IELTS – An Overview of the International English Language Testing System

Made The Move To Australia

IELTS or the International English Language Testing System measures a persons ability to communicate in English across all four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking – a key requirement for folks who intend to study, work and generally live in Australia.

Since the announcement to the changes in the General Skilled Migration Program which comes into effect next week, a migrants ability to speak a good level of English will become even more key as a knock on effect of the English Language threshold being increased.


The IELTS tests are available in two formats – Academic and General Training with the latter being the more appropriate for people who simply need to prove they can speak and understand a good level of English before moving to Australia.

The Academic Reading and Writing Modules assess whether a candidate is ready to study or train in the medium of English at an undergraduate or postgraduate level.

Admission to undergraduate and postgraduate courses is based on the results of these Modules.

The General Training Reading and Writing Modules are not designed to test the full range of formal language skills required for academic purposes, but emphasise basic survival skills in a broad social and educational context.

It is the responsibility of the candidate to inform the test centre whether they wish to take the Academic or General Training Modules. Centres are not responsible for providing this information. The General Training module is not offered at all test administrations.

When undertaking the IELTS test, candidates are tested in listening, reading, writing and speaking.

All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking Modules. There is a choice between Academic and General Training in the Reading and Writing Modules. The tests are designed to cover the full range of ability from non-user to expert user.

Listening (approximately 30 minutes): Candidates listen to a number of recorded texts. These include a mixture of monologues and conversations and feature a variety of English accents and dialects. The recording is heard only once, and candidates are given time to read the questions and write down their answers.


Academic Reading (60 minutes): There are three reading passages with tasks. Texts are taken from books, magazines, journals and newspapers, all written for a non-specialist audience. At least one of the texts contains a detailed argument.

General Training

Reading (60 minutes): The texts are based on the type of material candidates would be expected to encounter on a daily basis in an English speaking country.

They are taken from sources such as newspapers, advertisements, instruction manuals and books, and test the candidate’s ability to understand and use information. The test includes one longer text, which is descriptive rather than argumentative.


Academic Writing (60 minutes): Candidates write a description of at least 150 words. This is based on material found in a chart, table, graph or diagram and demonstrates their ability to present information and to summarise the main features of the input.

For the second task, candidates write a short essay of at least 250 words in response to a statement or question. They are expected to demonstrate an ability to present a position, construct an argument and discuss abstract issues.

General Training Writing (60 minutes) The first task requires candidates to write a letter of at least 150 words either asking for information, or explaining a situation. For the second task, candidates write a short essay of at least 250 words in response to a statement or question. They are expected to demonstrate an ability to present a position, construct an argument and discuss issues.

Speaking (11-14 minutes): The test is a face-to-face interview. Candidates are assessed on their use of spoken English to answer short questions, to speak at length on a familiar topic, and also to interact with the examiner.

The first three modules – Listening, Reading and Writing – must be completed in one day. There is no break between the modules. The Speaking Module may be taken, at the discretion of the test centre, in the period seven days before or after the other modules.

A computerised version of IELTS Listening, Reading and Writing Modules (CBIELTS) is available at selected centres, but all centres will continue to offer paper-based IELTS and candidates will be given the choice of the medium in which they wish to take the test.

IELTS Scores on the doors!

Based on the Test, each module is reported separately as a Band Score, together with an Overall Band Score reported as a whole band or a half band.

9 Expert User

Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.

8 Very Good User

Has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.

7 Good User

Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.

6 Competent User

Have generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.

5 Modest User

Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.

4 Limited User

Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in use of complex language.

3 Extremely Limited User

Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.

2 Intermittent User

No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.

1 Non User

Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.

0 Did not attempt

No assessable information provided. Candidate may have failed to sit for the test

Test Registration and Administration

IELTS management is centrally controlled but the administration of the test takes place in local test centres.

This guarantees flexibility and adaptability, and ensures a very rapid turn around from registration to results. Most centres conduct a testing session at least once a month and more often at peak times. Special test sessions can be arranged for particular sponsors or organizations according to the global IELTS test date schedule. Information on the availability of test sessions at centres can be found on the IELTS Web-site

IELTS Test Centres

IELTS tests are administered at centres throughout the world – there are currently nearly 300 centres, in over 100 countries. Centres supervise the local administration of the test and ensure the provision of qualified and trained examiners. A full list of centres is available on the IELTS website.

External links

Official IELTS Web Site

Official IELTS Sample Web Site

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  1. I have done my IELTS test fro Skilled Spoonsored migration purpose to Australia. The score of an overall band of 7 that i have scored is really making me head swing coz in the 1 of the compnents i have socred 5.5

    Listening 8
    Writing 7
    Speaking 8
    Reading 5.5

    Overall band score of 7

    now what i am wondering is that how much points am i elegible for making a skilled sponsored migration application to Australia. or is that i will get no points for scoring 5.5 in one of the components. Pls advise i am im an utter urgency for peoples opinion.
    Pls help out here….