The IELTS Test Decoded
Compared to other tests, what is IELTS good for?
IELTS (Academic) is globally recognised for university entrance. Although other tests, like the TOEFL are recognized in some countries, their acceptance is not as wide. IELTS is also the only test recognized for student or longer-term visas to the UK. On top of this, IELTS looks good on your CV!
What is IELTS not good for?
It’s not a good idea to take IELTS if you don’t specifically need it – preparing for IELTS doesn’t improve your English level as much as normal English classes do because it is aimed at the test specifically. The IELTS certificate is also only valid for two years, so if you want longer term certification, a different test may be better for you.
Why should students take the IELTS test?
- For immigration or visa purposes
- For university entrance (This should be the IELTS Academic Test)
- As proof of your English level for job interviews
- Some students also take IELTS just to measure their own progress, as it is a good standardised test.
What is the breakdown of the IELTS test and how it is scored?
- The test has four components:
- Listening: Test takers will listen to 4 recorded examples of native speakers talking and answer a series of questions. The samples will include speakers with different accents and in different settings, and each section is heard only once.
- Reading: Test takers are given 40 questions that test a wide range of reading skills, including getting a general sense of the excerpt, looking for main ideas, looking for details, skimming, following arguments, and recognising the author's intent.
- Writing: The Writing sections includes 2 separate tasks that will vary slightly depending on whether you are taking the Academic or General Training test. The second task will always be an essay.
- Speaking: The Speaking component occurs on a different day, and is administered by an examiner. Test takers must be able to speak about themselves and everyday, familiar topics, and then talk about a particular topic and respond to questions on it with one minute of preparation.
- Each component is scored separately from 0 – 9 in increments of 0.5, where 9 is native speaker proficiency
- The final score (or band) is an average of all four scores, also from 0 – 9
- For undergraduate study: an IELTS band of 5 or 5.5 is normally the minimum required (equivalent to B1/B2 on the CEFR).
- For entry into post-graduate study: most universities will require a band of 6 or above (equivalent to B2 on the CEFR)
- Different universities have different requirements, so it is best to check with your university or college.
How do you prepare your students for the test with the Kaplan IELTS preparation course?
We have a ‘whole school approach’ to IELTS, so even students at lower levels are exposed to and guided towards producing the type of language required for the IELTS test. For example, we encourage students to be able to speak fluently, write in more detail and use correct language and sentence structure, even at entry levels. Apart from the normal study of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, we also focus on study skills and specific skills and strategies to improve performance in reading, writing, listening and speaking.
We have regular study clubs aimed at IELTS preparation and we run two mock tests a month at the school. You can also book an appointment with a study centre manager for practice speaking tests, and submit your writing practice for correction.
Once students are at a stronger level, they can choose between having 8, 20 or 28 lessons a week in one of our IELTS classes. These classes are aimed specifically at IELTS preparation and cover all four parts of the test, as well as language development. At KIE Oxford, which is an Exam Preparation Academy, all teachers who teach these classes have a wealth of experience and have done extra IELTS teacher training courses.
We often work out an individual study plan for our IELTS students to help them structure their independent study. We have a wide range of practice materials available in our study centre and help is always on hand from our study centre managers or IELTS coordinator.
What should students know going into the test?
Tests in the UK should be booked at an approved test centre. It is best to do this at least five weeks before you want to take the test. We can help you book the test at the school.
You will do your speaking separately from the other parts of the test, which may be on a different day before or after the rest of the exam. The speaking test involves an interview with an examiner. You will have to answer some questions about yourself, then speak for a longer turn on a given topic and finally answer some more complex questions on topics such as society, the environment, culture and others.
The listening, reading and writing parts are on the same day. The listening has four parts, in which you will have to listen to 2 academic and 2 non-academic recordings. The reading test lasts 60 minutes and your task is to answer 40 questions in total. The writing test has two parts, one of which is an essay, while the other task is a brief analysis of some sort of data. You will need to be familiar with a lot of academic vocabulary for each part.
You need to remember to bring the document (normally your passport) that you booked the test with. Make sure you get sufficient sleep before the exam as it is a long day. Before the test make sure you do lots of timed practice because you won’t be given extra time (unless you have some specific learning differences) and the people who invigilate the test are quite strict!
What can you do with IELTS scores?
Here are the estimated IELTS-score requirements for some of the most popular schools throughout the UK that Kaplan students go on to study at. Use these as a guide, although specific requirements will vary with specific programmes and courses. If the school you're interested in isn't on this list, try looking at the school's website!
|Anglia Ruskin University||6.0 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill), certain courses stricter||6.5 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill), certain courses stricter|
|Bournemouth University||6.0 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill)||6.0 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill)|
|Kings College London||depending on programme, from 6.0 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill) to 7.5 overall (minimum 7.0 in each skill)||depending on programme, from 6.0 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill) to 7.5 overall (minimum 7.0 in each skill)|
|University of Liverpool||depending on programme, from 6.0 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill) to 7.0 overall (minimum 7.0 in each skill)||depending on programme, from 6.5 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill) to 7.0 overall (minimum 7.0 in each skill)|
|London Metropolitan University||depending on programme, from 6.0 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill) to 7.0 overall (minimum 6.5 in each skill)||depending on programme, from 6.0 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill) to 7.0 overall (minimum 6.5 in each skill)|
|University of Salford||6.0 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill), certain courses stricter||6.0 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill), certain courses stricter|
|SOAS, University of London||7.0 overall (minimum 7.0 in each skill) to fully meet requirements; 7.0 overall (minimum 6.5 in each skill) to be admitted, with the condition you take free in-session English courses during your studies||7.0 overall (minimum 7.0 in each skill) to fully meet requirements; 7.0 overall (minimum 6.5 in each skill) to be admitted, with the condition you take free in-session English courses during your studies|
|University of Strathclyde||6.5 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill), some programmes stricter||6.5 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill), some programmes stricter|
|University of Sussex||depending on programme, from 6.5 overall (minimum 6.0 in each skill) to 7.5 overall (minimum 6.5 in each skill)||depending on programme, from 6.0 overall (minimum 6.0 in each skill) to 7.5 overall (minimum 7.0 in each skill)|
|Swansea University||6.0 overall, certain courses stricter||6.5 overall, certain courses stricter|
|University of Westminster||6.0 overall||6.5 overall|
|University of York||depending on programme, from 6.0 overall (minimum 5.5 in each skill) to 7.5 overall (minimum 7.0 in each skill)|