IELTS: Syllabus, Eligibility, Pattern, Rules, Registration, Score, Preparation Tips

Updated on: Dec 2, 2022
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What is IELTS?

The full form of IELTS was (International English Language Test System) this is test of your English language skills.

Candidates who consider studying or working in a country where English is the predominant language must pass IELTS before moving abroad.

During the test, you will be tested on:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking

The following countries accept students who have passed IELTS:

  • UK
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
IELTSInternational English Language Testing System
Organized by IDP (in India), British Council
IELTS Test TypesPaper-based (offline), Computer-based (online)
IELTS Band Score Range1-9
IELTS Official websitehttps://www.ielts.org/

Different types of IELTS tests

IELTS is available in two versions - IELTS Academic and IELTS General.

Both types evaluate your English skills in listening, reading, writing, and speaking. However, Academic IELTS includes topics for those entering university, and General Training is less specific.

Academic IELTS

You should take the Academic IELTS  test if you want to study abroad. Individuals working in sectors such as engineering or accounts would also benefit from the Academic IELTS programme.

General Training IELTS

The IELTS General Training programme is ideal for those who want to study below the graduate level. IELTS General Training is chosen mainly for migration purposes. Individuals who wish to establish a career in an English-speaking nation can also take IELTS General Training.

IELTS eligibility

Are you wondering if you’re eligible for IELTS?

The IELTS exam can be taken by anyone aged 16 or over. There are no age limits or restrictions for attending the exam. As previously explained, IELTS is taken by applicants who want to study, work, or migrate to certain countries, but IELTS can also be used in many other contexts.

Countries like Australia, Canada, the UK, and New Zealand mandate IELTS. Many companies also insist on IELTS as an eligibility factor.

IELTS Eligibility Age

16

IELTS Purposes

Immigration: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK 

To study: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom, Ireland

To work: Australia, UK, USA

IELTS syllabus

The IELTS examination is a test to check the examinee’s ability in:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking

The listening, reading, and writing tests will be conducted on the same day without any breaks in between. This will take a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes.

The speaking test will take place before or after the other sections. This takes roughly 15 minutes.

The IELTS syllabus for these four modules is as follows:

ModuleDescriptionQuestionsDuration
ListeningThere will be four recorded monologues and conversations which will test your understanding of what’s being said. 430 Minutes
ReadingThis consists of three long paragraphs which will test your reading and understanding. Texts will range from descriptive pieces of work to general discussions and non-verbal materials such as graphs, diagrams, and drawings.4060 Minutes
WritingWriting exercise of at least 150 words, where the candidate has to analyse, describe, or explain a table, figure, graph, or diagram. Another task includes a 250-word write-up on any general topic. 260 Minutes
SpeakingThe interview contains short questions and a thorough discussion about a subject.311 to 14 Minutes
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IELTS exam pattern

Listening

The IELTS listening test will take around 40 minutes. Both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training modules include the same listening test.

The listening test will evaluate your ability to understand the primary ideas,  factual information, thoughts, and attitudes shared by the speakers in the recordings. Each section will be delivered in various voices and accents, and you will only hear it once.

  • Section 1 - You have to listen to a conversation between two people in an everyday social situation. Hence, we recommend that you prepare by watching BBC or CNN talks.
  • Section 2 - The second recording is a social context monologue.
  • Section 3 - The third one is a lecture from a university. 
  • Section 4 - The fourth recording is typically a group talk between four people. 

To prepare for this test, start using English subtitles when watching videos.                            
Listen closely to each audio and try to memorise the key components. Do not let any unnecessary information confuse your brain.

Speaking

It will take 11 to 14 minutes to complete the speaking skills test. This test is identical for both Academic IELTS and General Training IELTS.

The IELTS Speaking test is a face-to-face interview that lasts between 11 and 14 minutes, depending on the candidate. You will be assessed on your spoken English skills in the Speaking section of the test. Every test is recorded and analysed.

