IELTSInternational English Language Testing System — an exam that tests the knowledge of English among foreigners. IELTS is required for admission to universities in most countries of the British Commonwealth. The exam results are necessary to obtain a work visa, the right to permanent residence, and citizenship for some English-speaking countries.

Materials for IELTS preparation

BritishcouncilTest facilitator's website with information on what IELTS is and how to prepare for it.
IeltspodcastIntensive IELTS preparation.
PolyuIntroduction to the test structure and free mock test.
IeltsforfreeOnline IELTS tests; the system tracks your progress in preparing for the exam.
Ielts-examInformation on each section of the exam and free preparation tests.

IELTS test structure

Listening30 min40
Reading60 min40
Writing60 min2
Speaking11-14 min3

The structure of the exam is the same for both IELTS formats:

  • General Training IELTS is taken by persons wishing to immigrate to New Zealand, Canada, or Australia. It tests everyday communication skills.
  • Academic IELTS is needed for applicants entering English-language educational programs. Assignments assess your readiness to study in English.
General Training21.9%
Read more about IELTS content
  • Listening. This section is in both versions of the test. You are given 30 minutes to listen to 4 texts in English. The first two are real life situations, such as talking about a trip. The third and fourth are a dialogue and monologue on academic topics. The recording is only played once. There are a total of 40 exercises in this section — 10 for each passage.
  • General Training Reading. This section consists of three parts. The texts are fairly easy, covering general topics: social situations, an incident at the workplace, an excerpt from a book, magazine, and so on. One hour is allotted to complete 40 exercises.
  • Academic Training Reading. This section also consists of three texts, but the texts are academic. They are taken from scientific books, magazines, or newspapers. One hour is given for completion. There are a total of 40 exercises of different types: multiple choice, matching headings, understanding the author's point of view, and so on.
  • General Training Writing. This section consists of two parts: a letter and an essay. The letter may be formal, informal, or semi-formal. An essay is a response to a statement or point of view. It can be written in an informal style. You have one hour for both texts.
  • Academic Writing. This section includes two tasks of 30 minutes each. The first is to describe a graph or chart. The second is a reasoned essay on a given topic. Both answers should be in a formal style. The written part is evaluated according to several criteria:
    • Task Achievement (TA) and Task Response (TR) — completeness of the answer and correctness of information
    • Cohesion/Coherence (CC) — consistency of the text, construction of sentences, and coherence of phrases in the text
    • Lexical Resource (LR) — lexis, richness of vocabulary
    • Grammatical Range and Accuracy (GRA) — correctness and variety of grammatical structures
  • Speaking. This section of the exam is conducted one-on-one with an examiner. It consists of three tasks:
    • Acquaintance and dialogue on general topics
    • Monologue on the proposed topic
    • Dialogue with the examiner on the topic of the monologue
All of your responses are recorded. The Speaking section takes place on the same day as the rest, or on a different day. Speaking is evaluated on four criteria:
  • Connectivity and fluency of speech
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Pronunciation

IELTS assessment procedure

Each part of the English test is evaluated on a scale from 1 to 9 points (grade interval — 0.5 points). The total exam score is the arithmetic average of the score sum for the four sections. IELTS scores are valid for two years.

IELTS total score calculation
IELTS total score calculation
Need help with exams?

Is it difficult to pass the IELTS exam?

It is absolutely possible to pass the IELTS exam with a high score. Do not believe rumors about the unpredictability and complexity of the exercises — IELTS is a standardized test. It is enough to form the correct tactics for completing exercises during the preparation stage. To get a high score, you do not need to have a large vocabulary and use overly complex grammatical constructions. The main thing is to study the very structure and specifics of the test.

Poor performance in one section of the test can be compensated for by a high result in another. For example, pretend you received:

ListeningReadingWritingSpeakingOverall Band Score

Despite the last two sections, the overall score for the exam will be a 7.5, which is equal to a C1 level.

How much does it cost to take the IELTS?

The cost of the IELTS exam depends on the country and the center where you take the test. A complete list of cities and prices can be found on It is possible to retake the test — you can take the IELTS as often as you like.

Sample IELTS certificate

Sample IELTS certificate
Sample IELTS certificate with score results

How to prepare for IELTS

Learn the structure of the test

Even English speakers make mistakes on the IELTS exam without knowing its structure. The test must be carefully studied: the format, wording of the questions, features of individual exercises, and so on. This is the only way you will be prepared to take the exam.

Solving practice tests

The key to preparing for standardized tests is practice. Solve as many IELTS exercises as you can. This way, you will hone your English comprehension skills and prepare for the exam. The more often you solve practice tests, the faster you will be able to complete the questions. You can use online resources for practice: Britishcouncil, Ieltsforfree, Polyu, and others.

Listen to texts in English

To pass the Listening section, you need to be able to analyze information and understand the main idea of each text. To prepare, listen to as much English speech as you can: radio, TV, series, and movies. For the Academic test, we recommend watching TED Talks and lectures in English. Choose topics that interest you so that the learning process is not boring. Keep in mind that the Listening section makes use of varying accents: Scottish, Australian, New Zealand, and others. Not everyone understands them at first, so it is best to prepare ahead of time.

Read a lot in English

This is important for both versions of the test: General and Academic. In the first case, focus on more vital texts from newspaper articles and magazines. For the Academic test, read as much scientific literature as possible. This way, you will learn the specialized vocabulary that will be encountered on the exam. Read periodical literature: National Geographic, The Guardian, and The Times. Look for articles in the Cambridge Collection at Cambridge Core. Not all of them are in the public domain, but several dozen can be found. They are enough to develop skills in understanding academic texts.

Develop a strategy for completing exercises

To do well on the IELTS exam, consider a strategy for working with each section of the test. For example, in Reading, do not go into detailed reading of texts. Otherwise, you will not have enough time to answer questions. To prepare for the exam, use special techniques:

  • Skimming. Go through the text with your eyes, not dwelling on incomprehensible words or expressions. After reading, you should be able to understand the general gist of each paragraph.
  • Scanning. This technique is aimed at finding details. You can first read the questions, and then look for answers in the text using keywords.

Practice writing an essay

The Writing section is the hardest to pass, especially on the Academic IELTS exam. Practice — and only practice — will help you cope with the description of a graph, chart, or table in English. Knowledge of grammatical rules and constructions does not guarantee a good result. It is important to understand the principle of performing such tasks. To do this, review some exams from previous years.

Another important nuance of essays is the use of academic vocabulary in English. You can get acquainted with the necessary terminology by reading scientific journals, books, and articles in English: Scientific American, The Economist, Popular Mechanics, and BBC news.

Prepare for the Speaking section

The topics in the Speaking section are very different: sports, science, culture, music, cinema, art, and so on. The first task of the Speaking section is an interview, where you will be asked about work, studying, and interests. Decide in advance on topics that are easy for you to talk about. It could be jazz, figure skating, or Hitchcock films. Keep them at hand so as to direct the dialogue towards the area familiar to you. This must be done carefully: the examiner evaluates not only speaking skills, but also the ability to clearly answer the question.

To speak fluently on any topic in the exam, you need to diligently practice. An effective method is to participate in a conversation club or communicate with a native speaker.

Minimum IELTS scores for university admission

Comparing IELTS to other exams

English exams have different scoring systems. Below is a comparison of IELTS scores and other tests.

Comparison table for IELTS with other exams
Comparison table for IELTS with other exams
Exam preparation with UniPage

Exams are the main criterion for selecting students at most universities around the world.

UniPage specialists will help to find an experienced tutor who will prepare you for successful passing of international exams.