The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is intended to assess the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. Prospective university students who are not from English-speaking countries and have finished a large portion of their prior education in another language will have to demonstrate the requisite language skills, and the IELTS is one of the most widespread means of doing so. Passing IELTS scores are set by specific institutions, colleges, and universities, and the score expectations of degree programs can therefore differ. There are three versions of the IELTS: general training, academic, and life skills. University applicants take the academic exam, while the general training test is meant for professional purposes, such as skilled worker immigration visas, etc. The IELTS life skills test evaluates fundamental language skills for United Kingdom citizenship or visas.
The IELTS general and academic training tests (often referred to as “modules”) consist of four sections that evaluate reading, listening, speaking, and writing in English. The speaking and listening sections are identical on both exams. The listening section is 40 questions in 30 minutes, while the speaking section is an 11-14-minute interview with a trained IELTS examiner. The academic reading module consists of 40 questions on three different texts, which students are given an hour to complete. Academic writing, also one hour, presents two separate writing tasks (a description of visually presented information and a “discursive essay”). The general training reading module has the same length and number of questions as its academic counterpart, but the reading passages are oriented toward daily life instead of university subjects. The general training writing section, like the academic writing evaluation, lasts for one hour, but the first writing task is a letter about a given situation rather than a description.
The IELTS has been a commonly accepted test since it was first offered in 1980, and the yearly number of test-takers now surpasses 2.4 million. Over half of these people take the IELTS to begin university study in an English-speaking country, but the test is also used to qualify for immigration visas (mainly in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand). The IELTS has a four-section structure that evaluates listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. University applicants take the IELTS academic module, while the general training module is generally taken for other purposes. The listening and speaking sections are the same for both modules, but there are distinct reading and writing sections for each version of the test. The best way to familiarize yourself with the exam is to take a free IELTS practice test on the Manhattan Review website.
The IELTS listening evaluation consists of four different types of exercises. The first is a two-person conversation on a general topic, the purpose of which is to convey information. The second exercise is a monologue, also on a general topic. The third and fourth exercises are conversations and monologues respectively, but in academic contexts. Test-takers must answer 10 questions for each exercise, and question types consist of fill-in-the-blank, completion of charts, and multiple choice. The exercises are delivered via audio-recording, and each recording will be played only once. Students are, however, told the context of each exercise before the recording plays. The timing for IELTS listening is 30 minutes, plus an additional 10 minutes for transfer of responses to an answer sheet. Listening questions are weighted equally in the section score.
The IELTS speaking assessment is an actual in-person interview with an examiner. There are three exercises on this portion of the IELTS. On the first, the test-taker answers a series of examiner questions on a familiar topic, such as hobbies or preferences. The latter two exercises are based on a booklet that includes a general topic. Students must discuss the topic, and then answer specific questions. Composite section timing is 11-14 minutes, with separate timing for each exercise (4-5 minutes for part 1, 3-4 minutes for part 2, and 4-5 minutes for part 3).
IELTS Reading (Academic Test)
On the IELTS academic reading assessment, students must complete a variety of exercises based on three reading passages of differing difficulty. The reading passages can be either narrative, argumentative, or descriptive, and the topics are academic but intended for non-specialists. Test-takers must answer a total of 40 questions, and each passage will include between 12 and 14 questions. There are 11 question types on the reading section: identifying information, multiple choice, identifying writer claims, matching information, matching features, matching headings, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, chart completion, labeling diagrams, and short-answer. Students are given one hour to finish the IELTS academic reading section. Answers must be transferred to an answer sheet, but no additional time is allotted for this purpose. All questions contribute equally to the section score.
IELTS Writing (Academic Test)
The IELTS academic writing evaluation includes two distinct writing tasks. On task 1, students are expected to complete a 150-word essay that describes a chart, diagram, graph, or some other visual representation of information, for which they are given 20 minutes. Writing task 2 involves composing a 250-word essay that may propose a solution to an indicated problem, compare and contrast given ideas, or challenge views raised by the essay prompt. The timing for task 2 is 40 minutes. The section score is weighted toward the second essay, which counts for twice as much as the first.
IELTS Reading (General Training Test)
The reading section on the IELTS general training examination varies from the academic test primarily in the subject matter of the reading passages, which on the former are more about work-related topics or issues of general interest. Section timing (one hour), the composite number of questions (40), the types of questions (see the above description of the academic reading module), the number of questions per task (variable) and the weighting of questions (equal) are the same for both exams.
IELTS Writing (General Training Test)
The IELTS writing evaluation on the general test has the same structure and timing as the academic exam (two separate essays of 20 minutes and 40 minutes). The first writing task on the general training test is a letter written in response to a given situation. The second task is a “discursive essay” of the same type discussed in connection with IELTS academic writing, and this second essay is worth twice as much as the first.
IELTS Academic & General Test Differences
The IELTS academic and general training tests have far more similarities than they have differences. The timing and structure for both exams are the same (four sections that assess speaking, reading, writing, and listening over a total of two hours and 45 minutes). In both cases, students must take the IELTS writing, reading, and listening assessments on the same day, while the speaking paper may be taken up to seven days before or afterwards. The registration procedure (online or submission of forms in hard copy) is identical for the academic and general training tests, and most test centers will offer either version.