  • Task 1 - As part of the first task, you will be asked to answer broad questions about yourself and a range of familiar themes such as your life and family, as well as your work, studies, and hobbies. A total of four to five minutes are devoted to this portion.
  • Task 2 - As part of Task 2, you will be handed a card and asked to discuss a specific topic.  You will get one minute to prepare and two minutes to speak about it. A few more questions on the same topic will be asked to complete this section of the examination.
  • Task 3 - Further questions related to Task 2 will be asked here for a deeper discussion. A total of four to five minutes are devoted to this segment.

Reading

This section contains three long readings ranging from descriptive to factual information. Books, journals, magazines, and newspapers are cited as sources for the text.

A total of 60 minutes is allotted for the IELTS reading test, and there are 40 questions. To test a wide range of reading skills, a variety of question types are used.

Learn how to skim through the ways to obtain convenient solutions to all your questions. Be very specific about each reply when you write the answers.

Before exams, work on your vocabulary, too. This is best done with previous sample papers or good IELTS books.

Writing

It will take 60 minutes to complete the IELTS writing test. There are two writing assignments in the IELTS Academic writing test.

  • Task 1 - A graph, a table, or a chart will display some facts, which you then have to describe, summarise, or explain in your own words. The description should not exceed 150 words. Learn how to understand graphs and tables carefully. The idea transmitted through the diagram must be clear. In addition, understand the values presented and construct your description by comparing these values.
  • Task 2 - You will need to create an essay in response to the point of view, argument or problem. The essay should not exceed  250 words. The smart option is to complete the essay first because that takes more time, and then work on the first task. Make sure that you accurately and coherently explain the core concept of the essay while writing.

IELTS General Training Writing Test

There are two writing assignments in the IELTS General Training programme.

  • Task 1 - You'll be given a problem and instructed to compose a letter asking for information or describing it in some other way. A personal, semi-formal, or formal letter should be written.
  • Task 2 - you will need to create an essay in response to a point of view, argument, or problem.

Where do I take the test?

You have to take the test at an official test centre where you will have the choice of taking it either online or offline.

To clarify:

  • Offline is paper-based
  • Online is computer-based

Offline (paper-based IELTS)

You will sit at a desk at an official test centre with the papers for questioning and answering. You should write your responses with a pen or HB pencil. The reading, listening, and writing sections will be held first. The speaking test is then performed with a trained IELTS examiner face to face.

Online (computer-based IELTS)

You will take the test at an official IELTS test centre, where you will submit your answers on a computer that will be allocated to you. The speaking test is not performed on the computer; a qualified IELTS examiner will perform this with you face to face later.

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IELTS exam registration

Before you can take the exam, you need to register for IELTS first.

IELTS tests are offered on 48 scheduled dates per year (up to four times a month). Candidates can take the exam on any of these 48 days, and they can retake the exam at any time.

There is no limit to how many times a candidate can take the IELTS examination. Each time, the candidate must pay a price of 14,000 INR (or the equivalent in your home currency).

IELTS exam centres

There are a total of 67 test cities in India that offer the IELTS test. Globally, the IELTS is available in more than 1,200 test centres in more than 140 countries. You can easily find the test locations on the official website of IELTS, or the same information can be obtained from the nearest IELTS venue.

Online Registration

Registration for your IELTS test is quick and simple.

  • Step one - Find your local IELTS test venue.                            
    With more than 1,600 IELTS test venues in 140 countries, there is sure to be one near you. Your nearest centre can be found on the official IELTS website.
  • Step two - Register for your IELTS test.                            
    You can register and pay online or download an application form to print, fill and send to your local test centre. Don't forget to take along a copy of your valid ID. On the day of the test, you will need to produce the same form of identification.
  • Step three - Your IELTS test is booked.

Your test centre will confirm the date and time of your test once your application has been processed.

Offline Registration

  • For offline registration, reach out to the nearest IDP branch, or any referral partner, in person. You can get this information from the official IELTS website.
  • Bring with you a photocopy of your passport and national ID.
  • Pay the fee and complete your registration.

Your examination centre will send you an email confirmation of the date and time of your test once the application is approved.

How to complete your IELTS application form

You first need to download the application form from the official IELTS website or you can apply online.

