IELTS FAQs

General Question about ILETS

The full form of IELTS is International English Language Testing System. It is a test of proficiency in English. It reflects the overall ability of a test taker as well as his/her skills in particular segments. IELTS is considered to be the most popular English proficiency test in the world as around one million tests are conducted.
The purpose of IELTS is to evaluate a test taker's preparedness in pursuing further studies in a university or college or his/her ability to undergo training programs in an English-speaking country. You will need to write the IELTS test if you want to do any of the following: a) study at a college or a university in an English-speaking country b) gain work experience in an English-speaking country c) emigrate to an English-speaking country
IELTS is recognized and accepted by over 6,000 organizations all over the world, including universities and multinational companies in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. Immigration bodies, professional bodies, and government agencies also accept the test.
A high IELTS score indicates that the test taker is proficient in using English as a second language.
IELTS is collectively owned and directed by The British Council, the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL), IELTS Australia, and IDP Education Australia. Activities like maintaining the standard of the test, preparing the format of the test, reviewing the test, and so on, are done by these organizations.
IELTS test materials are developed by language experts from English-speaking countries to ensure that real-life situations are reflected. The Listening section uses a variety of native-speaker accents such as British, New Zealand, North American, and Australian accents. Continuous research and validation is done to ensure that the test is unbiased and fair.
Yes, American English is accepted. All standard varieties of English are accepted in the Writing and Speaking sections of the test.
The IELTS test assesses four skills—listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
The IELTS test has two versions—the Academic module and the General Training module. The Academic module is meant for candidates who want to study an undergraduate or a postgraduate course, or for those who want to register with a professional body in an English-speaking country. In fact, the university where you intend to apply may not accept an IELTS General Training score. The General Training module is meant for candidates who want to gain work experience or join a non-academic training program in an English-speaking country. It is also suitable for candidates who want to emigrate to Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. This module emphasizes basic survival skills in a social and educational context.
It is best to contact the organization that you want to join and check which test score is acceptable. Before you apply online for the test, you must know which version you're going to take. Academic IELTS test scores may be accepted for non-academic training programs or immigration purposes. However, General Training IELTS test scores may not be valid for admission to a higher education course in a college or a university. The Speaking and the Listening sections of the test are the same for the academic module and the general training module. In the Reading section, the passages are longer and are related to academic content in the academic module. In the general training module, the reading passages test a candidate's understanding of basic instructions and reading ability. In the Writing section, the academic module expects a candidate to write a summary or a report using a given chart, diagram, or graph. In the general training module, a candidate has to write an application on issues one deals with in real life.
The academic version of the IELTS test can be taken online using a computer at selected test centers. The computer-based IELTS test began in May 2005. The Listening and Reading sections of the test can be done using a computer. The candidate has the choice to write the Writing section on the computer or on paper. The Speaking section is conducted just like the regular test, with an examiner who interviews you.
Any candidate below the age of 16 years cannot take the IELTS test. If the candidate is below 18 years of age, he/she will have to furnish a permission letter from his/her parents or legal guardian to allow the IELTS testing organization to collect fingerprinting and photo information. The candidate must also carry a filled IELTS Consent Form on the day of the test in order to be allowed to write the test.
The British Council and IDP administer the IELTS test in the same way, so it does not make a difference where you take your test. The actual tests are compiled by Cambridge English Language Assessment, one of the co-owners of the IELTS test. Also, the examiners and the marking scheme is the same, irrespective of the administering organization.
IELTS Life skills is a test of listening and speaking designed to meet the requirements of certain UK visa categories and immigration purposes. It is available at CEFR Level A1 and CEFR Level B1. If you have taken the IELTS on or before April 05, 2015, you can use the test report form to apply for a UK visa up to November 05, 2015. Otherwise, you are required to take the IELTS Life Skills test at test center designated by UK visas and immigration. For more information on the type of test you need to take and the available test centers, you can look here.

