The International English Language Testing System IELTS is a standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers recognized internationally. This test is devised by Cambridge University which produces ESOL examinations around the world( English for speakers of other languages). The IELTS is jointly managed by the IDP: IELTS Australia, British Council, and Cambridge University and was established in 1989. IELTS is one of the major English-language tests recognized world over by Institutes, Universities and employers, the others being the TOEFL, TOEIC, and PTE: Academic.
All English Speaking countries like Australia, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Ireland, and UK as well as European countries especially the Schengen countries and various professional organizations across the world accept IELTS.
Another adaptation of the paper pencil test is UKVI IELTS which is approved by UK Visas and Immigration for visa customers applying both outside and inside the UK. The IELTS general module also meets the requirement for immigration to Australia and New Zealand, where TOEFL and Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE-A) are also accepted. In Canada, IELTS, TEF (French Language Proficiency Test) or CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program) are accepted by the immigration authority. IELTS is a test which is old, reliable and valid for two years. The result is declared in 13 days after the test date. A Test Report Form is posted to the candidates after their test.
IELTS Academic and General Training both incorporate the following features:
- IELTS measures a student’s ability to listen, read, write and speakin English.
- The speaking module measures the speaking ability of the test taker and it is a one to one interview which is recorded. The examiners employed by IDP and British Council assess the test taker’s language skills. The test taker can get it re-evaluated at a later date by applying for revaluation.
- The speaking module is a key component of IELTS. It is conducted in the form of a one-to-one interview with an examiner. The examiner assesses the test taker as he or she is speaking. The speaking session is also recorded for monitoring and for re-marking in case of an appeal against the score given.
- In the listening module, there are 4 sections each comprising of 10 questions. The difficulty level increases as we move further in the listening test. All accents can be found in the listening tests major one being British, then Australian and only few being New Zealander and American.
- The Reading component comprises of 3 passages for Academic Candidates and 5 for General Training candidates. The passages check the understanding of the English language by the candidate and it can be from varied domains like science, history, geography and so on. It checks candidates English language abilities and comprehension.
- Band Scores are assigned according to the number of correct items out of 40 questions in case of Reading and listening which ranges from 0-9 while speaking and writing are marked according to a standardized international level where certain criteria is fixed.
- The tests are developed by a team of experts at Cambridge English Language Assessment and items are picked up from journals, research work and so on.
The General module of IELTS has 24 dates in a year while the Academic module has 48 dates in a year, generally being Saturdays and Thursdays. The speaking test can be conducted maximum of 7 days prior to the test or 7 days after the test. General module is for candidates seeking work, training, study at a secondary level or migrate to an English speaking country. The Academic module is for candidates aspiring to study or professional registration at a tertiary level in an English Speaking Country.
The four parts of the IELTS test
- Listening: 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes’ transfer time)
- Reading: 60 minutes
- Writing: 60 minutes
- Speaking: 11–14 minutes
The test total time is: 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Listening, Reading and Writing component are completed on the registered test day in one sitting. The Speaking test may be taken on the same day or up to seven days before or after the written test.
The Listening and Speaking module are the same for General and Academic candidates while Reading and Writing differ. The Reading tasks assigned are easier in General Training while a little more difficult in Academic as student will need to study in a foreign land and their education pattern is different from ours so it indirectly prepares a candidate for further studies in English Language. The Writing module is marked on the same parameter, however, the topics are different since General Training candidates are mature in their approach towards the world and so their essay topics are related to real situations and observations of the society while a student will come across topics related to situations or problems as a student.
The module comprises four sections, with ten questions in each section. It takes 40 minutes: for 30 minutes the audio is played and one has to listen to the conversation and write answers in the question booklet, and at the end of the test the candidate gets 10 minutes to transfer the answers to an answer sheet
Section 1: This is the easiest and the most scoring section as the speaker is comparatively slow, and it is a conversation between two people, for instance conversation between a travel booking agent and customer.
Section 2: Here the speaker is little faster in his speech. The tasks may constitute a map of a given area, for instance a library or a university, and the candidate has to go along with the speaker. There can be multiple choice questions as well.
Sections 3 and 4 are about educational and training situations which maybe interchangeably difficult. The third section generally comprises multiple choice questions and the fourth one is a lecture.
Section 3: This is a conversation between two main speakers (for example, a discussion between two university students, perhaps guided by a tutor)
Section 4: It has one person speaking about an academic subject or some information in the form of a lecture by a university professor.
Each section commences with an introduction as well as time to read the questions which the candidate has to answer. At the end of each section, speaker gives 30 seconds to check the answer. In the fourth section, candidate gets 1 minute to read the questions as speaker only stops after question number 40 is answered. The questions are in the same sequence as the information in the audio, so the answer to the first question will be before the answer to the second question, and so on. The listening audio is played only once. At the end of the test, candidates are given 10 minutes to transfer their answers to an answer sheet.
Grammar and spellings are important in an IELTS Test and inaccuracy means losing 1 mark, which can affect your band score in any module, resulting in overall increase or decrease in the score.
