IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

About IELTS:
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a test administered to evaluate the English language skills of non-English speaking candidates seeking to pursue education programmes or immigration to English speaking countries. The test is designed to assess the candidate's ability to understand spoken and written English in academic and social contexts and also use the language to communicate in the spoken and written forms.

The IELTS test is conducted by the following educational bodies in partnership:
1. University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate (UCLES)
2. The British Council
3. IDP Educational Body, Australia (it's subsidiary is IELTS Australia Pvt. Ltd.)

IELTS scores are accepted by educational institutes, professional bodies, government undertakings and for immigration processing in Australia, New Zealand, U.K., Canada and certain American universities (like Princeton and Duke), where the IELTS scores are accepted in lieu of TOEFL scores.

What Does the IELTS Test:
The objective of the test is to assess a candidate's ability to understand and communicate in English in academic and social contexts. To make this assessment, the following skills are specifically tested.

1. The ability to read and comprehend written, academic or training language.
2. The ability to write assignments in a style that is appropriate for university study or within a training context.
3. The ability to understand spoken language in both lecture format as well as formal and informal conversational styles.
4. The ability to speak on general and given topics in formal and informal situations.

A Description of the Test:
The IELTS test has two versions:

1. The Academic Module - This module is intended for candidates seeking entry to a university or institution of higher education offering degree and diploma courses (i.e. those seeking undergraduate or postgraduate courses).

2. The General Training Module - This module is intended for students seeking entry to a secondary school or to vocational training courses. This module is also meant for candidates seeking immigration to an English speaking country.

The two versions do not carry the same weight and are not interchangeable.
All candidates are tested on reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. Whereas the speaking and listening sections are common for the Academic and General versions of the test, the Reading and Writing sections are different.

Test Format:
The IELTS has four parts:

1. Listening Section - This consists of 4 parts with approximately 40 questions. Total time allotted to this section is 30 minutes, and another 10 minutes as transfer time (to transfer your answers to the answer sheet).
2. (Academic or General) Reading Section -This section will consist of 3 parts with approximately 40 questions. Total time allotted is 60 minutes.
3.(Academic or General) Writing Section -This section will consist of two writing tasks. Total time allotted is 60 minutes.
4. Speaking Section - Total time allotted to this section is 11 to 14 minutes.
The total duration of the test is 2 hours 45 minutes.

The result will consist of a score in each of the four skills (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking) which is then arranged to give the Overall Band Score or final mark. Performance is rated in each skill on a scale of 9 to 1. The nine overall Bands are as follows:

  9   Expert user   4   Limited User
  8   Very good user   3   Extremely limited user
  7   Good user   2   Intermittent user
  6   Competent user   1   Non user
  5   Modest user   0   Did not attempt the test

Pass Mark:
There is no fixed pass mark in IELTS. The acceptability of a score is totally at the discretion of the institute-applied or govt. body (immigration). However, as a general rule, scores below Band 5 are considered to be too low and above Band 6 are deemed to be adequate to good. Band 5 to Band 6 scores are borderline. An overall score of Band 6.5 is mostly accepted as a good score. The individual module's Band score is considered as per the requirement.

For example, an Engineering Institute will emphasise on a good Band Score (6.5 or above) in Listening Module, as the institute's mode of teaching is lecture-oriented, whereas if a person is seeking a job in public - relations, then more weightage is given for a good Band Score (6.5 or more) in the Speaking Module.

In the Listening module and the Reading module, each question carries one mark and there is no negative marking for incorrect answers. Then the overall score is converted into a Band score from 9 to 1. The other two modules (Writing and Speaking) are rated as per the effectiveness, language skills, communication ability, clarity, fluency and spontaneity of the candidate. The same in these two modules can be developed by referring to the assessments made in various books. The candidate must gauge and try to comply with the examiner's assessment method.

Test Dates:
For latest test dates, contact the nearest BRITISH COUNCIL office or visit The Listening, Reading and Writing Modules are conducted on the same day as the test date, but the Speaking Module is conducted on any date between the period starting from seven days before to seven days after the examination date for the other three modules. This is at the discretion of the test centre, subject to the availability of slots.
The test can be taken up to a maximum of four times in a year, as there must be a gap of at least 90 days between the two tests. The test is a PBT (Paper Based Test) but some selected centres offer CBT (Computer Based Test) on request of the candidate.

How to Apply:
The IELTS application form can be procured free of cost from the British Council. This, along with the necessary documents (as prescribed in the application form), needs to be submitted to the nearest British Council, along with a Demand Draft of Rs.5, 250 (Rupees five thousand two hundred and fifty only) in the name of "British Council Division" payable at British Council, Chennai (for South-India region).

The D.D. should be payable at British Council,
New Delhi  -       for North India
Mumbai      -       for West India
Chennai     -       for South India
Kolkata             for East India

The application form should be submitted at least 5 weeks before the examination date (as chosen by the candidate) or as per the slot-availability at the test centre where the candidate is interested in taking up the test.

The results reach the candidates two weeks after the test by post. In case a candidate needs to obtain the results within a week, the candidate needs to pay an extra amount, as mentioned in the application form.

Validity of Scores:
The Band score obtained is valid up to two years. While obtaining admission to an educational institute, the latest IELTS score is considered.