How many bands are required in IELTS

The IELTS test guide to prepare and register for the test

General information about the test

The abbreviation "IELTS" stands for "International English Language Testing System". Like the TOEFL, the IELTS is an internationally widely used and standardized test to assess the participant's language skills in the English language according to uniform criteria. The IELTS test was developed in 1989 and has since been jointly supported by the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (a non-profit organization belonging to the University of Cambridge in Great Britain), the British Council and IDP Education Pty Ltd. managed and offered.

The IELTS is less widespread in higher education than the TOEFL test, but is recognized by many different institutions around the world, mostly as an alternative to the TOEFL. It currently costs 210 euros in Germany (as of 2013) and is very widespread in Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. More than 3,000 institutions in the US also recognize the test. In 2009 1.4 million test participants took the IELTS in 130 countries around the world, in 2011 there were already 1.7 test participants. Around 51% of all test participants take the test for the purpose of registering at a foreign university. The IELTS can currently be taken in over 500 test centers in 121 countries. The IELTS test exists in two different versions, the "Academic Version" and the "General Training Version".

The "Academic Version" is the test that pupils and students regularly have to take for the purpose of enrolling at a university. In addition, the test is also taken by working people such as medical professionals who want to practice in an English-speaking country.

The "General Training Version" of the test, on the other hand, is aimed at all people who need proof of language proficiency for non-academic purposes, for example to prove language skills in the course of immigration or for the purpose of professional language training.

As with the TOEFL test, the test result is only valid for a maximum of two years and then expires. In theory, old test results can still be used, but the provider of the IELTS refers all institutions that accept the IELTS to the fact that test results that are older than two years should not be allowed. The only exception is if the test participant can credibly prove that he was able to maintain his language skills at the last proven level (e.g. through several years of subsequent work abroad).

Structure of the test and assessment key

The IELTS test examines the skills of a test participant in the four sections “Listening”, “Reading”, “Writing” and “Speaking” and therefore tests the same four basic competencies as the TOEFL test. The listening, reading and writing sections are tested in one go and the test takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes.

The speaking module is carried out later in a separate interview room and it is even possible that the speaking part of the test takes place on a separate day before or after the main test date. In addition to the test time mentioned above, another 11 to 14 minutes are provided for the “Speaking” section, depending on how long the conversations with the examiner last (see below for details).

The above-mentioned evaluation principle for bands 1 to 9 is applied to each sub-area of ​​the test and finally merged into an overall evaluation. Regardless of this, the test report also shows all individual scores of the test in addition to the overall score. The listening and speaking modules of the IELTS are always the same, regardless of whether the test participant is participating in the "Academic Version" or the "General Training Version". On the other hand, the reading and writing modules differ depending on the type of test. The IELTS test also uses different linguistic accents and different writing styles within its test in order to ensure that a distortion of the test result between test participants with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds is largely prevented.

* CEFRL: Common European Framework of Reference for Languages,
Classification according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

Listening [40 minutes]

The listening comprehension section consists of four consecutive sections, the difficulty of which increases. Each section is either a monologue or a dialogue, each beginning with a brief introduction and explaining to the test participant which speakers they are listening to and which situation they are in. In principle, each section can only be listened to once. After the introduction and, in the case of the first three sections, during a short break in the middle, the test participants can look at the questions about the text they have heard. After the listening passages, the test participants have 10 minutes to fill out the answer sheet and write down their answers to the respective questions, so that the actual test part only lasts 30 minutes and the test participants only have to write their answers and notes on the last 10 minutes Transfer answer sheet.

Reading [60 minutes]

In the reading section of the “Academic Version”, the test participants each receive three complete and relatively demanding texts, which are followed by between 13 and 14 questions. All three text sections together result in a total of 40 questions that the participant has to answer. The texts are very different, they range from descriptive and fact-based texts to very dissolute and analytically conclusive texts. The texts can also contain non-verbal material such as illustrations and diagrams or other images. All texts are fundamentally absolutely authentic, i.e. they are not specially designed for the IELTS but are taken from real existing books, journals or issues of magazines.

The "General Training Version" differs slightly from this format, which also consists of three sections, but has smaller texts and can contain up to a maximum of five texts.

Writing [60 minutes]

The writing section of the “Academic Version” includes two different tasks: In the first section, the participant receives documents with graphics, diagrams or other images and process descriptions. He must describe these in the context of a text to be written by emphasizing the essential statements. It is expected that the test participant can write at least 150 words, better more. Finally, in the second section, the discussion and analysis of an argument is required in the form of an essay and test participants should come up with at least 250 words. In the “General Training Version”, on the other hand, the test participants first write a letter or explain a situation and then write an essay afterwards.

