The International English Language Testing Service test, commonly known as IELTS, consists of four parts: reading, writing, listening and speaking. You have to take all four parts. Everyone takes the same listening and speaking tests but different reading and writing tests, depending on whether you are taking the academic IELTS test or the general training IELTS test.
Many students struggle with the reading section because they do not practice enough to improve their reading speed. Reading positively affects your reading speed, spelling, vocabulary and understanding of grammar. The IELTS reading section takes 60 minutes. Both the academic and the general training IELTS tests consist of three sections. In both tests the sections are in order of increasing difficulty. An academic IELTS reading section might include three to four paragraphs with text such as: "The beetles immediately disappear beneath the pats digging and tunneling and, if they successfully adapt to their new environment, soon become a permanent, self-sustaining part of the local ecology." After reading, you would have to label a diagram, complete a table, identify information or match headings to text.
The IELTS writing test is also 60 minutes long. You must perform two writing tasks, which require different styles of writing, and you do not get to choose your question topics. There is a 150-minimum word count for task 1 and a 250-word minimum for task 2. An example of a task 2 question is: "The threat of nuclear weapons maintains world peace. Nuclear power provides cheap and clean energy. The benefits of nuclear technology far outweigh the disadvantages. To what extent do you agree or disagree? Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your knowledge or experience. Write at least 250 words." Using proper grammar and sentence structure, you must give a coherent answer using proper grammar that falls between the minimum and maximum word count.
The IELTS listening test takes about 30 minutes. It has four sections that increase in difficulty. Each section can be a conversation or a monologue. The biggest challenge for the listening test is that the selection is only played once, and the questions for each section must be answered while you are listening. This takes practice. The accents of the speakers are also challenging for some students. Listen to as much British English as you can while you prepare for IELTS -- this way you will not struggle as much during the listening test.
Possibly one of the most stressful parts of the IELTS test, the speaking test consists of a one-on-one interview with an examiner. The examiner will lead you through the three different parts of the test. This section consists of an introduction and interview, an individual long turn where you must speak for one or two minutes on a particular topic and a two-way discussion that is related to the topic you spoke about in the long turn section. This interview takes 11 to14 minutes and sometimes takes place a day or two later at some testing centers.
Based in Victoria, BC, Canada, Josh Hawthorne has been writing curriculum and digital project guides since 1998. He holds a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Victoria. Hawthorne freely admits he loves reading zombie literature and is currently working on a book about error correction for students learning English (without zombies).