What is IELTS? The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is used as a language of communication. IELTS evaluates all of your English skills — reading, writing, listening and speaking, and is designed to reflect how you will use English at study, at work, and at play, in your new life abroad.

The IELTS test is available to be taken up to four times in a month in 304 locations across 150 countries, making it one of the most widely and frequently available tests in the world. This test is developed by some of the world's leading experts in language assessment. IELTS test results are reported on a band scale from 1 to 9 where 1 is a non-user and 9 is an expert user. Your test report form will be posted to you 13 calendar days after your test date. All test centers will post your test report form to you. You should keep your form in a secure place as you only receive one copy. Some test centers now provide SMS alerts and an online results service; contact your local test center to find out more. There are no restrictions on retaking the test, so you can take it as many times as you need to. However, in practice retaking the test is highly impractical given the large amount of preparation which is required.

An IELTS test score is valid for two years. After two years it may no longer be an accurate reflection of your level of English language proficiency. Generally, if you have taken the test more than once in two years, only your most recent score will be considered valid.

Fees vary from country to country and at different test centers, although in most cases you can expect to pay somewhere in Azerbaijan $300. You should contact your nearest test center to get an exact quote.

There are two types of the IELTS test: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Apparently IELTS General is easier than Academic. The first one is for people applying for higher education or professional registration in an English speaking environment. The IELTS General Training test is for those who are going to English speaking countries for secondary education, work experience or training programs. Both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training test your Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking skills in English. Listening and Speaking are the same for both tests, but the subject matter of the Reading and Writing components differs depending on which test you take. The Listening, Reading and Writing components of all IELTS tests are completed on the same day, without breaks in between them. The Speaking component, however, can be completed up to a week before the other tests. Your test center will advise. The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes (in less than three hours).

Test format

Listening (same for both tests)

30 minutes

You will listen to 4 recordings of native English speakers and then write your answers to a series of questions.

Recording 1 – a conversation between 2 people set in an everyday social context
Recording 2 – a monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.
Recording 3 – a conversation between up to 4 people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.
Recording 4 – a monologue on an academic subject, e.g. a university lecture.

Assessors will be looking for evidence of your ability to understand the main ideas and detailed factual information, the opinions and attitudes of speakers, the purpose of an utterance and evidence of your ability to follow the development of ideas.

Speaking (same for both tests)

11-14 minutes

The speaking component assesses your use of spoken English. Every test is recorded.

-Part 1 the examiner will ask you general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics, such as home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts between four and five minutes.

-Part 2 – you will be given a card which asks you to talk about particular topic. You will have 1 minute to prepare before speaking for up to 2 minutes. The examiner will then ask 1 or 2 questions on the same topic.

- Part 3 – you will be asked further questions about the topic in Part 2. These will give you the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issues. This part of the test lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.

Reading (differ for both tests)

60 minutes

The Reading component consists of 40 questions, designed to test a wide range of reading skills. These include reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument and recognizing writers’ opinions, attitudes and purpose.

IELTS Academic test – this includes 3 long texts which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. These are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. They have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for people entering university courses or seeking professional registration.

IELTS General Training test – this includes extracts from books, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, notices, company handbooks and guidelines. These are materials you are likely to encounter on a daily basis in an English-speaking environment.

Writing (differ for both tests)

60 minutes

IELTS Academic test

Topics are of general interest to, and suitable for, test takers entering undergraduate and postgraduate studies or seeking professional registration. There are 2 tasks:

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

-Task 2 – you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Responses to both tasks must be in a formal style.

IELTS General Training

Topics are of general interest. There are 2 tasks:

-Task 1 – you will be presented with a situation and asked to write a letter requesting information, or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal or formal in style.

-Task 2 – you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The essay can be fairly personal in style.

IELTS Academic

The Academic format is, extensively speaking, for those who want to study or train in an English-speaking university or Institutions of Higher and Further Education. Admission to undergraduate and postgraduate courses is really based on the results of the Academic test. The Academic format should be your choice if you are seeking professional registration. If you want to study around native speakers, this is the best option which you would choose. IELTS scores are accepted as proof of English language proficiency of students whose native language is not English by over 2,000 educational institutions worldwide. Most educational institutions set IELTS score requirements between 5.5 and 7. After exam the test center can send up to five original copies of your results direct to the receiving institutions without additional of charge.

If you wish to attend a university or other higher education centre that offers study programs in English, you should take the IELTS Academic test. Thousands of the world’s most esteemed universities and colleges will accept your IELTS results as proof of your English language skills.

