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By ITS Education Asia

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IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an exam which gauges English language proficiency. An IELTS score is required for a range of different purposes – as a stepping stone to immigration status in certain countries, as an entry requirement for studying in an overseas secondary or tertiary institution, and as an indication of your English level when applying for a job.

The IELTS exam has been carefully designed to be to be used in a range of international contexts and for a range of purposes.

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How can one exam be used for so many purposes?

In IELTS, there is no pass or fail grade. Instead, candidates take 4 papers – reading, writing, listening and speaking. Each paper is marked out of 9 and then the candidate’s final IELTS score is an average of the four marks. So candidates end up with a score out of 9. Different end users of the exam set different requirements. For example, a candidate who is seeking entry into a secondary institution will require a lower score than a candidate who is applying for a place in a post-graduate course.

It should be remembered, though, that an IELTS score is only valid for 2 years. After the two year period has elapsed, the score is said to be stale and candidates need to take the exam again in order to have a valid score.

Exam Components

The exam consists of four papers. The reading paper takes an hour and consists of three parts. The listening paper has 40 questions and lasts for 30 minutes (plus 10 minutes transfer time for answers). The writing paper has two sections and takes an hour. The speaking section, a face-to-face interview, usually lasts for 15 minutes.

Which exam?

There are two 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. The majority of IELTS candidates sit the Academic version. It should be noted that while the different versions offer different papers and at different levels, the speaking test is the same for both Academic and General raining candidates.


Preparing for IELTS


As with any exam, it is important to prepare before enrolling in the exam. The reasons for preparing are twofold. The first reason is to make sure you are thoroughly familiar with the format and requirements of the exam so that there will be no surprises when you are actually sitting the papers. The second reason why it is important to prepare is to give yourself the best chance of achieving your target score. While the IELTS exam is a test of proficiency it is generally the case that candidates will do better if they are familiar with the testing format, question style, marking scheme and the strategies of tackling the tests, including the best way to use their time during the examinations.

Here are some suggestions about ways to prepare for the exam

1. Read the IELTS website. It is a good idea to read through the IELTS website because this will ensure that you are familiar with the tests and with all of the regulations which govern the tests. Information about IELTS and sample papers can be found at www.ielts.org

2. Read a study guide. There is a big industry in writing study guides for external international exams such as IELTS. For this reason, it is useful to consult a study guide which will give advice not only on the format of the exam but will also offer you ways in which to tackle the different types of questions and also help you to build up your skills. These study guides generally do not come cheaply though. It might be possible to locate them in your local library or good bookshops will have copies for sale.

3. Join a preparation class. By joining a preparation class you will have the chance to work with other students who are also preparing to take the test. You will generally have the chance to get some feedback from the tutor, especially in the areas of writing and speaking which are more difficult to self-assess than the listening and reading papers.

4. Get a tutor. One of the main reasons it is good to have a tutor to help you prepare for the IELTS exam is that a tutor is able to focus on specific problems that you may have and offer you strategies to strengthen areas where you are weak. This level of individualized attention is generally difficult to achieve by attending a class.


Other Information to know about the test


The IELTS test is offered throughout the year but there are some times of the year when the demand for places in the testing centre is greater than others. It might depend a bit on the education environment in the country in which you live. For example, in Hong Kong, July and August generally have very high demand for the test. This is often due to the fact that there are students who might have expected to return to study in Hong Kong, only to find that due to examination results or some other factor, the pathway to overseas study has suddenly become more attractive. These students are often very eager to secure an IELTS score in order to accept an offer from an overseas educational facility.

It takes two weeks for your IELTS score to be sesnt to you after you have taken the test. If you have an urgent need for the score it is possible to request express marking which means you should get the score more quickly.

You may retake the exam if you wish to try to improve on your score. One factor to remember is that the enrollment fee of the exam in quite high, so you may want to ensure you are ready for the test before you take it, in case you don’t reach your target score and have to take the test again.

For help in preparing for the IELTS exam, contact ITS.

Good luck with IELTS.

Dulwich College Singapore

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

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