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The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) tests your proficiency in English language and is designed to help you work, study or migrate to a country where English is the native language. It is used by universities, national governments and companies worldwide. This includes countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and USA. IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English. Your ability to listen, read, write and speak in English will be assessed during the test. IELTS is graded on a scale of 1-9.
There are four sections in the exam, and the complete duration is 2 hours and 45 minutes. You may expect:
Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking
Listening and speaking sections are the same for every test taker, however Reading and Writing sections differ depending on the IELTS module, either academic or general.
You will listen to four recordings of native English speakers and then write your answers to a series of questions.
● Recording 1 – a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
● Recording 2 – a monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.
● Recording 3 – a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.
● Recording 4 – a monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture.
Assessors will be looking for evidence of your ability to understand the main ideas and detailed factual information, the opinions and attitudes of speakers, the purpose of an utterance and evidence of your ability to follow the development of ideas.
IELTS Listening description
Paper format: There are four parts with ten questions each. The questions are designed so that the answers appear in the order they are heard in the audio. The first two parts deal with situations set in everyday social contexts. In Part 1, there is a conversation between two speakers (for example, a conversation about travel arrangements), and in Part 2, there is a monologue in (for example, a speech about local facilities). The final two parts deal with situations set in educational and training contexts. In Part 3, there is a conversation between two main speakers (for example, two university students in discussion, perhaps guided by a tutor), and in Part 4, there is a monologue on an academic subject. The recordings are heard only once. They include a range of accents, including British, Australian, New Zealand, American and Canadian.
Timing: Approximately 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes transfer time).
No. of questions: 40
Task types: A variety of question types are used, chosen from the following: multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labelling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, sentence completion.
Answering: Test takers write their answers on the question paper as they listen and at the end of the test are given 10 minutes to transfer their answers to an answer sheet. Care should be taken when writing answers on the answer sheet as poor spelling and grammar are penalized.
Marks: Each question is worth 1 mark.
IELTS Listening in detail
A detailed look at the paper with links to related resources.
Task type and format: In multiple choice tasks, there is a question followed by three possible answers, or the beginning of a sentence followed by three possible ways to complete the sentence. Test takers are required to choose the one correct answer - A, B or C. Sometimes, test takers are given a longer list of possible answers and told that they have to choose more than one. In this case, they should read the question carefully to check how many answers are required.
Task focus: Multiple choice questions are used to test a wide range of skills. The test taker may be required to have a detailed understanding of specific points or an overall understanding of the main points of the listening text.
No. of questions: Variable
Task type and format: Test takers are required to match a numbered list of items from the listening text to a set of options on the question paper. The set of options may be criteria of some kind.
Task focus: Matching assesses the skill of listening for detail and whether a test taker can understand information given in a conversation on an everyday topic, such as the different types of hotel or guest house accommodation. It also assesses the ability to follow a conversation between two people. It may also be used to assess test takers’ ability to recognize relationships and connections between facts in the listening text.
No. of questions: Variable
Task type and format: Test takers are required to complete labels on a plan (e.g. of a building), map (e.g. part of a town) or diagram (e.g. of a piece of equipment). The answers are usually selected from a list on the question paper.
Task focus: This type of task assesses the ability to understand, for example, a description of a place, and to relate this to a visual representation. This may include being able to follow language expressing spatial relationships and directions (e.g. straight on/through the far door).
No. of questions: Variable
Task type and format: Test takers are required to fill in the gaps in an outline of part or of all of the listening text. The outline will focus on the main ideas/facts in the text. It may be:
1. a form: often used to record factual details such as names
2. a set of notes: used to summarize any type of information using the layout to show how different items relate to one another
3. a table: used as a way of summarizing information which relates to clear categories – e.g. place/time/price,
4. a flow-chart: used to summarize a process which has clear stages, with the direction of the process shown by arrows.
Test takers may have to select their answers from a list on the question paper or identify the missing words from the recording, keeping to the word limit stated in the instructions. Test takers do not have to change the words from the recording in any way.
