What Is IELTS Exam? – Everything You Need to Know About the IELTS



IELTS, or International English Language Testing System, is one of the most widely recognized English language proficiency tests in the world. 

If you’re planning to study or work abroad, it is likely that you will be required to take the IELTS test. 

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the IELTS, including the types of tests available, the test format, scoring, preparation, tips, and resources.

Types of IELTS Tests

The International English Language Testing System, commonly known as IELTS, offers two types of tests: Academic and General Training. 


Both types of tests are designed to assess the English language proficiency of candidates. But they are quite different in their purpose and content.

1. Academic IELTS

Academic IELTS is intended for candidates who want to study at a tertiary level in an English-speaking country or for those seeking professional registration. 

This test assesses the candidate’s ability to comprehend and use complex academic language, like you’d hear in a university setting.

2. General Training IELTS

General Training IELTS is suitable for candidates who want to migrate to an English-speaking country or undertake work-related training. 

This test measures a candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in everyday English language situations.


The IELTS Test Format

1. The Listening Section

The IELTS listening test consists of four sections, each with ten questions. 

You will listen to a variety of recordings, including conversations and monologues, after which you’d answer the questions given.

Don’t worry, you will have time to read the questions before each section begins. 

But you will get the chance to listen to each recording only once. So, make sure you pay rapt attention, listen carefully, and take notes.

2. The Reading Section

The IELTS reading test consists of three sections, each with a different type of text. 


The texts are taken from a range of sources, including newspapers, books, and magazines.  So, it goes without saying: read wide before your test.

The reading section lasts for 60 minutes, during which you’d answer 40 questions.

3. The Writing Section

The IELTS writing test consists of two tasks. 

In the first task, you will be given a graph, chart, or diagram and then asked to describe the figure in your own words. 

In the second task, you will be given a topic to write an essay about. 


Both tasks last for 60 minutes.

4. The Speaking Section

The IELTS speaking test is a face-to-face interview with an examiner. 

The test consists of three parts: an introduction and interview, a short speech, and a discussion. 

The interview and short speech sections are timed, while the discussion section is more free-form.

IELTS Test duration and Timing

The IELTS test takes a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete. 


You’ll sit for the listening, reading, and writing sections on the same day. There are no breaks in between, by the way. So, prepare accordingly.

The speaking test, on the other hand, is usually scheduled separately. 

Some test takers will have theirs on the same day as the other sections. 

Others might wait up to a week after their test day to have their speaking test. Whatever day it is though, you will get an email 48 hours ahead so you can have time to prepare.

IELTS Scoring

The IELTS test is scored on a band scale from 0 to 9, which measures your proficiency in the English language across four skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking.


So, your overall band score is calculated by taking the average of your band scores across the four skills. 

For example, if you score a 7 in listening, an 8 in reading, a 6 in writing, and a 7 in speaking, your overall band score would be 7.

How Are the IELTS Scores Calculated?

Your scores are calculated based on a variety of factors, including your accuracy, your ability to use a range of vocabulary and grammar, and your ability to communicate your ideas effectively. 

Rest assured that the test organizers have a standardized system for scoring the IELTS. 

Also, scoring is carried out by trained examiners, which means that you can be sure that your scores are fair and accurate.


It’s important to note that there is no pass or fail on the IELTS test. 

These scores simply inform your university or employer how familiar you are with the English language.

Depending on the university or employer, an average to high IELTS score might be required. So, it’s wise to do your best to nail your test.

How to Check Your IELTS Results

Your test result will be available for preview on the Test Taker Portal 13 days after your test date, if you took the paper test.

Computer test takers, however, will be able to check their results three to five days after their test.


You are also entitled to a physical paper copy of your IELTS test result. This will be sent out to the address you provided during your registration via courier on the day that your result becomes available online. 

Sending your paper test result could take up to seven working days. So, you might need to exercise some patience.

Additionally, the British Council can send your IELTS test result on your behalf to the universities you’re applying to. 

If you want them to do that, you have to indicate when you register by providing the full postal addresses of the institution.

How Long Are IELTS Test Results Valid?

IELTS test results are valid for two years.


IELTS Test Centers & Dates

Every country has a number of accredited IELTS test centers. In fact, altogether, there are more than 1500 test centers in more than 50 countries of the world.

You’d have to check the British Council website to find out the available test centers in your region.

From the list, you’re free to pick any location that works for you.

As for test dates, you’re also free to pick any date that’s convenient just like with test centers.

Keep in mind that when you’re choosing a date and a center, you will also have to choose whether you want a paper test or a computer test.


Not all locations offer the computer test, for instance. So, you’d have to sort that out when picking a center and date.

Typically, there’s one test date every month.

How to Register for Your IELTS Test

Registering for your IELTS test is super easy. You just need to go to ielts.idp.com, and provide the required information.

Prepare your valid identification document too because you’ll need it to register and you’d need it on test day.

Anyway, once your test has been booked, you will get a confirmation email, detailing the date and time of your exam.


You will also be informed whether your speaking test will be on the same day or not.

IELTS Fees and Payment Process

Fees for your IELTs will depend on your country of residence. So, please, check the website to confirm.

Also, keep in mind that your test fee covers the exam and prep materials.

That said, there are two ways you can pay your IELTS test fees.

Online Payment

If you choose to pay online, simply follow the link on the payment page that you’re redirected to after you finish registering for your test.


Offline Payment

To do this, you’d go through the ORS. This will involve paying directly at your test center after you register. 

Note, though, that if you’re using the ORS method, not paying after two days of registration is an automatic cancellation of your seat.

What to Take With You on Your Test Day

  • A valid means of identification, which can either be your national ID card or international passport
  • Stationery: pencil, pen, eraser
  • You might also want to bring a bottle of water but it has to be in a transparent bottle

For your information, these are the only things you’d be allowed to take into the test room. So, prepare adequately.

Test centers usually have a safe place you can keep your belongings. 

But then they do not take responsibility for any loss or damage that might happen to your personal effects. 


So, in your best interests, don’t bring any other thing apart from the items mentioned to your test center.

Wrapping Up 

IELTS is a critical test for anyone who wants to study or work in an English-speaking country. 

The test is designed to assess your language proficiency, and your scores can impact your eligibility for study programs or job opportunities. So, be sure to prepare well. 

Finally, don’t forget to browse through the resources here on My International Student Lifeline for the best resources to help make your dream of international study possible. 

You can also book a one-on-one coaching session to receive support and counsel to help with your plans.


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