Whether you are taking online or offline modes of examination, you must fill out the application form to get yourself registered.

When filling out your form, you must be careful as the information is displayed in your TRF (Test Report Form), and you don’t want any inconsistencies. Make sure you have the same information on the application form as in your passport.

This includes:

  • Your name 
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Nationality
  • Your full address
  • Your email address and phone number
  • Your passport number or national identity number
  • Preferred test date
  • Choice of test city

Online Payment

The IELTS test fee can be paid online by credit card, debit card, online banking, or payment wallet. Mastercard, Visa, and Visa Electron debit cards are all accepted. The test fee is around 14,000 INR (or the equivalent in your home currency). The payment can be made at the official IELTS website (IDP IELTS).

Offline Payment

Offline payment can be made through a demand draft to IDP EDUCATION INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED, which is payable in New Delhi. Candidates outside India can also pay through a demand draft to the British Council or IDP.

Alternatively, candidates living in India can pay via bank deposit at ICICI or Allahabad Bank branches. Candidates outside India can make bank payments by choosing from the list of approved banks, which can be found on the official IELTS website.

A payment slip can be acquired from the IELTS IDP India website or the British Council. Please include the original deposit slip in your IELTS application form.

IELTS results

You will receive an email notification with a link to examine your IELTS scores, which you can access at any time.

Those who took the paper version of the IELTS test will get their results online 13 days after the test. For the computer-based test, your results will be available online within three to five days.

IELTS Test Report Form

Thirteen days after your test date, you will be able to obtain a printed copy of your IELTS test score, known as a Test Report Form (TRF). This can be collected in person at the test centre or delivered by post.

IELTS test results cannot be released via email or phone.

Results Enquiry

To enquire about your test results, you must file a Request for Results Information within six weeks of your test date. You can apply for it online using the web portal or in person at the testing centre where you took your test.

IELTS test results enquiries are subject to a fee, although this fee will be repaid if your score increases for any section of the test.

Your results are usually available between two to 21 days, depending on several factors, including the number of parts you requested to have re-marked.

IELTS scores explained

An essential element of your IELTS preparation is to understand how you are graded.

This will be known as a band score.

You obtain a band score between 1–9 for every category of the test. This score averages your IELTS band score overall. This can be a total (e.g. 6, 7) or half score (e.g. 6.5, 7.5).

Band ScoreSkillSkill overview
1Non-userHas no ability in using the English language. May know a few isolated words.
2Intermittent UserHas difficulty in understanding, speaking, and writing English. May know only a few phrases.
3Extremely Limited UserCan convey and understand only the basic meaning in some situations. Will have frequent breakdowns.
4Limited UserIs limited to basic competence. Unable to use complex language and has problems in understanding.
5Moderate UserHas partial command of the language. Can handle basic communication.
6Competent UserHas effective command of the language. Can understand complex language in some situations.
7Good UserIs good at English with inappropriate usage in some situations. Can understand complex language, and handles it well.
8Very Good UserHas full command of the language except in a few situations – occasional inaccuracies.
9Expert UserShows complete understanding of English with fluency and accuracy.

Can I study abroad without IELTS?

Usually, IELTS and a few other exams are considered essential for university admittance.  While you can study abroad without IELTS, the number of universities that have not set IELTS as essential for admission abroad is limited.                            
Despite this though it is possible.

IELTS Preparation

Preparation is the key to getting the score you need on the IELTS test.

You will be tested on your reading, writing, listening, and speaking abilities in English. Even “natural” speakers will find it challenging if you're not prepared.

How to prepare for the IELTS exam

There are many tips you can follow to prepare for the IELTS exam, and we go deeper in our article, but a few good ones to practice include:

1. Make an early start

Start preparing for the IELTS test at least eight weeks before the test date!

Each of the four sections should take you between 10 to 14 days to discover your skills and shortcomings and to work on sample questions.

2. Create a study routine

The more time you save by creating a timetable and sticking to it, the more work you will get done.

First, schedule an hour or two a day for the first week. Then, increase your efforts in intensity during the following two weeks. Again, in the final week before your exam, you can take a break from studying and spend an hour or two honing your abilities instead of studying.