Test takers should read the instructions very carefully as the number of words or numbers they should use to fill the gaps will vary. A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’. Test takers are penalized for writing more than the stated number of words, and test takers should check this word limit carefully for each task. Contracted words will not be tested. Hyphenated words count as single words.
Task focus: This focuses on the main points which a listener would naturally record in this type of situation.
No. of questions: Variable
Task type and format: Test takers are required to read a set of sentences summarizing key information from all the listening text or from one part of it. They then fill a gap in each sentence using information from the listening text. A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN ONE WORD AND/OR A NUMBER’.
Test takers are penalized for writing more than the stated number of words. (Test takers should check this word limit carefully for each task: the limit is either ONE, TWO or THREE words). Contracted words will not be tested. Hyphenated words count as single words.
Task focus: Sentence completion focuses on the ability to identify the key information in a listening text. Test takers have to understand functional relationships such as cause and effect.
No. of questions: Variable
Task type and format: Test takers are required to read a question and then write a short answer using information from the listening text. A word limit is given, for example, ‘NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER’. Test takers are penalized for writing more than the stated number of words. (Test takers should check this word limit carefully for each task.) Contracted words will not be tested. Hyphenated words count as single words. Sometimes test takers are given a question which asks them to list two or three points.
Task focus: Sentence completion focuses on the ability to listen for concrete facts, such as places, prices or times, within the listening text.
No. of questions: Variable
IELTS Listening – how it's marked
The Listening test is marked by certificated markers, who are regularly monitored to ensure their reliability. All answer sheets, after being marked, are further analyzed by Cambridge English.
Band score conversion
A Band Score conversion table is produced for each version of the Listening test which translates scores out of 40 into the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole bands and half bands.
One mark is awarded for each correct answer in the 40-item test. Care should be taken when writing answers on the answer sheet as poor spelling and grammar are penalized.
|Band score||Skill level||Description|
|9||Expert user||The test taker has fully operational command of the language. Their use of English is appropriate, accurate and fluent, and shows complete understanding.|
|8||Very good user||The test taker has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriate usage. They may misunderstand some things in unfamiliar situations. They handle complex and detailed argumentation well.|
|7||Good user||The test taker has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings in some situations. They generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.|
|6||Competent user||The test taker has an effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriate usage and misunderstandings. They can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.|
|5||Modest user||The test taker has a partial command of the language and copes with overall meaning in most situations, although they are likely to make many mistakes. They should be able to handle basic communication in their own field.|
|4||Limited user||The test taker's basic competence is limited to familiar situations. They frequently show problems in understanding and expression. They are not able to use complex language.|
|3||Extremely limited user||The test taker conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. There are frequent breakdowns in communication.|
|2||Intermittent user||The test taker has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.|
If you are looking to work, live or study in an English-speaking country, then you must be able to demonstrate a high level of English language ability.
English is the third most spoken language in the world, with 379 million speakers worldwide. Being able to communicate in the native language of the country you wish to work or study in, has a wide range of benefits. It is also essential for job opportunities as well as integration into the community.
IELTS is the most popular test for those looking to migrate to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. It is globally recognized by more than 11,000 employers, universities, schools and immigration bodies including 3,400 institutions in the USA.
IELTS tests are usually conducted 4 times a month and results are available within two weeks. While you can receive only one copy of your result, your test center may send additional copies of your test result to the organizations you specify.
Step 1 – Find your nearest IELTS test location or take IELTS Online
There are more than 1,600 IELTS test locations in over 140 countries. Find your nearest test centre.
Step 2 – Register for your IELTS test
You can register and pay online or download an application form to print, complete and submit to your chosen test centre.
You will need to provide a copy of your valid identity document. You will also need to present the same identity document on the day of your test.
Step 3 – Your IELTS test is booked
If you booked IELTS on paper or on a computer, your test centre will send you an email confirming the date and time of your test once your application is processed. Your Speaking test may be scheduled for a different day, and your test centre will confirm that too. If you booked IELTS Online, you will receive an email confirming your test booking, and your Speaking test will usually be before your other test.
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