IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System – an English Language proficiency test. Globally, there are more than 4 million test takers a year, making IELTS the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration.

IELTS is developed and run by the British Council in partnership with IDP Education and Cambridge Assessment English.

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How does IELTS work?

IELTS is aimed at people who want to study in an English-speaking environment, work in or emigrate to an English-speaking country, or get a job in your own country where English proficiency is required. For this reason, there are two IELTS tests to choose from: 

IELTS Academic IELTS General Training 
This test can help you secure university acceptance, student visas, and prove your English ability to professional organisations. This test measures your English proficiency in the workplace and is often useful to prove your level when applying for a new position in an English-speaking company or organisation.

Learn which IELTS test is right for you.

IELTS test format

You can choose to take your IELTS Academic or General Training test on paper or computer at an official test centre. You may also be able to take IELTS Online, depending on where you live. IELTS assesses the four key skills outlined below:

Listening This section assesses how well you understand ideas, recognise opinions and follow the development of an argument.
Reading This section assesses how well you read for general sense, main ideas and details, and whether you understand the author's inferences and opinions.
Writing This section evaluates how well and how accurately you organise your ideas and write a response, along with your ability to use wide-ranging vocabulary and grammar.
Speaking This section assesses how well you can communicate opinions and information on everyday topics and common experiences, as well as how you express and justify your opinions.

Key facts about IELTS Academic and General Training:

  • Test length: 2 hours and 45 minutes long.
  • Test format: 4 sections, including Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.
  • The Listening, Reading, and Writing sections take place on the same day with no breaks in between. 
  • The Speaking section may be scheduled on the same day or up to 7 days before or after the other sections.

Why should you choose IELTS?

IELTS focuses on real-world communication skills and offers a number of important benefits: 

Access new opportunities

IELTS is trusted by 12,000 organisations in over 140 countries around the world, meaning you can study abroad at the institutions of your choice.

Learn about the organisations that recognise IELTS

Advance your career

Prove your English proficiency to future employers with secure and easy-to-understand results.

Learn about the IELTS Test Report Form

Work internationally

The Listening section of IELTS includes a range of accents and the Speaking section examines the English used by people from different parts of the world. 

Learn more about the IELTS test format

Settle in an English-speaking country

IELTS helps you demonstrate to immigration authorities that your level of English meets the required standards.

Choose the test that suits you

Take the test on paper, on computer or online from the comfort of your home. With many testing dates available around the world, IELTS fits most schedules. 

Be confident in your results

IELTS is a fair and accurate test. Examiners are qualified and experienced English language specialists who focus on language skills and practical communication ability. 

IELTS is an accessible test

Modified versions of the test are provided to those who have special requirements on test day. These factors ensure fair testing for all, regardless of nationality, cultural background, gender or special needs.

Learn more about IELTS special arrangements. 

How does IELTS help with visa requirements?

Immigration authorities in many English-speaking countries ask for proof of English language proficiency as a condition for being granted a visa. IELTS provides this proof. 

  1. After completing an IELTS test, you will receive an official Test Report Form (TRF) that contains your IELTS score
  2. Your TRF is valid for two years and should be submitted to visa authorities to prove your English proficiency.
  3. Each visa has its own IELTS score requirements. It’s important that you confirm what score you need to secure your visa.

Visa requirements by country

The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, the United States, and New Zealand have the following IELTS requirements:

The United Kingdom

If you want to move to the United Kingdom, the IELTS for UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has been approved for visa applications to the UK. You can take a UKVI test in Academic or General Training.

IELTS UKVI assessments must be taken at a testing centre that has been approved by the UK government. 

The IELTS Life Skills test is available for those looking to secure a family visa, extension to family, spouse or partner visa, or a visa granting indefinite leave to remain or citizenship. 

Learn more about IELTS for UK visas and immigration.

Canada

IELTS is accepted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) as proof of English language proficiency. 

The Express Entry system is the main pathway for skilled immigration and requires English or French language proficiency: If you are applying for a study permit, work visa, professional registration or permanent residence in Canada, you will probably be required to present your test result as part of your application.

Australia

For employers and the Australian immigration authority, IELTS is a preferred English language test. Student, immigration, and general skilled migration visas all require proof of English language proficiency. 

