International English Language Testing System Preparation

International English Language Testing System

What is IELTS?

The IELTS or the International English Language Testing System is a standardized examination of English-language proficiency taken by non-native English speakers. IELTS has been administered for around 25 years and is spearheaded by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and the Cambridge English Learning Assessment.

The IELTS is designed to measure English-language proficiency for individuals who are planning to study or work in an English-speaking country or work environment. The test is also intended to treat all standard varieties of the English language as equally valid, including British, Australian, New Zealand, and North American English.

There are two versions of the IELTS that people can take: The Academic version and the General Training version. To provide you with an initial idea regarding each of their specifics, please refer to the information below:

IELTS Academic Version

The Academic version is taken by people who are applying for admission to a college, university, or professional registration. 

IELTS General Training Version

The General Training version is designed for people who are immigrating to the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. This version of the IELTS can also be used by individuals who are seeking for secondary school admission and direct employment.

The IELTS is more commonly used overseas, specifically in the United Kingdom. In the United States, the IELTS is accepted by over 3,000 institutions, including colleges and universities that enroll a huge number of international students.

The number of IELTS examinees is steadily increasing in recent years. In fact, there are close to 3 million individuals who are taking the IELTS exam every year. Eighty percent of the IELTS test is made up of examinees who plan to take the Academic version. On the other hand, the remaining percentage is composed of the General Training version test-takers.

Take the IELTS Practice Test Online!

IELTS Test Structure and Format

Both the Academic and General Training versions of the IELTS have four sections: 1.) Listening, 2.) Speaking, 3.) Reading, and 4.) Writing. The test materials for the Reading and Writing differ in both versions, while the Listening and Speaking sections are the same.

To provide you with a quick overview of the exam format, please refer to the chart presented below:

IELTS Test Structure and Format

The Listening section of the IELTS lasts 30 minutes. Test-takers will be asked to listen to 4 different recordings of native English speakers. Each clip will be followed by a series of 10 questions. Test-takers are recommended to take notes while listening and are also given an additional 10 minutes to transfer noted answers unto the answer sheet.

There are 6 types of questions that examinees will encounter in the Listening section of the IELTS:

  1. Multiple-choice questions
  2. Matching questions
  3. Plan, map, diagram labeling
  4. Form, note, table, flow-chart, summary completion
  5. Sentence completion
  6. Short-answer

Note: Proper spelling and grammar are expected on the answer sheet. Any misspelled words or grammatical errors will be penalized.


The Speaking section of the IELTS evaluates an examinee’s ability to communicate in English effectively. This section can only last up to 11-14 minutes in total. The test consists of a recorded oral interview between the exam administrator and the examinee.

The IELTS Speaking section is broken down into 3 subsections:

  1. Introduction and Interview
  2. Individual Long Turn
  3. Discussion

The examinee will be evaluated by the test administrator in this following criteria:

  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation

Note: IELTS examinees are advised to improve their time management skills, as this is vital in the Speaking section of the test.


The Reading section of the IELTS can last up to 60 minutes. This section contains 3 subcategories with a total of 40 questions. In the Academic version of the test, each subcategory consists of one long passage (about 2,150-2,750 words).

The passages are being taken from various academic books. In the General Training version, passages are shorter and the passages are pulled out from everyday life reading materials.

The Reading section is designed to allow test-takers to demonstrate their ability to comprehend texts effectively. Both versions will feature the following types of questions:

  1. Multiple-choice questions
  2. Identifying information
  3. Identifying a writer’s views/claims
  4. Matching information
  5. Matching headings
  6. Matching features
  7. Sentence completion
  8. Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion
  9. Diagram label completion
  10. Short-answer

The Writing section of the IELTS can last up to 60 minutes.  The section is made up of 2 different tasks.

Each written response are assessed based on the following criteria:

  • Task achievement/response
  • Coherence and cohesion
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy

IELTS Test Scoring System

The IELTS scoring system is pretty easy to understand. The scores are reported in 9 bands ranging from 1 to 9. An IELTS score of 1 indicates that an examinee has no ability to use the English Language aside from a few isolated words. A score of 9 indicates that a test taker is an expert user of the English language.

Test-takers will receive a band score in each of the 4 sections. Each of the sections is individually scored based on their given criteria. On one hand, the Listening and Reading sections are scored according to the total number of correct answers a test taker gets out of the 40 questions. On the other hand, the Writing and Speaking sections are scored by test administrators based on their respective criteria.

IELTS Registration

Contrary to the popular belief, registering for the IELTS is a quick and easy process. To walk you through the process, please refer to the steps below:

Step 1: Find the nearest IELTS test location in your area. There are more than 1,600 IELTS test centers and locations in over 140 countries.

*Find yours here 

Step 2: Register for the IELTS test. You have the option to opt-in an online registration or submit an application form to your local test center.

*Download the application form here: 

Step 3: Confirm if the IELTS is successfully booked.

Once your application has been completed, the center will then send you a written confirmation containing the IELTS test dates and time. Take note that the Speaking and Writing sections of the IELTS are typically administered on the same day.

*You may contact your local IELTS test center for a copy of the candidates’ booklet or download it here:

Important Note: The IELTS may have a specific website intended for each country (e.g. IELTS Canada, IELTS USA, IELTS Australia, etc.)

