IELTS or International English Language Testing System is an English language exam for candidates who are looking to study in a country where English is the main language of communication.
This exam is widely accepted for university admissions in several countries, including the UK, U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada, among others. This test mainly assess four basic English language skills – reading, speaking, writing and listening, and is conducted by IDP Education Australia, Cambridge English Language Assessment and the British Council. A record 3.5 million candidates appeared for the IELTS exam in 2018.
In this detailed guide, you’ll find all the necessary details about the types of IELTS tests and section-wise syllabus.
Types of IELTS
IELTS is of two types – IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Both these tests ascertain your English language proficiency in writing, reading, listening and speaking.
|IELTS Academic||IELTS General Training|
IELTS Syllabus and Exam Pattern
The IELTS syllabus is divided into four sections – reading, writing, speaking and listening; which helps assess a candidate’s command over the language. All the sections of all IELTS tests are completed in a single day without any breaks in between.
That being said, candidates can complete the Speaking section up to a week after or before the test. The total time for an IELTS test is 2 hours 45 minutes.
Eighty-two questions along with the oral interview comprise the IELTS exam with a score range that can vary between 0 and 9. The test is taken in two modes, on paper and computer.
For the Listening section, candidates will get around 30 minutes plus 10 minutes of transfer time for 40 questions. The Reading section also consists of 40 questions, and candidates will get a stipulated 60 minutes to answer those questions.
The Writing part consists of 2 questions which go on for around 60 minutes. The Speaking test goes on for 11 – 15 minutes. This section is reported in whole or half bands after an oral interview with the examiner.
The Reading section consists of 3 paragraphs (40 questions). The duration of the exam is 60 minutes, and each question carries one mark. Both academic and general training test format remains the same for the reading section.
IELTS Exam Syllabus for the Reading Section
The IELTS General Training’s Reading section consists of three sections of increasing difficulty, with two or three or several short texts. Section 2 contains two texts, while there is one long text in Section three. This accumulates to about 2150 – 2750 words. It assesses the ability to understand basic conversations when living in an English-speaking country.
Candidates need to keep in mind that there is negative marking for wrong spellings and grammatical errors.
There are also short answer questions, identifying writer’s view/claims, etc., which will test one’s comprehensive ability in the English language. Students will need to transfer their answers to their answer sheet within the stipulated one hour, and no extra time is given.
IELTS Exam Pattern for the Reading Section
For the academic reading section, the candidates will be given three passages that are taken from books, journals, magazines etc. Since these are intended for non-specialist readers, they are appropriate for test-takers who wish to pursue their advanced degrees in various subjects. The question type include; multiple choice questions, matching headings, sentence and summary completion amongst others.
In this section, the candidates generally have to solve three sections. The first section may contain two or three short texts or several shorter texts. The second section comprises two texts of various length. The third section will finally have one long text. The question types include; note, table, flowchart completion, short answer questions, identifying information amongst others.
IELTS Exam Pattern for the Writing Section
The writing part of the IELTS exam needs to be written in full in the answer booklet. Bullet points or notes are not accepted. There are two tasks in this section. It is mandatory for the candidates to complete these tasks.
Task 1 requires them to describe any visual information like graphs, charts, etc., in words. Candidates need to write around 150 words in about 20 minutes.
In Task 2, candidates will be required to write at least 250 words in around 40 minutes. This will come with a point of view or argument, or problem which you will need to discuss.
Both these tasks are designed to test candidates’ ability to accurately and appropriately curate a response that covers all the task requirements. There are four assessment criteria:
1. Task achievement/response
2. Coherence and cohesion
3. Lexical resource
4. Grammatical accuracy and range
Task 1 of the general training version will ask test-takers to write a letter in response to a given situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal in style. The question paper will provide the necessary information in the form of bullet points.
On the other hand, in Task 2, candidates will need to write a neutral/semi-formal discursive essay of a minimum of 250 words. The topic generally revolves around general interest, wherein one has to discuss an opinion, argument or problem. Answers must be written on the answer sheet.
There will be negative marking for both IELTS test formats if the answer is not relevant to the topic or if it is not written in a cohesive way. There are severe penalisations if the writing is plagiarised.
