As an English-language learner, there are a number of tests you might be required to take at some point – especially if you are looking to work, study or live in an English-speaking setting. While these tests may seem intimidating, you can pass them comfortably, if you are willing to commit to your preparation.
The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test is one of the most widely used. Over three million language learners take this test every year! This is because immigration bodies, employers, universities, and schools and the world over use IELTS results to assess their applicant’s command of the English language.
The IELTS is used for three distinct purposes:
Studying: If you are looking to enrol in an English-medium institution outside of your home-country, you might need to prove your English competency. Many universities around the world will ask that you take the IELTS before considering your application If you want to study towards a degree (at a university), you need to take the IELTS Academic test.
If you want to study towards a below-degree level qualification (like at a college or training institute), the IELTS General Training test is usually acceptable.
Getting a visa: English-speaking countries may ask you to prove that your English is good enough to comfortably live in English-speaking societies. Currently, The UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand all require IELTS results for certain visas.
Working: Companies the world over, view IELTS results as a reliable way to ensure that potential employees can speak English well enough to work in English-speaking teams or with English-speaking clients.
What are the IELTS tests like?
The test you’ll be taking, will be specific to your situation. If you take an IELTS Academic test to apply at a university, for example, your test will look different from an athlete applying for a sportsperson-visa to the UK.
You could also take the test at different levels: some institutions will ask you to prove you’re an advanced speaker, while others only need you to show that you have beginner-level English command. Also, depending on your reason for taking the IELTS, you might only need to prove your speaking and listening skills – or you might need to prove your speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.
What can I expect from the different components of the IELTS?
In the Listening test, you will be asked to listen to recordings and answer questions about what you heard. The questions will test your understanding of the main ideas in the recordings. It will also test your ability to listen for detailed information. You also need to prove that you can understand the opinions and attitudes of the people who spoke in the recordings.
In the Reading test, you will be read texts and be expected to answer questions testing your comprehension. The questions range from multiple choice and short-answer questions, to writing summaries and identifying information or a writer’s view.
In the Writing test, you will be asked to complete writing tasks that the examiners will use to check your general command of English, as well as your grammar and vocabulary.
In the Speaking test, you will be having a conversation with an examiner. You can expect the examiner to ask you about yourself. They will test your fluency by asking general questions on common topics like work, family, studies, interests and hobbies. If you are taking the IELTS to prove you have an advanced command of English, you can also expect to be given a topic to speak on, and to engage in a two-way conversation with the examiner after speaking on your topic.
How can I prepare for the IELTS?
Even if you have a good general command of English, it is a good idea to prepare for the test by studying the kinds of materials you will see in the test. Many students find IELTS tricky and challenging, regardless of their English level. Luckily, the IELTS organization is clear and upfront about the structure, format and content of their tests. This means you can easily prepare for it, if you have the correct practice-material.
Joining an English school with an IELTS curriculum can help you find structure and focus in your studies. LawTag offers personalized lessons – this means your teacher can point out weaknesses that would cause you to fail the IELTS and help you develop the skills you need to pass. IELTS.org also offers a set of practice tests – this means you and your teacher can confidently assess when you are ready to take the real IELTS.
You will likely also need to do some self-study. Since IELTS tests for most purposes will involve a speaking component with an examiner, you need to anticipate nerves or performance anxiety negatively impacting your speaking. It is best to over-prepare for the speaking component: practicing your speaking every day in the weeks leading up to the test is a good idea.
Though the IELTS is challenging, you can ace it with sensible and focussed preparation.