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IELTS - The Ultimate Guide

IELTS, or the International English Language Testing System, is an exam intended to assess your proficiency in English for the purpose of working, studying, or migrating to a country where English is the primary language – such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States. The test evaluates your listening, reading, writing, and speaking abilities, and assigns a score on a scale of 1-9. It is jointly administered by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English.

Why take the IELTS test?

The IELTS test is a widely recognised assessment of English language proficiency for non-native speakers. There are several reasons why individuals may choose to take the IELTS test:

Educational purposes:
Many universities and colleges in English-speaking countries require IELTS scores as part of the application process for international students.

Immigration and work :
Some governments and employers use IELTS scores as a measure of English proficiency for immigration or job applications.

Personal development :
Some individuals may choose to take the IELTS test as a way to gauge their own English language abilities and set goals for improvement.

Overall, the IELTS test is a highly respected and widely accepted measure of English language proficiency. Taking the test can open up many opportunities for individuals in education, work, and personal development.


How to prepare for the IELTS test?

  • Take practice tests
  • Take the reins of your preparation by starting with a practice test. This will unveil where your strengths and weaknesses lie, allowing you to focus on improving and building on your strengths to establish a sturdy foundation for the examination. But, if you find it hard to identify and overcome your mistakes, seek the guidance of an expert. Many test-takers turn to IELTS preparation courses to become exam-ready.
  • Understand the test format
  • Prior to beginning your practice, it's crucial to understand the test format. Familiarise yourself with the content, questions, and task types for each section to know what to expect on the day of the test. Remember that the key to success in any exam, including IELTS, is a deep understanding of the test pattern and format.
  • Prepare for the time constraints
  • Time constraints are a crucial aspect of the IELTS exam, so it's vital to be aware of the time limits for each module. As you prepare, practice under timed conditions to become accustomed to the pace of the test. Keep in mind that taking an IELTS preparation course will also help you get used to the timed conditions of the exam.
  • Develop your English skills and strategies
  • To excel in the IELTS exam, it's essential to develop your English capabilities and familiarise yourself with IELTS strategies. Many students make the mistake of focusing solely on IELTS practice tests and neglecting to improve their English. Remember, IELTS is an English proficiency test, and your English should be refined. To achieve this, start preparing at least 3-6 months before the exam and seek out institutions that can help you with both English development and IELTS strategies.
  • Maximise exposure to the English language
  • Persistence is key to success during the preparatory phase of the examination. Immerse yourself in English by exposing yourself to the language as much as possible. Read things that interest you in English, such as online magazines or blogs. Write in English every day, by keeping a diary, writing a blog, or communicating with an online community. Listen to native speakers and if possible, join in. Try the ‘shadowing’ technique, which involves repeating what someone has just said in English. This can help with pronunciation, intonation, and accent.

Why is IELTS preparation so difficult?

  1. Staying focused for a full 30 minutes during the listening test can be a test in itself.

    Build up your stamina by taking several practice tests before the big day. This way, you'll be used to the time commitment and you’ll be able to stay focused for the full duration of the test.

  2. Struggling to come up with ideas for the speaking or writing sections. 

    Relax, your ideas don't have to be groundbreaking. What's important is that you express yourself clearly and accurately.

  3. Running out of time during the writing section.

    The IELTS test follows the same format each time, so take advantage of this by developing a routine for each question type. This way, you'll know how much time to allocate for each task.

  4. Difficult vocabulary in the reading section.

    It's normal to come across words you don't know. When this happens, try to figure out the meaning from the context.

  5. Nerves can be overwhelming during the test.

    Proper preparation is key to reducing nervousness. Get to know the format and style of the test, and take a full practice test under timed conditions.

  6. The speakers in the listening test speak too quickly.

    Keep in mind that it's normal to not understand every word. Don't let this stress you out and instead focus on what you do understand.

  7. The academic language in the test is difficult to understand.

    Brush up on your academic language skills, especially if you're taking the IELTS Academic module.

  8. The second part of the speaking test can be challenging as you have to speak on your own about a random topic.

    Remember that you don't have to stick strictly to the provided bullet points. Feel free to expand on related ideas and don't worry about going off-topic.

IELTS test fee

In Australia, those wishing to take either Academic or General Training IELTS will be required to pay AUD 395. This is inclusive of registration and payment processing charges.

How is the IELTS scored?

Band score Skill Level Description
9 Expert user The test taker demonstrates a thorough mastery of the language, displaying appropriate, accurate, and fluent usage, indicating a full understanding.
8 Very good user The test taker demonstrates a strong command of the language, with occasional inaccuracies and inappropriate usage, primarily in unfamiliar situations. They may struggle with some complexity, but they handle detailed argumentation effectively.
7 Good user The test taker demonstrates a proficient understanding of the language, with some occasional inaccuracies or misunderstandings in certain situations. They are able to effectively navigate complex language and comprehend detailed reasoning.
6 Competent user The test taker shows a strong command of the language, despite occasional inaccuracies, improper usage, or misunderstandings. They are able to effectively use and understand complex language, particularly in familiar contexts.
5 Modest user The test taker has a limited understanding of the language and can generally convey the overall meaning in most situations, though they may make many errors. They should be able to handle basic communication within their specific field.
4 Limited user The test taker's proficiency is limited to familiar situations. They often encounter difficulties in understanding and expressing themselves. They lack the ability to use complex language.
3 Extremely limited user The test taker can only convey and understand the general meaning in very familiar situations. There are often communication difficulties.
2 Intermittent user The test taker experiences significant challenges in understanding spoken and written English.
1 Non-user The test taker has no proficiency in the language beyond a small number of isolated words.
0 Did not attempt the test The test taker did not provide any answers to the questions.

Frequently asked questions

The IELTS Academic test is designed to evaluate your proficiency in the English language for academic purposes, while the IELTS General test measures your ability to use the language in a general, non-academic setting, such as the workplace or social interactions.

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