IELTS Preparation

Everything you need to know!

In this article, we will discuss the IELTS, its various formats (Academic/General Training), and the one that you'll be required to take as a grad-school aspirant.

We will also touch upon the test format, scoring patterns, and the advantages of having a high IELTS band.

What exactly is the IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System, commonly known as the IELTS, is one of the most globally recognized standardized English language proficiency tests with more than three million candidates taking the test every year.

Administered in partnership with the British Council, the test is required of those who are non-native English speakers (those whose mother tongue is not English) but wish to study or work abroad in English-speaking countries like the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The candidate's command over the English language is examined across the four key areas of speaking, listening, reading and writing. Based on his/her score, the candidate is awarded a band on a scale of 0-9 on each of the 4 modules. The overall band score will be awarded based on an average of scores from all the four components.

Universities seeking an IELTS score clearly stipulate their IELTS score requirements on the official website so you can know exactly what you are aiming at. Usually, universities require an average band of 6.5 and above with not less than a 6 band on any of the 4 modules. However, requirements can vary from university to university.

What are the different types of IELTS tests?

Since the IELTS is used for both education and immigration purposes, there are two different modules of the test— IELTS (Academic) & IELTS (General).

The Academic IELTS is designed for students aspiring to pursue their higher education in countries where English is spoken as the 1st language or where the mode of instruction in the candidate's desired course is English. Hence, the test intends to gauge your ability to grasp and understand academic language and requires a strong command over English. It is also aimed at professionals such as doctors or nurses who want to emigrate to an English-speaking country for higher education.

The IELTS General Training module is undertaken by those wishing to obtain non-academic training or to work abroad. It is also taken for immigration purposes (IELTS UK - VI). The General module tests conversational skills, and ability to comfortably converse in English in general social or professional circumstances.

Academic vs. General IELTS - What's the difference?

Both the IELTS General and Academic have the same Listening and Speaking sections. The significant differences, therefore, lie in the Reading and Writing modules.

Which IELTS test should I choose?

As an MS aspirant, you will be required to take the Academic IELTS, which measures your English language proficiency, and gauges whether you will be comfortable in an academic, higher learning environment which demands a robust command over the English language.

What is the test format for the IELTS Academic?

The exam is conducted over 2 hours and 45 minutes, and consists of three sections, with the Speaking component conducted separately (lasting 11-14 minutes).
For students who take the computer-based IELTS, all 4 modules are conducted on the same date.

Scoring Pattern

Speaking and Writing are entirely subjective and thus scores are given accordingly, based on ability to articulate clearly and precisely, as well as usage of vocabulary, grammar, syntax and sentence structure. Accordingly, a score between 0 (non-user) to 9 (expert user) is awarded.

In Reading and Listening, there are 40 questions carrying 1 mark each. For every correct answer you get a single mark, which then cumulates into the final raw scores that you have. For example— if 30 of your answers are correct in listening, then 30 will be your raw score in IELTS listening out of 40, which will then be converted into bands.

In order to convert scores to bands, the raw score is matched with the corresponding band score. So if your raw score is 30, it will be converted into 7 bands. Each section has its own band score, and based on the average of the four bands, a score is given.

What is a good IELTS band to target?

As we’ve seen, universities generally stipulate their band score requirements based on programs of study on their website. However, for MS aspirants, a score between 6 (competent user) to 8 (almost expert user) is considered an excellent score. Of course, the perfect 9 score is an extremely elusive one!

Now, the IELTS may seem like a cake walk, but the truth is that students often arrive at the exam center and are taken aback by the test, not because their command over English is weak, but due to lack of acquaintance with the test format and scoring. Scoring high on the exam is actually surprisingly easy if you practice consistently, and work on your reading and writing skills.

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