What is the IELTS exam? Get the key information

What is the IELTS exam? Find out all the key information and facts that you need to know in this guide.

What is the IELTS exam

What is the IELTS exam?

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. It is a globally recognized English language exam, designed to assess the language proficiency of people who need to work or study where English is the language of communication.

IELTS scores are recognized for entry into the majority of universities and colleges in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. It’s also becoming increasingly used by universities and colleges in the United States.

IELTS scores are also recognized by many professional bodies, immigration authorities and government agencies.

4 Types of IELTS test

You can take any one of 4 exam types: General Training, Academic, Life Skills and UKVI.

What is the IELTS General Training test?

The general training IELTS is suitable for candidates planning to undertake non-academic training or work experience, or for immigration purposes.

What is the IELTS Academic test?

The academic IELTS is suitable for students wishing to enter an undergraduate or postgraduate course.

In 2018, 80% of candidates took the Academic IELTS, while 20% took the General Training IELTS.

What is the IELTS Life Skills test?

IELTS Life Skills is a new test. It is a test designed for people applying for a visa to live with family in the United Kingdom. It tests only your speaking and listening skills. There are 3 different levels of difficulty in the test, matched to the CEFR levels A2, A1 and B2.

What is IELTS for UKVI?

If you are applying to the United Kingdom for a visa, either to study, work or live, you may be asked to take the IELTS for UKVI. This is basically the Academic or General Training IELTS, but there are slightly different administrative procedures, for example, the speaking test is recorded on video.

The Exam

There are four parts to the IELTS General Training and Academic exam: listening, reading, writing and speaking.

You take the listening, reading and writing parts of the test at the same sitting. The total time for the test is 2 hours 40 minutes. There are no breaks between each part of the test.

The speaking part of the test can be taken on a different day, but it must be taken within 7 days before or after the other parts of the test. It’s normal for the speaking test to be arranged on the same day as the other tests.

The only difference between General Training and Academic exam is in the reading and writing parts of the test. The speaking and listening parts of the test are the same for both General and Academic IELTS.

Who runs IELTS?

IELTS is jointly managed by Cambridge Examinations, the British Council and IDP.

How many people take the IELTS test?

Over 3 million people took the IELTS in 2018.

What IELTS band score do I need?

This depends on the organization to which you are applying, and the purpose for which you are applying. I’ve written an article to help you find out what IELTS score you need.

What if I don’t get the band score I need?

You can retake the test as many times as you want. However, it is a good idea to do some extra study and practice before retaking the test.

How long is an IELTS score good for?

It is up to each organisation to set a validity period for an IELTS score, but the normal recommended validity period (after which time you should retake the IELTS test) is 2 years.

Where and when can I take the IELTS test?

IELTS is available at more than 1,200 locations in over 140 countries and there are 48 test dates a year.

How do I prepare for the IELTS test?

Read my article, How to prepare for the IELTS test.

About the author

Charlie is a former IELTS Examiner with 25 years' teaching experience all over the world. His courses, for both English language learners and teachers, have been taken by over 100,000 students in over 160 countries around the world.