The IELTS tests incorporate a unique format that set it apart from other English language proficiency tests. With a feature that minimises linguistic bias, the test focuses on the many different English accents from all over the world including American, British, Irish and Australian accents. In addition it also focuses on many different writing styles.
The test is developed by item writers from all over the English-speaking world and is divided into four modules that tests the language’s sub-skills, such as listening, reading, writing and speaking, in candidates. Each module is allotted a band score according to the performance of the candidate in that particular module.
An average band score of all modules is then calculated to give the overall band score. The listening and speaking modules remain the same across both the Academic version and the General Training version, while the reading and writing modules are different.
The Listening module starts with an audio recording of a set of instructions that candidates need to follow during the test. Each candidate is provided with a pair of headphones, from where the module content, which is a set of monologues and dialogues, can be heard. Candidates listen to the audio recording and answer questions that are on the provided booklet. The module consists of four sections of increasing difficulty and candidates are given sufficient time to answer the questions before transferring them to the booklet.
The Reading Module differs between the Academic version and the General Training version. The Academic version has three texts that are followed by 13 or 14 questions. In the General Training version texts are shorter but may have about 5 texts. Candidates are required to read the texts and answer the questions provided below.
The writing module in the academic version consists of a task that requires the candidates to describe an image, and a task that requires them to respond to an argument. The image in the first task may include a diagram, a chart or a graph. In the general training version the candidate is required to write a letter or explain a situation and the second task involves writing an essay.
The listening, reading and writing modules all take place on one day, while the speaking module happens on another and is a one-on-one interview with an examiner. The speaking module is divided into three sections. The first section involves a round of questioning by the examiner and may include general questions such as hobbies and other personal interest topics. In the second section involves the candidate talking about a certain topic provided by the examiner. The candidate is given a minute to prepare for the extempore speech and topics are based on current events and other popular topics. The third section is a little more abstract where the examiner asks questions about the candidate’s extempore speech.
The total duration of the listening, reading and writing modules is two hours and forty five minutes, while the speaking test lasts for around 11 to 15 minutes depending on the examiner.
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