The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a test administered to evaluate the English language skills of non-English speaking candidates who seek to pursue education programmes in, or immigrate to, English speaking countries. The test is designed to assess the candidate's ability to understand spoken and written English in academic and social contexts and also to use the language to communicate in spoken and written forms.

IELTS is owned, developed and delivered through the partnership of the following bodies

  • British Council
  • idp IELTS Australia
  • University of Cambridge ESOL examinations

IELTS scores are accepted by educational institutes, professional bodies and government undertakings, as well as for immigration processing, in Australia, New Zealand, U.K., Canada and certain American universities (like Princeton and Duke), where the IELTS scores are accepted in lieu of TOEFL scores.

The objective of the test is to assess a candidate's ability to understand and communicate in English in academic and social contexts. To make this assessment, the following skills are specifically tested.

  1. The ability to read and comprehend written, academic or training language.
  2. The ability to write assignments in a style that is appropriate for university study or within a training context.
  3. The ability to understand spoken language in lecture format as well as in formal and informal conversational styles.
  4. The ability to speak on general and given topics in formal and informal situations.

The IELTS test has two versions:

  1. The Academic Module - This module is intended for candidates seeking entry to a university or institution of higher education for degree and diploma courses (i.e. those seeking undergraduate or postgraduate courses).
  2. The General Training Module - This module is intended for students seeking entry to a secondary school or to vocational training courses. This module is also meant for candidates seeking immigration to an English speaking country. The two versions do not carry the same weight and are not interchangeable.

All candidates are tested on reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. While the Speaking and Listening sections are common for the Academic and General versions of the test, the Reading and Writing sections are different.

The IELTS has four parts:

Section No. of Sections Time Allotted Score
Listening 4 sections 30 min 0 to 9
Speaking 3 sections 15-20 min 0 to 9
Reading 3 passages 60 min 0 to 9
Writing 2 tasks 60 min 0 to 9
Total 3 hours(approx) 0 to 9

  1. Listening Section
  2. This consists of 4 parts with 10 questions each, totalling 40 questions, to be completed in around 30 minutes. While the recording is played you get time to read the questions and to write and check your answers. You then have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

  3. Reading Section (Academic or General)
  4. This section consists of 3 reading passages with a total of 40 questions. The three texts, together, contain between 2000 and 2750 words. The total time allotted is 60 minutes.

    • The Reading Test gets progressively tougher through the paper. In each section of the Reading Test there will be 13 or 14 questions to each passage.
    • While the General Training reading has texts from notices, advertisements, booklets, newspapers, magazines and books, the Academic reading has texts with complex language and precise or elaborated expression, from newspapers, magazines, journals and books.
  5. Writing Section (Academic or General)
  6. This section consists of two writing tasks. The total time allotted is 60 minutes.

    Writing-Task 1 (Academic)
    • The IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 is an information transfer task related to the factual content of an input - graph(s), table(s) or diagram(s). It can be combinations of these inputs.
    • Sometimes you have to describe a process shown in a diagram.
    • Time allotted - 20 minutes
    • Word limit - 150 words
    Writing-Task 1 (General)
    • For the IELTS General Writing Task 1, you must write a letter elaborating on a given problem.
    • The Letter will require an explanation of the situation, and often involves a request for necessary information.
    • You should write in the style appropriate for the type of letter required-either personal, semi-formal or formal.
    • Time allotted - 20 minutes
    • Word limit - 150 words
    Writing-Task 2
    • In Task 2 , you are asked to write an essay on a given Topic
    • Time - 40 minutes
    • Word Length - 250 words at least
  7. Speaking Section
  8. The total time allotted to this section is 11 to 14 minutes.

    • The test consists of an interview between the examiner and the candidate, which is recorded.
    • The Speaking Test is divided into 3 sections:
      • Section 1 begins with some general introductory questions. This is followed by some questions on personal information similar to the type of questions one would ask when meeting someone for the first time. Finally the examiner asks a series of questions of 2 topics of general interest. (4 - 5 minutes)
      • Personal Questions - Family, Hometown, Interests, Job/Study, Ambitions,etc
      • Likes & Dislikes
      • Favourites
      • Questions to check familiarity with tenses.
      • Section 2 is a monologue by the candidate. The examiner gives the candidate a Cue Card with a subject and a few guiding questions on it. The student talks for 1 to 2 minutes on this subject, as the examiner may decide. The student gets 1 minute to prepare his talk and is provided with paper and a pencil to make some brief notes. After the candidate's talk, the examiner asks 1 or 2 brief questions to finish the section. (3 - 4 minutes)
      • Section 3 - Here the examiner asks some more questions generally related to the subject spoken about in section 2. These questions are more demanding and require some critical analysis on the part of the candidate.