The United States of America

Many visa categories in the USA require proof of English language ability. For instance, English proficiency is a requirement for a student visa. 

Unlike countries like the UK or Australia, you do not need proof of English for some work visas – including H-1B and L1 visas. However, your IELTS score can improve the chances of your application being successful. 

New Zealand

Proof of English ability is required for work, skilled migrant, and student visas. IELTS is recognised and respected throughout New Zealand and is often the preferred test of universities and employers. 

How does IELTS compare to other popular tests? 

Comparing different test scores can be difficult, but IELTS is widely recognised as setting the standard for English language testing. To understand the advantages the test offers, let’s compare IELTS with other popular assessments.

IELTS vs. TOEFL

IELTS is widely recognised globally and not confined to UK English, making it a versatile choice for test-takers.

IELTS also provides the flexibility of taking the test on paper or on computer, catering to individual preferences.

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) tests your ability to use North American English and is primarily computer-based.
Both tests aim to assess English language proficiency accurately and fairly, without one being inherently harder than the other.
IELTS vs. PTE
IELTS Academic assesses your English skills for academic environments, while IELTS General Training also tests for practical and everyday language.  PTE (Pearson Test of English) has a strong focus on academic English. 
Both tests are the same level of difficulty. PTE only provides computer-based testing. IELTS lets you choose between doing the test on paper or on computer.
IELTS vs. C1 Advanced
IELTS tests all key English skills and has wider recognition, with more test availability throughout the year. C1 Advanced is a Cambridge exam that tests all key English skills. 
Both are globally accepted.
IELTS vs. DET
IELTS testing is more comprehensive and remains the gold standard for institutions and immigration departments.  DET (Duolingo English Test) is a newly established test that provides online, on-demand testing. 

Who develops and runs IELTS?

IELTS is run by some of the most trusted organisations in English Education:

  • The British Council – The UK's international organisation for educational opportunity. 
  • IDP IELTS – A leading educational organisation with roots in Australia. 
  • Cambridge English – A part of the University of Cambridge that specialises in assessing English language proficiency. 

As partners, we engage in regular research and work with organisations on an ongoing basis to ensure that all IELTS test takers are setting themselves up for success by choosing us. 

Why choose the British Council for your IELTS test?

From booking to preparing for your test, the British Council offers a smooth process that helps you achieve the score you need. Here’s why millions of people like you have chosen to take their test with the British Council: 

Unmatched preparation support

We provide more preparation than any other test provider through our IELTS Ready offer. Plus, when you book with us, you unlock IELTS Ready Premium, which includes a personalised study plan and over 40 practice tests. Make sure you book early to make the most of these resources.

Trusted, transparent and flexible

IELTS is jointly run by the British Council and our services are trusted by over 12,000 organisations worldwide. Depending on your location, you can choose between IELTS on paper or IELTS on computer. We also offer the option to take the new IELTS Online academic test that can be taken from the comfort of your home.

Simple booking, convenient dates and locations for your test

From booking your test to receiving your results, we have systems in place to guide you every step of the way. All official British Council IELTS test centres are modern, comfortable, and conveniently located. Test dates are scheduled throughout the year, letting you pick the date that best suits your calendar. 

Stress-free experience with a professional and friendly staff

From the moment you book your test to the day you get your results, we ensure a seamless, supportive, and transparent experience. Our classes are led by highly trained educational specialists. IELTS tests are run by experienced staff who ensure your test day runs smoothly.

One Skill Retake

When you take IELTS on computer with the British Council you also have access to the One Skill Retake option. This means you can retake a specific section of the test, rather than the entire test, saving time and money if you only want to improve your score in a single section. Find out if One Skill Retake is available in your country.

Taking the next step in your IELTS journey 

Whether you want to study abroad or improve your career, proving your English skills is one step towards achieving your goals. As the most popular English proficiency test, IELTS is here to help. 

Consider booking your test with the British Council. We offer multiple test venues and dates and all the resources and support you need to excel on the test. 

Download your Quick Guide to IELTS Success

For more information about IELTS, download our IELTS Quickstart Guide. It shares key information to help you to understand and then prepare for the test. It also includes all the insights shared here, presented in an easy-to-read format. Get your free copy by clicking the button below. 

Download the Quick Guide to IELTS Success