IELTS Test Prep

I have been helping students with IELTS test prep for over 10 years and it has always been my endeavor to ensure that you achieve your desired result in the first attempt. The IELTS exam tests your listening, reading, writing and speaking (LRWS) skills and is graded on a band of 9 for each skill. An overall band score is also awarded on a scale of 9. Usually, students need to score an overall band of 7 to qualify for applications to top-tier universities across the world and an overall band of 6.5 with no band less than 6 for most other universities. For the purpose of immigration, the requirements vary from country to country.

My students are consistently among the top scorers and it gives me immense joy to know that I have played a part in writing their success story. There are various aspects about IELTS test prep that you should be aware of and I will try my best to give comprehensive answers to all your questions. So let us have a detailed discussion about the IELTS examination:

What is the IELTS exam?

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System and it is the most popular English proficiency test in the world. Candidates all over the world attempt this test in order to prove their English proficiency either for pursuing higher studies abroad or for immigrating to another country. Depending on your requirement, you may either have to sit for the IELTS Academic exam or for the IELTS General Training exam.

What is the difference between IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training?

The IELTS Academic exam is taken by aspirants who want to go abroad for higher studies. This exam is accepted by almost all universities globally for under-graduate, post-graduate and Ph.D. courses. Whereas, the IELTS General Training exam is taken by aspirants who are applying to other countries for immigration. The governments of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, besides several other countries, accept the IELTS General Training test as a valid proof of English language proficiency.

Which organization conducts the IELTS exam?

British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia (commonly known as IDP, which stands for International Development Program) and Cambridge Assessment English are co-owners of the IELTS examination. The questions are prepared by Cambridge while the exam is conducted by both British Council and IDP. Both the companies have their presence in various countries all over the world and have test centres in major cities of several countries.

What is the difference between IDP and British Council?

As far as the exam is concerned, there is NO difference between British Council and IDP. This is because both the organizations are required to use the same question-paper on any given day and there can be no variance in how they conduct the exam. If you are living in India, then one minor difference is that IDP has a few more examination centres than British Council and as a result, have a few more dates available for the paper-delivered as well as the computer-delivered IELTS.

What is the format of the IELTS exam?

The IELTS exam is divided into four sections, i.e. listening, reading, writing (LRW) and speaking. The LRW test is conducted on one day and the speaking test usually takes place on a separate day. Following is the format for each section:

  1. Listening:

The listening section is the same for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. It consists of 40 questions and the duration is 30 minutes. In the paper-delivered test, candidates get extra time of 10 minutes after the regular time of 30 minutes is over in order to write their answers on the answer sheet. This extra time is not available in the computer-delivered test as the candidates can feed their answers directly into the system while listening. Following is a break-up of the listening section:

 

Section Context Example Questions
1 Regular conversation Calling a tourist office 10
2 Regular monologue Tourist guide speaking 10
3 Conversation in an academic setting Students having a discussion 10
4 Academic monologue A lecture by a professor 10
Total 40
  1. Reading:

The overall structure of the reading section is the same for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. This section comprises of three sections totaling 40 questions that you should answer in 60 minutes. However, there are some differences between the two examinations as far as the type of passages and the style of asking questions is concerned.  These differences are enumerated as follows:

IELTS Academic IELTS General Training
·       All the 3 reading passages are long.

·       They may be descriptive, analytical or opinion-based.

·       The passages may include illustrations, diagrams, graphs and flow-charts.

·       The passages are mostly taken from sources such as newspapers, magazines, journals and books.

·       Section 1 contains 2-3 short passages based on factual information.

·       Section 2 contains 2 short passages that may be generic or employment-related.

·       Section 3 contains one long passage that is taken from sources such as company manuals, newspapers and books.

 

  1. Writing:

The writing section in the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training examinations consists of two tasks that are to be completed in 60 minutes. Task 1 in IELTS Academic involves analysis of a graph, whereas in IELTS General Training it involves writing a formal, semi-formal or informal letter. Task 2 is the same in both the examinations and involves writing an essay. You must note that Task 2 carries a few more marks than Task 1.

There is no separate allocation of time for the two tasks, but since Task 2 has a greater weightage than Task 1, it is advisable to spend around 20 minutes on Task 1 and around 40 minutes on Task 2.

  1. Speaking:

The speaking test is the same for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. It is usually conducted on a separate day that may be one day before or after the LRW test. It is quite short and lasts anywhere from 11 to 14 minutes. The speaking test consists of three sections.

In section 1, the examiner will ask you general questions about your work, education, hobbies or other related topics. You should give a clear, concise answer using examples in four to five sentences. In section 2, you will be given a topic and you will have 60 seconds to prepare a response. Subsequently, you will be asked to speak on that topic for 1.5 to 2 minutes. Finally, in section 3, the examiner will ask you questions related to your topic in section 2.

How is the IELTS exam scored?

