Mastering the IELTS Overview and Introduction
“is accepted as evidence of English language proficiency by over 9,000 organisations worldwide. Last year, more than 2.2 million tests were taken globally. IELTS is recognized as a secure, valid and reliable indicator of true-to-life ability to communicate in English for education, immigration and professional accreditation.” IELTS is the world’s most popular test for higher education and global migration. Last year, over 2 million candidates took the test to start their journeys into education and employment.
Doing daily training is a must and you can’t afford to waste time looking for shortcuts or the easy way to do it. While the best way of getting a high score is to actually improve your general level of English, knowing the the techniques of exam taking, and what you need to practice will give you that little extra boost that you need to move up a score band.
The test itself is broken up into four sections:
There are 4 sections on the listening test, and there are between 38 and 40 questions in total. The tape that you listen to isn’t paused as you sit the test, and you have to write down the answers as you hear them, you only get to listen to the tape once.
Generally speaking, spelling isn’t important (as on, say the writing test), and any difficult vocabulary will be spelled out for you anyway. You need to aim for intelligible answers, so make sure that whatever you write is clear and understandable. When you write your answers, you can only use a pencil.
There are 4 passages that you need to read through, and then answer questions on. In total, there’ll be about 40 questions, and the difficulty of the texts that you read will increase in difficulty, the first one will be the easiest, and the fourth will be the hardest. Examples and instructions are provided for each task, and you could be asked to answer questions, label diagrams, complete sentences or fill in missing information.
The passages that you’ll be reading are taken from magazines, books or newspapers, and there is great variety between the topics – there will be some topics here that you are not familiar with at all, and some that you might be comfortable answering questions on.
No pens are allowed when you are answering the questions, only pencil – and there is no additional time for you to transfer your answers to the answer sheet, so you only have 60 minutes to get everything right first time.
There are two tasks on the writing section. The first is to write a letter based on a supplied scenario, this is about 150 words. The second is to write an essay on a provided topic, you’ll be expected to use not less than 250 words on this essay question. Typically, you’ll have to justify and opinion, or present a solution to a problem. This question takes some training to get write, but I’ll cover essay writing technique and later on in this series.
The speaking test is the one that everyone worries about, but the examiners will do their best to make you feel relaxed and at ease.
The speaking section is broken into three parts, the first being the Personal Interview. On this part of the test, the examiner will ask you about your hobbies, your job, family matters, etc, and generally speaking, it’s a fairly easy task to prepare for.
The second part, the Little Speech will require you to give a short speech of 2-3 minutes based on 3/4 questions that are written on a card for you. The examiner may ask you a couple of questions at the end of the speech, but you need to brainstorm and organize your ideas for this part.
The final section, the discussion, is done with the examiner, and the topic will be somehow connected to the previous two tasks, but this will be more abstract. You’ll typically have to justify and opinion, and express these justifications as best you can. The whole of the speaking is recorded on tape, but this is to test the examiner, not the test taker.
A growing number of government departments and agencies are using IELTS results for immigration and student visa applications.
Government agencies requiring IELTS include:
Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP)
Immigration New Zealand Service (NZIS)
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
Australia:General Skilled Migration: The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) requires applicants to have sufficient ability in English for working in Australia. IELTS is the recognised test of both Vocational and Competent English and points are awarded based on scores achieved. For details visit
Student Visa: IELTS band scores are accepted for Student Visa applications. IELTS requirements for Student Visas vary according to the candidates’ nationality and education sector of their proposed study program. For details, visit
The Department has advised that they do not wish to receive hard copies of IELTS results. Results of IELTS tests can be submitted electronically by providing your IELTS certificate number when asked for a Test Reference Number. This change is due to new privacy legislation in Australia. These new instructions apply for all visa applications to Australia and for all classes of visa from November 2014.
Canada:IELTS General Training is accepted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) as evidence of English language proficiency. If you are applying for a work visa, professional registration or for permanent residence in Canada, it is likely that you will be required to present your test result as part of your application. IELTS results are also accepted for Canadian citizenship. For details, visit
New Zealand:Immigration New Zealand (NZIS) requires an IELTS Overall Band Score of 6.5 in either the General Training or Academic IELTS Modules. Unless meeting exemption requirements, the IELTS Band Score is mandatory for application in the General skills migration category. For details, visit
United Kingdom:The UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is using IELTS for proof of English language ability in the Points Based System (PBS). PBS allows migrants to apply to work or study in the UK via one of five ‘tiers’. If applying under Tier 1 or 2, migrants are required to provide proof of English language ability. IELTS is an approved English language test which can provide this proof