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What is IELTS Exam: Format, Syllabus, Fees, Exam Dates

Dive into the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with our helpful guide! Many people wonder, what is IELTS exam? Imagine your dream of studying or working abroad, but worry about your English skills. Don’t worry! IELTS is here to help. This widely recognized test assesses your English proficiency using a unique 9-band grading scale, from beginner to expert and welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds. Discover how IELTS can open doors to global opportunities.

Importance of IELTS Exam

what is IELTS exam

IELTS plays a pivotal role in academic and professional pursuits for those seeking international exposure. It is recognized by major countries such as the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Canada; it acts as a vital standard for entry into prestigious institutions and for evaluating one's English proficiency.

With over 11,000 global organizations and 3400+ US institutions recognizing IELTS, it stands out as the premier standardized test accurately measuring English language abilities. Beyond academia, it is vital for immigration, notably in the UK, where it's mandated for visa applications. Thus, IELTS is essential for acquiring citizenship and securing visas, making it a cornerstone in international endeavours.

Why Take the IELTS Exam?
What is IELTS Exam

Demonstrating a proficient level of English is crucial for those aiming to work, reside, or study in an English-speaking country. With its 379 million speakers globally, English ranks as the third most spoken language worldwide. Proficiency in the native language of your desired destination offers numerous advantages, facilitating integration into the community and enhancing job prospects.

Among the various English proficiency tests available, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) stands out as the most widely recognized and accepted. It serves as a gateway for individuals aspiring to relocate to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom. Notably, IELTS enjoys recognition from over 11,000 employers, universities, institutions, and immigration organizations worldwide, including 3,400 entities in the United States alone.

Key Features of the IELTS Exam

Linguistic Diversity: The IELTS exam is designed to be fair to all candidates, irrespective of their cultural background. It embraces diversity and does not discriminate based on regional variations in English language proficiency. Whether one speaks Australian, North American, British, or New Zealand English, all dialects are equally valued and assessed.

Global Accessibility: With over 16,000 centres worldwide, including more than 50 locations in the United States, the IELTS exam offers unparalleled accessibility. This extensive network ensures that individuals from diverse geographical locations can conveniently undertake the test, regardless of their proximity to urban centres.

By opting for the IELTS exam, candidates not only showcase their English language proficiency but also gain access to a globally recognized certification that opens doors to academic, professional, and immigration opportunities in English-speaking countries.

Types of the IELTS Exam

1. IELTS Academics Test 

The IELTS Academic test is taken by students and research scholars who wish to continue their studies in foreign universities. It is widely recommended and accepted by almost every major university worldwide. The reason behind its wide acceptance is that the curriculum and test structure reflect features of academic language and assess whether a candidate is prepared to begin studying or training.

2. IELTS General Training

The IELTS General Training Test is usually taken by students and professionals who wish to go to a majority English-speaking country for a secondary education degree, professional work, or training. It is a requirement that needs to be fulfilled to move to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The basic skills that the IELTS score aims to determine include survival skills in social and workplace settings.

IELTS Exam: Format and Mode of Conducting

The IELTS test format contains four sections. The IELTS aims to test a candidate in 4 main abilities: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking in English. The duration of the exam is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

The listening, reading and writing sections of the test must be taken on the same day without any breaks. However, the speaking test section can be taken separately up to a week before or after your actual test.

The date and time of your IELTS speaking test section depend largely on your test centre. Also, the reading and writing sections of the test are what make the major difference between the IELTS Academic and IELTS general training tests. The detailed description of each section is given below:

1. LISTENING:

The duration of the listening test is 30 minutes. During this section, a candidate must carefully listen to four recordings of conversations among native-English speakers. There will be a total of 40 questions in this section, each carrying one mark. The tasks will be of the following types:

  • Multiple choice
  • Matching
  • Plan, map and diagram labelling
  • Form, note, table, flow-chart
  • summary completion
  • Sentence completion
  • Short answer questions

2. READING:

The reading test lasts 60 minutes. Again, the IELTS test format for the reading section will be 40 questions, each carrying one mark. The various reading skills tested in this section include reading for gist, main ideas, and details.