The IELTS exam is scored on a band of 9 points. You will receive a score on a scale of 9 on all the four scoring parameters, viz. listening, reading, writing and speaking. Then the scores are added and divided by four to arrive at an overall band score out of 9 points, rounded up or down to the closest half. Following are the scoring parameters used to evaluate your IELTS exam:

IELTS Academic IELTS General Training
Reading Listening Reading Listening
Questions Band Questions Band Questions Band Questions Band
39-40 9.0 39-40 9.0 40 9.0 39-40 9.0
37-38 8.5 37-38 8.5 39 8.5 37-38 8.5
35-36 8.0 35-36 8.0 37-38 8.0 35-36 8.0
32-34 7.5 32-34 7.5 36 7.5 32-34 7.5
30-31 7.0 30-31 7.0 34-35 7.0 30-31 7.0
27-29 6.5 26-29 6.5 32-33 6.5 26-29 6.5
23-26 6.0 23-25 6.0 31-30 6.0 23-25 6.0
19-22 5.5 18-22 5.5 27-29 5.5 18-22 5.5
15-18 5.0 16-17 5.0 23-26 5.0 16-17 5.0

 

You can check the details of the scoring parameters for the writing and speaking modules here.

How much do I need to score in the IELTS exam?

The score you need to achieve on the IELTS exam depends on whether you are planning to go abroad for higher studies or for immigration. Following is a table indicating the scores usually required for various purposes:

Reason Score Required
Higher Studies (IELTS Academic) Listening Reading Writing Speaking Overall
Top Universities 6.5 6.5 6.5 6.5 7.0
Other Universities 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.5
Immigration (IELTS General Training)
Canada (Maximum Points) 8.0 7.0 7.0 7.0
Australia (Maximum Points) 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0

 

For how long is the IELTS score valid?

Your IELTS score will remain valid for 2 years from the date mentioned on your TRF (Test Report Form).

How many re-attempts are allowed for the IELTS exam?

There is no limit on the number of times you can appear for the IELTS exam. You can appear as many as you want in order to achieve your required score. However, you will have to book your exam slot and pay the examination fee to British Council or IDP for every attempt.

What are the documents that I need to carry with me for the exam?

The only document that you need to carry to the examination hall is your passport and an e-mail confirmation of your exam slot. You must carry your ORIGINAL passport for both, the LRW test and the speaking test. This is very important because if you do not carry the original passport, the invigilators will not allow you to take the test and you will not be given any refund of the examination fee either.

Is the IELTS a computer-delivered test or a paper-delivered test?

Both, the IELTS Academic and the IELTS General Training exams are available in paper-delivered as well as computer-delivered formats.

How often is the IELTS exam conducted?

The paper-delivered version of the IELTS Academic test is held 48 times a year, i.e. an average of 4 times a month, whereas the paper-delivered version of the IELTS General Training test is held 24 times a year, i.e. an average of 2 times a month. In contrast, the computer-delivered versions of both the exams are held almost every day.

How can I book the IELTS exam?

You can book the IELTS exam by vising the websites of British Council or IDP.

Where can I take the IELTS exam?

You can take the IELTS exam at an examination centre in any major city near you. Several small cities have IELTS test centres as well, though may not have the option of the computer-delivered test, which is available mostly in metropolitan areas.

What is the exam fee?

The examination fee is the same for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. It keeps increasing from time-to-time and is INR 14,000 at present.

In how many days will I get the result?

The results of the paper-delivered IELTS exam are declared after 13 calendar days from the date of the LRW exam, whereas the results of the computer-delivered IELTS exam are declared after 5-7 calendar days from the date of the LRW exam. This time is the same for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

How much time should I devote to my IELTS test prep?

You should devote 1 month to your IELTS test prep if you follow a proper study plan dedicating around 2 hours every day. However, if your English is weak, it may take you 2-4 months as you will have to improve your language skills before you start your IELTS test prep.

How do you conduct IELTS test prep classes?  

I will take IELTS test prep classes 2-3 times a week depending on how well you are following the study plan that we will prepare. Each class is 2 hours in duration and I only make small batches of upto 4 students. This ensures that you learn from your peers and get personal attention at the same time. We will start with concept classes and subsequently, I will ask you to attempt mock-tests on a weekly basis. Once you are scoring well on the mock-tests and I am satisfied with your progress, I will ask you to book your exam slot.

Where do you conduct IELTS test prep classes?

I conduct online test prep classes for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training using platforms such as Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc. and I also conduct in-person classes at my home office in Karapakkam, Chennai.

What preparation material should I buy to study for the IELTS exam?

Though there is a lot of preparation material available in the market, I would advise you to stick to The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS which you can easily buy online. Other excellent preparation material includes books such as the Cambridge IELTS 13 Academic Student’s Book , Cambridge IELTS 13 General Training Student’s Book and the Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS Book. There is also a very nice website that is providing simulated mock-tests for the computer-delivered IELTS exams, both Academic and General Training. Moreover, if you enrol in my classes for IELTS, I will also provide you with state-of-the-art preparation material that I have compiled based on my several years of training experience.

 

Where can I get more details about your IELTS test prep classes?

You can read the FAQs I have posted here and you can also reach out to me via e-mail or phone for further details. If you are in Chennai, you are most welcome to visit me at my home office in Karapakkam, for which I have provided the address and Google Maps link in the Contact Me section.

I hope that I have answered most of your questions regarding IELTS test prep and that you have a good amount of clarity about the structure of the exam, how to prepare for it and where your score is applicable. Please click here to find out more about me and you can read my other articles below: