What is IELTS?

If you are reading this site, you probably already know what IELTS is. But if you don’t, here is what the people at ielts.org say

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) assesses the English language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is used as the language of communication. IELTS tests are held in over 900 locations across the world with tests up to four times a month …ielts.org

Here are some basic facts about the exam:

  • There are four parts: listening, reading, writing, and speaking
  • Test-takers are scored between 1 and 9.
  • There is an Academic module for universities, and a General Training module for immigration and work. (See the picture below)

Who makes / owns IELTS?

The IELTS test is jointly owned by three organisations known as the IELTS test partners. Alongside IDP: IELTS Australia are fellow co-owners, the British Council and Cambridge English Language Assessment.ielts.org

In practice, Cambridge English Language Assessment develop the tests, while IDP and the British Council are responsible for delivering the tests.

In some countries, you have the option of being examined at either organization, in other countries one has a monopoly. For instance, IDP has a monopoly in Australia and Cambodia. However, both IDP and British Council are active in Taiwan.

While taking the test should give you the same result at IDP or the British Council, generally the latter is more rigid about times, and the former is more flexible (at least in Taiwan). This means that often you will wait a shorter time to actually do the speaking test at IPD because they try to get everyone done as fast as possible, while at BC tests are conducted every 20 minutes per examiner.

IELTS Downloads you must have

There are several things you should download before you start preparing for IELTS. For example, the candidate pack. In my experience, hardly anyone actually reads this, but it is vital!

Also, you should download the public band descriptors for Speaking and Writing. Although examiners use more detailed versions of these, they will help you in understanding what you need to be doing in order to achieve a 7.

(These all open in another window)

IELTS Information for Candidates
IELTS Public Band Descriptors: Writing – Task 1
IELTS Public Band Descriptors: Writing – Task 2
IELTS Public Band Descriptors: Speaking

We use (and refer to) the Public Band Descriptors a lot in our videos and in our courses. So, you really need to have them close to hand!

IELTS bands and requirements

As mentioned above, every candidate is scored from 1 – 9, per score and overall.

Most Universities require an average score, while others also require a minimum score in one or more of the skills.

For example, if you plan to do a PhD in Pure Math at Cambridge University, you need:

  • Listening: 7.0
  • Reading: 6.5
  • Speaking: 7.0
  • Writing: 7.0
  • Overall: 7.0

However, if you plan to a Masters in Law, you need

  • No score lower than: 7.0
  • Overall: 7.5

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