Registering for the IELTS Test

You need to find your local IELTS test center first. Usually, the test center will be affiliated to either the British Council, Cambridge ESOL, or IDP. There are more than 500 test centers all over the world, and nearly every big city will have a center. If your city does not have a center, you may have to travel to a nearby city that has a center. You can find a nearby IELTS test location here. Your test center will provide you with an application form. You can also download the application form from IELT's official website, fill it, and submit it along with the required documents to your test center. You must pay the test fee when you register for the test. You can also pay the test fee online and upload a color scan of your identity proof to the test center's website. If you're registering through the International House, London, you can do so online, by post, or in person using the information here. As proof of identity, you will need to provide your current passport or a national identity card. It is good to check with your test center to see which document is acceptable. If you are taking the test outside your country, you will need your passport. During the day of the test, you will need to bring this identity proof with you. You will not be allowed to sit the test without this document and you will not be given a transfer or a refund. You will be sent a written confirmation of the date and time of your test after your application is processed. Your test center will confirm the time at which the Speaking section will be held.
The cost of the IELTS test is the same, irrespective of whether you choose the academic module or the general training module. The cost varies from country to country and test center to test center. You will need to check with your test center (or its website) to know the exact amount. You can pay in your local currency.
You can change your booking details through your test center. If you cancel or postpone your application five weeks ahead of your test date, you are entitled to a refund. However, administrative charges will be deducted from the test fee. On the other hand, if you cancel or postpone your application less than five weeks ahead of your test date, you will forfeit the test fee unless you can provide proof of a serious medical condition. The test fee will be refunded (minus administrative charges) if you provide a medical certificate within five days of your test date.
If you are absent on the test day without notifying the test center in advance, you will forfeit the test fee. If you are unable to reach the test center due to unavoidable reasons such as severe weather or a transport strike, you will be offered to sit the test on the next available date. If you are unable to sit the test due to a medical condition, you should inform your test center as soon as possible. If you furnish a medical certificate within five days of your test date, you will receive a refund after deduction of administrative charges.
The IELTS test is administered up to four times each month. Tests are conducted on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Taking the IELTS Test

The test takes a little under three hours to complete. The Listening section takes approximately 30 minutes (and an additional 10 minutes to transfer answers to the answer sheet). The Reading section and the Writing section take 60 minutes each. The Speaking section takes between 11 minutes and 14 minutes. The Listening, Reading, and Writing sections must be completed on the same day. There are no breaks between the sections and the order in which a candidate takes these sections may vary. The Speaking section may be scheduled 7 days before or after the other three sections are conducted.
You must inform your test center if you have special needs, such as hearing difficulties, visual difficulties, and speaking difficulties so that you are accommodated. If you need a modified version of the test, such as a Braille version or a Large Print, you must give your test center three months' notice. If you need access to technology such as a screen reader or you need extra time due to your special circumstances, you must give your test center six weeks' notice. All special arrangements agreed are keeping with the recommendations of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).
You can expect to get your test results within 13 days of taking the test. Test results are called Test Report Forms (TRF). Only one copy of the test report form will be issued by the test center. You will not receive a replacement copy if you lose or damage your test report form. However, test centers will send copies of your test report form to up to five organizations at no extra cost. At some test centers, you can collect your test report form in person on the 13th day. Other centers will mail your results to you on the 13th day. Test centers cannot inform you about your results via email, scan, or phone. You can also preview your results online after 13 days. Test results remain available online for 28 days. The online preview should not be considered an official confirmation of your test results.
Test results are valid for 2 years. Organizations may not accept test report forms that are older than 2 years unless you can prove that you have improved or have actively maintained your English since you took the test.
You can register for another test as soon as you feel ready. There are no restrictions on how soon you can retake the test or how many times you take the test. However, it is recommended that you prepare thoroughly to improve your English before retaking the test in order to significantly improve your score.
You can write the IELTS test as many times as you want.
If you feel that your test results may be incorrect, you can apply for an "Enquiry on Results" or a remarking at your test center within 6 weeks of writing the test. You can choose to have only certain sections remarked. You will be required to pay a service fee for remarking. This fee will be refunded if your score improves. It takes around 6-8 weeks to complete an Enquiry on Results.
Yes, a native English speaker can take the IELTS test.

