Englishour and the IELTS exam

What is IELTS? 

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System and it is an English language exam designed by Cambridge, The British Council, and IDP.

Who is the exam for? 

The exam is suitable for English Students at all levels, and even native English speakers often take it as part of immigration requirements.

You cannot fail IELTS. It is scored on a scale of one to nine. If you have prepared enough for the exam itself, then your score will reflect your level of English.

Why do the IELTS? 
 

IELTS is an internationally recognised certificate. The exam is usually taken by students who are interested in emigrating to Canada or Australia, or who want to study in a university that accepts IELTS.

How long is the IELTS certificate valid for? 

Every organisation has its own rules for how long it accepts exam scores for, and the same rules tend to apply to all the exams it accepts, regardless of whether it is IELTS, CAE or another exam.
The official “expiration date” of the certificate usually doesn’t matter. So, it’s important to find out what the policies are of the place where you want to apply. 

What does it involve?

There are four sections: listening, reading, writing and speaking. The first three of these are always done on the same day in one sitting while the speaking test may be on a different day.  

How is it different from other exams? 

IELTS was originally designed to be an English language exam for prospective university students, and so it tests skills that are relevant to university students. For example, in the reading test you must be able to read a long text quickly to find specific information on a given subject, and in the listening test you must be able to catch information in a lecture that you only hear once.  

How do I prepare? 

First you learn English, then you learn the exam. 

Reading

There are three texts of about 900 words each and you have 60 minutes to answer 40 questions. The first section is easiest and then they become increasingly difficult, but every question is worth equal marks. As with any exam, you improve your reading score by improving your English level. Key IELTS preparation skills to focus on for the reading exam include time management and scanning the text for specific information.

Listening

The listening test lasts 40 minutes. There are four listenings. Like the reading test, they increase in difficulty as you go on. Part 4 is always a lecture on an academic topic. Key skills to focus on include reading exam questions quickly to find key words and understanding different accents. There is usually Australian accent and an English accent, but along with those you could hear any accent in the world.

Writing

The writing test lasts an hour, there are two writing tasks.  

Task 1 asks you to describe an image of some kind. It could be a map, a diagram, a bar chart, a pie chart, a table, a trend graph, or a combination of any of these. You must write around 150 words in 20 minutes. It is worth 33% of your score so it should take up 33% of your time. Key skills to focus on include usage of academic language, summarising factual information and usage of language for comparing and contrasting.  

Task 2, is always a formal essay where you explain a viewpoint or viewpoints. You must write about 250 words in 40 minutes it is worth 66% of your score. Key skills to focus on include usage of academic language and organising a persuasive essay.

Speaking 

The speaking test lasts about 14 minutes. It is just you and the examiner, and there are 3 parts. In Part 1 the examiner asks you questions about yourself and in Part 3 they ask you questions about society and the world at large. In Part 2 you are given a topic that you prepare for 1 minute and then talk uninterrupted for about for 2 minutes. This topic is always on something personal from your own life. For example, an area of natural beauty you have visited. Key skills to focus on include presentation skills and pronunciation.

I’m in an intermediate class, but I need an IELTS 6.5! What do I do? 

Study like crazy! Even if you need an advanced score, it’s never a good idea to try to skip an English level. An intermediate level mistake will have more of a negative impact on your score than an advanced level mistake. You won’t be able to get a 6.5 if you do not have a very good grasp of elementary, intermediate and upper-intermediate grammar and vocabulary. 
 

 What is “General IELTS”?

All of the above was written with the original IELTS in mind, which is now known as “Academic IELTS”. A second version of IELTS has been developed, and so now both “General IELTS” and “Academic IELTS” exams exist. However, the “General IELTS” exam still tests academic reading skills (e.g. finding information quickly rather than intensive reading for understanding), and the listening and speaking sections are identical. The difference is that the texts on the General IELTS reading are chosen from less academic topics, and that the writing task 1 is a letter or email instead of a description of a diagram.  

 I’m convinced! How do I sign up for IELTS preparation?

Englishour has regular IELTS preparation integrated into its syllabus, as well as teaching you essential skills throughout your course. If you would like to do a practice test at any time you can enquire at the office or by emailing exams@englishour.ie

Can I book my IELTS exam? 

Email exams@englishour.ie for extra information or support around IELTS, or to talk about booking an exam.  

By Rebecca Bourke.