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Planning to work or study abroad where English is one of the primary languages of communication?
Students who are non-native English speakers and aspiring to study overseas are required to undertake an English language proficiency test, such as IELTS, as a part of the application process.
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a standardized test, scored on a 9-band scale, to evaluate the English language proficiency of the aspiring candidates. The test evaluates a student’s skills and command across the important aspects of language: Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking.
IELTS is jointly owned and administered by the British Council, IDP Education, and Cambridge Assessment English.
The number of IELTS tests conducted grew to a record 3.5 million in 2018, up from 3 million tests in 2017. And thus, it is one of the leading authorities in sphere of international higher education and immigration.
Band Score Scale
Band-1 (lowest) to Band-9 (highest)
2 hour 45 minutes
Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking
Paper-based and Computer-delivered
Academic and General Training
Study abroad and immigration to English speaking countries
Students often get this doubt regarding how crucial is the IELTS performance during the application process. Well, here’s the deal:
The university and visa-granting authorities need to ensure that an applicant has a robust command of the language, which is essential to succeed academically and professionally in English-speaking countries. The test performance helps them to assess a candidate’s ability to use the language effectively in various practical settings.
IELTS is widely accepted and recognised for entrance to universities and colleges across the English-speaking nations. 100% of universities and colleges in UK and Australia, and more than 3400 institutes in the USA accept the test. Also, most of the universities and colleges across Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and many other countries recognise the test.
But there’s more:
Australia, UK, Canada, and New Zealand widely use the test for citizenship and visa process as well.
IELTS is globally available at over 1600 locations in more than 140 countries and territories, making it easily accessible for the candidates. There are over 80 IELTS test centres in India, across various cities, where you can book your slot to take the test.
The global recognition and easy accessibility make IELTS the leading test of English proficiency for international higher education and migration.
Exam pattern for IELTS is planned on the basis of skill areas to be evaluated and accordingly the test is divided into 4 sections viz Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Total duration of the test is 2 hour 45 minutes, and the time allocated for each section differs.
Out of the four sections, listening, reading, and writing are completed on the same day, in a stretch without any break. Speaking test can be taken either on the same day or up to a week before or after the other tests, as advised by the selected centre.
Each section is scored individually and the overall band score is the average of the bands achieved in each section. Also, all sections have a pre-set standard pattern to ensure reliable and fair evaluation of all candidates.
Now, let's explore each section a bit more to get a fair understanding of the exam pattern.
Duration: 30 minutes
No. of questions: 40
Question type(s): Multiple choice, Sentence completion, Summary completion, Flow-chart completion, Diagram labelling, Matching information, and more.
Duration: 60 minutes
No. of questions: 40
Question type(s): Short answer, Matching headings, Multiple choice, Sentence completion, Summary completion, Flow-chart completion, Diagram labelling, Identifying writer’s views/claims, and more.
Duration: 60 minutes
No. of questions: 2
Write an essay of at least 150 words summarising the information presented in the given graphs, table, or diagrams on a related topic. Students are advised to spend no more than 20 minutes on this task.
Write a clear and relevant essay of at least 250 words in response to the given argument, point of view, or a problem. The style of writing should be academic and neutral. Students are advised to spend no more than 40 minutes on this task.
Writing Task-2 contributes twice as much as the Task-1 to the final Writing band score.
Duration: 15 minutes
No. of parts: 3
This part is generally about introduction and interview, and the questions related to familiar topics like home, studies, work, and interests are asked.
The test-takers are given a card with the topic to speak on for 2 minutes. The examiner can ask 1 to 2 follow up questions on the same topic. After the topic is given, the test takers are provided a minute to prepare and are given a paper and pencil to make notes for the same.
In this part, the examiner and test taker discuss issues related to the topic given in Part-2 in a more abstract manner and in a greater depth.
The IELTS is categorized on the basis of a candidate’s requirements and purpose while going abroad as Academic test and General training. Also, there are IELTS test types on the basis of the mode of conduct of test: Paper- based and Computer-delivered.
To find out which one might be suitable for you, check out the comparative overview of each section presented as follows:
IELTS Academic test is featured for students planning for higher studies, such as Undergraduate, Masters, MBA, or PhD, where English language is primarily used. It assesses whether the test taker is ready to begin his studies or professional work in a non-native environment.
