The International English Language Testing System (IELTS®) is an examination designed to assess English language communication skills in non-native English speakers. Qualifying IELTS® exam scores are commonly required by universities, immigration bureaus and professional accreditation organizations as proof that an applicant meets minimum English language proficiency standards. There are four main types of questions on an IELTS® exam: listening questions, reading questions, writing questions and speaking questions.
There are two IELTS® testing modules from which a test-taker can choose. The first is designed specifically for people who are taking the IELTS® for academic or professional credentialing purposes, and the second is designed for migrants and those who wish to train below the degree level. Both modules contain all four types of IELTS® questions written in the standard format. The reading and writing IELTS® questions, however, are structured around content specific to a test-taker’s chosen module. The listening and speaking questions are the same for both modules.
Listening IELTS® questions are designed to evaluate a test-taker’s ability to understand spoken English in different social contexts. During this part of the IELTS® exam, four audio passages are played in the testing room. After each passage is played, the test-taker must answer several questions relating to the main ideas and factual content of the passage and to the opinions and attitudes of the speakers in the passage. Each audio passage is played only once.
Reading IELTS® questions assess how well a test-taker comprehends the nuances of written English. This part of the IELTS® exam includes three reading passages, totaling 2,150-2,750 words. After a test-taker reads a given passage, he or she must answer questions relating to main ideas and circumstantial details of the passage and to the implied meanings, attitudes and purposes of the passage’s author. The content of the reading passages depends on the testing module chosen by the test-taker.
Writing IELTS® questions are essentially prompts or tasks presented for the purpose of initiating a written response from the test-taker. The written response is used to evaluate a test-taker’s ability to write a well-organized, grammatically accurate passage using a diverse English vocabulary. Test-takers are required to produce at least 400 written words in total. The types of writing prompts or tasks presented depend on the testing module chosen by the test-taker.
Speaking IELTS® questions are delivered to the test-taker during a three-part oral interview with an IELTS® examiner. This part of the exam is used to assess a range of English speaking skills, including pronunciation, fluency and grammatical range. During the interview, the test-taker must answer conversational questions, must speak on a random topic for one to two minutes without interruption and, finally, must participate in a two-way discussion on the same topic.