What is IELTS?
The international English language testing system (IELTS) is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration, with over 2.5 million tests taken last year.
If you are applying for a Tier 4 student visa to an institution that is a Tier 4 Sponsor, to study for a bachelor or postgraduate degree, you are required to meet the English language level set by the institution. UK universities and colleges accept IELTS results. You can apply to UK universities with an IELTS result unless the institution has additional requirements.
If you are applying for professional registration, for example as a dentist, doctor or nurse, you can also apply to your professional body with an IELTS result.
What Band Score do I Need?
Educational institutions, employers, professional registration bodies and government immigration agencies often require proof of English language skills as part of their recruitment or admission procedures, IELTS is widely accepted for these purposes. Band scores range from 1-9, with band score 9 being the highest level. Please contact the organisation you are applying to in order to check the band score that you require.
IELTS is designed to test the language ability of people who want to study or work where English is used as the language of communication. Over 2.5 million tests are taken each year.
- 40 questions
- Approximately 30 minutes
What’s in the IELTS Listening paper?
The paper has four sections, with ten questions in each section. The questions are in the same order as the information in the recording, so the answer to the first question will be before the answer to the second question, and so on.
Sections 1 and 2 deal with everyday, social situations. There is a conversation between two speakers in Section 1 (for example, a conversation about travel arrangements). Only one person speaks in Section 2 (for example, a speech about local facilities).
Sections 3 and 4 deal with educational and training situations. In Section 3 there is a conversation between two main speakers (for example, two university students in discussion, perhaps guided by a tutor). In Section 4 only one person speaks on an academic subject.
You will hear the recordings once only. Different accents, including British, Australian, New Zealand and North American, are used.
You will need to transfer your answers to an answer sheet. You will have 10 minutes at the end of the test to do this. You should be careful when writing your answers on the answer sheet because you will lose marks for incorrect spelling and grammar.
- 40 questions
- 60 minutes
What’s in the IELTS Academic Reading paper?
Texts come from books, journals, magazines, newspapers and online resources, written for a non-specialist audience. All the topics are of general interest to students at undergraduate or postgraduate level. The texts may be written in different styles, for example, narrative, descriptive or discursive/argumentative. At least one text contains detailed logical argument. Texts may also contain diagrams, graphs or illustrations. If texts use technical vocabulary, then a simple dictionary definition is provided.
You will need to transfer your answers to an answer sheet. You must transfer your answers during the hour you are given for the Reading test. Unlike the Listening test, no extra transfer time is given. You should be careful when writing your answers on the answer sheet because you will lose marks for incorrect spelling and grammar.
- 2 tasks
- 60 minutes
What’s in the IELTS Academic Writing paper?
There are two Writing tasks and BOTH must be completed.
In Task 1, you have to describe some visual information in your own words (a graph, table, chart or diagram). You need to write at least 150 words in about 20 minutes.
In Task 2, you are given a point of view, argument or problem which you need to discuss. You need to write at least 250 words in about 40 minutes.
You must write your answers using full sentences. You must not write your answers as notes or bullet points. You must write your answers on the answer sheet. You are allowed to write notes on the question paper, but these will not be seen by the examiner.
Certificated IELTS examiners assess your performance on each Writing task. There are four assessment criteria (things which the examiner thinks about when deciding what score to give you):
- Task achievement/response
- Coherence and cohesion
- Lexical resource
- Grammatical range and accuracy.
Task achievement (in Task 1) and Task response (in Task 2) assesses how accurately, appropriately and relevantly your response covers the task requirements, using the minimum of 150 words for Task 1 and 250 words for Task 2.
In Task 1, all the information you require is given in the diagram.
In Task 2, Task response includes how well you develop your argument in response to the task, giving evidence and examples which may be from your own experience.
- 3 parts
- 11–14 minutes
What’s in the IELTS Speaking paper?
The Speaking test is a face-to-face interview between the candidate and an examiner. The Speaking test is recorded.
There are three parts to the test, and each part follows a specific pattern of tasks in order to test your speaking ability in different ways.
Certificated IELTS examiners assess your speaking performance throughout the test. There are four assessment criteria (things which the examiner thinks about when deciding what score to give you):
- Fluency and coherence
- Lexical resource
- Grammatical range and accuracy
Fluency and coherence assesses how well you can speak at a normal speed without too much hesitation. It also includes putting your sentences and ideas in a logical order and using cohesive devices (including linking words, pronouns and conjunctions, etc.) appropriately so that what you say is not difficult to follow.
Lexical resource assesses the range of vocabulary you use and how accurately and appropriately you use vocabulary to express meaning. It also includes the ability to express yourself using alternative vocabulary when you don’t know a particular word.
Grammatical range and accuracy assesses the range of grammar you use and how accurately and appropriately you use it.
Pronunciation assesses your ability to speak in a way which can be understood without too much effort.
IELTS Sample Tests
IELTS practice materials
Prepare for IELTS with these free practice tests and answers. Time yourself and develop your exam technique.
The practice tests in this section offer you the opportunity to
- get to know the test format
- experience the types of tasks you will be asked to undertake
- test yourself under timed conditions
- review your answers and compare them with model answers
Remember, you will take the Listening, Reading and Writing tests all on one day with no breaks in between, so it is important to do the practice tests under similar conditions.
Make sure you answer the questions and carry out the tasks on each page in the correct order.
IELS questions + answer key:
Cambridge IELTS – provides students with an excellent opportunity to familiarise themselves with IELTS
These are students’ examples of introductions for writing task 1 – varying band awards from 5.5 – 9.0.