Everything you need to know about IELTS

Everything explained about the IELTS exam

Kerin English Teacher
by Kerin
Founder & English teacher

The article below explains everything you need to know about IELTS & the IELTS exam! Choose to read the article, or listen & read!

What is the IELTS exam?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration.

In other words, IELTS is an English language test that is designed to measure the language proficiency of people who would like to work or study where English is used as a language of communication.

The IELTS exam tests your English language ability for reading, writing, listening and speaking.

What does ‘IELTS’ stand for?

‘IELTS’ Stands for…

  • International
  • English
  • Language
  • Testing
  • System

IELTS is owned and managed by:

  • British Council
  • Cambridge Assessment English
  • IDP Education Australia
What does IELTS stand for?

Why is IELTS important?

If you are planning on going to an English-speaking country to live, study or work, you may have seen IELTS listed as part of the visa application. (Perhaps on the course requirements of a university programme or as a requirement in the job description). 

IELTS is accepted by over 10,000 organisations in more than 140 countries. These include:

  • universities, schools, colleges and training organisations
  • government departments and immigration authorities
  • professional and industry associations
  • multinational companies and employers

N.B. If you are taking the IELTS test to support a UK visa application to work, live or study in the UK, you may need to take the IELTS for UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) Academic or General Training or the IELTS for Life Skills test.

Boost your CV and career prospects

IELTS for work and career opportunities

Professional registration bodies in many fields will accept an IELTS result. Including 

  • accounting 
  • engineering 
  • law 
  • medicine 
  • nursing 
  • pharmacy and teaching bodies  

Having an IELTS certificate is a desirable attribute to add to your CV or resume as it is immediate proof of your communication abilities in English. 

IELTS for Study

Thousands of the world’s most reputable universities and colleges will accept your IELTS results as evidence of your English language proficiency. 

N.B. Most people will take the IELTS Academic  test to support their study and application to study overseas – but it is important to check the entry  requirements of individual organisations before choosing your test.

IELTS for migration

IELTS scores are required by governments in more countries than any other English language test as a requirement for permanent residency. However, unlike other providers, the IELTS General Training test is the only non-academic test available for migration to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, The United Kingdom and The USA.

Why we love the IELTS exam!

Fairness! IELTS treats all test takers with the utmost fairness and respect by actively avoiding cultural bias, and accepting all standard varieties of native-speaker English, including North American, British, Australian and New Zealand English. Pretty cool! 

Moreover, the IELTS exam:

  • is focused on assessing practical communication ability
  • serves both academic and non-academic purposes through a choice of two versions
  • features a one-on-one, face-to-face speaking component
  • recognises all standard varieties of nativespeaker English, including North American and British
  • ensures test questions are extensively trialled with people from different cultures to confirm they are appropriate and fair.


IELTS Fair to all

Choose which exam to do: general or academic

There are two IELTS tests available – IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training. The test you choose should be based on what it is you want to do.

IELTS Academic – measures whether your level of English language proficiency is suitable for an academic environment. It reflects aspects of academic language and evaluates whether you’re ready to begin training or studying.

If you want to study at an English-speaking university or work in an English-speaking environment (in a country where English is the main language), then you’ll likely need to take IELTS Academic.

IELTS General Training – measures English language proficiency in a practical, everyday context. The tasks and tests reflect both workplace and social situations.

If you want to study abroad, emigrate or work abroad, check the requirements to help you decide which IELTS test you should take. 

IELTS exam is Widely Available

IELTS is available at more than 1,600 locations worldwide and now available also in China.

To find a test location click here.

IELTS Widely available

What score do I need?

The IELTS band score you need to achieve will depend on the organisation you are applying to (e.g. university, college, visa authority), so it’s best to check with them directly to find out their requirements.

If you are taking the IELTS for immigration, the IELTS score you will need will depend on the kind of visa you need (e.g. work, business, for investors, for students, etc.). Click here for information about IELTS for immigration. 

If you’re taking the IELTS as an international student, both the government and the institution may have a say about what IELTS results are acceptable. 

What do the IELTS scores or bands mean?

Let’s first look at the British Council’s official descriptions of the different bands to give you a general idea (image from British Council.org)

British Council scores

IELTS scores in terms of the Common European Framework of Reference

Many of you may be more familiar with the CEFR to describe your level. For example an IELTS score (or band) 5.5 is a lower upper intermediate B2 level whereas a band 7 is the equivalent of advanced C1. This graphic from the British Council.org shows how IELTS maps against the CEFR

CEFR scores

What should I expect in the IELTS test?

The IELTS tests is made up of four parts: listening, reading, writing and speaking. You take the listening, reading and writing parts on the same day, with no breaks in between them. The speaking part can be completed up to a week before or after the other parts – the test centre will arrange this for you.

The listening and speaking parts are the same for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training, but the reading and writing parts differ.

Academic IELTS reflects some of the features of academic language to see whether you’re ready to begin studying or training. General Training focuses on basic survival skills in broad social and workplace contexts.

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