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What is the IELTS?


The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS is an international standardised test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. It is jointly managed by Cambridge English Language Assessment, the British Council and IDP Education Pvt Ltd and was established in 1989. IELTS is one of the two major English-language tests in the world, the other being the TOEFL.


There are two versions of the IELTS: the Academic Version and the General Training Version:
The Academic Version is intended for those who want to enroll in universities and other institutions of higher education and for professionals such as medical doctors and nurses who want to study or practise in an English-speaking country.
The General Training Version is intended for those planning to undertake non-academic training or to gain work experience, or forimmigration purposes.
IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, New Zealand and South African academic institutions, over 3,000 academic institutions in the United States, and various professional organisations across the world. It is also a requirement for immigration to Australia and New Zealand. In Canada, IELTS, TEF, or CELPIP are accepted by the immigration authority.
No minimum score is required to pass the test. An IELTS result or Test Report Form is issued to all candidates with a score from "band 1" ("non-user") to "band 9" ("expert user") and each institution sets a different threshold. There is also a "band 0" score for those who did not attempt the test. Institutions are advised not to consider a report older than two years to be valid, unless the user proves that he has worked to maintain his level.


What is the structure of the IELTS?


All candidates must complete four Modules - Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking - to obtain a band score, which is shown on the IELTS Test Report Form (TRF). All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking Modules, while the Reading and Writing Modules differ depending on whether the candidate is taking the Academic or General Training Versions of the Test. The total test duration is around 2 hours and 45 minutes for Listening, Reading and Writing modules.


How is the IELTS scored?


IELTS is scored on a nine-band scale, with each band corresponding to a specified competence in English. Overall Band Scores are reported to the nearest half band.
The following rounding convention applies: if the average across the four skills ends in .25, it is rounded up to the next half band, and if it ends in .75, it is rounded up to the next whole band.

The nine bands are described as follows:

9 Expert User Has full operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
8 Very Good User Has full operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
7 Good User Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriateness and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
6 Competent User Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
5 Modest user Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.
4 Limited User Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in using complex language.
3 Extremely Limited User Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations.
2 Intermittent User No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs.
1 Non User Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
0 Did not attempt the test

No assessable information provided at all.



What is the TOEFL?

Test of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL, is a standardised test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers wishing to enroll in U.S. universities. The test is accepted by many English-speaking academic and professional institutions. TOEFL is one of the two major English-language tests in the world, the other being the IELTS.
TOEFL is a trademark of ETS (Educational Testing Service), a private non-profit organisation, which designs and administers the tests. The scores are valid for two years; then they are no longer reported.


What is the structure of the TOEFL?


Internet-based test (iBT)

Since its introduction in late 2005, the TOEFL Internet-based Test (iBT) format has progressively replaced the computer-based tests (CBT) and paper-based tests (PBT), although paper-based testing is still used in select areas. The TOEFL iBT test has been introduced in phases, with the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy in 2005 and the rest of the world in 2006, with test centers added regularly. The CBT was discontinued in September 2006 and these scores are no longer valid.
Initially, the demand for test seats was higher than availability, and candidates had to wait for months. It is now possible to take the test within one to four weeks in most countries. The four-hour test consists of four sections, each measuring one of the basic language skills (while some tasks require integrating multiple skills), and all tasks focus on language used in an academic, higher-education environment. Note-taking is allowed during the TOEFL iBT test. The test cannot be taken more than once every 12 days.



The Reading section consists of questions on 4–6 passages, each approximately 700 words in length. The passages are on academic topics; they are the kind of material that might be found in an undergraduate university textbook. Passages require understanding of rhetorical functions such as cause-effect, compare-contrast and argumentation. Students answer questions about main ideas, details, inferences, essential information, sentence insertion, vocabulary, rhetorical purpose and overall ideas. New types of questions in the TOEFL iBT test require filling out tables or completing summaries. Prior knowledge of the subject under discussion is not necessary to come to the correct answer.


The Listening section consists of questions on six passages, each 3–5 minutes in length. These passages include two student conversations and four academic lectures or discussions. The conversations involve a student and either a professor or a campus service provider. The lectures are a self-contained portion of an academic lecture, which may involve student participation and does not assume specialized background knowledge in the subject area. Each conversation and lecture passage is heard only once. Test-takers may take notes while they listen and they may refer to their notes when they answer the questions. Each conversation is associated with five questions and each lecture with six. The questions are meant to measure the ability to understand main ideas, important details, implications, relationships between ideas, organization of information, speaker purpose and speaker attitude.


The Speaking section consists of six tasks: two independent and four integrated. In the two independent tasks, test-takers answer opinion questions on familiar topics. They are evaluated on their ability to speak spontaneously and convey their ideas clearly and coherently. In two of the integrated tasks, test-takers read a short passage, listen to an academic course lecture or a conversation about campus life and answer a question by combining appropriate information from the text and the talk. In the two remaining integrated tasks, test-takers listen to an academic course lecture or a conversation about campus life and then respond to a question about what they heard. In the integrated tasks, test-takers are evaluated on their ability to appropriately synthesize and effectively convey information from the reading and listening material. Test-takers may take notes as they read and listen and may use their notes to help prepare their responses. Test-takers are given a short preparation time before they have to begin speaking. The responses are digitally recorded, sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network (OSN), and evaluated by three to six raters.


The Writing section measures a test taker's ability to write in an academic setting and consists of two tasks: one integrated and one independent. In the integrated task, test-takers read a passage on an academic topic and then listen to a speaker discuss it. The test-taker then writes a summary about the important points in the listening passage and explains how these relate to the key points of the reading passage. In the independent task, the test-taker must write an essay that states their opinion or choice, and then explain it, rather than simply listing personal preferences or choices. Responses are sent to the ETS OSN and evaluated by at least 3 different raters.
Task Description Approximate time
Reading 3–5 passages, each containing 12–14 questions 60–100 minutes
Listening 6–9 passages, each containing 5–6 questions 60–90 minutes
Break   10 minutes
Speaking 6 tasks 20 minutes
Writing 2 tasks 50 minutes


Paper-based Test (PBT)

The TOEFL paper-based Test is available in limited areas. Scores are valid for two years after the test date, and test takers can have their scores sent to institutions or agencies during that time.

Listening (30 – 40 minutes)

The Listening section consists of 3 parts. The first one contains 30 questions about short conversations. The second part has 8 questions about longer conversations. The last part asks 12 questions about lectures or talks.

Structure and Written Expression (25 minutes)

The Structure and Written Expression section has 15 exercises of completing sentences correctly and 25 exercises of identifying errors.

Reading Comprehension (55 minutes)

The Reading Comprehension sections has 50 questions about reading passages.

Writing (30 minutes)

The TOEFL PBT administrations include a writing test called the Test of Written English (TWE). This is one essay question with 250–300 words in average.




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