The IELTS Exam: Overview & Tips
What is the IELTS exam?
There are two versions of the IELTS exam: ‘Academic' and ‘General Training'. Academic IELTS, which we focus on here, can be compared with the TOEFL or Cambridge Proficiency and is now the standard English as a Second Language qualification required for entry into universities in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
There are four papers: Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking.
Scores range from 1 to 9, with most universities requiring between 5.5 and 7.5 (depending on the particular institution and course).
There are many opportunities during the year to take the exam, results are given usually after 2 or 3 weeks, and candidates may re-take the exam when they wish.
Note, however, that the exam is only valid for two years.
For details of local exam centres, and fully up-to-date information on all aspects of the exam, visit the official IELTS web site .
The Writing Paper
The Writing paper takes one hour and consists of two questions.
The first question requires you to describe a graph, chart, table or diagram.
You must write at least 150 words, and should allow about 20 minutes.
Usually some kind of statistical information is represented in graphic form, and you must translate this into a readable text.
Occasionally candidates will be asked to describe a process which is illustrated by a labelled diagram (such as the process of making cheese, or how a central-heating system works).
The second question requires you to write a short essay of at least 250 words.
You should allow about 40 minutes for this task.
Subjects vary widely, but could relate to:
environmental issues, health, law and order, technology and its social implications, parenting, etc.
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The Reading Paper
The paper lasts one hour, there are three texts and a total of 38-40 questions.
Texts are typically about subjects such as: technology, health, medicine, the environment, history, culture, architecture, engineering, education, psychology, etc.
Question-types include: multiple-choice, summary, true/false/not-given, sentence completion, etc.
The Listening Paper
The paper lasts about 40 minutes: 30 minutes listening, and ten minutes to ‘transfer your answers.
There are four ‘listenings' (or ‘listening texts'), usually based around academic themes.
Listenings typically include examples of: dialogues between students at the university, tutorials interviews between lecturers and students, lectures, and radio interviews on academic subjects.
The Speaking Test
The Speaking test is in three parts, and lasts a total of 12 - 15 minutes. There is one candidate and one examiner. The parts are:
1 Introducing yourself . The examiner asks you some general questions on topics such as: where you are from; your town or country; your interests, etc.
2 The ‘Long Turn' . You are required to speak uninterrupted for 1 or 2 minutes on a particular subject. The examiner will give you a card indicating this subject, and indicating three or four specific points you must discuss.
3 Discussion . The examiner will try to engage you in a discussion on an abstract / academic subject, typically related to the topic in Part 2.
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