Preparing for IELTS – What You Need to Know


IELTS or The International English Language Testing System is a language proficiency test. It is designed to help you work, study or migrate to a country where English is the native language. This includes countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA. It is usually a requirement for students who do come from institutes where their medium of instruction has not been English throughout.

IELTS assesses a person’s ability to listen, read, write and speak in English, and is graded on a scale of 1-9. The test is recognised by more than 11,000 employers, universities, schools, and immigration bodies globally. Each immigration body, university, workplace, or institution will have its own specific IELTS score requirements that one needs to meet. Are you wondering how much preparation is required for IELTS? You will find more details in our article.

Here’s what we’ll look at today

  • IELTS – All You Need to Know
  • How long does it take to prepare for the IELTS exam?
IELTS – All You Need to Know

There are two types of IELTS: Academic and General Training. The IELTS General Training test is recommended for those who apply for work-related visas or for immigration. All test takers take the same Listening and Speaking tests but different Reading and Writing tests are conducted for Academic and General Training tests. The Listening, Reading, and Writing sections of all IELTS tests are completed on the same day, with no breaks in between them. Whereas, the Speaking section can be completed up to a week before or after the other tests. The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

IELTS Writing Test takes up to 1 hour to be completed.

The Academic Test has two tasks:

Writing Task 1– Information is given based on a graphic (bar, line, or pie graph) or pictorial composition, using which the examinee has to write a descriptive report of at least 150 words by comparing data and trends in factual information.

Writing Task 2 – An argumentative or descriptive essay of at least 250 words on a given topic is expected. Examinees should make clear, cohesive points to strengthen their arguments.

The usual advice is to spend 40 minutes on Task 2 and 20 minutes on Task 1 for maximum efficiency.

The General Writing Test also has two tasks:

Task 1 – A letter of a minimum of 150 words

Task 2 – A 250 words essay on a given topic.

IELTS Speaking Test takes up to less than 15 minutes and ranges between 11 to 14 minutes.

It is a face-to-face interaction between the candidate and an examiner. The test is recorded.

The examiner asks around 25 questions. There are three parts to the test.

The first is introducing yourself.

The second half is to discuss a topic chosen by the examiner for 2 minutes. This part focuses on the ability to use appropriate language coherently to express yourself coherently.

The third and final part includes answering questions related to the same topic.

Proper pronunciation along with grammatical accuracy, a rich vocabulary, and fluency is assessed throughout the test.

IELTS Reading Test takes 60 minutes. It consists of 40 questions to test the examinee’s ability to grasp key ideas, decipher logical arguments, and recognise detail. The examinee has to answer on the Reading Answer Sheet, as no extra time is given for transferring answers from the test booklet to the Reading Answer Sheet.

The Academic Test includes three long texts ranging from descriptive to factual to analytical, and are selected for those entering university courses. The General Training Test instead includes extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, and materials encountered daily in an Anglophone environment.

Questions in both the tests are worth 1 mark per correct answer. Texts contain detailed arguments or might have diagrams, graphs, or illustrations.

Different types of tasks include:

  • Task 1 -Multiple Choice Questions where candidates have to choose the right answer.
  • Task 2 – Examinees are asked: ‘Do the following statements agree with the information in the text?’ Write correct answers corresponding to the text.
  • Task 3 -Examinees are asked: ‘Do the following statements agree with the views/claims of the writer?’ Write correct answers corresponding to the text.
  • Task 4 – Matching information correctly in the text.
  • Task 5 – Matching headings where examinees match Roman numerals to main ideas identified in the text.
  • Task 6 – Matching statements to a list of corresponding options.
  • Task 7 – Matching sentence endings from a list of possible options.
  • Task 8 – Sentence completion.
  • Task 9 – Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion.
  • Task 10 – Diagram label completion.
  • Task 11 – Answering short-answer questions related to factual information in the text.

IELTS Listening Test takes 30 minutes. There are four recordings of native English speakers, which one must listen to closely to write correct answers to a series of questions. Each section has 10 questions, making a total of 40 questions. You are allowed half a minute to study the questions before the test begins.

  • Recording 1 – a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 2 – a monologue set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 3 – a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context.
  • Recording 4 – a monologue on an academic subject.

The examinee is assessed on their overall understanding of key points of the recordings.

How long does it take to prepare for the IELTS exam?

Start preparing for your IELTS test at least 3 – 6 months prior. IELTS tests have strict time limits, so it is best to prepare under timed conditions. Practice tests are the best way to improve your comprehension and reading skills. Familiarizing yourself with the content of the tests is important to understand the task types for each section and maximizing your time in the examination hall. The best way to cultivate listening and speaking skills are by immersing yourself in an environment where you use them daily. Cultivate a reading habit. Newspapers, story books, articles on the internet, make sure to engage with the language to increase your vocabulary. Start with the basics and then delve deeper into books such as fiction, which will improve your understanding of the language. Start writing some English every day, by writing a diary, or communicating with friends in English. Self-learning is possible and there are multiple resources available on the official IELTS site which can guide you and give feedback on how to improve.

Here’s something you may not have known: You can study in countries like Canada without the IELTS.

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