On the other hand, IELTS General Training primarily gauges test-takers’ English language proficiency in the everyday context. So, individuals planning for a vocational training program or to immigrate professionally, prefer this test type.
Also, if you’re planning on migrating to Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the UK, then you need to give the IELTS General training test.
The test format is vastly same for both the test types, including the duration, sections, and number of questions. The only difference being in the reading and writing section of the test.
The reading and writing section questions are designed for both the types in accordance with the ultimate goal of test. Thus, for General training the questions are more in line to assess a candidate's practical use of language in various professional and social settings.
Whereas for the Academic test, the questions assess a candidate’s ability to use the language to thrive in academic as well as professional scenarios.
Of all the IELTS tests conducted, the 80% of test-takers opt for the IELTS Academic test. Whereas the remaining 20% chose the IELTS General Training.
This further demonstrates the prominence of IELTS in the field of international higher education.
The only difference in between these two types, as the name suggests, is the medium through which the test is conducted.
Computer-delivered IELTS, since its launch in December 2017, has been introduced in more than 20 countries and territories. Supplementing the paper-based test, it helps to offer greater flexibility and more choice in test-date availability.
Mode of Examination
For the Paper-based test, you have to jot down your answers with a pencil or a pen on the answer sheet, which will be provided to you along with question paper at the test centre.
Likewise, for the Computer-based test, the questions will be presented on screen and you have to submit the answers with the help of a mouse and a keyboard.
The Speaking test is conducted in person for both test types, as it is deemed by authorities as the best way to evaluate the skill. You will have a face-to-face session with a trained IELTS examiner, at the selected centre, either on the same day or up to a week before or after the other tests depending upon the slot availability.
Listening Test Transfer Time
In the Paper-based test, during the listening section, test-takers are to write their answers on the question paper simultaneously as they listen the recordings. And towards the end of the section time duration of 30 minutes, test-takers are provided an additional 10 minutes to transfer their answers on to the answer sheet.
In the computer-delivered test there is no provision of this additional transfer time, as the test-takers are to directly answer on the system.
Test Date Availability
Paper-based IELTS is conducted up to 2 times a week, whereas the computer-delivered IELTS can be available up to 3 times a day on all 7 days of the week.
Thus, computer-delivered test has got better availability and provides a candidate more flexibility while booking.
In India the computer-delivered IELTS tests are available in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Kochi, Mumbai, Vijayawada and Pune at one of British Council’s official test centers.
During the peak season the test slots get booked a month in advance, and in that scenario computer-delivered test is the one which can be booked more conveniently. Also, as the majority of test-takers are used to the traditional pen and paper format of exams, the slot availability for the paper-based IELTS test gets limited due to the demand.
The result for the paper-based test is released 13 working days after the test date, whereas the same for computer-delivered test is provided in up to 3-5 working days after the test.
Which test type to select?
The test content, difficulty, pattern, and format for both, paper-based and computer-delivered, tests are the same. As mentioned earlier the only difference being the mode of examination.
If you prefer the traditional pen and paper approach for exams, then the paper-based test can be a better choice for you. Although, candidates should be mindful about the limited availability and accordingly should book their date at least a month in advance.
Similarly, if the medium of the test does not bother you or if you are comfortable to appear for exams on a computer, then you can go for the computer-delivered IELTS. Also, if you need an early result or are not able to book a paper-based test, then computer-delivered test can be the way to go.
So, have you decided which IELTS test to take and when to take it? Now, let’s go through the registration process for the test.
As per British Council, your passport is the only valid identity document (ID) accepted to complete the IELTS registration process. Student IDs, driving licenses and other documents are not accepted as valid proof of identification.
You must also carry your passport on the test day. And the document must be valid (not expired) at the time of booking and on the test day.
You can register for the test either through British Council or IDP India. Every aspect of the test is same except for the test centers.
If you were to book through British Council, you would be allotted a slot at one of their centres and the same goes for IDP.
Thus, if you do not find a slot on the desired date on one platform you can always check on the other.
You can book the IELTS test online through the British Council or the IDP IELTS platform as follows:
You can also book the test offline by reaching out to the nearest test centre with the requisite documents and registration fee amount in the form of Demand Draft.
Paper-based IELTS is conducted twice a week on Thursdays and Saturdays. Whereas the computer-delivered IELTS, where it is available, is conducted up to 7 days a week.
