International English Language Testing System (IELTS, pronounced /'ielts/) is a test of English language proficiency. It is jointly managed by University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, British Council and IDP Education Australia. Candidates may choose either the Academic Module or the General Training Module:
IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, New Zealand and South African academic institutions, by an increasing number of academic institutions in the USA, and by various professional organisations. It is also a requirement for migration to Australia and Canada.
- The Academic Module is intended for those who wish to enroll in universities and other institutions of higher education.
- The General Training Module is intended for those planning to undertake non-academic training or to gain work experience, or for immigration purposes.
The IELTS incorporates the following features:
- A variety of accents and writing styles are presented in text materials in order to minimise linguistic bias. Since the TOEFL only concerns North American English, the IELTS is considered more authoritative than TOEFL by some people and organisations (especially the ones outside the United States). Although apparently the TOEFL incorporates British and Australian listening exercises.
- IELTS tests the ability to listen, read, write and speak in English.
- Two test formats can be chosen from - Academic and General Training.
- Band scores are used for each language sub-skill (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking). The Band Scale ranges from 1 ("Non User") to 9 ("Expert User").
IELTS is scored on a nine band scale. Each Band corresponds to different English competence. The Band Scores are in either whole or half Bands. The nine bands are described as such:
9 Expert User
Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
8 Very Good User
Has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
7 Good User
Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
6 Competent User
5 Modest User
Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.
4 Limited User
Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in use of complex language.
3 Extremely Limited User
Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
2 Intermittent User
No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
1 Non User
Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
0 Did not attempt
No assessable information provided. Candidate may have failed to sit for the test
Locations and test dates
There are around 300 test centres worldwide. The number of candidates has grown from about 100,000 in 1999 to about half a million in 2003. The top three locations in which candidates took the test in 2003 were Mainland China, India and the United Kingdom for the Academic Category, and India, Mainland China and Australia for the General Training Category.
There are up to 48 test dates available per year. Each test centre offers tests up to four times a month depending on local demand.