IELTS means International English Language Testing System. Organized by the University of Cambridge, England, the British Council and IDP Australia, the IELTS is valid in many English speaking countries: Australia, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand or South Africa, in universities, other institutions and professional organizations. Today, tests take place up to 4 times a month in more than 800 centers across 130 countries.
In Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the IELTS is required for immigration. The Australian authorities set up the IELTS in May 1998, replacing another test. Since July 2012, applicants for permanent residence must get a score of at least 7 in each module. The IELTS English exam is very important for Australian immigration points.
General Training or Academic exam?
There are two different IELTS exams, the Academic exam intended for students, and the General Training exam for professionals or visa applicants. Examination centers send the results back to candidates 13 days after their examination.
The test consists of four sections: oral (speaking), listening, reading and writing. The oral examination may take place at a different time than the other three exams (up to 7 days before or after them).
The Academic exam is intended for those who want to study at an English language university or institution. It evaluates the ability of a candidate to study in English at an undergraduate or postgraduate level.
The General Training exam must assess a candidate’s language skills in everyday, practical situations (at work for example). This test is useful for those who come to study, work or train in an English-speaking country, and of course for those who wish to immigrate to Australia.
The Oral Exam (Speaking)
The oral exam takes place separately from the other tests, since it is a face-to-face meeting with an examiner. This interview lasts only 11 to 14 minutes, and consists of three sections.
The first section contains questions about your situation, such as “What is your job? “or” What are you studying? or questions about your life: ” Where do you live and how is it out there? “, “What are your hobbies?” etc. In short, the examiner tries to see if you are able to talk about yourself in a daily context, your hobbies, your family, your free time or why you are taking the IELTS English exam. This first section lasts about 4 to 5 minutes.
This section is usually the easiest, at least for those who are accustomed to introducing themselves and speaking in English. It is also the easiest to prepare before the exam.
The second section is more general. The examiner will give you a subject to think about. You’ll then have to write down a few notes for a minute, and then speak for 2 minutes. Normally, the examiner does not intervene during these two minutes but only afterwards, to ask one or two additional questions relating to this subject. In total, this section lasts about 3 to 4 minutes. The subjects can be quite varied: the last movie you saw, the last book you read, the new job that you would like to get and why etc. Some topics are easier than others to handle. Whatever happens, you have to find a story to tell, even if it does not seem very interesting to you.
The third section is related to the second one. The examiner will ask you a series of questions derived from the previous topic. This section is more of a discussion. For example, the examiner may ask what you think about language learning, what is the best way to study a language, etc. This more abstract part is considered by many to be the most difficult. It lasts about 4 to 5 minutes.
During the oral exam, the most important thing is to show that you’re able to speak fluently, without looking at your notes too much. What you’re actually talking about is less important.
The Listening Exam
The listening exam (oral comprehension) takes place on the same day as the writing and reading exams. The test lasts about 40 minutes (30 minutes of listening and 10 minutes to write your answers on the answer sheet). It includes 4 sections and 40 questions in total.
The first section is usually a conversation between 2 persons in a daily social context. It can be someone calling to book something or to ask questions about a topic. It is then necessary to fill in the blank spaces in a text with pieces of information such as the names, places, dates, activities that you heard. This section is usually the easiest.
The second section is like a monologue, someone describing the activities offered by a travel agency or in a sports club for example. You must then find the right answers on your sheet.
The third section is a conversation between 4 people in a school, between students or between teachers and students. It is often accompanied by a multiple choice questionnaire.
The fourth section is a monologue or an academic subject. It can be a discourse, a university lecture on an environmental or societal subject. There might be a text with blank spaces to fill or a multiple choice questionnaire.
The listening exam becomes increasingly difficult, and the last part, which is more technical, can pose problems to candidates.
Make sure that your answers make sense before you write them down. If you don’t know an answer, it is better to write something instead of leaving a blank space.
The Reading Exam
The reading test lasts one hour, in which you are confronted with several texts, more or less formal.
The academic module contains three sections, with three texts normally followed by 13 to 14 questions, for a total of 40 questions. In the general module, there are also 3 sections and 40 questions, however the texts are shorter and there may be a maximum of 5 of them.
The text subjects vary widely: you can come across a subject about economy, the office, science etc.
The Writing Exam
The 4th IELTS exam is considered to be the most difficult. The writing exam also lasts 1 hour and includes two sections.
In the academic exam, the first task is a diagram, a graph or a table to describe, while in task 2, you must give your opinion on a specific affirmation. In the general training module, there are also two tasks, but they are very different. In the first one, you have to write a letter explaining a specific situation. It can be for a friend, a neighbor, a banker. You have to select the most appropriate style, more or less formal depending on the situation. For this task, you must write at least 150 words.
In the second task, an essay should be written on a rather simple subject. This can be “what movies are good for children and why?” or “is it better to live in an apartment or in a house according to you? “. This section must be at least 250 words.
The written test is difficult because you must use the right style to address your interlocutor. You must use a wide range of vocabulary and avoid spelling and grammar mistakes. It’s very important to train before you take this test.
Your score: from 0 to 9
Possible IELTS scores go from 1 (Non User) to 9 (Expert User). 2 means Intermittent User, 3 is Extremely Limited User, 4 is Limited User, 5 is Modest user, 6 is Competent User, 7 is Good User and 8 is Very Good User.
Even if you think you have really good English skills, you must train hard before the IELTS exam. The Internet and local libraries will be your best friends to pass the test and immigrate to Australia!