International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
The IELTS exam can be taken at 900 centres in over 120 countries. There are usually four IELTS test days every month. Two million people took an IELTS exam in 2012, making it the world’s most popular exam for non-native English speakers.
There are two versions of IELTS:
- Academic IELTS – for prospective students who wish to attend a higher education institution or for medical professionals who wish to practise in an English-speaking country.
- General Training IELTS – for people who wish to pursue non-academic training in, or immigrate to, an English-speaking country.
The listening and speaking components of both Academic and General IELTS are the same, but the reading and writing parts of the exams differ.
IELTS is not a pass or fail exam. Results are measured on a nine-band scale which goes from 1 (non-user) up to 9 (expert user). Each of the four skills areas (reading, writing, speaking and listening) receives a band score, and from these an overall score is calculated.
Most English-speaking universities will demand an Academic IELTS score of between 6.5 and 7.5 in order to qualify for their courses. However, depending on the institution, level of study and subject area, this requirement might be lower or higher. Also, it might be necessary to meet minimum scores in specific skills areas regardless of the overall score required. Higher education institutions in other countries that offer courses in English often demand an Academic IELTS score, but their precise requirements can vary considerably.
A General IELTS score can contribute towards meeting immigration criteria for the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Each of these countries sets different IELTS requirements.