IELTS: what is it, how does it work and subscriptions

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is considered the most popular and recognized English proficiency test in the world.

Currently, there are more than 9,000 organizations – among businesses, government institutions and academics – in 140 countries that accept IELTS as a means of proving the knowledge of each candidate in the language.

The examination takes place in two different ways, in different dates and forms of evaluation.

What is IELTS?

The IELTS exam is used as a way of measuring the proficiency of people who wish to study, live or work in a territory where English is considered a primary form of communication.

In total, there are two types of IELTS: the Academic, available for undergraduate, graduate and job seekers; and General Training includes those seeking the English-speaking country for language study, work experience or training programs.

How it works

In their methodology, the tests are applied to both IELTS types as a way of assessing listening, reading, writing and speaking skills – within two hours and forty-five minutes. All three first components are performed on the same exam, and the same day, with no breaks between them.

The speaking test, however, can be done one week before or after the other tests, depending on prior notice from the exchange where you signed up for the exams. Here’s how it works:


Running for 30 minutes, the candidate will listen to four recordings of a native speaker in the English language, and then write down a series of questions relating to what they have heard. Their ability to understand the main ideas, as well as details of the information provided, the opinions and attitudes of the characters, and the development of ideas from what has been heard will be evaluated.


This stage lasts 60 minutes and consists of 40 questions, designed to cover writing skills in a broader area. For those applying to the IELTS Academic, three long texts in descriptive, discursive and analytical languages will be available, taken from sources such as books, magazines, newspapers and others.


Also lasting 60 minutes, this step consists of specific methods for each IELTS. At the academic, candidates for undergraduate, graduate or professional candidates will be presented to a diagram, chart or something, and should describe them in detail.


In the last phase of IELTS, the duration is between 11 and 14 minutes and the test will be recorded. In the first part, the examiner will assess your overall ability through questions about the student and their family – where you live, where you work, and general interests.

In the second one, you will be given a card asking you to talk about a certain subject. To conclude this phase, the given deadline is one minute to prepare, before starting to speak; then the examiner will ask one or two questions on the same topic. The third and final part is based on more in-depth questions about part two.

READ MORE: 15 tips to learn English by yourself

Who should take it

Contrary to many people’s beliefs, a proficiency test such as IELTS is not limited to those seeking to apply for a scholarship abroad or for another academic purpose, but also to those who intend to work or apply for a residence visa.


Covering the countries Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, a good IELTS result becomes evidence that the individual is actually able to apply, or give continuity, a residence or work visa, living just like a common citizen in the country.


Those who are applying for a vacancy or scholarship in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching institutions should also take the exam.


Finally, IELTS is also required for those who wish to work abroad. For this modality, the recommended test is General Training, where it inserts English in the practical context of daily life, as well as tasks of the corporate environment and social situations.

How to subscribe?

To begin the application process, the candidate must first find a test site closest to his or her residence, according to the modality chosen to carry it out.

The exams take place on fixed dates, 48 days a year in the Academic and 24 days in the General. The Listening, Reading and Writing steps usually take place on Thursdays or Saturdays and Speaking on the same day or within seven days before or after the writing test.

To apply, simply go to the IELTS website.

Now that you know all about IELTS, it’s time to get ready!

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