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Are you planning to study abroad in an English-speaking country? You probably have heard of IELTS or TOEFL. They are English proficiency tests that help the school to determine if you have the potential to succeed academically. Universities in the US, the UK, Ireland, some provinces of Canada, Australia and New Zealand require students whose first language is not English to provide proof of English language proficiency, usually in the form of standardised test results. IELTS is one of the most popular exams. Many students choose to include it in their applications.  


But what exactly is IETLS? Let’s find out together. 




What is IELTS test?

To begin with, IELTS stands for international English language testing system. It is designed to assess your ability to use English, in all four skills, reading, listening, writing and speaking in an academic or professional capacity. 


There are different types of the IELTS exam for people with various reasons for taking the exam: 

  • IELTS Academic 
  • IELTS General Training 
  • IELTS Academic for UKVI  
  • IELTS General Training for UKVI 
  • IELTS Life Skills A1 
  • IELTS Life Skills B1 


UKVI is short for UK Visas and Immigration, a governmental division. IELTS for UKVI are IELTS exams that are conducted according to terms specified by UK Visas and Immigration and the results of IELTS for UKVI are accepted when you apply for a UK visa. 


What is the difference between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training? 

IELTS Academic, as its name suggests, are for people seeking higher education in an English-speaking country, whereas IELTS General Training is intended for test-takers who are to work and live in another country. 


Because of this difference, some of the exam questions on IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training are not the same.  


Test-takers of both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training will answer the same questions for their listening and speaking exams. However, for those who wish to further their education and sit IELTS Academic, their reading and writing tests will cover topics pertaining to university studies. On the other hand, the IELTS General Training test features topics concerning general interest.  


For instance, people taking IELTS Academic will need to write short essays analysing data and graphs, while people sitting IELTS General Training will be asked to write a letter for a specific reason. 


What is the format of the IELTS test?

The test formats, for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training, are the same despite their difference in content. 

The test formats of the 4 different sessions:  

IELTS Reading: 40 Questions/60 minutes 

IELTS Listening: 40 Questions/30 minutes 

IELTS Writing: 2 Tasks/60 minutes 

IELTS Speaking: 3 Parts/10-15 minutes


There are two ways you can sit the IELTS: IELTS on Paper and IELTS on Computer. They share many common features:  

  • Price 
  • Level of difficulty
  • Question types
  • Scoring system
  • The in-person speaking test  


However, if you opt for a computer-delivered IELTS, you can receive the results earlier, take more tests within the same year, have more choices of the timeslots of the speaking test, and have the chance to register for the IELTS exam at the last minute. 


With those advantages, the computer-delivered IELTS does seem a better option. But you should choose whichever format of IELTS that you’re comfortable with. Also, if you need any accommodations or special requirements, you should register for IELTS on paper as it can cater to test takers of all needs. 


What are IELTS test dates?

For the specific IELTS test dates, you will need to check the official websites of British Council, the exam organisers. But in general, there are 48 IELTS exams all year round, with 4 in each month. (The number might differ depending on the location.)  


The IELTS tests are almost always taken on weekends.  


How is IELTS scored? 


For each part of your IELTS test, reading, listening, speaking, and writing, you will be given a score from 1 to 9. It’s possible you receive a whole band (e.g. 7, 8, etc) as your score or a half band (e.g. 7.5, 8.5, etc.). 


The bands are calculated based on the number of questions you get right for each session of IELTS. For more details on how IELTS is scored, you can check out the IELTS band descriptors.  


What is the difference between TOEFL and IELTS? 

TOEFL, Test of English as a Foreign Language, is another popular choice among people who plan to study abroad. 


While TOFEL and IELTS are similar in that both test you on all 4 skills, reading, listening, writing and speaking, their formats are different: different numbers of questions and tasks.


What kind of topics are on the IELTS?

The IELTS Reading and Listening cover a wide range of topics, from everyday conversation, such as booking a restaurant or asking for information about a product, to academic lectures on history, art, literature, science, etc.  


As for the writing test, you will be asked to offer your opinion on topics, including but not limited to education, politics, culture, economics, technology, environmental issues, etc. in task 2. For example, you might be required to comment on an environmental problem and provide a solution to it. 


The IELTS Speaking is divided into 3 parts. Part 1 focuses on you. The examiner will ask you everyday English questions about you, your preferences or your experience. However, part 2 and part 3 are somewhat similar to task 2 in Writing. You will need to discuss topics and form a more structured answer. For instance, you might be asked to describe an item that is important to you. You need to first let the examiner what the item is and explain the reasons why you think it is important. 


How long is the IELTS score valid?

Most organisations accept an IELTS score that is received within 2 years as the IELTS test providers are not able to confirm the validity of your test score that is more than 2-year-old. 


Why should you take IELTS? 

There are many reasons why you should take IELTS. IELTS is available worldwide, with more than 800 test centres and locations. You can take it anywhere. IELTS reports are also recognised and accepted by most international institutions. It can help you study abroad and further your education or move and work in another country. What’s more, you choose to take IELTS on paper or on computer, depending on your needs and preferences. 


If you wish to learn more about IELTS, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Intake advisors. Our advisors are all experts in study abroad plans and can answer any questions you have about IELTS. 




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