The International English Language Testing System, which is normally referred to as IELTS, is the English language test which is most trusted by British universities, as well as being one of the most recognized exams around the world. The IELTS test comes in two versions: Academic, which is usually taken by students wishing to study abroad, and General Training, which is mostly used for immigration purposes.

Other tests: Many universities also accept alternative tests like TOEFL or Pearson tests however IELTS is generally the preferred test in the UK. If you plan to take any test other than IELTS, please contact your counselor to check it is recognized by the universities you hope to apply for.

The IELTS Academic Test is renowned for accurately assessing an individual's English language ability. Any foreign student who wishes to apply to a British university is required to prove their English competence through a test such as IELTS.

In total, the test takes 2 hours and 45 minutes, and this time is divided into four sections – Listening (30 minutes), Reading (60 minutes), Writing (60 minutes) and Speaking (11–14 minutes).

  • Listening

    A variety of different conversations or monologues will be played to you in this thirty-minute section, and the people speaking may have accents from anywhere in the world. In most cases, sections will get increasingly difficult as you progress through the test. At the end of the section you will have ten minutes to complete the answer sheet provided.

  • Reading

    The reading section lasts an hour and consists of three sections of increasing difficulty. The test is designed to assess an individual’s reading skills, including logic, comprehension and vocabulary.

  • Writing

    The written part of the exam involves two sections, both of which must be completed in an hour. In the first part you are asked produce a descriptive piece of writing based on a graph or diagram, this must be around one hundred and fifty words and you should spend about twenty minutes on it. The remaining forty minutes should be spent on the second section, in which you must produce a two hundred and fifty word piece of discursive writing, creating an argument around a specific topic.

  • Speaking

    The exam is conducted face to face with an examiner. In part 1 the examiner will ask a series of questions related to the student's background and which are designed to help the student to relax. Questions will be based on familiar topics such as work or study, free time, or food. Students are required to give a short speech in part 2. The student is given a topic, and then has 1 minute to prepare, before talking for 1 to 2 minutes on that topic. Part 3 of the test will be related to part 2, therefore, if you had to describe your job in part two, your questions in part three would be based on work. Questions are intended to create discussion and so you might be asked to assess the importance of work in comparison to family. The questions in part three get more difficult as you progress so as to determine the student's linguistic level.


Designed to grade scores consistently, the IELTS nine band scoring system mainly tests communication skills, unlike other assessments which may emphasize memorizing vocabulary. It is therefore very important for students to prepare in an interactive environment rather than studying at home on your own.

If you still have some questions then be sure to contact us. UKEAS counselors are on hand to give you the most professional advice, and remember our service is completely free!

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