International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

About IELTS
Test Structure Scores(BAND Scale) Dates & Location Score Required

About IELTS

The IELTS or 'International English Language Testing System', is an international standardised test of English language proficiency. It is jointly managed by University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council and IDP Education Australia, and was established in 1989.

There are two versions of the IELTS: the Academic Version and the General Training Version

• The Academic Version is intended for those who want to enroll in universities and other institutions of higher education and for professionals such as medical doctors and nurses who want to study or practice in an English-speaking country.

• The General Training Version is intended for those planning to undertake non-academic training or to gain work experience, or for immigration purposes.

IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, New Zealand and South African academic institutions, over 2,000 academic institutions in the United States, and various professional organisations. It is also a requirement for immigration to Australia and Canada.

An IELTS result or Test Report Form is valid for two years.

In 2007, IELTS tested over a million candidates in a single 12-month period for the first time ever, making it the world's most popular English language test for higher education and immigration.

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Test Structure

All candidates must complete four Modules - Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking - to obtain a band score, which is shown on an the IELTS Test Report Form (TRF). All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking Modules, while the Reading and Writing Modules differ depending on whether the candidate is taking the Academic or General Training Versions of the Test.

The total test duration is around 2 hours and 45 minutes for Listening, Reading and Writing modules.

Listening: 40 minutes, 30 minutes for which a recording is played centrally and additional 10 minutes for transferring answers onto the OMR answer sheet.

Reading: 60 minutes.

Writing: 60 minutes.

The first three modules - Listening, Reading and Writing (always in that order) - are completed in one day, and in fact are taken with no break in between. The Speaking Module may be taken, at the discretion of the test centre, in the period seven days before or after the other Modules.

The tests are designed to cover the full range of ability from non-user to expert user.

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Scores (Band Scale)

IELTS is scored on a nine-band scale, with each band corresponding to a specified competence in English. Overall Band Scores are reported to the nearest whole or half band. For the avoidance of doubt, the following rounding convention applies; if the average across the four skills ends in .25, it is rounded up to the next half band, and if it ends in .75, it is rounded up to the next whole band. The nine bands are described as follows:

9 Expert User

Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.

8 Very Good User

Has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.

7 Good User

Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.

6 Competent User

Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.

5 Modest User

Has a partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. The candidate should be able to handle communication in his or her own field.

4 Limited User

Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in using complex language.

3 Extremely Limited User

Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.

2 Intermittent User

No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs.

1 Non User

Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.

0 Did not attempt the test

No assessable information provided.



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Dates & Location

The test is taken every year in 500 locations across 121 countries, and is one of the fastest growing English language tests in the world. The number of candidates has grown from about 80,000 in 1999 to over 1,000,000 in 2007.

The top three locations in which candidates took the test in 2007 were:

Academic Category

1. China
2. India
3. Pakistan

There are up to 48 test dates available per year. Each test centre offers tests up to four times a month depending on local demand. There used to be a minimum time limit of 90 days before which a person could not sit for the test again, but this restriction was recently lifted.


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Scores Required



Just over half (51%) of candidates take the test to enter higher education in a foreign country. The IELTS minimum scores required by academic institutions vary. As a general rule, institutions from English-speaking countries require a higher IELTS band.

United States

The highest IELTS Band required by a university is 8.5, by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University; the only US institution to require this band. It should be noted that while Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law is listed as requiring an 8.5 on the IELTS website , the school lists an 8.0 . For MIT the minimum score required is 7.

United Kingdom

The highest IELTS Band required is 8, by the Master of Science degree in Marketing at the University of Warwick . Most IELTS requirements by universities fall between 5.5 and 7.0.

Germany

Stuttgart University requires an IELTS minimum of 6.0. Most german universities require an IELTS minimum of 6.0 for their master students.

Hong Kong

The Law Society of Hong Kong requires applicants to achieve a minimum score of 7.0 for entry into the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws course, taught at University of Hong Kong, Chinese University of Hong Kong and City University of Hong Kong.

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