If you are interested in taking the IELTS test then we suggest you first take the practice test on this website. Then take the results of this test (in detail for each section) to the Study Centre for advice on what to do next.


The IELTS exam lasts for two hours and 45 minutes. It has a listening, a reading, a writing and a speaking part. There is no grammar part to the test, and grammar is not tested as intensively as it is in (for example) the Proficiency test, but if you have bad grammar you will not do well. The listening, reading and writing are set in that order, but because it is harder to arrange, the speaking may be the first or the last part of the exam.

The Listening lasts 30 minutes. There are four sections and 40 questions in all. You will hear a conversation (for example someone wanting to buy something), a general talk, often giving you some kind of information – for example about a town or museum, A conversation related to learning or training, and an educational or training lecture. Recordings are played only once.

The Reading takes 60 minutes. It has three parts, and like the listening, has a total of 40 questions. The academic test is three passages. These come from books, magazines and newspapers, and at least one of these presents an argument (arranges facts to persuade you of something), which you must show you have understood. The GT reading has a wider mixture of material, mostly the sort of thing that someone living in an English-speaking country would come across every day. As well as books and magazines, there is material from advertisements, pamphlets and instruction manuals. One text will be longer and descriptive.

The Writing also takes an hour. There are two parts. The academic writing has a report of about 150 words for the first part, in which you have to describe the information shown in a schematic (e.g. a graph, table or diagram). The second is about 250 words, in which you have to discuss an opinion or a situation. In the GT the first part is also 150 words, in which you have to ask for information or explain something. The second part is 250 words, and is discursive (that is, you have to explain your opinion on something).

The Speaking is somewhere between 10 minutes and a quarter of an hour. You have to answer some questions from the interviewer, about things like where you live and your hobbies or other personal details. You then have talk for some time on a particular topic, though you are given a minute to prepare what you are going to say, and the final few minutes are spent in a more general conversation with the interviewer.
Each module is marked in a band from 1-9, but as each band is divided into two, you can get any one of 18 different marks. There is no 'pass', since the mark you want will depend on what you need the test result for. Some people doing the test might not think listening is important, while it might be vital for others.

Generally speaking, to go to a British university you will need something between 6.5 and 8. Each university band set its own level and they will usually say what that is an offer letter.
The bands are:
9 = expert user
Fluent and functional English. Understands well, and can express what he wants to say. (Notice that you do not need perfect English to get a band 9 mark).
8 = very good user
Makes only occasional mistakes, and mostly these do not affect understanding. Can read and explain fairly complicated ideas.
7 = good user
Makes mistakes, and sometimes uses ungrammatical language. There are occasional misunderstandings, but someone at this level can generally use and understand complicated sentences.
6 = competent user
Can use complicated language, but only in areas which he knows well. Makes mistakes and sometimes uses the wrong words or expressions. Sometimes does not understand complicated English.
5 = modest user
Makes mistakes often, but though he does not understand every word, usually understands what he is hearing or listening to is about. Can use and understand English adequately only in some situations.
4 = limited user
Cannot make or understand complicated English. Does not understand complicated explanations, makes many mistakes. But he can usually communicate and understand basic ideas.
3 = extremely limited user
Has difficulty in saying what he wants in English. Often does not understand what he hears or reads.
2 = intermittent user
Only understands some words, and has trouble making them into basic sentences. Can only communicate basic ideas with difficulty.
1 = non-user
Understands a few English words, but not enough for communication.
0 = no attempt
Did not attempt the test