|EE-004| What is the IELTS? – An overview.

Hello Exam Seekers,

From now I plan to post both on Tuesdays and Fridays. We felt that only one post weekly was too little for all the things we wanted to share with you. Therefore, this is how our posting schedule will work: on Tuesdays, we will share language-related content, while Fridays are going to be for teaching-related content. Should you have any suggestions on posts or even some topics you would like us to talk about, feel free to ask us! We will try and fit it into our agenda and write about it as soon as possible!

So, today’s post is pretty much an overview on the IELTS exam. We talk about the types of exams there are, the difference between them and also some other information on passing and failing, results and price.


Nowadays, when applying for university abroad, you will probably need to sit for an English language exam – in case you live in a non-English speaking country or have not studied in an English-speaking country before. So, if that is your case, you will have a couple of options while preparing your application regarding language exams, but one of them is sure to be the IELTS since this is a worldwide known exam which many universities accept it. However, there are some other situations in which you may need to take a language exam, such as when you are applying for immigration or work visas. Below you will find the types of IELTS you will find on the market. We summarized what each one is for and highlighted the differences there are in the tests.

What are the tests?  How do I know which one I should take?
Well, there are four different modules depending on your interest. They are academic, general training, UKVI and Life Skills. The tests have some differences due to their specific purposes, such as the ones mentioned below:

If you’re planning to study at university, be it as an undergraduate student or for graduate – Master’s and Ph.D.- courses, you will need to take the Academic module of the exam. What stands out is the reading and writing parts which are more academic and require a better knowledge of formal register. Apart from these two sections, it is just like the general training test.

General Training
People take this test on some occasions: if you want to emigrate to another country, get permanent residency, or for work visas. Countries tend to take this module of the IELTS as proof of English proficiency for immigration and work purposes; they do not require the academic module. This test focuses on general topics, focusing on daily and workplace situations.

In 2015, the UK introduced a new exam used for visa and immigration purposes. The format of the UKVI is the same as the other tests, but some authorized centres around the world offer this version which is destined to those who plan to move to the UK.

Life Skills
Life Skills is a little bit different, though. It is offered for two levels – which also follow the CEFR table-, A1 and B1 – the A2 version is only offered in the UK. Different from the other exams, this one only has two parts, listening and speaking. Nevertheless, just like the UKVI version, it is also for immigration purposes.  Something to bear in mind is that not every centre offers this exam, so if you need to sit for this specific one, do not forget to ask if they also have this test available.

The test format
The exam has four sections – reading, listening, speaking, writing – and it takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes. The exception is the Life Skills exam, which has a different format and only tests speaking and listening. The duration of the test is between 16 to 22 minutes. It varies depending on the level you are applying to.


Speaking – There are three parts in this section and you will talk to the examiner only. The first part is an interview; in the second you need to develop a one minute monologue on a topic -you will receive a card for some ideas in this part -, and the last one will be a couple of questions related to the topic you talked about previously.

Listening – It takes 30 minutes and those taking the exam also have another 10 minutes to write their answers on the answer sheet. However, you cannot be with the headphones when you’re doing so – if you opt for the online version. It is quite significant to remember that you can only listen to the tracks once, you will not be able to listen to it again after it is over.
There are four recordings composed of conversations and monologues.

Reading – Different from the listening, you only have the time to do the test, which takes 60 minutes, and no additional time to pass your answers to the answer sheet. Here is where the differences between the academic and general training modules start. For the academic module, there are more formal texts and the passages are a bit longer. You will find descriptive, factual, discursive and analytical texts, graphs, diagrams and illustrations.
On the other hand, the general training one consists of three passages which contain two or three factual texts, two short, work-related, factual texts, one longer text with more general subjects.

Writing – you have 60 minutes to write two texts. The first one should be of 150 words, while the second should be of 250. This is what is common for both modules. However, for the academic one, you will have to summarise, describe or explain a table, graph, chart, or diagram for the first part and a short essay for the second one.  For the general training, on the other hand, you need to write a letter in the first part and a short essay for the second one.

Can I fail the test?
In theory, you can’t. There is no passing or failing in the result. Again, the exception is the Like Skills exam, which only comes with a pass or fail mark. Nevertheless, it all depends on the purpose you are taking the test. If you are thinking about going to university, some courses require a higher score, while for immigration the grade you need to get may be lower. Therefore, check out all the information you need in advance so that you can prepare accordingly to get the result you need.


When will I get the results?
They will be available on the website around two weeks after you take the exam. Additionally, your score will vary from 1-9. However, your grade will be whole (2.0, 7.0) or half (3.5, 6.5). In addition to that, when you receive your results, you will have both the separate grade you got in each part and also the average score.


How much does it cost?
It depends where you live, to be honest. However, the price charged by Cambridge is  $225. But then again, it will depend on your location and the branch you chose to sit for the exam. Besides that, since the currency tends to change every now and again, it is better to check at the place you are taking the exam to have the exact cost of the exam.

What else would you like to know about the IELTS exam? Anything more specific? Any further question regarding the different parts and differences? Comment below and let us know! We would love to hear from you and help you out to achieve your goals!

Have a great week,
Eve and Patty

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