There are many reasons to take an exam. For some it provides a meaningful motivation to learn. Some people need it for their work or for an educational institute as proof of a certain level. While others just like doing so for their own personal satisfaction.
There are many kinds of exams to meet these needs. The most popular among these exams are commonly regarded as being the Cambridge Main Suite exams (FCE, CAE, and CPE) however there are also BEC (Business English exams) TOEFL and IELTS.
IELTS is a test required as a qualification of English and the results are provided on a band ranging from 1-9 – one being a complete beginner to 9 – highly fluent/amazing English.
Let’s look at the ways in which IELTS is in fact, quite different from the other exams mentioned.
- No Grammar Test
IELTS does not have a section that specifically tests your grammar awareness the way that FCE, CAE and CPE does. Your knowledge of grammar is tied in with the other skills – Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and is marked for its range and accuracy as demonstrated within these skills.
- Two Versions
General vs. Academic
Put as succinctly as possible, the General IELTS Test is usually better suited for those candidates who are hoping to live abroad and are sitting the test for immigration purposes whereas the Academic version is for candidates who are hoping to study abroad.
Each part of the IELTS test is the same length and has the same sections however the content of the Reading and Writing Sections differs slightly.
The Writing Part 1 of the Academic test involves describing charts and diagrams whereas the General test involves writing a letter. Part 2 in both tests requires you to write an essay.
According to the IELTS Canada website:
- For the IELTS Academic exam, there are a variety of texts to read, such as descriptive, factual, and analytical. The reading module also includes diagrams, graphs or illustrations.
- There are three sections in the reading part of the General Training exam. In the first section, there are two or three short texts. In the second section, there are two short, work-related texts. In the final section, there is one long text about a general interest topic.
- Listening – Only Once
Unlike many other exams you’ll only get to hear the audio for the listening ONE TIME ONLY. That’s one time for every task! This makes for a lot of difference in so far as you have to be able to catch everything in only one go throughout. If you have a tendency to mentally drift off while listening you will have to train yourself to maintain as much focus as possible for the entirety of the particular section you are listening to.
For this reason the Listening part of the test often has a few easier questions for lower Band candidates to grab some points and the Sections are usually subdivided at least once so the audio script isn’t too long.
There are usually some tricky numbers (phone numbers, addresses etc. ) that really stump the advanced candidates, that’s why it is important to pre-read the text and anticipate where these are coming up so you can be prepared.
- Available more often
Unlike the Main Suite exams which are available in either online or ‘live’ versions approximately every month, a centre like the British Council will typically hold IELTS tests every 2 weeks. What’s more, the results are available in just 13 days!
- Mixed Ability Courses
Due to the nature of the test you are not really learning as much new stuff on any particular course. It is rather a global look at the approach and tactics for taking the exam. An IELTS course at the British Council is usually available to any candidate from B2 level and higher but that typically means that very advanced students may also take part in a course. This poses no problem to course participants because the course is so focused on procedural tactics, strategies and broad/helpful language for the test. So, the material is actually new and important for learners of all levels. A little bit of grammar may be revised but that is really not the main goal of the course.
Have you ever tried the IELTS test? What Band score did you get? Let us know in the comment section below. If you’re thinking of taking the test check out the British Council IELTS page for more information.