When considering studying abroad in countries where English is the primary medium of instruction, you will most likely need to prove your English proficiency. This means that you’ll have to submit scores for a standardised English language test, such as the IELTS or the TOEFL (check out our TOEFL guide).

The IELTS test can be taken at many locations around the world; each country has its own test center and applicants can conveniently schedule the test online and take it and take it at a designated location closest to them.

What is IELTS?

IELTS is an abbreviation for International English Language Testing System. The test is available in two formats: ‘IELTS Academic,’ for those planning to study at a higher education level abroad; and ‘IELTS General Training,’ which focuses on social skills and workplace contexts. In this piece, we will focus on IELTS Academic.

The IELTS test consists of four parts: listening, speaking, reading and writing; the duration is 2 hours and 45 minutes - including transfer time from one section to the next.

Here is a breakdown of each section:

Listening (30 minutes): This section is further divided into four parts, each with 10 questions. These sections cover everyday topics, as well as dealing with situations in an education and training context.

Speaking (11-14 minutes): The examiner first asks you general questions about home, family and studies. Next, you’ll be shown a card with a specified topic: you have about two minutes to prepare, after which the examiner has a discussion with you on the topic.

Reading (60 minutes): This section has 40 questions and covers different aspects such as, reading for details and main themes, skimming, logical arguments and recognising the writer’s opinions and purposes.

Writing (60 minutes): This involves two tasks, both to be written in a formal style. First, a chart or a graph in picture format is shown and you are expected to present the information you see in your own words (150 words within 20 minutes). Next, you are asked to write an essay (250 words within 40 minutes) in response to a particular problem.


Candidates receive a score of 1 to 9 for each section of the IELTS. The average of these scores is what accounts for the final, overall score. The IELTS score helps to easily identify your English proficiency level; simply put, a non-user score is 1 and expert score is 9.

Preparing for IELTS

First, you have to study the test format in order to know what is expected.Then, you should carefully examine each part of the test to understand what is needed. Taking a course to prepare is recommended, as well as using IELTS study material. Taking online practice tests can also help you practice and get familiar with the test.

Why is IELTS Important?

The IELTS test is a perfect medium for evaluating the language benchmark of a candidate and hence, helps an applicant find adequate opportunities for their aspirations. IELTS is accepted by over 9,000 institutions, each with its own IELTS requirement score. Once students take the test, they can then nominate up to five organisations where copies of their IELTS results will be sent free of charge.

Now that you have all this information at hand, we wish you luck with your test and your educational pursuits abroad.

About the Author: Dragana Dimitrievska graduated from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University St. Cyril and Methodius in Macedonia. A dentist by profession, she is planning to soon become a student again in the hopes of specialising in oral surgery at a university in Germany.