Most European and Australian academic institutions require the IELTS Academic certificate, because it is based more on British and Australian English. A growing number of universities in the U.S. also accept this test certificate as evidence of competence in English, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

World top ranking Universities accept IELTS score:

Rank                         Institute/Collage/University Name                                      Accept IELTS                                                                                

1. Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT)                                                    Band 7.0

2. Harvard University                                                                                              Band 7.0  

3. University of Cambridge                                       7.0 overall with a minimum of 7.0 in each     

4. Stanford University                                                                              7.0 overall band score

5. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)                                 7.0 (Graduate admissions)

6. University of Oxford                                             7.0 overall with a minimum of 7.0 in each     

7. University College London (UCL)                                    7.0 overall with a minimum of 6.5

8. Imperial Collage London                                                   7.0 overall with a minimum of 6.5

9. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology                  7.0 overall with a minimum of 7.0 in each

10. University of Chicago                                         7.0 overall with a minimum of 7.0 in each

The IELTS test is more widely applicable, for non-academic purposes, than the TOEFL or PTE exams. Generally speaking, the IELTS is more commonly used for admission to universities in countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand, while the TOEFL is more widely accepted by US universities. There are not as many test centers as for the TOEFL, but more than for the PTE. The mark breakdown is not as detailed as for the TOEFL or PTE, featuring an overall grade rather than specific marks for each section of the test. There are no pass or fail marks. Scores are graded on a 9-band system. Each educational institution or organization sets its own requirements, so you will need to check what grades your chosen universities require.

The IELTS test is recognized by over 9,000 institutions worldwide. This includes over 2,000 universities in the US, and many universities in the UK and Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as numerous professional organizations around the world. 

Contact the universities to which you are applying to find out if they accept the IELTS test. As there is no specific pass or fail mark, you should also check the guidelines provided by each university to find out what grade they require you to obtain.

Universities and colleges have different score requirements, with higher scores required for the Reading and Writing sections of the IELTS Academic test in particular. Universities typically require an overall band score of 6.0-6.5, although some top European institutions may expect a band score of 7.0 at undergraduate level, and over 7.5 for graduates.

In the IELTS 9-band grading system, a score of 1.0 indicates non-speakers of the language, whilst band 9.0 means an expert level of competence. A score of 6.0 therefore indicates a ‘competent user’, who generally has an effective command of the English language, while a band score of 7.0 is evidence of a good command of English in complex and detailed language contexts.

The Academic IELTS is also useful for those who wish to join a professional body in an English-speaking country. Professional registration bodies will accept an IELTS Academic result in many fields such as accounting, engineering, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and teaching.

IELTS General Training

IELTS General Training - accepted at high-schools and for visa and employment purposes.

You should choose the General Training IELTS as proof of your language competence and general communication skills if you wish to emigrate to an English-speaking country. You should also take this IELTS version if you intend to undertake secondary education (high-school) in an English-speaking environment. IELTS General Training is required as a condition for permanent residency by governments in more countries than any other English language test. The IELTS certificate is accepted for visa and employment purposes in countries such as the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The General format measures English language proficiency in a practical, everyday context. It is appropriate for those planning to study in high school or a vocational training program. People migrating to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK must take the IELTS General Training test. The test focuses on basic survival skills in broad social and workplace contexts.

To support the policy of English for international opportunities, the British Council IELTS offers a number of scholarships for students from the following countries who wish to study in an English-speaking environment: Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Although the IELTS certificate is slightly more popular in Europe than in the U.S., both the Academic and General Training versions are accepted by over 3,300 American universities and other institutions. These include prestigious U.S. universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Princeton and many other top American academic institutions.

Your English language skills will be especially appreciated if you are thinking about working in an international environment or considering volunteering abroad. The IELTS language certificate is very well-known among multinational employers, and will be a huge asset on your CV when you are applying for jobs.

If you have any doubts about which IELTS test you should take, or what score you need to achieve, contact the relevant institution or authority directly to ask about their English language requirements. The British Council website also has a comprising database of detailed IELTS scores for many of the organizations that require evidence of English language proficiency.

Significant advice for native English speakers

Warning! Even if English is your first language, you must prepare for the IELTS test!

Some native English speakers are surprised to find that they score lower grades than non-native English speakers who have only been studying English for a few years. This can happen if you take the test unprepared. If you are a native English speaker and need to take IELTS to emigrate, make sure you prepare for the test!

You must not forget that preparation is really key of success on this test. Make sure that you prepare for IELTS. If you have not taken an exam for some time, you will be out of practice. The test follows a strict format, so make sure that you know what to expect and practice in advance. You will also need to prepare for the Listening and Speaking tests since these require you to carry out specific tasks. Take a look at our advice for native English speakers and make sure you are fully prepared.