IELTS Exam Pattern for the Writing Section
The IELTS Academic Writing section will provide candidates with a topic on which they should discuss only the most relevant issues in a semi-formal or neutral style.
Depending on the task type, the test will ask questions to assess your ability to:
1. Present and justify the opinion
2. Putting forth a solution to a problem
3. Compare and contrast evidence, consequences and opinions
4. Ascertain the feasibility of an idea, evidence or argument and challenging the same
The letter (Task 1) will ask test-takers on generic everyday situations like:
1. Writing about an accommodation issue to respective authorities
2. Writing to a local newspaper regarding some pressing issue in the region
3. Writing to an employer about workplace issues or time management problems
The discursive essay (Task 2) will be on a general interest topic such as:
1. If leisure activities for children can be educational
2. A possible solution to environmental problems
3. If smoking should be prohibited in public areas
Candidates will be required to provide factual information and outline the problem, and discuss a solution. Subsequently, test-takers will need to evaluate and discuss and justify their ideas or arguments.
IELTS Exam Syllabus for the Listening Section
According to the IELTS syllabus 2021, this section includes four sub-sections, with the first two dealing with social needs while the other encompass educational needs. Conversations can be either monologues or dialogues. These are around three minutes long, and test-takers can hear these clips only once. There are around 40 questions and the stipulated time for this section is 30 minutes.
IELTS Exam Pattern for the Listening Section
There are a variety of question types, including short-answer questions, sentence completion, multiple-choice questions, diagram labelling, note completion, etc.
For sections 1 and 2, there will be two recordings.
1. Recording 1 will include a social conversation in everyday context between two individuals. Recording 2 will be a monologue based on everyday contexts.
For sections 3 and 4, there will also be two recordings.
2. Recording 3 would be among three or four people in a training or educational context. Finally, recording 4 includes a monologue on an academic topic.
IELTS Syllabus 2021 for the Speaking Section
IELTS syllabus for the Speaking section includes preparation for an oral interview that emphasises general speaking skills. It helps ascertain a candidate’s ability to hold a meaningful conversation with native English speakers. There is a total of three parts in this section. There are:
1. Personal interview
2. Little speech
The stipulated time to complete this section is around 11 to 15 minutes.
IELTS Exam Pattern for the Speaking Section
Part – 1
This part will include a personal interview that will consist of generic topics concerning the candidate, like home, family, educational background, interests, etc.
Part – 2
This will be short extempore, where the examiner will hand out a flashcard with a topic. Test takers will get two minutes to prepare a short speech of about two minutes pertaining to the given topic. After the speech, the examiner will ask few questions on the basis of the same.
Part – 3
This round includes an in-depth discussion and deeper questions on the speech and the given topic. One can discuss in detail the topic for around 5 – 6 minutes
IELTS 2021 Preparation Tips
Most candidates usually can choose either self-studying or taking coaching classes or both depending on their command on the subject. If one already has an adequate understanding of English, he/she can prepare by self-study. Otherwise, we recommend taking coaching classes to enhance the English skills of a candidate.
While preparing for the IELTS, it is of the utmost importance to be attentive and write relevant and precise answers. Proofreading the answers is also another way to score well in your next IELTS exam. While speaking, do not take long pauses and ensure speaking slowly and clearly. And of course, be confident!
Students can also seek help from Leap Scholar to enhance their preparation and take them one step closer to their dream of studying or working abroad. We also help students to score better in their IELTS exam with ideal preparation tips and guidance. So, carpe diem, and crack your next IELTS with flying colours.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What centre is the best for the IELTS exam ?
All the affiliated test centres recognised by IDP are equipped with the best institute to make sure you can give your exam comfortable. As such, candidates are advised to book the test centre which is the closest to them so they do not face any commuting issues on the test day.
2. How many IELTS test centres are there?
The IELTS exam is conducted across 75 centres in India. Candidates should book their test in advance to get their preferred test date, slot and centre in advance.
3. Is the IELTS exam hard?
The exam works on a band scale and a higher band indicates a candidates fluency and command over the English language. With regular practice and learning the inside tips and techniques provided by experts and professionals, students can achieve a band score of 6 and above which is required by most universities and organisations.