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If you want to study abroad and English is not your first language, proof of English language proficiency can be requested by universities. There are many tests which you can take to show your proficiency in English; the IELTS test is one of the most widely accepted tests for the UK, US, Ireland, Australia, and Canada. As all English proficiency tests differ in their content and scoring structure, the acceptable scores for admission will also be different. Here, we will discuss the IELTS test, how it is scored and what scores students should aim for to study abroad. 


What is the IELTS exam? 

The IELTS is a widely recognised English proficiency exam which is used worldwide for immigration and study purposes. The test covers four components of English fluency – speaking, listening, reading, and writing, and are each scored separately. These scores are combined and averaged to give your overall IELTS band score, which can be used to apply to universities.  


The IELTS band scores range from 1 to 9, with 9 being the highest level of proficiency. Each test is scored from band 1 to 9, with half scores in between. The individual band scores and the overall IELTS band score is rounded to the nearest whole or half band. For the listening and reading test, the test is scored based on 40 multiple choice questions, and for speaking and writing, the responses are evaluated by examiners.  


What are the types of IELTS test? 

There are two types of IELTS test, the Academic IELTS and General IELTS tests. The General test can be used for immigration purposes, but to study abroad, the Academic IELTS test is required. The difference between the Academic and General tests is the complexity and length of questions, although both are scored using the IELTS band system. The General test will require a higher raw exam mark in order to score into each band level, as it is less complex than the Academic test. 


There are universities in the UK and other countries which request the UKVI IELTS test for admission, instead of the Academic test. The test content is the same as the Academic version but has additional verification about the testing centre where the IELTS test was sat. Double check which test is needed before signing up to and sitting for an IELTS exam.  


What is in the IELTS exam? 

The IELTS exam has four parts – listening, reading, speaking, and writing. The test aims to examine your English proficiency through a variety of question types. Here is a brief overview of each section of the exam: 



For listening, there are 40 questions in English – 4 recordings with 10 questions each. You are given 30 minutes to complete this section, and it can be done on paper or on the computer. There are multiple choice, matching, labelling and fill-in-the-blank questions in this section. 



This section has 40 questions to be answered in 60 minutes. You will be given a variety of reading passages, diagrams and charts, and questions will be multiple choice, true/false, matching, and short answers.  



The writing part of the IELTS exam has two parts; task 1 is a short answer question, where you will have to read and interpret a graph, chart, or infographic. Task 1 answers are minimum. 150 words, and you will need to use the key information from the graphic in your response. Task 2 is a longer response question, where you will have to write a short essay in response to a statement given. Task 2 responses are minimum 250 words, and you will be graded based on your organisation, vocabulary, structure, and clarity of your thoughts. 



The IELTS speaking exam has 3 parts. Part 1 is a short interview-style discussion where you will speak with the examiner about a topic. Part 2 is an individual response, where you will speak for 1-2 minutes continuously about the topic or question the examiner provides. Part 3 is a two-way discussion, where the examiner will have a short conversation with you in more detail about a given topic. 


What do the IELTS test scores mean? 

The IELTS exams are scored from bands 1-9 and are used by universities to evaluate English language proficiency. Since there are many types of English proficiency exams, the IELTS is difficult to compare to other tests. To demonstrate the IELTS band scores requested by universities for international students to study abroad, we can compare it to the CEFR language proficiency levels.  


Usually, the minimum IELTS score to study abroad in the UK, US, Canada, and Australia is an overall score of 6.5. There are universities which request different IELTS test scores of around 6.0, however 6.5 is most common. The IELTS organisation compares this level of proficiency to the CEFR B2, and their highest level, level 9 is considered CEFR C2. Therefore, if you have been evaluated by other English proficiency exams to be B2 or above, you could likely aim to achieve 6.5 or above in the IELTS.  


What IELTS scores do I need to study abroad? 

As mentioned above, the minimum IELTS exam score to study abroad is usually a score of 6.5 overall, but this depends on the university and country. However, some universities ask for minimum scores in every section, to ensure that every dimension of your English proficiency meets university standards. Also, depending on your degree type and major, some universities will require higher scores, especially for top universities.  


When are IELTS test results available? 

If you took the computer exam, the IELTS test results are available on your account 3-5 days after the test date. If you sat the paper exam, the test results are available online 13 days after the test date. The paper report of your IELTS exam results will be mailed to you in the same time period and will arrive depending on postage times.  


Get advice on study abroad applications with Intake 

Intake can offer advice on which universities you can apply for depending on your IELTS scores. We can help you through the application process based on the scores that you achieve; contact an Intake Advisor today to discuss how we can help you with your study abroad applications.  



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