Reading module comprises of 3 sections for Academic and 5 for General. Academic reading requires one to skim through around 2,150-2,750 words. The question types include any of the combinations between multiple choice, short-answer questions, identifying information, identifying writer’s views, labeling diagrams, completing a summary using words taken from the text and matching information/headings/features in the text/sentence endings etc. As grammar and spellings are important, the test taker needs to be careful when writing down the answers on the answer sheet as wrong spellings lead to loss of a mark resulting in a lower band score.
The reading texts for Academic students may be picked from books, journals, magazines, newspapers, research papers etc.
The reading texts in General Training come from everyday situations and topics like timetables or notices, job descriptions, training material etc. The last section is more like an academic style reading passage which is long and question types are similar too. It may be picked from newspaper, magazine or a book.
The Writing section has two tasks that need to be completed in one hour. Task 1 needs to be written in at least 150 words in an approximate time of 20 minutes. Task 2 needs to be written in at least 250 words and the approximate time is 40 minutes. Scores go down if the word count is shorter than prescribed. Answers need to be written in full sentences and no bullet points are allowed. The candidate gets 1 hour in total for both the tasks, which he or she may adjust according to himself, and may answer task 2 first as it has more weightage.
IELTS Academic Writing
- Task 1: test taker describes a bar graph/line graph/ table/pie chart/ combination of previously mentioned graphs/ flowchart or diagram/maps of development in words from his or her knowledge.
- Task 2: This task is more reflective of a person’s observation and knowledge about society. Here he needs to express his agreement/disagreement, opinion, point of view, problem and solution/ cause and effects etc. The topics are generally student parent related, society, juvenile crime and so on.
IELTS General Training Writing
- Task 1: Candidate needs to write a letter in not less than 150 words where the situation is realistic in nature. It can be for appreciation, complaint, explanation, request etc. in response to a given everyday situation. For instance, writing about problems with your accommodation to an accommodation officer, writing about problems managing your time to a new employer, writing about a plan to develop a local airport to a local newspaper etc.
- Task 2: Candidate needs to write an essay about prevalent social issues or problems which he/ she may come across in real life. For instance,
- In many countries, the amount of crime is increasing. What do you think are the main causes and how can we deal with those causes?
- Some parents buy their children a large number of toys to play with. What are the advantages and disadvantages for the child of having a large number of toys?
The speaking test may be held on the test day or 7 days prior or later to the registered test date. It is a face to face interview where candidate needs to be on the given time with his passport. The whole speaking test is recorded.
It takes place in three sections.
- Section 1: introduction and interview is of 4–5 minutes. Candidate may be asked about his/ her home, family, work, studies, hobbies, interests, reasons for taking IELTS test and general questions about his views and ideas about things going on in the society.
- Section 2: Cue Card round is more like an extempore or impromptu. The candidate gets 1 minute to think on a topic which is printed on a card and then has to speak on it for 1-2 minutes. There are points given on the card that help the candidate in building his answer and all points need to be covered.
- Section 3: These include general questions related to the cue card. The questions may range from 4-7 depending on the cue card as well as the examiner. This section lasts for around 4-5 minutes.
Every module gets a score on a band scale from 0-9 and then the average score is taken out. If the average score turns out to be 0.25 or 0.75 then the higher side is taken, which means it is rounded off to 0.5 or next whole band and an overall band score is calculated.
The nine bands are described as follows:
|9||Expert User||Has full operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.|
|8||Very Good User||Has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.|
|7||Good User||Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriateness and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.|
|6||Competent User||Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.|
|5||Modest user||Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.|
|4||Limited User||Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.|
|3||Extremely Limited User||Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.|
|2||Intermittent User||No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.|
|1||Non User||Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.|
|0||Did not attempt the test||No assessable information provided at all.|
A Test Report Form is posted to test takers 13 days after their test. Test Report Forms are valid for two years.
SAMPLE TESTS OF ALL 4 MODULES:
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Pearson Test of English Academic
The Pearson Test of English Academic is an English language test designed to assess the readiness of non-native English speakers to participate in a university-level English language instruction program. Pearson created PTE Academic in response to demand from institutions, government and other organizations for a more accurate way of testing non – native English language students who enter the English-speaking academia world.
It is a computer-based exam which focuses on real-life English used in academic surroundings. This is to say that integrated language is used throughout the test and students will listen to a variety of accents and academic language which they will encounter at English-speaking higher education institutions.
The exam will include an unmarked voice recording of the candidate, which is part of advanced biometric data that should assist institutions in verifying the identity of candidates and should aid them with their admission decisions. The test will be a maximum of 3 hours long and takers can expect their results to be delivered to them, online, within 5 working days. The test is predominantly read by a computer rather than a human grader to reduce waiting times of the results for students.
Test scores are reported on the Global Scale of English, a standardized, numeric scale from 10 to 90 which can measure English language proficiency more precisely with reference to the widely known set of levels distinguished in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, or CEFR.
Test of English as a Foreign Language® (TOEFL ) is a standardized test to measure the English language ability of non-native speakers wishing to enroll in English-speaking universities. The test is accepted by many English-speaking academic and professional institutions. TOEFL is one of the two major English-language tests in the world, the other being the IELTS.
