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what is ielts?

What do you know about the International English Language Testing System? Practise your reading skills and learn about this international examination, IELTS, at the same time.

Here is an article about the exam published in 2007, but before you read, try to answer the questions in this quiz.  Click here to do the quiz.


How can you get a quick accurate assessment of your English language skills to show a prospective employer or a foreign University? The answer these days seems to be IELTS.

Different from other exams?
A number of features make IELTS attractive from the candidate’s point of view.  While other English examinations only happen three times a year, there may be an IELTS session in your country three times every month. What’s more, candidates don’t have to wait long for the results; they come out within two weeks of sitting the exam. Then there’s the question of consistency. The IELTS system of band scores 1 to 9 (with half marks in between) is arguably less open to interpretation than other exams. This means that if you score 6.5 one month you’ll almost certainly get the same score a month later, regardless of where you take the exam.

The numbers game
There were only about 100,000 candidates worldwide in the year 2000, but this has now risen to almost a million in 2007, being most popular in emerging economies like India and China. Major US universities are now happy for their prospective students from abroad to demonstrate their English proficiency with an IELTS score.

Ever more popular
Many of the candidates who account for the exponential growth in numbers over the last few years are people who never sat an English exam before, because they want a test that doesn’t require much preparation.  Another factor is the increasing mobility of students and workers across the world requiring a reliable test for English language medium work and study. 

Unreasonable doubt
It has been suggested that the reading part of the test assumes students will have quite a large background knowledge of European culture, which is not necessarily the case. On the other hand, it is this sort of environment in which many candidates are hoping to study or work. Some also question the fact that the final result is only valid for two years, after which a candidate is required to take another test. This is important however, for those hoping to study in areas such as Law or Medicine where an up-to-date assessment of a student’s language skills is an essential prerequisite for embarking on their course of study.

Comprehension - click here for this activity to check your understanding.

Vocabulary 1 - learn some vocabulary with these words that are often used together.  Click here for this collocation activity.

Vocabulary 2 - click here to practise using the same collocations.

Listen to some candidates having an interview before doing an IELTS preparation course.  Click here to listen and do some related activities.

LearnEnglish Professionals - IELTS

IELTS Preparation homepage

What is IELTS? Read about the exam

IELTS Reading 1 - Practice texts

IELTS Reading 2 - Exam Papers

IELTS Writing - General information

IELTS Academic writing

IELTS Listening

IELTS Listening tips 1 & 2

IELTS Speaking

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