What is the IELTS? – An overview.

Hello Exam Seekers,

Have you heard about IELTS? Many people who look for English Proficiency Exams come across the International English Language Testing System. Today, I’m talking about the types of IELTS exams there are, the difference between them, and some other information related to passing and failing, results, and price.

IELTS exam

When applying for a 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 that many universities accept.

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 and the differences there are in the tests.

What are the IELTS tests? 

And how do I know which one I should take?

There are four different modules depending on your interest: Academic, General Training, UKVI, and Life Skills. The tests have some differences due to their specific purposes, such as:

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. The reading and writing parts stand out, which are more academic and require a better knowledge of the formal register. Apart from these two sections, it is just like the General Training test.

People take this test on some occasions: if you want to emigrate to another country, get permanent residency, or 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 like daily and workplace situations.

UKVI – Visa and Immigration
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 centers around the world offer this version which is destined for those who plan to move to the UK. The main difference is that it is more secure than the other tests. The requirements for applying for the UKVI – due to Visa and Immigration intent – are more strict. They are taken under extra security measures to guarantee no fraud. For instance, the only documents accepted for registration are your passport and the official ID used in your county. You also have to register your biometric information; then, when taking the test, they take a picture of you and check your biometrics. Moreover, all your tests are recorded.

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 center 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

What does the IELTS involve?

The exam has four sections – reading, listening, speaking, and writing. 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 Life Skills test is between 16 to 22 minutes. It varies depending on the level you are applying to.

IELTS test format

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 extra 10 minutes to transfer the answers to the answer sheet. However, you cannot be with the headphones when you’re doing so – if you opt for the online version. You can only listen to the tracks once, you will not be able to listen to them again after it is over. There are four recordings composed of conversations and monologues.

Reading – It takes 60 minutes to do this test – there is no additional time to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Here is where the differences between the Academic and General Training modules start.

  • The Academic module consists of more formal texts and the passages are a bit longer. You will find descriptive, factual, discursive and analytical texts, graphs, diagrams and illustrations.
  • The General Training consists of three passages that contain two or three factual texts, two short, work-related, factual texts, and one longer text with more general subjects.

Writing – you have 60 minutes to write two texts. The first one should be 150 words, while the second should be 250 words.

  • For the Academic module, 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, you need to write a letter in the first part and a short essay for the second one.

What about the certificate?

Can I fail the test?

In theory, you can’t. There is no passing or failing. Again, the exception is the Like Skills exam, which only comes with a pass or a fail mark. Nevertheless, it all depends on the purpose you are taking the test. If you are thinking about going to a 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 to 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.

IELTS result sample

How much does it cost?

It depends on the center and the currency of your country. However, the price charged by Cambridge is around $225 – it varies according to the time you are reading this text, so 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 questions regarding the different parts and differences? Comment below and let me know! I would love to hear from you and help you to achieve your goals!


That’s it for today! Please like the post and follow the blog on:

You can also listen to this post at Anchor!!!

Have a great week,
Patricia Moura


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