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IELTS The International Choice

Date Added: August 09, 2007 03:26:12 PM

The following article is written by Sue Smith an IELTS examiner in Hong Kong.

A lot of people looking for university places abroad know about the American Language test, TOEFL. But in recent years, it is its rival, IELTS, which has increased in popularity.

The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS for short, is a language proficiency test which provides an overall score out of 9 for the candidate. This score is made up of the average of the four papers which make up the test. Each of these papers is also marked out of 9. SAT reasoning and SAT subject tests.

The papers are a listening paper with a variety of conversations and interviews which the candidate needs to listen to and then note down certain answers; a reading paper with 3 reading passages to assess reading comprehension ability; a writing paper with two writing tasks and a short face-to-face interview with an examiner for the speaking paper.

The test is usually conducted over a single day, with the three written papers taking place in the morning, and the candidate returning in the afternoon to attend the interview. While the listening and reading papers are usually marked by administrative staff, trained examiners, who undergo a standardization process periodically, mark the writing and speaking papers. As an additional safeguard for the candidate, the speaking paper is recorded (these days generally on a digital recorder but in the past a cassette tape was used). In this way, a certain number of candidates can be screened by a second examiner to check for validity in the marks but it is also possible for candidates to request to have their interviews reviewed if they feel there has been a problem.

IELTS is used for secondary and tertiary entrance to educational institutions all over the world, including in America, even though the TOEFL is still more popular there. IELTS is also used by governments as a tool when assessing immigration candidates and it is used by certain professional accrediting bodies in order to guarantee a recognized standard of language proficiency among its members.

While the test is for proficiency, it is still very important to prepare for it. While it may not be easy to raise your language proficiency in a short space of time, the benefits of preparing for the test include the familiarization with the test layout and format and the ability to consider and develop certain test taking strategies which should ensure optimal performance.

Due to the increasing popularity of the IELTS test, some of the regulations which previously governed it have been relaxed. The marking scheme has been scrutinized and altered slightly, especially in the writing paper which now also provides half-band scores, in an attempt to give the candidate the most accurate reflection of ability. And the requirement to wait three months before taking the test again has also been relaxed so now candidates are able to take the test again in a shorter period of time if they wish to.

This is a big advantage when candidates are aiming for a particular score in order to fulfill a course entry requirement.

When you are taking the test, you should remember that it generally takes two weeks to get your score after the test date, although express marking can be arranged if necessary. And the final point is that the score only remains valid for two years after the date of the test. Once two years has elapsed, the score is considered to have gone stale and a new test will need to be taken.

You can find out more information on the test and its format at ITS Tutorial School Hong Kong.

You may also be interested in the Cambridge Young Learners exam. This is a great way to put your younger children on the right path for English.