There are over 80 IELTS test centers in India, accounting for both of British Council and IDP Education. Candidates must select the test center by taking into consideration the available slots, preferred mode of exam, and commute time to the center.
The IELTS exam fee in India is 14,000 INR since April 1st, 2020. The exam fee is the same for Paper-based as well as Computer-delivered test.
If you are registering online, then you can make the fee payment by either Net Banking, E-wallet, or Credit/Debit card.
If you want to register offline then you can make the fee payment either by Demand Draft (DD) or by depositing cash at the partner bank of the test center.
Candidates can request cancellation of the test up to five weeks before the test date. In that case you can be eligible for a refund of 75% of the exam fees.
Candidates who cancel the test within five weeks of the test date without any prior notice, or those who fail to appear for the test are not eligible for any refund.
If you fell ill just before the test and can provide the original medical certificate within 5 days of the test date to support the claim then you may be eligible for refund under exceptional cases.
The authorities also consider incidents such as bereavement of a family member or a sudden hardship/trauma under exceptional cases for refund/postponement.
The refunded amount is transferred back to the bank account used for registration. And the refunds can take up to 2 to 3 weeks to process.
You can request to change the test date up to 5 weeks before the originally booked test date.
Postponement application has an administrative fee of INR 3,500 since 1st April, 2020.
The new test date must be within 3 months of the original test date. You are allowed to transfer the test date only once, and if unable to appear for test on the new date then you will not be eligible for a refund or further postponement.
In case of illness, your test centre can consider your request for date transfer if original medical certificate along with the postponement application form is provided within 5 working days of the test date.
IELTS is scored on a 9-band scale, with each score band corresponding to a defined competency in English language. Thus, the scores range from ‘band-1’ (non-user) to ‘band-9’ (expert user).
There is no concept of ‘fail’ or ‘pass’ in IELTS. But each institute has got a minimum score requirement which the candidate must fulfil in order to be eligible to get in.
Test takers receive a score band for each section of the test – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. And the Overall Band Score is produced as an average of the individual scores of each section.
The Overall Band Score, if it ends in a decimal, gets rounded up to the nearest half or whole band score. To give an example if your average band score comes out to be 7.25 then it would be rounded off to 7.5 as the Overall Band Score. Similarly, if the average score is 6.75 then it would be rounded off as 7.0 Overall Score.
The following table gives a demonstration of different instances of score conversion.
|9||Expert User||Has complete operational command of the language|
|8||Very Good User||Has full operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies|
|7||Good User||Can handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning, though with occasional inaccuracies and misunderstandings|
|6||Competent User||Has an effective command to use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations|
|5||Modest User||Should be able to handle basic communication in their own field but still prone to many mistakes|
|4||Limited User||Has basic competence limited to familiar situations but not able to use the complex language|
|3||Extremely Limited User||Can convey and understand only general meaning in very familiar situations|
|2||Intermittent User||Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English|
|1||Non-User||No ability to use the language except a few isolated words|
|0||Did not attempt the test||No information available to assess the skill|
IELTS results are issued in the Test Report Form (TRF) format, and the test-takers get only one TRF. It shows your individual score in each section viz. Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking, as well as your Overall Band Score.
The result is available 13 working days after the test date for paper-based IELTS whereas for the computer-delivered IELTS results are available in up to 3 to 5 working days. You can arrange for your test centre to post it to you or you can pick it up in-person from the centre.
You can select up to 5 institutes/organisations to be sent your IELTS results on your behalf, free of charge. And if the candidates wish to send the results to more institutes then they can avail the service for a small administrative fee.
Your IELTS TRF will be valid for 2 years from the date of being issued.
Also, you can re-take the test as many times as you wish, by registering again and making the exam fee payment. And you can provide any of the multiple results as long as they are valid.
You can re-take the test as soon as you wish to. Although the authorities advise to be adequately prepared before registering again in order to see considerable improvement in results.
If a candidate fails to show up for the test on the selected date without any prior notice for postponement/cancellation then will deemed as an absentee. They will not be eligible for any refund in this case.
IELTS TRF is valid for two years. And if a candidate has damaged or lost their TRF during that period, then the authorities will not be able to provide another copy to the candidate. But they will send a TRF to the relevant institution/organization on behalf of the candidate.
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