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10 Common Questions for IELTS

The official website of IELTS offers all information test takers are searching. Our answers to ten common questions hopefully give you a hand to quickly plan your IELTS preparation.

1. What is IELTS?
IELTS means International English Language Testing System.
  • It is an English language exam designed for non-native English speakers;
  • It tests the ability to communicate in the four necessary language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking;
  • Each skill are tested separately and has the same weight in the overall score;
  • The test has two versions: Academic and General.
  • Each test lasts two hours and forty-five minutes;
  • The IELTS has existed since 1989. Now over 2,000,000 tests are registered in over 120 countries every year.
2. Who is the organizer of IELTS, and who accepts its scores?
The IELTS is run by three organizations: the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL). However, this test isn't just a test for British English. It's accepted by 1000+ colleges and other organizations worldwide, from the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, to India.

3. What is the IELTS version?
There are two types in the IELTS exam: General and Academic, which are for different goals. Listening and Speaking tests are the same, but reading and writing aren't. Many people think the General version is easier than the Academic, but the two versions focus on different test takers. Because scores of two versions are not interchangeable, you must know in advance which one is your purpose.
  • Same: Listening Module and Speaking Module
  • Different: Reading Module and Writing Module
4. Who should take the IELTS General test?
General IELTS is fit for the people who wish to live or work in an English country, but not to study at college in such a country. The General IELTS is the relatively simpler one. It tests necessary survival skills in social and educational contexts. It is designed for candidates applying for immigration, working in English countries. For example, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand governments request people who wish to immigrate to take the IELTS General test.

5. Who should take IELTS Academic test?
IELTS Academic test reflects the English level in the academic scenario. Generally speaking, the Academic IELTS is an advanced test and more difficult. This version is usually used to determine whether candidates are qualified to study in college or university for academic programs where English is the primary language. Two main categories of people take the version:
  • Those who want to study in the USA, Canada, UK, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, or other English countries;
  • Those who need to demonstrate their English proficiency.
6. How does IELTS score?
IELTS scores are in terms of bands of language ability. The band range is from 1 to 9, with full and half band scores, like 6 or 6.5. The highest rating is a Band 9, which means Expert User: Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate, and fluent with complete understanding. ESL (English as Second Language) students hardly get this score.

After examining, you receive separate scores in each of listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The four scores rely on your skills in different sections. Also, a fifth score, which is called the overall rating, is calculated to indicate your overall score. So your test report has five scores. Some organizations are only concerned with the overall score; some require specific scores in individual modules.

7. What mark is a good score?
IELTS is designed to test English levels for specified purposes. Basically, there is no good or bad; the only thing is if your skill matches the requirement. The following cases may give you some hints:
  • To apply for top 10 universities, like Harvard University, IELTS Academic should be more than 7.5;
  • To apply for universities ranking 200-300 of the world, IELTS Academic should be more than 5.5;
  • To immigrate to Canada, IELTS General should be more than 5;
IELTS has definitions for each mark. To help understand the examples, list some of them:

Band 8 Very Good User Fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies.

Band 7 Good User Operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies and misunderstandings in some situations.

Band 6 Competent User Generally valid command of the language despite some inaccuracies and misunderstandings.

Band 5 Modest User Partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, is likely to make many mistakes.

8. Are there any prerequisites to take IELTS test?
No, if you only want to try the test. Find a test center and register a test seat, then pay the fee on demand. You can take the test on a specified date. However, if you want to get a meaningful score, you must show your English skills. For the General test, you should have a middle school grammar level and at least 5000 basic vocabularies; for the Academic test, high school grammar and an additional 4000 academic vocabulary are fundamental to get five or up marks.

9. How much effort do I have to pay to get a better score?
It relies on your current level. If your overall is between 5 and 7, 3 months full-time IELTS study probably can increase 0.5 or 1 point on average. Of course, it assumes that you choose the right method and tool to ensure your effort would eliminate shortcomings efficiently.

10. Can I prepare IELTS test online?
Yes. Actually, over half of test-takers prepare IELTS by self-studying. Online resources and courses are more and more popular among them. If you decide to study IELTS online, you never feel alone and will see lots of options powered by cutting-edge English training theory and information technology. is one of the options.