education overseas.

IELTS will test you on 4 sections of communication namely Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. A detailed description and pattern of each of the section is as given below.

#1 IELTS Reading Pattern

To demonstrating your reading comprehension, IELTS Reading section requires you to answer 40 questions in 60 minutes.

Reading section tests a variety of reading skills which include, reading and identifying the main idea, understanding the writer’s opinion or attitude, reading for details.

The Reading section under the Academic version contains 3 passages extracted from authentic text and magazines. Each passage will be followed by questions of varied formats such as:

  • multiple choice
  • matching
  • sentence completion
  • summary/note/table/flow-chart completion
  • diagram label completion
  • short-answer questions

Reading section under General version would be similar to that of Academic version, but the passages extracted would be from books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements and handouts. The content would primarily deal with day to day communication in an English speaking environment. As we are focusing on studying overseas, we will not go into much details for General version.

#2 IELTS Listening Pattern

To demonstrate your ability to understand the speech of native English speakers, IELTS Listening section requires you to answer 40 questions in 40 minutes. You’ll be expected to understand conversations and monologues related to business, school, and personal life.

As part of the test, you would listen to various recordings. Each recording represents a different kind of speech: a conversation between two people pertaining to a social context, a monologue, primarily discussing local facilities, a conversation between two to four people in an academic environment and an Academic lecture on a particular subject. Each recording has corresponding questions, totaling 40 questions of varied formats such as:

  • multiple choice
  • sentence completion
  • matching
  • plan/map/diagram labeling
  • form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion

#3 IELTS Writing Pattern

For Academic IELTS, you’ll be required to show that you can provide a written description of some visual information such as a graph, chart or table in no less than 150 words in 20 minutes. In addition, on the basis of an argument or opinion, you’ll be required to show that you can develop your ideas in an essay in no less than 250 words in 40 minutes. Both should demonstrate your ability to use English in an academic or semi-formal tone.

For General IELTS, the first writing task involves a familiar task, like letter writing, in response to a scenario. You will be given 20 minutes to write about 150 words. The second task is an essay and should be no less than 250 words. You will be given specific instructions on what to discuss and you will have 40 minutes to do so.

#4 IELTS Speaking Pattern

IELTS Speaking is focused on life skills. The interview focuses on light personal conversation. This is the kind of talk you’ll have with many different people when you work or study in the English speaking world.

IELTS Speaking test lasts for 11-14 minutes and comprise of following three sections:

  1. Section 1 – The examiner would ask the you general questions related to your personal life. It could be related to your family, work life or friends. This entire section takes approximately 4-5 minutes.
  2. Section 2 – You would be given a topic card and get 1 minute to prepare yourself to discuss the topic mentioned in the card. Post preparation, your would have to speak on the topic for 2 minutes.
  3. Section 3 – You would be asked further questions related to the topic in Section 2. The purpose of this section is to discuss the ideas and other issues related to the topic. This section would last for about 4-5 minutes.

 

What is fee for IELTS exam?

Fees for IELTS: In India, the fee is Rs. 12,100, payable at the time of registration.

In other countries, fee fee for IELTS exam ranges between US$215-$240. Please check IELTS website for exact fee for your country.

How do I register for IELTS?

You can register for the IELTS either online or can download the application and fill in the paper application form and submit it at the nearest test center.

Option 1: Register online

If you have a valid credit (or, debit) card, you can book your test online online in a simple and straight forward way:

  1. Log on to www.ieltsidpindia.com.
  2. Select the option “Register for IELTS”
  3. Select your test date and test city (you will see the seat availability status)
  4. Complete the on-line application form.
  5. Pay the test fee by credit card (Master / Visa)
  6. Get instant seat booking and acknowledgement.

You need to bring photocopy of your Passport (first and last page) and a print out of registration confirmation that you would receive in your email that you gave during the registration process. Please remember that without these documents, you will NOT be allowed to sit the test.

Other Options

You can also walk into any of 25+ branched of IDP to register in-person for IELTS test.

Alternatively, you can book for IELTS test through British Council. Check this url for online registration.

What is a good score in IELTS?

Assuming you are interested in applying to foreign universities for your Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, you should aim for a band score 6.5 – both overall as well as for each of the individual sections.

How can I change my IELTS exam date?

If you chooses to cancel your test more than 5 weeks before the test date, you will get a complete refund of the test fee after deducting administrative charges.