When it comes to differences between the academic and general tests, however, there are two primary variances: the content of some sections and the purposes for which the exam is used. The IELTS academic reading and writing papers are intended for those pursuing postsecondary degrees, while general training reading and writing consist of content more apt for the workplace. Undergraduate or graduate university applicants take the academic test, while the general training test is most often used for the assessment of skilled workers. Academic institutions will typically accept the academic test only, and the general training test is often required by immigration agencies for certain types of applicants. However, it should not be assumed that the general training test is always taken for all non-academic purposes. Some private companies that use the IELTS to evaluate their job applicants, for example, prefer the academic test over the general training test. The IELTS website includes a database of the test versions and test scores expected by a large number of academic and non-academic organizations.
IELTS Revisions & Changes
The most important addition to the IELTS group of assessments was the introduction of the Life Skills Test in 2015. The IELTS academic and general training tests were revised in 2001 and in 2005, but they have remained stable for the past several years. The governments of some countries have altered their visa policies with respect to the required IELTS scores, but test-takers should only concern themselves with the standards currently in place. The IELTS website is a good resource for information on the IELTS requirements of the countries that accept the test.
Test-takers registering for the IELTS must use the IELTS website, and registration may be completed either entirely online or via a downloadable registration form. Students who choose the latter option will submit the completed form directly to a specific test center. Available test centers and dates should be perused through the search feature on the IELTS website. Open test dates may be anywhere from a few weeks to six months in advance. Students should note that dates on the drop-down menus are listed in the standard European day-month-year format rather than the month-day-year scheme used in North America. For example, June 5, 2018 is listed as 05/06/2018 instead of 06/05/2018.
Aside from pencils, pens, identification documents, and bottled water, test-takers are not allowed to bring personal items into the test room. All electronic devices, including phones, watches, and laptops are strictly forbidden while taking the IELTS, and test-takers may be subject to scans for these devices during the testing period. Storage space for personal belongings will be provided at the test center. Students must also leave all test materials in the test room at the conclusion of the exam, and they may not remove any exam booklets, answer sheets, or scratch paper. Test-takers must be present for all four sections of the test. Scores will not be issued to students who violate any of these policies.
IELTS scores are reported in terms of component scores and overall scores. Students receive a component score for each IELTS module and an overall score that is the average of the four component scores (the marks for each module contribute equally). IELTS uses the “band” system for score reporting, which is within a range of 0 to 9 in half-point intervals (e.g. 6.0 or 8.5). Because it is mathematically possible for the average of the component scores to end in a number other than .0 or .5, these scores are rounded up or down to the nearest half-point (5.25, for instance, will be reported as 5.5, while 5.125 will be decreased to 5.0).
IELTS vs. TOEFL
The IELTS and TOEFL are both exams that are widely available. The IELTS is provided as many as four times per month and 48 times per year, although individual test centers may have fewer open test dates due to decreased demand. The TOEFL may be taken on at least 50 dates throughout the year. Both tests are administered at test centers around the globe, typically in or near major cities. The majority of universities in English-speaking countries will accept either test, but students should check the requirements of their specific degree programs. Some departments at American universities, for example, will only consider TOEFL scores. This is probably because the TOEFL is an assessment of American English, while the IELTS is a British test. Acceptance for immigration purposes may also be specific to either the IELTS or the TOEFL.
IELTS Availability in the Philippines
There are several places where the IELTS is administered in the Philippines: SME-AG Global located in Cebu City, Crowne Plaza in Manila, and SME-AG Global in Cebu Manila. Their contact information is available online, as are the test dates and times.
IELTS Preparation & Strategy
The most proven way to prepare for the IELTS is to study with a professional IELTS educator. Private test prep companies typically provide a number of different learning options, from group courses to individual tutoring plans, and many offer instruction both on-site and online. Test prep firms that have been in business for years tend to have good track records and instructors with appropriate credentials. Unaffiliated tutors may or may not be qualified, and students are advised to ask detailed questions about the experience and training of any teacher they are considering. Professional IELTS teachers provide structured programs for IELTS skill development, informed guidance on strategies for study outside of the classroom, and constructive feedback and accountability. Self-study methods with books or videos generally have none of these advantages, and the results are therefore usually far less than optimal.
The idea that specialized test preparation is helpful to scores has been supported by educational researchers. A 2013 study compared the IELTS and TOEFL scores across two groups of students who had taken both exams but received instruction in only one. In both groups, scores were higher on the test that had been studied. Because both tests supposedly evaluate the same general language skills, this is a meaningful finding. Some evidence suggests that student perceptions of educational benefits favor IELTS courses over generic language teaching. A 2017 research paper demonstrated an expansion of IELTS course offerings in a single Asian country at the expense of standard English classes. The authors postulated that IELTS prep is increasingly seen as an easier route to English proficiency for students who begin the learning process with limited skills. Many prospective university students seem to view IELTS prep as a substitute for traditional language instruction rather than a supplement to comprehensive English study.
About Manhattan Review:
Manhattan Review is an international test prep firm that mainly offers preparation for admissions tests needed to apply to US-based universities and schools, including the SAT, GMAT, LSAT, SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE, and TOEFL. Founded in 1999 by Dr. Joern Meissner, an internationally renowned business school professor, the company helps students gain entrance to their desired degree programs by working to improve their admission test scores. Headquartered in New York City, Manhattan Review offers SAT Prep in the Philippines and many cities in Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Tarnaka, Jayanagar, Madhapur, Dilsukhnagar, and Hong Kong. Please also check out our official website for Manhattan Review India.