K M Enayet Hossain
14 March, 2021

8.3 min read


IELTS - International English Language Testing System

Learn all about IELTS, the test structure, test result band score, test booking etc.

IELTS – International English Language Testing System 


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an international standardised test of English Language proficiency. The test is designed to assess the language ability of people who want to study or work where English is the language of communication.


IELTS test is tried and tested – it has been developed by some of the world’s leading experts in language assessment, and is supported by an extensive programme of research, validation and test development. Established in 1989, the test is jointly managed by British Council, IDP Education & Cambridge English Language Assessment. 


IELTS is internationally focused in its content. It is the test that opens doors around the world – it is recognised and accepted by over 9,000 organisations worldwide, including universities, employers, professional bodies, immigration authorities and other government agencies for respective purposes.


IELTS test is offered up to 4 times a month in more than 1,000 test centres in over 140 countries. Tests are held on Saturdays and Thursdays.


There is no official prerequisite or eligibility criteria to register for IELTS test. 


Band scale and proficiency level


IELTS is designed to assess English language skills across a wide range of levels. There is no such thing as a pass or fail in IELTS. Results are reported as band scores on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest).


Band score 9: Expert user:


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


Band score 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.


Band score 7:


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


Band score 6:


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


Band score 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.


Band score 4:


Limited user Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.


Band score 3:


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


Band score 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.


Band score 1:


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


Relationship between IELTS band score & CEFR level


  • IELTS score 8.5-9.0 = CEFR level C2 
  • IELTS score 7.0-8.0 = CEFR level C1
  • IELTS score 5.5-6.5 = CEFR level B2 
  • IELTS score 4.0-5.0 = CEFR level B1 


IELTS test versions


There are 2 versions of the IELTS


IELTS Academic is for test takers wishing to study at undergraduate or postgraduate levels, and for those seeking professional registration. 


General Training


IELTS General Training is for test takers wishing to migrate to an English Speaking country and for those wishing to undertake non-academic training or gain work experience. 

Each organisation sets its own requirements of proficiency level in English. In some cases both Academic and General Training may be accepted. If you are in doubt as to which to take, you should contact the organisation you are applying to in order to check their requirements. 


There are also other tests offered by the IELTS test partners 


IELTS Life Skills 

IELTS Life Skills test is intended for those who need to prove their English speaking and listening skills at Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) levels A1 or B1 and can be used to apply for a ‘family of a settled person’ visa, indefinite leave to remain or citizenship in the UK.




UKVI (United Kingdom Visa & Immigration) IELTS is known as Secured English Language Test (SELT) is required from students who intends undertake a foundation level course in the UK (for degree or above level courses academic IELTS is fine). Please check HERE for more information. 


IELTS test components


Test takers are tested on 4 language skills 

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking 


Key information


Total time for the test is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

  • You are tested on all four language skills unless you have an exemption due to a disability. The Listening, Reading and Writing tests must be completed in one sitting. The order in which these tests are taken may vary. There are no breaks between these three tests.
  • The Speaking test may be taken on the same day or up to seven days before or after the other tests. The speaking module is a key component of IELTS. It is conducted in the form of a one-to-one interview with an examiner. The examiner assesses the test taker as he or she is speaking. The speaking session is also recorded for monitoring and for re-marking in case of an appeal against the score given.
  • Everyone takes the same Listening and Speaking tests. There are different Reading and Writing tests for IELTS Academic and General Training.
  • Separate sessions will be held for UKVI applicants. You must ensure you register for an “IELTS for UKVI” test date at the approved centre. The IELTS test for UK visa purposes is designed to meet certain administrative requirements that are specific to UK Visas and Immigration. Test Report Forms will be slightly different, to show that test takers have taken the test at an IELTS UK visa session. There are no differences in the test format or questions. The actual test taken is the same – same content, examiners, format, level of difficulty, scoring and so on. 


Test structure






Approximately 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes’ transfer time).




