IELTS: International English Language Testing System
IELTS: International English language testing system is one of the most recognized tests worldwide that is designed to assess one’s ability to interpret English in four different skills : Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking. IELTS is believed to provide an authentic and accurate assessment of English language proficiency.
When IELTS came into use?
IELTS had been developed in the 1980’s, but administered to students for the very first time in 1989 by creators and administratives of IELTS, British Council, International development program of Australian University and college and Cambridge English language assessment.
Where IELTS is prevalent?
IELTS, now, is conducted by over 140 countries. Moreover, test takers are provided with a range of options for the test venue. Almost all mega cities of test taking countries provide test Centre facility to candidates and they can easily choose location by themselves as per their comfort and convenience.
Who Evaluates IELTS?
Administratives as well as evaluators of IELTS are British council and IDP. It remains as per students’ preferences whether they want British council or IDP to evaluate their test papers.
Accordingly, they are required to register themselves as test candidates either in British council or IDP. Though, test checking criteria followed by both organizations has no difference.
Mode of examination?
IELTS test takers have two options to go through the examination. They can opt for pen and paper based tests or they have another option to take tests online (Computerized).
Students who are tech-savvy can better choose online mode of exam ,on the other hand, those who find themselves more comfortable with paper writing can choose pen and paper based tests.
Objective of taking IELTS:
Any candidate taking IELTS intends to migrate English speaking countries either for study or work purposes. Every English speaking country inviting foreign nationals first demands English skill proficiency and IELTS helps candidates to prove their capability to speak, read, write and listen English well.
Types of IELTS:
International English language testing system is of two types: General and Academic.
General IELTS- General IELTS is designed for people intending to migrate to an English speaking country for work purposes or permanent residence.
Academic IELTS- Academic IELTS is for students in particular who want to migrate to any of English speaking countries for tertiary education: graduation or post-graduation since almost all colleges and universities in countries like Canada and Australia demand English skill proficiency level of students to give enrollment.
Difference between General and Academic IELTS-
In general, there are four modules in IELTS that a candidate appears for. These are Reading, Writing,
Speaking, Listening in both types of IELTS though the framework of set tasks varies in General and Academic IELTS. Listening and speaking modules remain the same in both test types, however the major difference is seen in the Writing and Reading module.
In academic writing, there are two tasks given to candidates to solve. Task 1 is a graph, or called report writing and Task 2 is an essay writing.
On the other hand, in general IELTS, task 1 is letter writing.
It includes Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking. Total duration of LRW test remains approximately 3 hours that are taken collectively on one day, while the speaking test is of around 15 minutes interview taken on another day scheduled for interview. Interview can be before or after the LRW exam.
Listening: Listening is the first part of the test . In listening module tests, audio is played by test conductors including different conversations that test takers have to listen via headsets and answer questions given to them on a sheet. This is on average, 30 minutes audio.
A set of total 40 questions is given to the candidate which he needs to solve. These 40 questions come in a series of 4 sections each containing 10 questions. Each answer carries one mark. Marks obtained by candidate out of 40 are related to band scores chart.
Accordingly, band scores are given out of 9. Requirement of bands for each academic test taker depends upon the requirement of college or university, he wants to apply. Hence, it varies.
Type of questions-
Listening test carries distinct kind of questions such as,
- Blanks- One word/two words/three words
- Sentence completion
- Direct questions
- Information matching
Academic Reading format:
Just as listening, the Reading module also carries 40 questions. In the reading module test, a written sheet is given to candidates with 3 comprehension passages on different topics. Each passage or section includes 13 or 14 questions, comprising one mark each. Different range of scores get different band scores.
Candidates are given a total 1 hour to solve reading questions.
Type of questions-
- True/False/Not Given
- Yes/No/Not Given
- Heading selection
- Passage Title selection
- Blanks: Single sentence/Summary/Table blanks
- Direct questions
- Matching information
- Diagram labelling
General reading format-
In general reading, there are also 3 sections, however what makes it different from academic reading is that the first 2 sections of general reading contain 2 or even more texts instead of one. Another difference is in scores. It is comparatively easier to get a higher band score with less marks out of 40, but It gets hard in case of general reading since band criterion is different for general reading.
