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The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a test administered to evaluate the English language skills of non-English speaking candidates who seek to pursue education programmes in, or immigrate to, English speaking countries. The test is designed to assess the candidate’s ability to understand spoken and written English in academic and social contexts and also to use the language to communicate in spoken and written forms.

IELTS is owned, developed and delivered through the partnership of the following bodies

  • British Council
  • idp IELTS Australia
  • University of Cambridge ESOL examinations

IELTS scores are accepted by educational institutes, professional bodies and government undertakings, as well as for immigration processing, in Australia, New Zealand, U.K., Canada and certain American universities (like Princeton and Duke), where the IELTS scores are accepted in lieu of TOEFL scores.

The objective of the test is to assess a candidate’s ability to understand and communicate in English in academic and social contexts. To make this assessment, the following skills are specifically tested.

  1. The ability to read and comprehend written, academic or training language.
  2. The ability to write assignments in a style that is appropriate for university study or within a training context.
  3. The ability to understand spoken language in lecture format as well as in formal and informal conversational styles.
  4. The ability to speak on general and given topics in formal and informal situations.


The IELTS test has two versions:

  1. The Academic Module – This module is intended for candidates seeking entry to a university or institution of higher education for degree and diploma courses (i.e. those seeking undergraduate or postgraduate courses).
  2. The General Training Module – This module is intended for students seeking entry to a secondary school or to vocational training courses. This module is also meant for candidates seeking immigration to an English speaking country. The two versions do not carry the same weight and are not interchangeable.

All candidates are tested on reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. While the Speaking and Listening sections are common for the Academic and General versions of the test, the Reading and Writing sections are different.


1. Listening Section

This consists of 4 parts with 10 questions each, totaling 40 questions, to be completed in around 30 minutes. While the recording is played you get time to read the questions and to write and check your answers. You then have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

2. Reading Section (Academic or General)

This section consists of 3 reading passages with a total of 40 questions. The three texts, together, contain between 2000 and 2750 words. The total time allotted is 60 minutes.

  • The Reading Test gets progressively tougher through the paper. In each section of the Reading Test there will be 13 or 14 questions to each passage.
  • While the General Training reading has texts from notices, advertisements, booklets, newspapers, magazines and books, the Academic reading has texts with complex language and precise or elaborated expression, from newspapers, magazines, journals and books.

3. Writing Section (Academic or General)

This section consists of two writing tasks. The total time allotted is 60 minutes.

Writing-Task 1 (Academic)

  • The IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 is an information transfer task related to the factual content of an input – graph(s), table(s) or diagram(s). It can be combinations of these inputs.
  • Sometimes you have to describe a process shown in a diagram.
  • Time allotted – 20 minutes
  • Word limit – 150 words

Writing-Task 1 (General)

  • For the IELTS General Writing Task 1, you must write a letter elaborating on a given problem.
  • The Letter will require an explanation of the situation, and often involves a request for necessary information.
  • You should write in the style appropriate for the type of letter required-either personal, semi-formal or formal.
  • Time allotted – 20 minutes
  • Word limit – 150 words

Writing-Task 2

  • In Task 2 , you are asked to write an essay on a given Topic
  • Time – 40 minutes
  • Word Length – 250 words at least

4. Speaking Section

The total time allotted to this section is 11 to 14 minutes.

  • The test consists of an interview between the examiner and the candidate, which is recorded.
  • The Speaking Test is divided into 3 sections:
    • Section 1 begins with some general introductory questions. This is followed by some questions on personal information similar to the type of questions one would ask when meeting someone for the first time. Finally the examiner asks a series of questions of 2 topics of general interest. (4 – 5 minutes)
    • Personal Questions – Family, Hometown, Interests, Job/Study, Ambitions,etc
    • Likes & Dislikes
    • Favorites
    • Questions to check familiarity with tenses.
    • Section 2 is a monologue by the candidate. The examiner gives the candidate a Cue Card with a subject and a few guiding questions on it. The student talks for 1 to 2 minutes on this subject, as the examiner may decide. The student gets 1 minute to prepare his talk and is provided with paper and a pencil to make some brief notes. After the candidate’s talk, the examiner asks 1 or 2 brief questions to finish the section. (3 – 4 minutes)
    • Section 3 – Here the examiner asks some more questions generally related to the subject spoken about in section 2. These questions are more demanding and require some critical analysis on the part of the candidate.


The duration of the entire test is around 2 hours 45 minutes.

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