TOEFL is a trademark of the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a private non-profit organization, which designs and administers the tests. ETS issues official score reports, sent independently to institutions, for two years following the test.
Formats and content
Since its introduction in late 2005, the TOEFL Internet-based Test (iBT) format has progressively replaced the computer-based tests (CBT) and paper-based tests (PBT), although paper-based testing is still used in select areas. The TOEFL iBT test has been introduced in phases, with the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy in 2005 and the rest of the world in 2006, with test centers added regularly. The CBT was discontinued in September 2006 and these scores are no longer valid.
Initially, the demand for test seats was higher than availability, and candidates had to wait for months. It is now possible to take the test within one to four weeks in most countries. The four-hour test consists of four sections, each measuring one of the basic language skills (while some tasks require integrating multiple skills), and all tasks focus on language used in an academic, higher-education environment. Note-taking is allowed during the TOEFL iBT test. The test cannot be taken more than once every 12 days.
The Reading section consists of questions on 3-4 passages, each approximately 700 words in length. The passages are on academic topics; they are the kind of material that might be found in an undergraduate university textbook. Passages require understanding of rhetorical functions such as cause-effect, compare-contrast and argumentation. Students answer questions about main ideas, details, inferences, essential information, sentence insertion, vocabulary, rhetorical purpose and overall ideas. New types of questions in the TOEFL iBT test require filling out tables or completing summaries. Prior knowledge of the subject under discussion is not necessary to come to the correct answer.
The Listening section consists of questions on 6-9 passages, each 3–5 minutes in length. These passages include two student conversations and four academic lectures or discussions. The conversations involve a student and either a professor or a campus service provider. The lectures are a self-contained portion of an academic lecture, which may involve student participation and does not assume specialized background knowledge in the subject area. Each conversation and lecture passage is heard only once. Test-takers may take notes while they listen and they may refer to their notes when they answer the questions. Each conversation is associated with five questions and each lecture with six. The questions are meant to measure the ability to understand main ideas, important details, implications, relationships between ideas, organization of information, speaker purpose and speaker attitude.
The Speaking section consists of six tasks: two independent and four integrated. In the two independent tasks, test-takers answer opinion questions on familiar topics. They are evaluated on their ability to speak spontaneously and convey their ideas clearly and coherently. In two of the integrated tasks, test-takers read a short passage, listen to an academic course lecture or a conversation about campus life and answer a question by combining appropriate information from the text and the talk. In the two remaining integrated tasks, test-takers listen to an academic course lecture or a conversation about campus life and then respond to a question about what they heard. In the integrated tasks, test-takers are evaluated on their ability to appropriately synthesize and effectively convey information from the reading and listening material. Test-takers may take notes as they read and listen and may use their notes to help prepare their responses. Test-takers are given a short preparation time before they have to begin speaking. The responses are digitally recorded, sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network (OSN), and evaluated by three to six raters.
The Writing section measures a test taker’s ability to write in an academic setting and consists of two tasks: one integrated and one independent. In the integrated task, test-takers read a passage on an academic topic and then listen to a speaker discuss it. The test-taker then writes a summary about the important points in the listening passage and explains how these relate to the key points of the reading passage. In the independent task, the test-taker must write an essay that states their opinion or choice, and then explain it, rather than simply listing personal preferences or choices. Responses are sent to the ETS OSN and evaluated by at least 3 different raters.
|Reading||3–4 passages, each containing 12–14 questions||60–80 minutes|
|Listening||6–9 passages, each containing 5–6 questions||60–90 minutes|
|Break||Mandatory break||10 minutes|
|Speaking||6 tasks||20 minutes|
|Writing||2 tasks||50 minutes|
One of the sections of the test will include extra, uncounted material. Educational Testing Service includes extra material to pilot test questions for future test forms. When test-takers are given a longer section, they should give equal effort to all of the questions because they do not know which question will count and which will be considered extra. For example, if there are four reading passages instead of three, then one of the passages will not be counted. Any of the four could be the uncounted one.
TOEFL iBT Test
- The TOEFL iBT test is scored on a scale of 0 to 120 points.
- Each of the four sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing) receives a scaled score from 0 to 30. The scaled scores from the four sections are added together to determine the total score.
- The reading and listening sections are tested first, followed by a ten-minute break. The speaking and writing sections are then completed following the break. A maximum amount of 250 minutes is allowed to complete the whole exam process.
- Each speaking question is initially given a score of 0 to 4, and each writing question is initially given a score of 0 to 5. These scores are converted to scaled scores of 0 to 30.
|IELTS Score||TOEFL Score||TOEFL PBT Score||IELTS Description|
|9||118-120||≥ 645||Expert User|
|8.5||115-117||626 – 644||Very Good User|
|8||110-114||610 – 625|
|7.5||102-109||581 – 609||Good User|
|7||94-101||560 – 580|
|6.5||79-93||546 – 559||Competent User|
|6||60-78||530 – 545|
|5.5||42-59||516 – 529||Modest User|
|5||35-41||490 – 515|
|4.5||32-34||450 – 489||Limited User|
|0-4||0-31||400 – 449||Extremely Limited/Intermittent/Non User|