So, you’ve set sights on a foreign country, looking at studying in your dream college, or bagging a job at some big shot company. Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step towards harbouring big dreams. However, it doesn’t really stop there. In fact, this is just the beginning. In order to make these dreams come true, you will have to take an important internationally recognized exam, proving your mastery of the English language. The only problem is that there are a number of exams to choose from. Two of the most important exams are the TOEFL and the IELTS.
Before you take the big decision on whether you should go for IELTS or TOEFL classes, here’s something very important that you need to be aware of: TOEFL has been banned by the United Kingdom. So, if that’s the place you’re looking at, then you’d want to consider going for IELTS. In some cases, the IELTS is requested for visa purposes to Canadian or Australian immigration.
What is IELTS?
Before even beginning to prepare, you should know what the test is about. IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, is designed to assess your language ability, if you are interested in studying or working in a country, where English is the language of communication. Jointly managed by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL), British Council and IDP: IELTS Australia, the test is recognized by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA.
Where can you take IELTS?
There are more than 400 test centres around the world, most of them, run by the British Council, IELTS Australia, or universities and language schools. You can visit www.ielts.org to find out where the nearest IELTS test center is located.
IELTS Test Takers – Academic or General Training?
The Academic format is for those of you, who want to study or train in an English-speaking university in a foreign country. Admission to undergraduate and postgraduate courses is based on the results of the Academic test. If you’re looking to join a professional organization in an English-speaking country, you will need an IELTS academic score.
The General Training format, on the other hand, focuses on general survival skills in broad social and workplace contexts. If you are are going to English-speaking countries to pursue secondary education, or for work experience or training programs, looking at countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand, you will have to sit for the the General Training test.
The Test Format
In the IELTS test format, you will be essentially attempting four modules: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. You will have to sit for all four. While Listening and Speaking tests are the same for both Academic and General Tests, Reading and Writing tests will be slightly different.
While Reading, Writing and Listening take place on the same day, the Speaking module may be conducted on a different date.
Your IELTS listening test will last for about 30 minutes. You will have four sections, played on a cassette tape, in order of increasing difficulty. You will listen to a dialogue or monologue, which will be played once only, and the questions for each section must be answered while listening, with half-a minute per section to check answers.
Your IELTS Reading test will last for 60 minutes, different for Academic and General Training test. Both tests consist of three sections, and will be in order of increasing difficulty.
Your IELTS riting test will also last for 60 minutes, different for academic and General Training test. You must perform two writing tasks:
Task 1: Data interpretation i.e, describing a chart, graph, table or diagram in your own words. (150 words, 20 minutes)
Task 2: An essay (250 words, 40 minutes)
Task 1: A letter (150 words, 20 minutes)
Task 2: An essay (250 words, 40 minutes)
Your IELTS speaking test will consist of three sections, which will last for 11-14 minutes.
Section 1: An introduction and interview, where you will speak for 4-5 minutes, ending with a few questions.
Section 2: You will be required to speak on a particular topic.
Section 3: You will be asked questions related to the topic, on a more general note.
Once you’ve taken your exams, the next big wait is for your marks. Be rest assured, marking is carried out by trained examiners, who follow standardized guidelines. You will be evaluated by examiners who hold relevant teaching qualifications and are certificated by Cambridge English Language Assessment. Each examiner is tested every two years to retain their certification.
You will receive scores on a Band Scale from 1 to 9. A profile score is reported for each skill. The four individual scores are averaged and rounded to produce an Overall Band Score. Overall Band Scores and scores for each sub-test (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking) are reported in whole bands or half bands.
With some clarity on what IELTS actually is, the next articles in this series will explain intricacies related to this exam.