But if you cancel your test within 5 weeks of the test date, you will be charged the full fee unless there is a valid medical reason. If a valid medical certificate is produced, the test center will refund the test fee after deducting administrative charges as applicable.

What are IELTS exam dates for 2017?

You can take the exam four times a month. Both IDP and the British Council offer the test on 48 fixed dates a year, running into four times a month. When you would register for the test on the websites – mentioned below – you will have option to choose the date that suits you the best.

 

How do I prepare for IELTS?

Here are some tips that you should keep in mind to prepare for IELTS by yourself.

#1 Have realistic goals

You need to have a fixed aim for IELTS – what band score are you aiming for?

For overseas studies, you would be fine with a IELTS score of 6.5+ in all the tests. Universities use IELTS score as a sanity factor to ensure that you have a minimum level of communication in English to succeed in the program that you are planning to pursue. Beyond that it doesn’t matter if you have a band score of 7 or 8.

Once you’ve decided in your target band score, have your level of English checked. If your level of English is much lower than the appropriate level for that band score – refer to the assessment criteria mentioned below – you will have difficulties in achieving your target IELTS band score. In that case you better improve on your English first before you prepare for IELTS skills. Improving English will require more commitment and time from your side than preparing for IELTS skills.

Time required to prepare for IELTS and achieve your target band score depends on your level of English. Some students can take IELTS in 2 weeks to achieve a band score of 7+ and other can take months to reach at that score.

#2 Know Assessment Criteria for your target IELTS band

Listening and Reading is simple as those are based on points system. For speaking and writing, it’s little different as the examiner is looking for specific things in your language. You need to know exactly what the examiner is looking for the band that you want to score.

Hence, after you have identified your target IELTS band score, you should get a good sense of the assessment criteria for that particular band score. Click here to download Speaking Criteria and Writing Criteria  and look carefully through these criteria to understand what skills you need to demonstrate to score IELTS score in that band.

These assessment criteria are simple, easy to understand and follow. Let me take some examples:

Example1: To score 7 in Speaking Skill, you should be able to meet following criteria:

  1. Speak full sentences without making too many mistakes
  2. Speak with confidence without noticeable efforts or loss of coherence
  3. Use a wide variety of words to discuss a number of topics
  4. Able to paraphrase effectively

Example 2: To score 7 in Writing Task 1, you should be able to meet following criteria:

  1. Covers the requirements of the task
  2. Clearly presents and highlight key features
  3. Logically organizes information and ideas
  4. Use a wide range of vocabulary

Once you start understanding and applying these criteria in your language, you would start improving to achieve your target IELTS band score.

#3 Focus on your weakest skill

Be clear on what you need to improve the most. Is it Speaking, Listening, Reading or Writing? Or a combination of two or more skills? Once you’ve identified a skill to be improved, work on specific areas within that skill.

Keep in mind that you might only need to improve few specific areas to life your score by 1 to 2 points. It could be answering all components of the questions, improving your spellings or pronunciation, or increase your vocabulary of words that you use.

#4 Learn about question types

For Listening and Reading in IELTS, there are over 10 different question types. In the exam, you would not have enough time to look at a question and try to understand what you need to do. It’s much better if you know the type of questions beforehand.

#5 Understand tips and techniques for each question types

IELTS have specific question types for Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking. It’s important that you practice only those types. By learning non-IELTS question types you would just waste time without any improvement in your IELTS score.

#6 Build speed and time management for Reading and Writing

Reading and writing have fixed time limit. You may have difficulties in finishing all 40 questions in one hour for Reading. Or, you may not be able to write Test 1 and Test 2 in one hour. So building speed and learning to manage your time is very important.

How can I improve my IELTS score?

Even if you are most prepared, you can make common mistakes on the test day and loose valuable marks. Let’s take a look at most common mistakes so that you don’t fall into the same trap.

#1 Not reading the questions properly

In any tests, have you ever written more words than the set limit or provided two answers when only one is required? In both instances, you answers would be marked as incorrect simply because you fail to follow the instructions. So make sure your read the questions carefully and stick to what you are being asked.

#2 Changing the subjects in the writing test

No matter how well structured your writing is, you would still not get a good score if your writing is off-topic. To avoid this situation, ensure that you stick to the topic.

