What is the IELTS Test?

International English Language Testing System popularly known as the IELTS test is probably one of the most popular English Language Tests for students who wish to study in English speaking nations preferably in the US and UK. The IELTS score is accepted in thousands of institutions in Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and over 300 institutions in the United States. The British Council IELTS, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment combining own and manage the official IELTS test.

The IELTS test is all about assessing your English proficiency skills based on the following four parameters.

  • Reading Skills.
  • Writing Skills.
  • Speaking Skills.
  • Listening Skills.

As mentioned above, the IELTS exam is designed by some of the world’s leading experts in language assessment. It is accepted by close to 9000 organisations around the world including schools, colleges and professional bodies.

The main highlight of the IELTS exam is that it uses a one on one speaking test to assess your English communication skills. This means your abilities are assessed by a real life person while engaging in a real time conversation. This is considered the most effective way of testing English proficiency skills.

The IELTS Test- Why Should One Take It?

Students are often faced with the dilemma of which test they should choose; TOEFL or IELTS, while going for the English abilities test. Here is why you should consider taking the test–

  • Most US universities accept the IELTS scores.
  • The IELTS exam is mostly a paper based test. Students would have a feeling of appearing a high school/secondary school exam feeling during the test.
  • Unlike other tests, the IELTS accepts a variety of spellings and accents including both British and American.
  • The idea of speaking to a trained professional during IELTS test is more appealing and relaxing rather than speaking to a microphone.
  • Due to its association with the British Council IELTS, the IELTS test is considered to be the best available option for immigration to the UK approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Also, people migrating to Australia, New Zealand and Canada prefer taking IELTS test.

The IELTS exam is conducted in decent hotels, unlike some other exams which may be conducted in cyber café turned exam centres. If you do not like the cyber café exam idea and want to experience the exam more closely, IELTS is for you.

IELTS is jointly manages by the British Council IELTS, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment. So, the students often confuse themselves by considering it to be three different IELTS test owned by different companies. For a better clarification to the above query, let us understand:

British Council IELTS or IDP: IELTS—Which IELTS test should one take?

It is a common misconception that British Council IELTS and the IDP: IELTS tests are different. To sum up the information, we can say that:

  • Both these exams follow the same procedure.
  • The test conducted by both these companies use the same OMR sheets that contains the symbol of British Council IELTS and IDP: IELTS printed on them.
  • The questions asked in both the tests are same.
  • The IELTS tests conducted by both these test-owning companies have the same IELTS test dates and timing allotment.

The basic fact is that in some countries the test is managed by the British Council IELTS, while the IDP: IELTS manages the test in some countries. However, there are countries where both these companies manage the test combining.

The IELTS Academic Test- Who Should Take It?

The IELTS Academic test is different from the IELTS General Training Test not only in terms of structure, but also on the basis of who the test is meant for. People who aspire to apply for higher education or professional registration in an English speaking institution or country must take the IELTS Academic Test. This tests assess the ability of the candidate to understand and communicate in academic English language and the readiness to begin studying or training.

The IELTS General Training Test- Who Should Take It?

People who aspire to go to an English speaking nation for their secondary education, or work experience or general training should take the IELTS general training test. The tests tend to measure the survival abilities of the test takers in the social and workplace environments. Also, people who are considering to migrate to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK must take this test.

IELTS Academic Test Vs IELTS General Training Test

The difference between the IELTS Academic test and the IELTS general Training test lies in the fact that the subject matter for the reading and writing components is comparatively different from each other. It is important to note that all the test takers take the same IELTS listening test and IELTS speaking tests. But the seating arrangements for reading and writing tests are different. It depends on whether a test taker has selected IELTS Academic Test or IELTS general Test.

The Listening, Writing and Reading test must be completed on the same day with no breaks in between them. However, the pattern in which these tests are conducted may vary from one test taker to another.

The speaking test, depending on your test centre will happen after a break on the same day as you appear the other three tests or may even happen a week before you take the other tests.

The IELTS Test Structure

The IELTs is available in two test formats

  • Academic
  • General Training.

There are basically four parts

  • IELTS Listening Test.
  • IELTS Reading Test.
  • IELTS Writing Test.
  • IELTS Speaking Test.

The total test time is 2 hours and 45 mins

Note – It is important to know that all the students appearing this test take the same IELTS listening test and IELTS Speaking test. But they take different variation of the reading and writing tests.

IELTS test format


The IELTS Listening Test

Duration – 30 minutes

In this test students will listen to four recoded texts, conversations with 10 questions each by a range of native speakers.  and students are expected to write the answers to a series of questions.

This test assesses your ability to understand ideas, ability to understand speakers’ opinions and attitudes, their purposes of what they say and the ability to follow ideas.