Writing module is the third part of the test. This is of one hour duration. In writing, two tasks are given to the writer to solve.
- Writing task 1- Academic writing task 1 involves a report writing. A graph picture is provided to test takers which can be of varied types. Candidates need to explain given representation of data in his own words by writing a report. It is must for candidates to write at least 150 words for Task1
Types of Task 1
- Bar graph
- Line graph
- Flow chart
- Pie chart
- Life cycle
It is important to note that task 2 has more weightage in terms of score than Task 1.
- Writing task 2-
Task 2 in the writing test is an essay topic. On a given topic, the candidate has to write 250 words at least. Task 2 carries double marks than task 1. As writing task 1, task 2 is also of different types.
Types of task 2:
- Opinion essays- These types of essays demand the personal perspective of the writer about a topic. These include:
- Discussion essay
- Agree/disagree essay
Positive/Negative development essay
- Direct questions
General writing format-
In general writing, unlike the academic test, task 1 is a letter writing. Though, the word lower limit remains the same as academic task 1 that is 150 words.
Types of letter-
There are three types of general task 1.
- Formal letter
- Semi-formal letter
- Informal letter
Writing assessment Criteria:
Cambridge has given some markers to assess performance of test takers. These assessment markers are called band descriptors. There are 4 band descriptors of writing, each contributing 25% in total band scores. This means a candidate must meet the requirements of these descriptors to get a good score in writing.
Writing band descriptors:
- Task achievement- This criterion focuses on the degree to which answer to a question has been given accurately and properly. Examiner take into account the following questions while evaluating writing answer sheet:
✓ Whether the given response to the question is relevant?
✓ Is there clear positioning of ideas throughout the task?
✓ Is there a tendency to Overgeneralize ideas?
✓ Have written arguments justified or not( using relevant examples or supporting ideas)
✓ How have different parts of the question been assessed by the writer?
- Coherence and cohesion- This criterion is linked with overall clarity and fluency of the message through task. This means how ideas and language representation has been organized using a writing structure.
Coherence- Coherence refers to linking of ideas throughout the task in a logical sequencing. In more simple words, it refers to overall presentation or flow of ideas.
Cohesion- Cohesion means appropriate and varied use of cohesive devices in written tasks. These cohesive devices can be conjunctions, pronouns and logical connectors that are helpful to make reverential relationship between two different sentences clear and easy to understand.
These are following questions that evaluator considers during task assessment:
✓ Is the progress of the task in flow?
✓ Are connectors used locally without under and overuse?
✓ Do pronouns have clear reference?
✓ Is the information organized in paragraphs logically?
✓ How much ease is given to the examiner by the writer to go through the task?
4. Lexical resources- This criterion refers to the range of vocabulary used by candidates with accuracy and appropriateness. Examiner’s consideration for this part is:
✓ Varied use of words(using synonym)
✓ Precision of words written
✓ Word flexibility
✓ Level and style of words
✓ Choice of word
✓ Word spelling
5. Grammatical range and accuracy- This criterion is used to evaluate candidate’s command of grammatical resources mainly at sentence level. While checking grammar, examiner looks for :
✓ Correct sentence formation
✓ Variety in sentences( Simple, compound, complex)
✓ Correct tense use
✓ Correct use of punctuations
Speaking test involves one to one interview. Examiners interview candidates for approximately 15 minutes asking different sorts of questions that the candidate has to answer as per requirement.
Speaking test Parts:
There are three parts of the speaking interview each carrying specific scores to contribute in total speaking bands.
In speaking part 1, the examiner asks some questions demanding personal information from the candidate. There are around 10-12 questions asked in this part on 2 or 3 specific topics that candidates answer in 1 or 2 sentences.
Part 2-(Cue card)
In speaking part 2, the candidate is given a topic about which he has to speak for 1-2 minutes. There are 3 to 4 questions, candidate covers under cue topic. Question topic generally remains candidate specific.
Part 3(Follow ups)
In this part, questions are related to the same topic as asked in part 2. For these types of questions, the interviewee has to answer in 4-5 sentences. These are generally opinion based questions in which the speaker presents his personal perspective toward a trend or problem.