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If you take one English test, take this one

By Danny Harrington

The battle is over, and, for most uses, one English proficiency exam has been left standing- the IELTS exam. Not only has it become the de facto market leader over the last 10 years or so, but the decision by the UK government in 2015 to drop all other tests as valid for visa applications has given it an added boost. For immigration and/or study in English-speaking countries, as well as being increasingly considered by many multi-national corporations as an indicator of a job applicants’ language ability, the IELTS exam is recognized as the gold standard.

Success in the IELTS exam (meaning reaching a required “band,” or score) is not up to luck, or out of the reach of most properly-prepared test takers. For the most part, it takes a familiarity of the exam-taking process and the ability to apply knowledge correctly within the exam format.

First, the standard information: there are two main versions of the IELTS exam – the Academic version and the General Training version. General Training is usually taken by those who are sitting the exam for immigration purposes only. The majority of IELTS candidates sit the Academic version to access study or employment. While the different versions offer different papers and at different levels, the speaking and listening test is the same for both Academic and General training candidates.

In addition to Academic and General Training, a brand new version of the exam has just been launched – IELTS Life Skills. This exam is to meet the requirements of UK Visas and Immigration for certain visa categories and other immigration purposes, and only assesses a candidates’ listening and speaking skills. It’s important to remember that, for all of the exams, an IELTS score is only valid for two years. After the two year period, the score is said to be stale and candidates need to take the exam again in order to have a valid score.

So what is an IELTS exam taker to do to maximize the chances to get the best score possible? Familiarize yourself with the test format, first and foremost. Practice your English, every day. There is, of course, a variety of freely-available preparation material on the internet (often of poor quality, unfortunately). Or, you can take an exam preparation course.

Availability, cost and quality are big factors in choosing a preparation course. Often learners are in a remote area and simply don’t have access to courses such as these, or the cost is prohibitive. This is changing, however, and now anyone with an internet connection can access courses that were simply unavailable even a few short years ago.

At ITS Education Asia, we have launched an IELTS Exam Preparation course offered fully online and thus available anywhere in the world. Live sessions with a real teacher, teacher-guided self-study, exam tips and strategies, and assignments and practice papers/tasks marked with full tutor feedback and returned to the student are a cost effective, high-quality option for students around the world looking for an IELTS course. It runs on a rolling schedule so each week uses a different theme to cover the IELTS skills areas and students can therefore join at any time and complete 6 weeks to get the full course.

For more information, visit our IELTS page

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