What is IELTS and when does one take it?
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a standardized English-language test for non-native English speakers who wish to travel or settle abroad for education, employment or any other reason. Established in 1989, the IELTS is the only globally accepted English-language test. It is enforced by the British Council and International Development Program (IDP) IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English. IELTS has two types: Academic and General Training. As the title suggests, the former pertains to those who wish to take the IELTS for higher educational purposes as well as for securing a student or work VISA. The Academic test assesses whether the test taker’s command of the English language is satisfactory enough for an educational institute in a native English-speaking country. The General Training test is taken by those who wish to migrate to another country for work, training or any other non-educational purposes, therefore, not commonly taken by students.
The test result comes in a Test Report Form and test-takers are assessed within a range of 1-9 termed as the ‘band score’; wherein a band 1 signifies a non-user of English and a band 9 signifies an expert-user. The test is offered up to 4 times a month and band scores for a test remain valid for a period of up to 2 years.
The IELTS Academic test is divided into 4 parts and test-takers are assessed in 4 different ways: Listening (40 minutes), Writing (60 minutes), Reading (60 minutes) and Speaking (15 minutes). The test duration is a total of 2 hours and 55 minutes. The Listening, Writing and Reading (LWR) components are taken at a stretch on the same day, the Speaking test can be conducted on the same as the LWR tests or on any day in the following 7 days. While the LWR is conducted in the standard pen-and-paper format, the Speaking test occurs in the form of a one-on-one interview with an IELTS examiner.
If one has been acquainted with the English language throughout school life, preparing for the test is a considerably smooth experience. There is a plethora of free guidance material and mock tests available every year on the official IELTS website itself. The website provides practice tests, support tools, exam resources, an abundance of test tips, and answers to FAQs.
Here are some tips to ace the IELTS Academic test:
- Acquaint yourself with past test papers, particularly, the Reading passages. Past test takers have found that reading through editorials and long-form articles in newspapers, magazines or journals is extremely beneficial in preparing for the Reading component.
- Take as many practice/mock tests as possible. Command over the language can only be built with regular practice.
- Time yourself under 2 hours 55 minutes and individually for every component while taking mock tests for effective time-management during the test.
- For the Listening test, train your ear to understand different accents such as British, American, or Australian accents. The Listening component involves long bits of audio that are delivered in a variety of accents.
- For the Speaking test, gauge the question, reflect and then answer directly, clearly, and slowly. Focus on vocabulary rather than the content of your answer, but make sure your answer is relevant to the question asked by the interviewer.
- For the writing test, write succinctly and precisely. Don’t use decorative words or let your sentences run long. Avoid using repetitive ideas or words while answering the essay questions.
- Remember to revise and proofread every answer for your LWR before submitting it. Grammar and syntax are essential parts of your LWR test.
- The band score is an aggregate of all 4 components – all 4 components of the test demand an equal amount of preparation.