IELTS'International English Language Testing System', is an international standardised test of English language proficiency. It is jointly managed by University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council and IDP Education Australia, and was established in 1989.
There are two versions of the IELTS: the Academic Version and the General Training Version:
* The Academic Version is intended for those who want to enroll in universities and other institutions of higher education and for professionals such as medical doctors and nurses who want to study or practice in an English-speaking country.
* The General Training Version is intended for those planning to undertake non-academic training or to gain work experience, or for immigration purposes.
It is generally acknowledged that the reading and writing tests for the Academic Version are more difficult than those for the General Training Version, due to the differences in the level of intellectual and academic rigour between the two versions.
IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, New Zealand and South African academic institutions, over 1,800 academic institutions in the United States, and various professional organisations. It is also a requirement for immigration to Australia and Canada. This has been criticised in Canada, because the English accents employed in the Listening section of the IELTS are far removed from typical Canadian accents.
An IELTS result or Test Report Form (TRF - see below) is valid for two years.
In 2007, IELTS tested over a million candidates in a single 12-month period for the first time ever, making it the world's most popular English language test for higher education and immigration.
The IELTS incorporates the following features:
* A variety of accents and writing styles presented in text materials in order to minimise linguistic bias.
* IELTS tests the ability to listen, read, write and speak in English.
* Band scores used for each language sub-skill (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking). The Band Scale ranges from 0 ("Did not attempt the test") to 9 ("Expert User").
* The speaking module - a key component of IELTS. This is conducted in the form of a one-to-one interview with an examiner. The examiner assesses the candidate as he or she is speaking, but the speaking session is also recorded for monitoring as well as re-marking in case of an appeal against the banding given.
* IELTS is developed with input from item writers from around the world. Teams are located in the USA, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other English speaking nations.
IELTS Test Structure
All candidates must complete four Modules - Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking - to obtain a Band, which is shown on an IELTS Test Report Form (TRF). All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking Modules, while the Reading and Writing Modules differ depending on whether the candidate is taking the Academic or General Training Versions of the Test.
Total Test Duration 2 hours 45 minutes
The first three modules - Listening, Reading and Writing (always in that order) - are completed in one day, and in fact are taken with no break in between. The Speaking Module may be taken, at the discretion of the test centre, in the period seven days before or after the other Modules.
The tests are designed to cover the full range of ability from non-user to expert user.
IELTS is scored on a nine band scale, with each band corresponding to a specified competence in English. The Band Scores are in either whole or half Bands. The nine bands are described as follows:
Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding. It would be very hard to attain this score.
Very Good User
Has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
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.
Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
Has a partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. The candidate should be able to handle communication in his or her own field.
Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in using complex language.
Extremely Limited User
Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
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.
Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
Did not attempt the test
No assessable information provided.
Locations and test dates
The test is taken every year in 500 locations across 121 countries, and is one of the fastest growing English language tests in the world. The number of candidates has grown from about 80,000 in 1999 to over 1,000,000 in 2007.
The top three locations in which candidates took the test in 2007 were:
* Academic Category
3. Great Britain
* General Training Category
There are up to 48 test dates available per year. Each test centre offers tests up to four times a month depending on local demand.