There are 40 questions. A variety of question types are used, chosen from the following: multiple choice, matching, plan/ map/diagram labelling, form completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, summary completion, sentence completion, short-answer questions.



Test  Parts


There are 4 sections:


Section 1 is a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context (e.g. a conversation in an accommodation agency).


Section 2 is a monologue set in an everyday social context (e.g. a speech about local facilities or a talk about the arrangements for meals during a conference).


Section 3 is a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context (e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment, or a group of students planning a research project). Section 4 is a monologue on an academic subject (e.g. a university lecture). Each section is heard once only. A variety of voices and native-speaker accents are used.


Skills assessed


A wide range of listening skills are assessed, including: understanding of main ideas; understanding of specific factual information; recognising opinions, attitudes and purpose of a speaker; following the development of an argument


Each correct answer receives 1 mark. Scores out of 40 are converted to the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole and half bands




Timing 60 minutes (no extra transfer time).


There are 40 questions. A variety of question types are used, chosen from the following: multiple choice, identifying information (True/False/Not Given), identifying a writer’s views/claims (Yes/No/Not Given), matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, diagram label completion, short-answer questions.


Test Parts


There are 3 sections. The total text length is 2,150-2,750 words.

Academic Reading

Each section contains one long text. Texts are authentic and are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. They have been written for a non-specialist audience and are on academic topics of general interest. Texts are appropriate to, and accessible to, test takers entering undergraduate or postgraduate courses or seeking professional registration. Texts range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. Texts may contain nonverbal materials such as diagrams, graphs or illustrations. If texts contain technical terms, then a simple glossary is provided.


General Training Reading


Section 1 contains two or three short factual texts, one of which may be composite (consisting of 6-8 short texts related by topic, e.g. hotel advertisements). Topics are relevant to everyday life in an English-speaking country.


Section 2 contains two short factual texts focusing on work-related issues (e.g. applying for jobs, company policies, pay and conditions, workplace facilities, staff development and training).

Section 3 contains one longer, more complex text on a topic of general interest. Texts are authentic and are taken from notices, advertisements, company handbooks, official documents, books, magazines and newspapers.

Skills assessed 

A wide range of reading skills are assessed, including: reading for gist; reading for main ideas; reading for detail; understanding inferences and implied meaning; recognising writer’s opinions, attitudes and purpose; following the development of an argument.




Each correct answer receives 1 mark. Scores out of 40 are converted to the IELTS 9-band scale. Scores are reported in whole and half bands 


Timing 60 minutes Tasks There are 2 tasks. You are required to write at least 150 words for Task 1 and at least 250 words for Task 2.


Test Parts

There are 2 parts.


Academic Writing


In Task 1, you are presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and are asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. You may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event. 

In Task 2, you are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The issues raised are of general interest to, suitable for and easily understood by test takers entering undergraduate or postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration. Responses to Task 1 and Task 2 should be written in an academic, semi-formal/neutral style. General Training Writing In Task 1, you are presented with a situation and are asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal or semi-formal/neutral in style. In Task 2, you are asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The essay can be slightly more personal in style than the Academic Writing Task 2 essay.


Topics are of general interest.


Skills assessed


In both tasks, you are assessed on your ability to write a response which is appropriate in terms of: content; the organisation of ideas; the accuracy and range of vocabulary and grammar.


Academic Writing


In Task 1, depending on the task type, you are assessed on your ability to organise, present and possibly compare data; to describe the stages of a process or procedure; to describe an object or event or sequence of events; to explain how something works. 


In Task 2, depending on the task type, you are assessed on your ability to present a solution to a problem; to present and justify an opinion; to compare and contrast evidence, opinions and implications; to evaluate and challenge ideas, evidence or an argument. 


General Training Writing 


In Task 1, depending on the task type, you are assessed on your ability to engage in personal correspondence in order to: elicit and provide general factual information; express needs, wants, likes and dislikes; express opinions (views, complaints etc.).


