The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is one of the world’s most popular English language proficiency tests for higher education and global migration, with more than 2 million tests taken last year.
IELTS evaluates all of your English skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) and is designed to reflect real-life use of English - at study, at work, and at play.
The IELTS test is developed by some of the world’s leading experts in language assessment. It has a strong international reputation, and is accepted by over 8,000 organisations worldwide, including schools, universities, employers, immigration authorities and professional bodies.
IELTS is the most widely accepted English language test that uses a one-to-one, face-to-face speaking test to assess your English communication skills. This means that you are assessed by having a real-life conversation with a real person. This is the most effective and natural way of testing your English conversation skills.
The test is designed to assess the language ability of candidates who want to work or study in countries where English is the primary language of communication.
Two IELTS tests: Academic and General
Why you’re doing the IELTS test will effect which kind of test you choose:
- The Academic module is normally for people who want to study an undergraduate or postgraduate degree course or who wish to register with a professional body.
- The General Training module focuses on basic survival skills in a broader social and educational setting. General Training is suitable if you are joining a training programme or doing work experience in English speaking countries. It is not designed for degree level.
Please note, if you are applying to an organisation you must check with them to make sure you choose the correct IELTS test.
The IELTS 9-band scale
Each band corresponds to a level of English competence. All parts of the test and the Overall Band Score can be reported in whole and half bands, eg 6.5, 7.0, 7.5, 8.0.
||Expert user: has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
| Band 8
||Very good user: has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
| Band 7
||Good user: has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
| Band 6
||Competent user: has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
| Band 5
||Modest user: has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.
| Band 4
||Limited user: basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.
| Band 3
||Extremely limited user: conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
| Band 2
||Intermittent user: 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.
| Band 1
||Non-user: essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
| Band 0
||Did not attempt the test: No assessable information provided.
Information for candidates
The IELTS publication Information for Candidates has a lot of information about the way the test is run and what to expect on the day.
IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council; IDP: IELTS Australia and University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL).
Information and preparation
The IELTS test can be challenging so you should make sure you are as prepared as possible before sitting the exam.
The British Council provide free online preparation on their www.ieltspractice.com website.
Or if you prefer face-to-face teaching, IH London provide a number of IELTS practice courses that include practice materials, interaction with other IELTS candidates and guidance from our experienced teachers. Find out more in our IELTS preparation courses section.
You’ll also find some useful tips and advice about the IELTS test on our blog.
The British Council also offer the IELTS word power app. It's a great way to prepare for your test no matter where you are. Download the app here.
The British Council and Cambridge English Language Assessment provide lots of information about the test, preparation and registration here: www.ielts.org/test_takers_information.aspx.