IELTS Test Format

There are four components or sections in the IELTS test—Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.
Time taken: approximately 30 minutes (and an additional 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet) No. of Questions: 40 questions Question types: Short-answer questions, sentence completion, summary completion, flow-chart completion, table completion, note completion, form completion, diagram/plan/map labeling, matching questions, and multiple choice questions. Parts of the test: Four recordings are played for the candidate. Each recording is heard only once. Recording one is a conversation between two people in a real-life social setting. Recording two is a monologue occurring in a real-life social setting. Recording three is a conversation between two or more people (up to four) in a training or an educational setting. Recording four is a monologue on an academic topic. Different voices and various native-speaker accents are used. The skills evaluated are the ability to listen to understand major ideas, recognize opinions, purpose, and attitude of a speaker, follow how an argument is developed, and understand facts. Scoring: Each correct answer gets 1 mark.
Time taken: 60 minutes Questions: 40 questions Question types: Short-answer questions, diagram label completion, flow-chart completion, table completion, note completion, summary completion, sentence completion, matching sentence endings, matching features, matching headings, matching information, identifying a writer's views or claims (Y/N/Not Given), identifying information (T/F/Not Given), and multiple choice questions Parts of the test: There are three components in this section. Totally, it has around 2,150-2,750 words. Academic module: There are three long passages, each of which is sourced from authentic magazines, journals, books, and newspapers. The texts are about academic topics of general interest and have been written for a non-specialist audience. The level of difficulty is appropriate for candidates who intend to take up undergraduate or postgraduate courses or register for professional programs. The passages may be factual, discursive, descriptive, or analytical. They may include graphs, illustrations, or diagrams. A glossary is included if the passage has technical terms. General training module: The first component may contain 2-3 short, factual passages. One of these may be a composite passage i.e. 6-8 short pieces on a related topic. The topics are based on real life situations in an English-speaking country. The second component consists of two pieces related to work situations like staff development and training, company policies, applying for a job, workplace facilities, and pay and conditions. The third component consists of a longer, more complex passage on a subject of general interest. All texts are sourced from authentic newspapers, magazines, books, official documents, advertisements, company publications, and notices. The skills evaluated are reading to understand the gist, the major idea, detail, implied meanings and inferences, the opinions, purpose, and attitude of the author, and how the argument is developed. Scoring: Each correct answer gets 1 mark.
Time taken: 60 minutes No. of tasks: There are two tasks. We need to write at least 150 words for the first task and at least 250 words for the second task. Parts of the test: There are two parts of the test. Academic module: Task 1 requires you to summarize, describe, or explain a given chart, diagram, table, or graph. Task 2 requires you to write an essay with respect to an argument, a problem, or a point of view. The topics are of general interest and answers are expected to be written in a semi-formal, academic, or neutral style. General module: Task 1 requires you to write a letter in a personal, semi-formal, or neutral style asking for information about a given situation or explaining the situation. Task 2 requires you to write an essay in response to a point of view, a problem, or an argument. Subjects are of general interest. The skills evaluated are the ability to write an appropriate response with respect to content, accuracy and range of vocabulary and grammar, and structuring of ideas. Scoring: The tasks are evaluated by certified IELTS examiners on the basis of a standard criteria—task achievement/response, lexical resource, coherence and cohesion, grammatical range and accuracy. Task 2 has twice as many points as Task 1.
Time taken: Between 11 and 14 minutes Parts of the test: There are three parts in the test. Part 1: Introduction and interview (4-5 minutes), wherein the examiner introduces him/herself and asks you to introduce yourself. You are asked general questions on topics like family, home, interests, work, and so on. Part 2: Individual long turn (3-4 minutes), wherein you are given a task card that contains points about a particular topic on which you are required to talk for 1-2 minutes. You have 1 minute to prepare your speech using the pencil and paper provided. After your speech, the examiner may ask you a few questions on it. Part 3: Two-way discussion (4-5 minutes), wherein the examiner asks you more questions on the topic given in part 2. The skills evaluated are the ability to present your opinions and state facts on general topics, the ability to talk about a given topic at length and organize your ideas, and the ability to analyze and speculate. Scoring: The speaking section is marked by certified IELTS examiners on the basis of the following criteria—pronunciation, grammatical range and accuracy, lexical resource, and fluency and coherence.

Understanding the IELTS Scores

The scores of each section are converted into the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores may be whole and/or half bands. The individual scores for each section are averaged and rounded off to get an overall band score. There is NO negative marking and there is NO pass or fail marks. The IELTS 9-band scale: Band score Skill level Description 9 Expert user The test taker has fully operational command of the language. Their use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and shows complete understanding. 8 Very good user The test taker has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. They may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. They handle complex and detailed argumentation well. 7 Good user The test taker has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. They generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning. 6 Competent user The test taker has an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. They can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations. 5 Modest user The test taker has a partial command of the language and copes with overall meaning in most situations, although they are likely to make many mistakes. They should be able to handle basic communication in their own field. 4 Limited user The test taker's basic competence is limited to familiar situations. They frequently show problems in understanding and expression. They are not able to use complex language. 3 Extremely limited user The test taker conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication. 2 Intermittent user The test taker has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English. 1 Non-user The test taker has no ability to use the language except a few isolated words. 0 Did not attempt the test The test taker did not answer the questions.

On the IELTS Test Day

If you reach the test center late, you will not be allowed to sit the test and you will not be given a transfer or a refund.
Once at the test center, your photograph will be taken. This photo will appear on your test report form. You will be required to temporarily remove any covering on your face for the photo. If you refuse to have your photo taken, you will not be allowed to write the test and you will not get a refund. Your fingerprints will also be scanned and your signature will be taken.
You can carry a watch and electronic devices to the test center, but they must be left behind in the designated personal belongings area. You may be scanned any time during the test day for electronic devices.
You can carry your approved identity document, pens, pencils, erasers, and a label-free water bottle into the test room. For the writing section, you can use a pen or a pencil. However, for the listening and the reading sections, you must use a pencil.
The test room will have a clock on the wall for that purpose. Watches are not allowed in the test room.
You should speak to the invigilator if you feel that your ill health will affect your performance on the test. The test center may consider your situation and give you a special favor.
No, you cannot leave the room during the test under normal circumstances. You may be allowed out of the room in special circumstances, but you will not be given any extra time.
You can make a complaint at the test center on the test day before you leave. After test day, complaints about test administration will not be entertained.
If you need to ask the invigilator something, you can raise your hand. However, the invigilator cannot help you with the questions on the test.
No, you are not allowed to take any test materials, including speaking booklets, rough sheets, question papers, and answer sheets, out of the test room. You can take notes on the test materials, but be careful what you write because these materials become the property of IELTS once the test is over.
No, IELTS does not provide access to the marked answer sheets.
You can use the test report form with the higher score, provided it is not older than 2 years.
If you do not receive your test results after 13 days, contact your test center for more details. Your test may have been delayed or withheld for the following reasons: a) IELTS wants to recheck your test b) IELTS wants to conduct quality control checks c) There may be some irregularities with your test, so your test may have been cancelled. You will need to take the full test or portions of the test again. d) If any of the information provided by you at the time of registration has changed, your test report form may be cancelled.
Both IELTS and TOEFL are meant to test the English proficiency of test takers and have similar formats. However, some universities have specific requirements as to which test scores they will accept. In general, U.S. universities prefer TOEFL scores, whereas European and other universities want the IELTS score. This scenario is slowly changing with more U.S. universities accepting IELTS scores now.