The duration of the entire test is around 2 hours 45 minutes.

The result consists of a score in each of the four skills (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking) which is then arranged to give the Overall Band Score or final mark. Performance is rated in each skill on a scale of 9 to 1. The nine overall Bands are as follows:

9 Expert User
8 Very Good User
7 Good User
6 Competent User
5 Modest User
4 Limited User
3 Extremely Limited User
2 Intermittent User
1 Non User
0 Did not attempt the test

For instance:
In Reading / Listening

Score out of 40 Band Score
39-40 9
37-38 8
32-36 7
25-31 6
17-24 5
10-16 4
4-9 3
2-3 2
1 1

There is no fixed pass mark in IELTS. The acceptability of a score is totally at the discretion of the institute applied to, or govt. body (in case of immigration). However, as a general rule, scores below Band 5 are considered to be too low and above Band 6 are deemed to be Adequate to Good. Band 5 to Band 6 scores are borderline scores. An overall score of Band 6.5 is mostly accepted as a good score. The individual module's Band score is considered as per the requirement.

For example, an Engineering Institute will emphasise on a good Band Score (6.5 or above) in the Listening Module, as the institute's mode of teaching is lecture-oriented, whereas if a person is seeking a job in public-relations, then greater weightage is given to a good Band Score (6.5 or more) in the Speaking Module.

In the Listening module and the Reading module, each question carries one mark and there is no negative marking for incorrect answers. The overall score is converted into a Band score from 9 to 1. The other two modules (Writing and Speaking) are rated as per the effectiveness, language skills, communication ability, clarity, fluency and spontaneity of the candidate. The candidate must try to gauge and given comply with the examiner's assessment method.

For latest test dates, contact the nearest BRITISH COUNCIL office or visit The Listening, Reading and Writing Modules are conducted on the same day as the test date, but the Speaking Module is conducted either 2 days before or after the examination date for the other three modules. This is at the discretion of the test centre, subject to the availability of slots.

The candidates can appear as many times as they want. The test is a PBT (Paper Based Test) but some selected centres offer CBT (Computer Based Test) on request of the candidate.

The IELTS application form can be procured free of cost from the British Council. This, along with the necessary documents (as prescribed in the application form), needs to be submitted to the nearest British Council, along with a Demand Draft for Rs 7200/- in the name of "British Council Division" payable at British Council, Chennai (for South-India region).

The D.D. should be payable at British Council,
New Delhi  -  for North India
Mumbai     -  for West India
Chennai    -  for South India
Kolkata    -  for East India

Registration can now be done online as well, the websites are (British Council) (IDP Australia)

It is better to register at least 2-3 weeks before the exam date. Based on your performance, our tutors will recommend the exam date

If you register online through the British council, the payment of the examination fees can be made either through demand draft or by cash payment at ICICI bank. The payment should reach the British council within 3 days of the online registration at the latest. You can also pay the exam fees by credit card when you register online.

IELTS registration Fee is INR 7900 for all Test dates till 31st August 2012; For test dates from 1st September 2012 the fee is INR 12,100.The fee is the same for IDP as well.

Once the online registration process is completed, the following documents need to be sent within 3 working days.

These documents are to be sent to the address mentioned in the online application form.

If the above mentioned documents are not received within 3 working days, the application will be automatically cancelled.

The results reach the candidates two weeks after the test, by post. In case a candidate needs to obtain the results within a week, an extra amount is to be paid, as mentioned in the application form.

The IELTS exam result is available online 13 days after the date of exam. The Test Report Form (TRF) will be mailed to your postal address.

The Band score obtained is valid for two years. For applications for admission to an educational institute, the latest IELTS score is considered.

Any one who has attained the age of 18 can write the test. It is compulsory to hold a passport to register for the examination.