#3 Not pronouncing words correctly

Do you have accents? Don’t worry as IELTS doesn’t deduct marks to penalize you because of your accent. While your accent is not important, keep in mind that your pronunciation is important. Make sure you practice for your pronunciation with some English speaker before your test.

#4 Repeating the question, while answering in Speaking test

Don’t be a parrot. For example, if the questions is – what is your favorite city? Don’t answering – my favorite city is Venice. You don’t need to repeat the question. Rather you can use this opportunity to demonstrate richness of your vocabulary by answering – I love traveling, especially historical places and I would love to travel to Venice. Make it a point to show off many different English words that you know.

#5 Leaving blank answers

Make sure to answer all the questions in both listening and reading tests. Even if you have to take a guess, do that. You will not lose marks for incorrect answers. And if you get lucky, some of guessed answers may turn out to be correct!

Take note of these common mistakes and and you will be well on your way towards scoring a great IELTS score.

#6 Not doing full practice test under exam conditions

Take at least one full practice test i.e. Listening, Reading and Writing all together. Give yourself 2 hours and 40 minutes, without any break, as in the real test. This will give you and idea about how difficult and tiring IELTS exam can be. You can do this at your home, by using an alarm clock for time keeping.

How do I get more help in IELTS exam preparation?

Here are some resources that will help you prepare better for IELTS exam:

 

IELTS Test Tips: on the test day

  1. IELTS test takes 2 hour and 40 minutes – that’s a long and tiring test. Ensure that you are you have slept well the earlier night, exercise or meditate, if you are into those things, and have taken good – but not heavy – breakfast so that you are at your best!
  2. Wear comfortable cloths.
  3. You can take a drink into the exam room in a transparent bottle.
  4. Have a good idea about route and traffic to IELTS test center and arrive early. Don’t be late or you won’t be allowed to enter the exam room.
  5. There is no break for the entire duration of 2 hours and 40 minute of the test. So make sure you go to the toilet before you enter the exam room.
  6. No phones allowed in the test room.
  7. You can take pens, pencils and erasers into your test.
  8. You need to take your passport, a photocopy of your password (1st and last page) and a print-out of your registration confirmation. Also confirm with your test center for exactly what ID you need to take with you.
  9. Listen carefully to all instructions given before your test starts.
  10. Make sure you know where the clock is in your test room so that you can track your timings. You can’t take your watch into the exam room.
  11. Make sure you go into your test with a clear aim and an understanding of the techniques you need to use. Be calm and confident at all time.

IELTS Test Tips: During your test

The following IELTS test tips for each section will help you focus on the right things during your test. Don’t lose marks by not being prepared.

IELTS Listening Test Tips

  1. Ensure that your headphone is working. Raise your hand if it is not to ask for assistance.
  2. In case no headphone is being used, ensure that you can clearly hear recordings. If not, raise your hand to ask for assistance.
  3. Read all the questions before recording starts.
  4. Focus on listening answers without trying to understand everything being said.
  5. While listening recordings, write your answers on your question paper.
  6. Follow instruction on number of words you can have for each answer.
  7. After the recordings end, you will have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Do check your spelling and grammar.

IELTS Reading Test Tips

  1. Follow instructions on number of words that you can use for your answer.
  2. Don’t waste time trying to find one answer. Just guess and move on to the next question.
  3. Keep a track of time. Remember where the clock is in the test room.
  4. Directly write your answers on your answer sheet.
  5. Analyze questions before jumping to answer. Look out for paraphrasing.

IELTS Writing Test Tips

  1. Manage your time well. Spend no more than 20 minutes for Task 1 as you would need 40 minutes for Task 2.
  2. Don’t waste time in counting number of words that you’ve written. Rather count  number of lines and estimate your word count. It’s alright if you go 5-15 words beyond word limits of 150 words for Task 1 and 250 words for Task 2.
  3. You should write your plan for the essay on your question paper as you won’t get any extra sheet.
  4. Write a clear overview for Task 1 and write your conclusion for Task 2.
  5. Check for any spelling errors. Both “colour” (UK English) and “color” (US English) are correct.
  6. Focus on writing clearly and relevant to the topic. More words doesn’t mean better writing.

IELTS Speaking Test Tips

  1. Practice English speaking, preferably with some native speaker, or someone who has taken IELTS test earlier
  2. This is not a formal interview. Be confident and be open to chat.
  3. Listen to the questions, take your time, and answer directly. No need to repeat the question.
  4. Pay attention to your body language. A confident, relaxed body language will make up for any lack in your vocabulary.
  5. Ask the examiner to repeat the question, if you’ve not heard it clearly.
  6. The examiner will give you a pen and paper to prepare for your talk for part 2. She will not look at your plan and only mark your talk.