In Task 2, you are assessed on your ability to provide general factual information; to outline a problem and present a solution; to present and possibly justify an opinion; to evaluate and challenge ideas, evidence or an argument. 




You are assessed on your performance on each task by certificated IELTS examiners according to the IELTS Writing test assessment criteria (Task Achievement/Response, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy). The public version of the assessment criteria can be found at www.ielts.org/criteria.


Task 2 contributes twice as much as Task 1 to the Writing score. 

Scores are reported in whole and half bands. 




Timing 11-14 minutes


Test Parts


There are 3 parts.


Part 1 Introduction and interview (4-5 minutes) 


The examiner introduces him/herself and asks you to introduce yourself and confirm your identity. The examiner asks you general questions on familiar topics, e.g. home, family, work, studies and interests.


Part 2 Individual long turn (3-4 minutes)


The examiner gives you a task card which asks you to talk about a particular topic and which includes points you can cover in your talk. You are given 1 minute to prepare your talk, and are given a pencil and paper to make notes. You talk for 1-2 minutes on the topic. The examiner may then ask you one or two questions on the same topic. 


Part 3 Two-way discussion (4-5 minutes)


The examiner asks further questions which are connected to the topic of Part 2. These questions give you an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas.


Skills assessed


A wide range of speaking skills are assessed, including: the ability to communicate opinions and information on everyday topics and common experiences and situations by answering a range of questions; the ability to speak at length on a given topic using appropriate language and organising ideas coherently; the ability to express and justify opinions and to analyse, discuss and speculate about issues.




You are assessed on your performance throughout the test by certificated IELTS examiners according to the IELTS Speaking test assessment criteria (Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy, Pronunciation). Scores are reported in whole and half bands.


Test results


The Test Report Form 

You will receive a Test Report Form which reports a score for each of the four skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking), as well as an overall band score. Half band scores may be awarded to indicate a strong performance within a particular band. 


Results are available 13 calendar days after the test. At some test centres test takers may collect their results on the 13th day; at others, results are mailed on the 13th day. Test centres are not permitted to give results over the phone or by fax or email. 


You will receive only one copy of the Test Report Form. It’s important that you keep it safe as replacement Test Report Forms cannot be issued. Test centres will send copies of your Test Report Form to up to five organisations free of charge. 


Preview your results online 


You can preview your results online 13 calendar days after the test. Results remain online for 28 days. Please note that the online preview of results should not be used as an official confirmation of your performance.


Results validity period


Organisations will not usually accept a Test Report Form that is more than two years old unless you provide evidence that you have actively maintained or tried to improve your English since taking the test. The IELTS Test Partners cannot confirm the validity of test results that are more than two years old. 


Re-taking IELTS


There are no restrictions on re-taking IELTS. You can register for a test as soon as you feel you are ready to do so. Please note that your score is unlikely to increase unless you make a significant effort to improve your English before retaking the test.


Enquiries on results


If you are unhappy with your test result, you can apply for a re-mark (Enquiry on Results) at the centre where you took the test. You must make the application no later than six weeks after the test date. You can choose which test components are re-marked. There is a fee for this service which will be refunded if your score on any component is increased. Enquiries on Results take six to eight weeks to complete. 


To book your IELTS Test online, Apply Now. 


*We have taken help from Take IELTS with British Council to write the contents.



Please read our guide ' Which IELTS students need to sit for UK Student Visa?' before booking your IIELTS test.




Are you looking to study abroad?

Touch your dream with University Admission Expert

  • Offering 15,000+ courses at 100+ study locations
  • Maintaining 99% visa success rate
  • Serving with 14+ years accumulative admission experience
  • Providing end-to-end services, almost 24/7
Check your admission eligibility now

Newsletter Subscription

Keep up to date with the latest news on UK student visa, courses, universities, scholarships, start dates, study guides etc.

Post Comment

Login to post comment
No comment found in this fourm