All there is to know about IELTS for studying abroad

IELTS exam

The International English Language Testing System, also known as IELTS, is one of the most important tests that make or break your dreams of studying abroad. It is a language proficiency test designed for non-native English speakers to assess their language skills. Recognized by most of the universities in the world, especially in Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand, IELTS is a major academic prerequisite which opens doors to international education.

What’s it about?

Traditionally, IELTS started out as a pen and paper test and later introduced the computer-delivered mode available in major cities. Today, IELTS offers online as well as offline tests which have a fixed format. These tests are organized up to 4 times or more each month and the results vary based on the form of your examination. The IELTS results for pen and paper test are announced after 7-10 days from the date of the test. However, the computer-delivered mode has more frequent test dates and a greater number of centers. These IELTS results are generally announced in about 5 days from the date of the test.

IELTS is regarded as the most popular English test for people who wish to study or work abroad. Therefore, it has two different modules; General and Academic. While the general module is for candidates planning to work abroad or for immigration purpose, students who wish to study abroad take up the academic module. Both the modules have 4 papers; listening, reading, writing and speaking. While the format for listening and speaking is the same for both the modules, reading and writing have different formats. The total time given to complete the test is 2 hours 45 minutes.

Listening (same for both the modules):

Listen to the audios carefully.

The listening paper has a total of 40 questions divided in 5 to 6 different tasks which are to be finished in 30 minutes. Candidates have 10 minutes extra as a transfer time which is the time given to shift the final answers to the answer sheet. IELTS experts suggest that the candidates write rough answers on the question paper as they listen to the audio to avoid haste.

The candidate listens to 4 different recordings, played only once. The recordings will be in a variety of voices with native-speaker accents. They can be a one on one conversation or a monologue on any topic. The questions range from multiple choice, matching, map or diagram labeling, form completion, note completion, summary completion, and short answers.

Reading (Academic):

Read the passages carefully before you proceed with answering.

The reading paper has 3 passages with a total of 40 questions divided into a number of tasks. The candidate is expected to complete the paper in 60 minutes.  The questions in different tasks range from multiple choice, matching information, diagram labeling and identifying information (question type: true or false). The distribution of the number of questions in the tasks is not fixed.

Writing (Academic):

Make sure to complete the given task in the writing test.

Writing test consists of two sections with a total test time of 60 minutes. Section one consists of various types of visual information(e.g: graphs or pi diagrams). The candidates are expected to elaborate the visual information in precisely 150 words. Section two consists of a topic to write on where candidates elaborate on an argument or a topic in not less or more than 250 words.

Speaking (same for both the modules):

Talk confidently in your speaking test.

Speaking test is an interview with the examiner which lasts up to 11-14 minutes. The test consists of 3 tasks. Task one is typically an introduction or an interview wherein the examiner asks the candidate for a personal introduction. The interview can go on for about 4-5 minutes. In the second task, a task card is given to the candidate containing a topic to speak on. 1 minute is given to jot down the notes and 1-2 minutes are given to talk on the given topic. At the end of the 2 minutes, the examiner can ask a couple of questions based on your topic. Task three is related to the previous task. The topic from task two is discussed in depth and in an abstract way. This task can end up for 4-5 minutes. In some cases, the speaking test is conducted on a different day.

Distribution of IELTS test time and questions.


IELTS has an online registration system. One can also submit a print of the registration form at the nearest IELTS IDP or IELTS British Council center. While the pen and paper mode has a selective number of dates, the computer-delivered IELTS have a substantial number of them. For both formats, it is necessary to book the test date in advance on the IELTS IDP or IELTS British Council websites. Remember, a passport is mandatory for registration as you have to present it as ID proof. The registration fees for pen and paper mode is Rs. 12,650 and for computer-delivered is Rs. 13,330.


IELTS score is based on 0-9 bands. Each paper of IELTS weighs 9 bands. The individual scores of each paper are rounded up to a final score. The score rounds up to nearest 0.5 or whole band if the score turns up to 0.75 or 0.25. Usually, universities expect at least 6.5-7 bands. Some universities might ask for individual paper scores as well. Listening and reading scores depend on the number of correct answers. While the writing scores are based on completion of the task and its grammatical accuracy. The scores of speaking are based on fluency, pronunciation, grammatical accuracy.


The IELTS test is not as difficult as it seems. One can use study material available online for IELTS preparation. Along with these, you can also join classes for IELTS preparation. You can refer to the test papers available on the IELTS website or go through the YouTube videos on the channels like Fastrack education, and Official IELTS tests. Here are some tips for each paper which can be helpful.

Listening: Candidates have 10 minutes transfer time. One can write the answers roughly on the question paper as they listen to the audio and transfer the answers later on the answer paper in the extra time given. For this paper, you can prepare by listening to the audios of native-speakers in their accents.

Reading: Reading newspapers, articles and magazines can go a long way for the preparation of the reading test. On the day of the test, read the passage carefully. Read and answer the questions after you read the passage in entirety.

Writing: Practice elaborating all kinds of visual information available, as one can get two-three types of diagrams at once. Try not to spend more than 20 minutes on task one and not more than 40 minutes on task two.

Speaking: The only way to practice speaking is by increasing the use of English on daily basis. If you are a fast or a slow speaker, try controlling your speed. As you get only 1-2 minutes for task two, practice this task by referring to mock tests available online.

IELTS is certainly one of the important steps for your graduate studies. We hope this article has helped you in clearing all the doubts about the IELTS test. iSchoolConnect helps you shortlists universities based on your IELTS score. Check out our other blogs on the most preferred universities by Indian studentsmyths students have about studying abroad, New York University, and many more. Connect with us over a call or drop a mail to know more.

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