How do I get my IELTS exam results?

IELTS results are available 13 days after taking the test.You can arrange for your test center to courier your IELTS score card to you, or you can pick it up in person

What is the difference between IELTS and TOEFL?

The differences between TOEFL and IELTS are few but not inconsequential. They cost roughly the same, have the same duration (approx. 3 hours) and validity (2 years), and are offered nearly year round. If you want to study in the UK, Australia or other commonwealth countries, go for IELTS. Whereas, to study in the US and Canada, go for TOEFL. If you are still confused between the two, go for IELTS – many of our students say it’s easier!

Acceptance

IELTS is mostly a British test. Hence, it is more readily accepted in universities within the commonwealth. This includes colleges in Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Australia. Many American universities accept the IELTS as well.

TOEFL was initially developed at the Center for Applied Linguistics at Stanford University. As such, it has very wide acceptance in US universities. Almost every American college will accept the IELTS, though that can’t be said for the IELTS.

As a student, you can should consult the testing requirements of your target universities. Broadly speaking, if you’re applying for colleges in the British Commonwealth, go with IELTS. Otherwise, take TOEFL. It isn’t uncommon for colleges to accept either scores, regardless of what testing requirements state.

Availability

Because TOEFL is an older test than IELTS, and because more students apply for universities in US than Australia or Britain, TOEFL boasts a higher number of test centers as well: 4,500 centers spread across 165 countries.

IELTS, on the other hand, has only 900 centers globally, though this shouldn’t be an issue as they have a center in pretty much every major international city.

Both IELTS and TOEFL are offered 48 times per year.

Types

TOEFL offers just one type of test – the TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test). Some centers also offer the Paper-based Test (PBT) which is just a paper version of the iBT.

IELTS offers two types of tests:

  • Academic: This test is used for meeting the admission requirements of universities. It is harder, with the tests concerned primarily with performance in an academic setting.
  • General: This is a general purpose test used to meet visa requirements when immigrating to a country. It is easier with most questions concerned with performance in a real world, social setting.

The IELTS test taker split is almost equally divided into 50% academic, and 50% general test takers.

Cost

Testing fee for both TOEFL and IELTS varies between $150-$250 depending on your location and test type.

Scoring

The TOEFL is scored out of 120 points. IELTS scores are based on a 9 point scale with half-point increments. Since the TOEFL is scored on a wider point range, some students feel it to be fairer than IELTS, where a few mistakes might degrade your score by a point or two.

Section Specific Differences

Besides the above, there are a few section specific differences among the tests as well:

Writing

Since IELTS is offered by the British Council, it accepts both UK and US English spellings. TOEFL, on the other hand, uses predominantly US English spellings. If you’re more comfortable with UK than US English, consider taking the IELTS and vice-versa.

Listening

Expect to hear a variety of different accents on the IELTS Listening section. This may include, but isn’t limited to, British, American, Australian and Canadian accents.

TOEFL, on the other hand, employs the standard American accent. If you watch a lot of American movies or TV shows, you’ll find this much easier to handle than an Australian or Irish accent on the IELTS. You can learn more about the standard American accent in this course.

Speaking

The IELTS speaking section is actually a one-on-one interview. Question topics can range from the academic (“talk about the theory of evolution for a minute”), to the mundane (“what is your favorite hobby and why?”).

The TOEFL speaking section involves speaking into a microphone. Most questions will be academic in nature. You will also be asked to listen to a lecture or academic discussion and voice your thoughts on the same (such questions are called ‘integrated tasks’ on the TOEFL).

If you’re more comfortable speaking into a mic than sitting across an interviewer, you’ll find the TOEFL Speaking section way easier.

Closing Words

The differences between TOEFL and IELTS are few but not inconsequential. They cost roughly the same, have the same duration (approx. 3 hours) and validity (2 years), and are offered nearly year round. Depending on where you want to study – US or UK/Australia – you may choose either one of them. If you want to study in the UK, Australia or other commonwealth countries, go for IELTS. On the other hand, to study in the US and Canada, go for TOEFL. If you are still confused between the two, go for IELTS – many of our students say it’s easier!

 

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