The listening test focuses on situationally authentic language and tasks. That means you will get tested on what you are likely to hear and need to understand in an environment where the interaction is in English.
There is no ‘preferred’ accent and listening texts feature native speaker accents from the USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Accents are present, but neutral, and reflect what test takers will experience in real life interactions in English.
General information about listening
There are 40 questions in 4 sections in the test and the test gets progressively more difficult from section 1 to section 4.
Sections 1 and 2 come from a social interaction. Usually, section 1 is an exchange between two speakers and section 2 is a monologue such as a guided tour or a sales presentation.
Sections 3 and 4 come from an academic environment. Section 3 usually has 3 or 4 speakers and section 4 only one.
The reading test is designed for purpose. That means the different versions of the test allows candidates with different purposes to take versions suitable to their needs and requirements.
It is also designed to test a variety of reading skills that test takers are likely to need in real life reading and includes a variety of reading tasks to ensure the test is fit for purpose.
General information about reading There are 3 sections and 40 questions. The test lasts for 60 minutes. In the academic version, the reading texts are academic in nature, while they are more social in nature in the general training paper.
Similar to the reading test, the writing test is available in two versions. A big benefit for Asian candidates who are used to use a keyboard for different input functions, the IELTS test is a written exam. That means you won’t waste time trying to find certain keys on the keyboard. This allows candidates to give an accurate reflection of their writing ability without having to worry about typing. The test is marked by a trained IELTS examiner.
General information about writing
The writing test has two parts and lasts 60 minutes.
Both the general training version and the academic version requires the writing of an essay for part 2. It is suggested that candidates spend around 40 minutes on this and many candidates prefers to do task 2 first as the scores are weighted more than task 1.
For task 1, general training candidates write a letter. The academic task 1 is more academic in nature and required the description of for example a graph, a map or a flow chart.
The biggest benefit of the IELTS speaking exam is that it is one-on-one with an examiner. While this may be intimidating for candidates, it is very important to remember that candidates can ask for repetition and clarification or use conversation repair techniques for which they will be rewarded instead of penalized. This is not possible in exams where the test is done on a computer.
All tests are recorded to ensure that candidates are given a fair mark. The examiner in the room is trained to deliver the test fairly and accurately as well as to score the test accurately and fairly.
General information about speaking
There are 3 parts to the test and it lasts for around 14 minutes. It progresses from personal questions and very familiar topics to less familiar and more general.
In part 1, you will be asked personal questions about familiar topics such as using a mobile phone or the internet, work or study and other similar topics.
In part 2 you are given a topic to speak about for 2 minutes. You have a minute preparation time.
In part 3, you have a discussion with the examiner about a topic related to your part 2 topic. In this part you can ask the examiner to explain their questions, but in part 1 and 2 they are not allowed to.
How are scores reported?
IELTS scores are reported as a band score ranging from 1 to 9 with half points in between.
Each paper is given a separate score and this is converted to an overall score by dividing the total of the four papers by four.
Marking criteria for the speaking and writing modules are available online and candidates can use these to guide their preparation.
Examiners are recruited based on very strict requirements and then trained. After the initial training, examiners are constantly monitored and have retraining meetings.
This is to ensure that marking is fair and accurate.
Candidates can request a remark of their speaking or writing, but it is highly unlikely that more than a half point increase can be accomplished through this. There are systems in place to ensure that each candidate receives the mark they deserve.