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The International English Language Testing system, or IELTS®, is a standardized test designed to gauge English communication ability. The test assesses the four language skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking, with grammar and vocabulary testing inherent in the use of the four skills. IELTS® results are organized into nine descriptive statements, with 9 representing an expert user and 1 representing someone who has virtually no ability to use the language.
IELTS® results are calculated by taking the average of the total of the four sub-test scores, which then gives an overall band score. For example, a candidate who receives 4.0 for listening, 3.0 for reading, 3.5 for writing and 4.5 for speaking will be awarded an overall band score of 3.75, which is rounded up to 4.0. Should the average of the four skills end in .25, then it is rounded up to the nearest half band; if it ends in .75, then it is rounded up to the nearest whole band. A half band score is used to indicate a strong performance for a certain skill. Both the overall band score and the scores for the individual skills are reported in the IELTS® results.
There is no pass or fail in IELTS®. The acceptance level depends entirely on the organization or institution judging the results. Results are sent 13 days after the test. The band scores are interpreted thus: 9 is an expert user, 8 is a very good user, 7 is good, 6 is competent, 5 is modest, 4 is a limited user, 3 is an extremely limited user, 2 is an intermittent user, 1 is a non user, and 0 means the candidate did not attempt the test. Perfect scores are converted to a band 9.
Comparison between the many English tests is a little difficult, as each test has its own scoring system. A very rough guide to the more well known tests is that a 7.5 to a 9 in IELTS® is comparable to C2 in the Common European Frame of Reference (CEFR), a score of 785 to 990 in the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), and 590 to 670 in the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) paper. A score of 6.5 to 7.0 in IELTS® compares to C1 in CEFR, 605 to 780 in TOEIC, and 550 to 587 in TOEFL. IELTS® results of 5.5 to 6.0 is the equivalent to a B2 in CEFR, 605 to 780 in TOEIC, and 513 to 547 in TOEFL.
There are two different modules to choose from in IELTS®, depending on the goal of the candidate. The academic module is for those who want to study at a university level or who wish to be professionally registered. The general training module is for potential migrants to an English-speaking country or for study at a below-degree level.
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