It also tests a candidate’s ability to skim through a piece of writing, understand the logic behind an argument, and correctly determine the tone of the piece and the opinions and purpose of the writer behind writing it. The reading sections of the academic and general training tests are significantly different. The details of the tasks can be found below-

Academic:

The academic test's task types, with three reading passages, include multiple-choice, identifying information, identifying the writer’s views or claims, matching information, headings, features, and sentence endings, sentence, summary, note, table, flow chart and diagram label completion, and short answer questions.

Most of the writing pieces in this section are chosen from books, magazines, journals and newspapers. The texts do not pertain to any particular field of interest and are extremely general to accommodate every student.

General Training:

The General Training test consists of three sections. While the types of tasks remain the same, the contents of the three pieces vary significantly.

The first section is based on ‘social survival’ and includes a notice, advertisement, or timetable. The second section is based on ‘workplace survival’ and includes job descriptions, contracts, training materials, and staff development techniques. Finally, the third section is based on ‘general reading’ and includes writings from newspapers, magazines, and fictional and non-fictional books.

3. WRITING:

The duration of the writing section is also 60 minutes. The details of the IELTS test format for academic tests and general training tests are given as follows:

Academic:

The academic test consists of 2 tasks, and there is no choice between them. In the first task, candidates are required to describe a visual representation in the form of a graph, table, chart or diagram in their own words. Candidates are expected to write 150 words in 20 minutes here. For the second task, they must respond to an argument or problem. Therefore, test takers are expected to write 250 words in 40 minutes for the second task approximately.

General Training:

The general training test also consists of 2 tasks that must be completed in 60 minutes. The first task requires the examinees to write a letter requesting information or explanation. The second task requires the examinees to write an essay in response to an argument or problem. In this section, students are marked on their task achievement, coherence, lexical resource, and grammar usage.

4. SPEAKING:

The speaking test section of IELTS is fairly easy and can be completed in less than 15 minutes. This section of the speaking test is actually in the form of an oral interview with an examiner. The three tasks in the speaking test section are described below in detail:

  • For the first task, the examiner asks the test taker for available details about themselves, such as their home, family, work, studies, hobbies, etc. This task takes about 4-5 minutes.
  • The next task is an extension of the second task, during which the examiner asks more questions and discusses abstract ideas with the test taker. This task lasts for another 5 minutes. Students are marked based on their fluency, coherence of thoughts, pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

IELTS Exam Eligibility Explained

What is IELTS Exam

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is open to individuals of all backgrounds, irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, or religion. While there is no official age limit set by the IELTS administrators, it is generally not recommended for individuals under the age of 16. However, candidates under this age threshold are still permitted to take the test if they so desire.

In terms of eligibility requirements, there are no specific prerequisites established by the IELTS conducting authorities. This means that anyone aiming to pursue higher education or employment opportunities abroad can register for either the IELTS Academic or General Training test. It's crucial, however, for candidates to thoroughly review the eligibility criteria of their desired educational institution or organization before registering for the exam.

Regarding test availability, the IELTS exam is conducted multiple times throughout the year, offering candidates the flexibility to choose a date that suits their readiness. Moreover, there are no restrictions on the number of times a candidate can attempt or retake the exam. As long as the exam retake fee is paid, individuals can take the test as many times as they wish, although fees are applicable for each attempt.

Registration for IELTS

Ensure you have your passport with you when you register because you’ll need it to get your passport number. Aside from that, you must have your passport with you on the day of the test. The IELTS registration process is simple:

  • To begin, go to the official registration page of the British Council.
  • Sign up for a British Council account.
  • Locate a testing centre near you.
  • Register for the IELTS test and pay for it online.

If you are under 18, a parent or guardian must schedule the exam on your behalf. After you complete the registration process, your test centre will email you a written confirmation with your IELTS exam date and time.

