What is the IELTS Exam?

The International English Language Testing System, commonly known as IELTS, is one of the most widely accepted English language tests in the world, and the one most trusted by UK universities. There are two versions of the IELTS test: Academic – for studying abroad, and General Training – mainly for immigration purposes.

The IELTS Academic Test accurately assesses the English language ability of individuals wishing to study overseas. Any student applying to a British university will need to prove their English fluency through a test such as IELTS.  

In total, the test lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes. There are four sections – Listening (30 minutes), Reading (60 minutes), Writing (60 minutes) and Speaking (11–14 minutes).

  • Listening

    In this thirty-minute section you will hear a range of different conversations or monologues. The speakers may have accents from many different parts of the world. Generally, sections will increase in difficulty as you progress through the test. Finally, you will have ten minutes at the end of the test to complete the answer sheet provided.

  • Reading

    Lasting an hour, the reading section consists of three sections of increasing difficulty. The test is designed to evaluate students’ reading skills, including logic, comprehension and vocabulary.

  • Writing

    There are two sections in the written part of the exam, and in total you have an hour to complete them. In the first part you are required to produce a descriptive piece of around one hundred and fifty words which is based on a graph or diagram. You should spend about twenty minutes on this section. You should spend the remaining forty minutes on the second section, in which you are required to produce a two hundred and fifty word piece of discursive writing, creating an argument around a specific topic.

  • Speaking

    Part 1 – the examiner will ask a series of questions to find out about the student's background and help the student to relax. Questions are based on familiar topics such as work or study, free time, or food to name but a few. In part two the student will have to give a short speech. A topic is given to the student, who then has 1 minute to think and make notes, before talking for 1 to 2 minutes on that topic. Part 3 of the test will follow this, and questions here will be directly related to the topic spoken about in part 2. Therefore, if you were asked to describe your best friend in part two, your questions in part three would be based on friendship. Questions are designed to lead to discussion and you may be asked to assess the importance of friends in comparison to family. Questions in part three become increasingly difficult in order to determine the student's linguistic level.


IELTS has a nine band scoring system designed to grade scores consistently. Unlike other assessment tests which may place an emphasis on memorizing vocabulary, communication skills are mainly tested in IELTS. Training in an interactive environment rather than studying at home on your own will therefore be important for IELTS.

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