IELTS Frequently Asked Questions

Which one is easier: the IELTS General or the IELTS Academic?

The IELTS General Training is easier than the IELTS Academic version. The latter is following an academic standard for individuals who plan to study or train in an English-speaking university.

What does the IELTS test consist of?

As discussed earlier, the IELTS test is composed of four different sections:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Writing

How to get a high score in the IELTS?

The best way to get a high score on the IELTS exam is through effective preparation. Utilizing IELTS practice test materials is one way to amplify your preparation.

How long does it take to prepare for the IELTS?

Depending on your current English language skills, preparing for the IELTS may take 3-6 weeks in total.

How to prepare for the IELTS at home for free?

There are a number of free IELTS practice test materials that you can use at home. If you have access to the internet, you can also take advantage of the practice test questions that are provided by some websites for free.

How to get the latest IELTS study material?

There are available IELTS books that you can purchase online. Some of them are in a “to be released” status. Every year, an IELTS test prep books can be purchased on Amazon or eBay.

What are the best materials to prepare for IELTS?

  • IELTS Speaking Practice Test
  • IELTS Listening Practice Test
  • IELTS Writing Practice Test
  • IELTS Reading Practice Test
  • IELTS Academic Books
  • IELTS General Training Books

How to get 9 in the IELTS?

There’s no better way to score a 9 on the IELTS than to prepare for the test effectively. If you dedicate yourself to train and prepare consistently, scoring a 9 is definitely achievable.

How easy is the IELTS exam?

The IELTS is a challenging exam just like all other examinations. Since the test is designed to evaluate test-taker’s abilities, it will be difficult if one lacks good preparation.

IELTS Test Prep Guide

Preparation is one of the most significant parts of every examination. It can either make or break your chance of getting a good score on the test. Just like any exam, the IELTS test requires effective preparation.

To guide you in your preparation, we’ve gathered several practices that can help you prepare for the IELTS more efficiently:

#1 Know the Exam

If you have a good understanding of the test, you will surely obtain an effective preparation strategy. Learning the format, understanding the types of questions, and becoming aware of the exam duration is just a few of the many aspects that can help you know the IELTS exam better.

#2 Test What You Learned

Preparing for the IELTS is not only limited to reading books and study guides. You also have to test what you have learned during your preparation. This is the very reason why practice test materials have been developed. You have to study and practice; you can’t do just one. Always keep in mind that effective preparation involves knowledge consumption and proper application of learning.

#3 Organize Your Preparation

One of the best ways to make your preparation effective is to keep everything organized. Organizing your IELTS prep involves proper scheduling of your study time, taking breaks, and time for leisure. Creating a calendar for your preparation can help you keep track of the lessons you still need to cover or have already covered. Compared to a disorganized study plan, a well-organized preparation can provide you with more benefits.

#4 Improve Your Vocabulary

Since the IELTS is an English-proficiency test, enhancing your vocabulary can greatly help you when you take the exam. Based on the criteria we provided earlier, the components on the exam are composed of your overall fluency of the English language. Thus, improving your vocabulary is one of the best ways to increase your chances of getting a good score on the test.

IELTS Sample Test Questions

Please refer to the text below to answer the following questions:

To Whom It May Concern: 

I’m writing in regards to the Writer/ Producer position at Shadow Heat. I graduated with my MA degree in English at the University of Texas in May 2016 where I taught technical writing and writing arguments for my fellowship. 

My years taking and teaching English courses have enabled me to develop strong writing skills, which I believe will contribute greatly to the position in question. Although a work in progress, my website, attached below, features technical writing, graphic design, blog writing, and creative writing samples. 

My passion for writing in order to connect with a specific audience is demonstrated by my various publications as well as my degrees that focus heavily on academic and creative writing. I would love to write for your company and hope you’ll consider me for this position. 

I’m highly motivated, carrying energy and creativity to my work. My nine years’ experience in higher education enables me to adapt to changing ideals and trends while also maintaining personal values. I hope that you’ll consider me for this position. I look forward to hearing from you! 


Practice Test Question #1

What type of writing does this passage sound like?

  1. A how-to document on teaching 
  2. A consumer email to a corporation
  3.  A letter of interest for a job
  4. A memo concerning employees in the workplace

Practice Test Question #2

Which of the following is the correct information? 

  1. The writer of the letter is a writer/ producer at Shadow Heat.
  2. The writer of the letter has a Master’s degree in English.
  3. The writer of the letter has ten years’ experience in higher education.
  4. The writer of the letter is applying to be a website designer.

Practice Test Question #3

The writer of the letter has experience with which of the following? Select all that apply.

  1. Working at Shadow Heat
  2. Blog writing
  3. Technical writing
  4. Teaching graphic design
  5. Publishing writing
  6. Changing trends

Practice Test Question #4

Which of the following people would most likely be the intended recipient of the letter?

  1. A job candidate looking for work as a writer
  2. A job candidate looking for a job at Shadow Heat
  3. An employee at Shadow Heat
  4. The hiring manager at Shadow Heat

Practice Test Question #5

Which additional piece of information from the letter writer would be most useful for the recipient of the letter?

  1. A resume
  2. A professional headshot
  3. A job description for the desired position
  4. Shadow Heat’s business card

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