How Much Does the IELTS Exam Cost?

The fee for registering for the IELTS exam is Rs. 17,000. If you decide to cancel your IELTS application more than five weeks prior to the test date, you will be entitled to a refund, but it will be reduced by a 25% administrative fee. However, if you cancel within five weeks of the test date or fail to attend the exam without prior notice, you will not receive any refund. Additionally, individuals who provide a medical certificate within five days of the test date may be eligible for reimbursement after deducting local administrative costs.

Test Type IELTS Fees (INR)
Computer-delivered IELTS 17,000
IELTS Life Skills (A1 and B1) 16,050
IELTS for UK Visas and Immigration 17,250
Pen and paper-based IELTS 17,000

You must request a test day transfer at least five weeks before your scheduled test day and pay the cancellation/postponement fee if you need to change your test date. Additionally, the replacement test date must fall within three months of the original test date. To transfer a test date, candidates must pay an administrative fee of INR 3,300 inclusive of all taxes.

How Can One Prepare for the IELTS Exam? 

What is IELTS Exam

For preparation, one must familiarise themselves with the IELTS test format. In addition, you must know and understand all the tasks and their types. Several official sample test questions are available on the IELTS website that one can go through while preparing.

Official IELTS practice materials (CDs or DVDs) are available for purchase. However, it would be extremely helpful to study directly from the official sample material, as it gives students a clear and proper idea of the test and the types of questions they should expect.

The IELTS exam gives the candidate the flexibility of taking the exam all throughout the year. This gives time for the students to learn to prepare for IELTS. The syllabus for IELTS may seem vast for some candidates. There is no particular time that is required to prepare for IELTS. The preparation time depends on the individual. Candidates who are already proficient in the English language usually need a month to prepare. Students who do not have a good grasp of the English language should prepare for IELTS for a minimum of three months. There are a few general tips for the preparation for IELTS:

  • The candidates should practice with respect to the test pattern of the type of exam they will give, IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training.
  • The students should download and practise the sample papers given on the IELTS official website.
  • While practising, the students should review their answers and make a comparison with the answer sheet given.
  • As each section is time-based, the students should practise with a timer to test their speed.

Conclusion

In the vast landscape of language assessment, the IELTS exam shines as a global standard for measuring English proficiency. Its fees, typically between $225 and $250 worldwide, offer a glimpse into the investment required for linguistic excellence. In India, the British Council's fee of around Rs. 14,000 for both paper-based and computer-based tests reflects accessibility.

Moreover, the British Council's IELTS Awards extend opportunities for academic advancement, offering scholarships ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 based on merit and financial need.

Yet, beyond financial considerations, success in the IELTS journey demands diligent preparation and strategic planning. As candidates navigate this path, they must balance dedication with adaptability, weaving a narrative of readiness for exam day. In this pursuit, each aspirant charts a unique course towards linguistic proficiency, guided by dedication and determination.

Know Your Author
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Rohit Rajaram
Study Abroad Expert
Rohit is a results-driven individual with a strong background in Education Mentorship, Program Management and Business Development. Holding a Master's degree in Management from ESCP Business School in Paris, Rohit combines academic excellence with extensive industry experience. Throughout his career, Rohit has consistently delivered exceptional results, driving sales, increasing turnover, and achieving targets. Known for his strategic acumen, Rohit formulates and executes successful business strategies, enhancing operational quality, customer satisfaction and key bottonline drivers. As the Co-Founder of MiM-Essay, a leading Early Career Degrees application consulting company, Rohit has successfully mentored over 10,000+ students, enabling them to secure admissions in top-ranked schools worldwide with significant scholarships. Under his leadership, the company has maintained high-quality service and exceptional client satisfaction rates. With expertise in analytics, product development and business excellence, Rohit has successfully driven the success of various initiatives. Committed to constant innovation, he is expanding the company's offerings by introducing digital and technology-powered products for comprehensive education solutions.
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