What’s the IELTS, and who needs it?
Summer is coming and, around the world, society is unfreezing from its Covid-19 lockdown. Slowly things are returning to normal, and everyone is starting to think about their future. For many that means proving their level of English by taking an official exam. One exam that I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about is the IELTS (International English Language Testing System). But what exactly is the IELTS, which organisations accept it, and who needs to take this exam? Read on to find out more.
- What is the IELTS?
The IELTS is one of the best-known, most widely respected English language tests around the world. Every year, thousands of people in more than 140 countries take this exam for a wide variety of reasons (more on that later). The IELTS exam tests every skill needed to understand a language. There is a Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking section of the exam. You’ll receive a mark for each section and these four scores will be averaged to give you a total score from 0 (the lowest) to 9 (proficient user). Whenever an organisation (university, government, etc.) asks you to prove your level of English with the IELTS, they’ll tell you a minimum overall score required (6.5, for example) and a minimum for each skill (e.g. 6.0). This means even if one of your skills is a little bit weaker, you can still pas the exam. Most people choose to do the whole exam over one day, but some test centes organise their Speaking exams at a separate time from the other three sections. Finally, there are two types of IELTS exam, an Acadmic exam and a General exam. The Listening and Speaking sections of these two exams are identical, but Reading and Writing are different. In the IELTS General test you’ll be asked to read and write about more common, everyday subjects rather than academic topics that prove you’re ready to do a university degree in English. In the end, your IELTS test result will be valid for two years.
- Should I take the IELTS Academic or General Exam?
The IELTS exam you decide to take depends on the reason you need to prove your level of English. Most people take the IELTS to attend university in an English speaking country or to enrol on a degree that is taught in English. Nearly every UK university, and over 3,000 institutions in America, accept IELTS for foreign students who want to take a degree in English. The score you need depends on the course that you’d like to take. For this purpose the IELTS Academic exam is the best choice. What many people in the UK don’t know, though, is that for medical professionals, such as nurses and doctors, to prove their level of English they are also required to take the Academic test. The General exam is mostly used for immigration and visa purposes. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK all use IELTS as one of their language testing exams when deciding if they should award a foreign national a visa to enter, or stay in, their country.
- What score do I need?
The score you need on the IELTS, like many things, depends on your reason for taking it. Most Master’s degrees in the UK require a score of 7.0. For undergraduate degrees, it depends on the subject. Subjects like medicine and law require a 7.0 overall because it’s necessary to have nearly perfect English to study these disciplines and practise these professions. Degrees that are based on data and numbers, like economics or business, usually require a 6.5, and Arts degrees sometimes require just a 6.0. Obviously, standards vary from one university to another. In the case of immigration, most visas to the UK require scores of just between 4.0 and 5.5. In addition, other tests, like the Trinity GESE exams, are also becoming increasingly popular for immigration. If you’re interested in what your English level (A1-C2) represents as an IELTS score, here’s a useful diagram. How close are you to the level you need?
- How should I prepare for the IELTS?
What many people seem to forget is that the best way to pass a language exam to improve your language skills overall. For example, if you need a 6.5 on the IELTS and your level of English is B1 it’s not a good idea to focus just on improving your exam skills. Most of the material used to study for the IELTS is aimed at scoring a 5.5 to 7.5. If your level of English is B1, most IELTS books and classes will be too difficult for you to understand. On the other hand, some people make the opposite mistake. They think that, because they have a good level of English, they can just walk into the IELTS and get the score they need. The IELTS, like anything else in life, requires special skills and knowledge. For self-study there are lots of great materials from Cambridge University Press, National Geographic Learning’s The Complete Guide to IELTS is an excellent resource that covers every part of the exam thoroughly, and many more. Finally, there’s no better way to prepare for the IELTS exam than to take a course. Having the guidance of a professional teacher on how to approach the exam successfully, the best methods and strategies to use to achieve the score you need, and correction with grammar and vocabulary is essential. If you have any questions about the IELTS, please contact Ingla at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you anyway we can, or visit our site to find out more about our IELTS courses. Now’s the time to think about and prepare for your future!