Before the exam, it's important to "taper off" a bit to let your thoughts settle down and rest.

3. Complete practice tests (as well as sample questions)

A "mock exam" allows you to practice in the precise format and with the time restriction that will be in place on test day. It is far better than working your way through sample questions every day.

If possible, attempt to simulate exam day pressure and limits at least once or twice a week so that you can reduce tension on test day and polish your skills. This will help you become more comfortable with the test experience.

4. Practice note-taking

It would be unwise to merely sit back and listen to the audio recordings during the listening exam, as you could forget some important facts!

Instead, take notes to help you remember the answers. We can't write in detail and listen attentively at the same time, so taking notes is a skill that must be developed.

The best books for IELTS preparation

To achieve the best score on your IELTS exams, preparation is essential. If you're just getting started, it can feel daunting, but with lots of practice you can make a tremendous difference.

The best IELTS books will provide you with comprehensive knowledge about the exam:

1. The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

Suitable for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Designed to help you achieve a high score in your IELTS exam, this book gives you hints and tips from people who have done the course themselves.

2. Barron’s IELTS Superpack

This is one of the best books for IELTS general preparation for academics and professionals alike. Everything you need to prepare for the IELTS exam is included in the comprehensive IELTS preparation kit so that you can excel on the test.

3. Simone Braverman’s Target Band 7

Great for individuals who desire to earn a good score on their IELTS exam.

Written by someone who has taken and passed the IELTS exam, this book is straightforward to grasp and full of practical advice that is easy to put into practice.

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FAQs

1. Is the IELTS difficult?
IELTS isn't difficult in itself, but it may seem like it is due to the vast syllabus.

2. What is the IELTS exam for?
The IELTS exam is designed to assist you in moving to another country for reasons like studying or working abroad.

3. What is a good score for IELTS?
The British Council says that if you get a score of 9 in the exam, you will be an 'expert'. If your score is 8, you will be 'very good' at English. IELTS scores range from 1-9. The score result can be any number in between this range, and that depends on your performance.

4. What is the syllabus of IELTS?
The IELTS curriculum contains a total of four parts, that is, reading, speaking, writing, and listening. The reading and writing sections differ between the Academic and General Training, whereas the listening and speaking sections are the same.

5. What is the fee for the IELTS exam?
The cost is 14,000 INR. You can read more about IELTS fees here.

6. Which countries need IELTS for a job?
IELTS is recognized in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

7. Who is eligible for the IELTS exam?
The IELTS test is recommended for those above 16 years of age, irrespective of gender, nationality, and religion.

8. What is the lowest score in IELTS speaking?
Students who "did not take the test" and "did not answer any question" get the lowest band score of zero.

9. Is 7.5 a good IELTS score?
7.5 is an outstanding score and is acceptable for IELTS if you take it for academic purposes at any university.

10. Can I take more IELTS online?
On any suitable desktop or laptop with good internet access, you can take the IELTS Indicator. Listening, reading, and writing must be completed in one sitting. A few days before and after the listening, reading, and writing test, the speaking test will be carried out.

11. IELTS is valid for how many years?
Basically, IELTS is valid for two years.

12. TOEFL vs IELTS, which is widely accepted?
American institutions accept TOEFL more often, while IELTS is recognized more in various other countries. However, many universities accept scores from both exams. You can read more about TOEFL vs IELTS here.

13. Can I postpone the date of my test?
An application to cancel or postpone your IELTS exam shall be filed only via email or only in person five weeks before the test date. Canceling or postponing via telephone is not allowed.

14. Which test do I need to take to obtain a UK visa?
If you wish to work or study in the UK, you may want to apply for a UK visa and take IELTS for UKVI (Academic and General Training) or IELTS Life Skills to prove that you fulfilled your required level of English.

15. Which IELTS Test type is right for you?
You should take the IELTS Academic Test if you intend to move to an English-speaking country to study. The IELTS General Training Test is suggested for work or immigration.

16. When IELTS Results are published?
The IELTS test results are published 13 days after the test.

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