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What Do You Need to Know About the IELTS?

Authored By: 
Touria Ghaffari, ESOL/French Teacher

As the number of international students enrolling in American higher education has been continuously growing, so has the popularity of International English Language Testing System (IELTS) in the United States—with a respectively higher number of U.S. higher education institutions accepting IELTS scores. As a result, it is important to be aware of its specifications before deciding to opt for taking the test.

What is the IELTS?

IELTS, or the International English Language Testing System, is a test which evaluates a person’s level of English based on a band score of 0 to 9 for the four skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Who creates the tests?

IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English Language Assessment. The test is being administered in more than a thousand test centers in over 140 countries around the world.

Which IELTS test should you take: Academic or General?

There are two types of IELTS tests: the Academic and the General Modules. The listening and the speaking sections are the same for both modules. The main differences are in the reading and writing sections where the nature of the content is different.

The Academic Module is for those who wish to enter a university or college where English is the main language of instruction, and the General Module is mainly taken by those planning to immigrate to a country where English is the official or a prevailing language.


Many individuals prefer to take the IELTS test because the skills  (listening, reading, writing and speaking) are tested separately and the speaking part is done in the presence of an examiner.

The strategies needed to raise the test score are basically the same for both the IELTS and TOEFL tests, but it is up to the individual to decide which test they prefer to take, unless it is specified or required by the organization to which they are applying.

How to prepare for an IELTS test?

For those wanting to study for an IELTS test, there are plenty of books from which to choose. As for any standardized test, the amount of time spent on practicing for the test is essential to obtaining a desirable band score or improving a previous one. Here at The Beekman School's Tutoring School program, we offer IELTS prep courses to our international students, as well as anyone who wishes to study in a small-group or private class.

Many English teachers are now even using the preparation books and exercises aimed at IELTS in their general English classes to improve the skills of non-native English learners.

The IELTS exam prep classes concentrate on teaching the strategies needed to improve the four language skills.

  • Reading: The advancement of this skill is based on skimming and scanning the text, understanding the main idea, and understanding the meaning from the context or dealing with unknown vocabulary.
  • Listening: During the listening task, learners master how to identify the main points in the section and note down key information.
  • Writing Task 1: This assignment of the General Module helps you learn to organize and write a letter, and for the Academic Module, describing a graph or a diagram is practiced.
  • Writing Task 2: With this task, test takers learn to present their views on a given topic.
  • Speaking: The prep test courses for the speaking section help individuals talk about a wide variety of topics and express their views on them.

Once you have decided to study for the IELTS, start your self-evaluation by taking a practice test published by Cambridge Press--it will be like the test you'll take with an examiner.  Then, your tutor/mentor can help you organize your time and guide you toward your score goal.

Sources: http://www.ielts.org, http://www.britishcouncil.org, http://www.ielts.org/usa, https://www.idp.com/australia/ielts, http://www.cambridge.org

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