IELTS or International English Language Testing System is a test of proficiency in English. The IELTS exam is recognized in many countries. The purpose of the exam is to assess the language abilities of candidates who need to study or work in countries where English language is the only medium of communication. The exam is mandatory for taking admission in UK universities and in the universities of other countries such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and USA. This exam is one of the fastest growing English language exams over the globe. The exam has maintained its standard in integrity, research and innovation. The exam is conducted at various test centers over the globe. There are more than 300 exam centers in over 120 countries. At some test centers this exam is computer based but only for academic modules. The exam is conducted by three organizations:-
- University of Cambridge ESOL Exams
- The British Council
- IDP: IELTS Australia
Many institutions and universities around the world have accepted IELTS exam as the standard international test system for English language. Most of these institutions and universities are based in Australia, Canada, UK and New Zealand. Some educational institutions in US also recognize this exam for admissions. The exam is also used by many international immigration services for allowing the immigrants to work in their respective countries. Even various professional organizations such as British Medical Council, Australian Medical Council and The Ministry of Defense in UK use this exam as the basis of selecting candidates to work in these organizations. The exam was first held in 1989 to help universities and colleges to select students with English skills and to assess whether these students will be comfortable to be trained in the medium of English.
Modules of IELTS Exam
The exam consists of four sections. These modules are reading, writing, listening and speaking. There are two different formats for the exam:-
- Academic IELTS Exam.
- General Training IELTS Exam.
Academic IELTS Exam
Academic module of IELTS is required for those students who wish to take admission in undergraduate courses or post graduate courses in the countries where these exams are recognized. The purpose of this exam is to test the student’s ability to understand and use the complex academic English language. This is mandatory as the medium of instruction in the universities in these countries is English.
General Training IELTS Exam
The General Training module of IELTS is for the students who wish to join other institutions such as colleges and high schools in these countries. The purpose of this exam is to test the ability of a student to understand the basic English language which is used at these institutions. These institutions do not require complex English language skills and therefore the General Training exam is necessary for those courses that require less complex language skills and is a general test to check the English proficiency of the candidates. The General Training exam is also used by the immigration offices in Australia, Canada and New Zealand to check the English proficiency of the immigrants applying for work in these countries.
Therefore it depends on the course of study that students plan to take. They can choose to sit for either the Academic or the General Training test. This choice is to be made at the time of registration for the exam.
There are four sections for either of the formats i.e. Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. Students applying for any exam have to take all the four sub-tests. However, the reading and writing tests for both the exams are different. The difficulty level of the Academic exam is more as compared to the General Training exam. The listening and speaking tests are common for both the exams.
The listening test is the first sub test to start on the day of the exam. In this sub test a cassette is played for 30 minutes and the students have to answer the questions based on what they hear from the cassette. The students have to answer while they are listening to the cassette. There are four sub sections in the listening test with increasing order of difficulty. Forty questions are there in the listening test.
After the listening test is the reading test that consists of different test papers for the candidates appearing in academic exam and general training exam respectively. The reading test is for 60 minutes and consists of three sub sections for both the modules.
After the reading test is the writing test. This sub test is also different for candidates appearing in academic and general training modules respectively. This test is also for 60 minutes and consists of two writing tasks. The two writing tasks are different in the sense that they require different writing styles.
After the writing test is spoken-English test which is common in pattern for both the modules. In this test the examiner first interviews the candidate followed by the speaking test where the candidate has to speak on a topic for 2 to 3 minutes. The examiner gives the topic. After the candidate has spoken, the examiner discusses the topic on which the candidate has spoken. It is a two-way discussion to test your ability to think and to speak in English. This test generally lasts for 10 -15 minutes.
At some test centers the speaking test is programmed either a day or two earlier or a day or two after the written test. If it is to be held before the other written modules, the candidate is informed about the same by phone by the respective test center.
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