Understanding the IELTS
All you need to know about the IELTS exam

Understanding the IELTS

If you’ve been thinking about sitting for the IELTS test for a while, but don’t know where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. This post will introduce you to everything you need to know about the test and leave you more informed and prepared.

To begin with, what is the IELTS test?

IELTS is an abbreviation for International English Language Testing System, which is a test designed to evaluate how effectively a person can communicate in English, and the results of which are widely accepted for both academic and immigration purposes, especially by the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Most of you must already be aware of the two types of IELTS tests: General and Academic. But have you understood why the exam is divided into these categories? The short answer is: The primary audience for the Academic test is individuals who want to study abroad, while the General test is targeted at people who want to immigrate to Canada, Australia, UK, or New Zealand. The division into these two types, therefore, means that some parts of the test are created to understand how individuals use certain language skills in specific situations based on their applications. We’ll talk more about this a little later in this post.

What skills are they testing?

Now, let’s learn a little more about which skills are tested in the IELTS test.

You will be evaluated on four language skills during the test:

Listening and Reading (Receptive Skills)

Writing and Speaking (Productive Skills)

From these, the Listening and Speaking sections are common to both the Academic and General tests, while the Reading and Writing section differ slightly in terms of content and complexity.

During the test, you will attempt the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections on the same day, in quick succession of each other, lasting for a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes, without any breaks. The Speaking section is usually scheduled for a different day and at a different venue, and lasts for between 11 and 14 minutes.

The Listening Section

The first skill you will be tested on, on the day of the exam is Listening. Here, you will be given a set of headphones and be made to listen to four audio conversations, over 30 minutes, on which you will have to answer a total of 40 objective type questions. These audio clips will be played just once, so attention and concentration are of utmost importance in this section. In the pen and paper test, you will be first writing your answers in your listening booklet, which is why you will be given 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers into your answer sheet. However, this additional time will not be available for the computer based test.

The Reading Section

The next section in the IELTS test is Reading which lasts for 60 minutes and requires you to answer 40 objective type questions based on a variety of written passages. In the Academic test, you will be presented with 3 passages, each about 2 sides of a page in length, and taken from literary and academic journals and textbooks. For those attempting the General IELTS test, you will have to read 5 passages extracted from brochures, pamphlets, notices, advertisements, classifieds, and magazines. While the duration (60 minutes) is the same for the Academic and General tests, since the Academic passages are more challenging that the General ones, you will have to get more answers correct in the General test to receive a particular band. Also, an important point to remember is that no additional transfer time will be given for you to write your answers in your answer sheet, so it is recommended that you time yourself or write your answers directly into your answer sheet.

The Writing Section

Writing is the third language skill which will be evaluated on the day of your exam, and requires a considerable amount of energy and quick-thinking. It comprises 2 tasks and lasts for 60 minutes. In the Academic test, Task 1 requires you to draft a report based on a diagram, graph, pie chart, or map, while in the general test, you must write either a formal/semi-formal or an informal letter based on a specific prompt. In both cases, the minimum word count is 150 words. Task 2 in the Academic and General tests is an essay question where you have to write at least 250 words based on a particular prompt. The question will be different for both test types.

The Speaking Section

This is the shortest section of the IELTS test and involves you having a one-on-one conversation with an examiner. In the first part you will be asked questions on familiar topics that you can easily comprehend and provide an opinion on like your family, where you live, your work etc. The second part is extemporaneous where you must speak for between 1 and 2 minutes on a topic that will be presented to you on the spot. And the last part consists of opinion questions related to the theme of the prompt in Part 2. Make sure you speak clearly and audibly because your test will be recorded on a tape recorder.

If this all seems like a bit much, don’t worry. We, at the English Platter, have been training students for over 9 years in the IELTS exams with great success, and would be happy to help you achieve your desired bands. Learn more about our courses here and feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about enrolling for any of our services.

We look forward to hearing from you and being a part of your IELTS journey!

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