Remember that you need to hear a variety of voices and accents and each section can be heard only once.

Here is what you can expect in the Listening Test

Segment 1

You can expect to hear a conversation between two people set in an everyday context.

Segment 2

Expect a monologue set about something like a speech about local facilities.

Segment 3

You can expect a set up where you can hear up to for people talking to each other something like students talking to their professors discussing case study.

Segment 4

It could be something like a monologue about a university lecture or a person explaining some idea.

The IELTS Academic Reading Test

Duration – 60 minutes

The AR Test comprises of around 40 questions. Lot of areas are covered using different types of questions including reading for details, gist, skimming, finding logical arguments, opinions and attitudes as well.

The Academic Version of the IELTS test consists of three long texts which can range from the descriptive to factual or discursive to analytical maybe.

Which means you can expect the texts to be taken from magazines, books, newspapers and journals as well. These sections are considered suitable for students who want to apply for top American Universities.

The IELTS General Training Reading Test

Duration – 60 minutes

The General Training version of the IELTS test requires the students to read texts from magazines, newspapers, advertisements etc. You are basically required to read those kind of texts which you are expected to read on a daily basis if you were a resident of a country whose native language is English.

This section consists of 40 questions. Like the previous section this one also tests reading for main ideas, skimming, recognising the author’s opinions, attitudes and purposes etc.

The IELTS Academic Writing Test

Duration – 60 minutes

This section includes two sub sections. The topics would be general in nature.

Sub section 1

Students might be presented with a diagram, graph, table and asked to summarise the same in their own words. You would be asked to explain how a certain process works or the different stages in the diagram or something which requires you to explain the entire process what you have before you at that very moment. It’s all about how well you can explain it.

Sub section 2

Students might be asked to write an essay in response to a particular problem or argument.

It is pertinent to note that you should follow the formal style approach in answering both the above sub sections.

The IELTS General Training Writing Test

Duration – 60 minutes

This section of IELTS test shall include two things which are based on topics of general interest.

First Step

Students shall be given a hypothetical situation and asked to write a letter explaining a situation in The format of the letter should be personal, semi-formal or formal.

Learn about the IELTS Test, IELTS Test Structure, British Council IELTS and the difference between IELTS Academic Test and IELTS General Training Test here.

Second Step

Students will be asked to write an essay responding to view or problem. However, the format for writing this can be slightly more personal in style than the Academic Writing Sub section 2 essay.

The IELTS Speaking Test

Duration – 11 to 14 minutes

Every test is recorded in this case. The students are not allowed to rehearse before the actual test. In other words, it is like an on the spot extempore.

Part A

The Test taker will ask you general questions on yourself and topics like work, studies, hobbies and interests etc. The duration would be roughly between 4 to 5 minutes.

Part B

Students would be handed over a cue card in which a topic would be mentioned and you are expected to speak on the topic. In this case you shall be given one minute to prepare. You are expected to speak for at least two minutes on the given topic.

Part C

Students are grilled further on the topic given to them in Part B. This will give you time to emphasize more on certain areas which you feel can improve your chances for a better score.

IELTS Score: How is it Decided and Reported?

The IELTS scores are reported on a 9 band scale from 1 to 9 where 1 is the lowest and 9 is the highest. This band has remained consistent throughout the world.

Following is the detailed description of the IELTS score scale. This table clearly shows what each scale means as far as the Test taker is concerned

Band Score

Skill Level of Test Taker




The test taker has an outstanding command over English Language. His/her knowledge about English language is correct and accurate as per the expected standards. He/she has shown great understanding about the Language.



Very Good

This test taker has excellent command over the language with occasional mistakes in usage. The takers might misunderstand things in unacquainted situations. They have the ability to handle arguments in detail with ease.



The test taker has good command over the language while he/she has inaccuracies and misunderstandings in certain situation. These kind of test takers are good in understanding reasoning well.



The test taker has a reasonable good command over the language in spite of certain erroneous usage and misunderstandings. He/she can use complex language in known situations.



The test taker has a fractional understanding and command over the language. He/she can relate to the overall context in most situations but with many mistakes. These takers are able to handle basic communication in their own field.



The test taker’s abilities in the language are subject to the awareness about the situations. The face difficulties in understanding and expressing themselves. Use of Complex language becomes very difficult for them.


Extremely Limited

This test taker is only able to relate to general meanings in closely observed situations by him/her. The number of gaps in communication is also high affecting the flow of the language.



This test taker faces lot of difficulty in both spoken and written English language


Non User

This test taker can use only a few words probably like ‘good morning’ or ‘How are you?’


Test Not Taken

The Test taker did not answer the questions posed to him/her