Speaking [11-14 minutes]

The “Speaking” section differs in particular from the format that many are familiar with from the TOEFL test. While in the TOEFL test participants speak answers to certain questions into a microphone on the computer, in the IETLS language proficiency is determined by three personal interviews with an examiner in the test center. In the first conversation, a classic interview is carried out, the examiner interviews the test participant on a variety of different topics such as his personal interests, hobbies, reasons why he takes part in the test as well as everyday topics such as clothing, the Internet, family, social issues, politics and the like . The interviews are always kept general, so that no test participant needs specific knowledge in any field. In the second section that follows, the test participant is given a specific topic and given a minute to think about the topic, after which he has to speak freely about the respective topic. The third test section finally includes a discussion with the examiner on the lecture topic, in which the examiner asks several questions on the topic that the test participant has to answer. In contrast to the first interview, the questions and facts are more abstract, making the last interview a little more difficult than the first.

As with the TOEFL test, you cannot fail the IELTS and there is no minimum number of points for the test itself. The number of points the applicant actually needs in order to achieve the desired result (admission to a certain university, etc.) is determined by the respective universities or other institutions for which the test participant needs the result.

All test participants of the IELTS receive a report after their test, which shows their test performance on a scale from 1.0 to 9.0. The scores from 1 to 9 are also called "Volume 1" to "Volume 9", with an intermediate gradation between the bands (e.g. 6.5). Volume 1 stands for "Non User", ie people without any knowledge of the language, while Volume 9 stands for "Expert User" and describes a test result with which the person concerned masters English as a foreign language fluently and fluently even in linguistically challenging situations and thus basically one Native speaker is comparable. There is a separate “Band 0” rating for everyone who did not take the test.

Test result required for admission to a university

Most universities in the world require their applicants to have a test result that ranges between bands 5.5 and 8. Universities in English-speaking countries tend to require a higher test result than other universities. The highest IELTS band in the US is currently required with a required level of 8.5 from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. In the case of economics courses, including those at renowned graduate or business schools, the values ​​are always lower. Even the best universities in the world, such as the LSE, Cambridge or Oxford, usually require a score of 7.0 or 7.5. At many other universities, an IELTS band of 6.5 is already sufficient.

The corresponding level is often easily feasible with a little preparation, similar to a good result in the TOEFL, the average of all test participants in the IELTS from Germany in 2011 was a value of 6.8, although interestingly the average value of all test participants who received German as Speaking mother tongue, even at 7.2. The classification basically corresponds to the B2 level in the European framework for language competence and should be achieved quite easily by high school graduates and students.

Instructions for preparing for the test

Exactly the same applies to the IELTS as to the TOEFL: With good language skills from school and studies, you can generally get through the test well. Rather, the problem lies in the test structure, which is unknown to many if you have never written the IELTS or a comparable test. Therefore, even with very good knowledge of English, a few hours of practice are essential in order to achieve a really very good result. As with the TOEFL, two things must therefore be observed: The test must be prepared intensively with specialist literature and you should take sufficient time for this. Like the TOEFL, the IELTS is internationally standardized and clearly structured. The problem is that you can only crack the typical multiple-choice strategy of the test with specific preparation. Anyone who associates multiple choice with "It's easy" should be pointed out directly that the testers have almost perfected this procedure in order to confuse test participants or lure them on the wrong track, while the time pressure in the test is very high.

To prepare for the IELTS, candidates should choose the following strategy: As long as the test is still a long way off in the calendar, i.e. several months, it is advisable to practice English language skills in order to constantly confront the language in everyday life. Reading English books and news as well as watching English-language TV programs or films are great options here. The latter in particular should not be underestimated. As an integrated test, the IELTS tests the test participant's ability to listen to and understand an English-speaking speaker at several points in the test. A well-developed listening comprehension is one of the most important foundations for successfully mastering the test. This is all the more true, as the listening comprehension becomes very important again if the test participant conducts the interviews in the last section together with the examiner and has to listen to him as well as speak himself. Anyone who has the opportunity to do so (friends, acquaintances, teachers, etc.) should definitely take the opportunity to try out some real interviews before the test and try to speak to others in English.

As soon as the test gets closer and there are only a few weeks left, test takers should move on to the technical aspects of exam preparation. In doing so, candidates should avoid clumsily cramming tons of vocabulary that they most likely won't need, but focus on the structure of the test and learn to understand what the test developers expect from successful test takers.

There are a number of books that test takers should look at, including the IELTS Testbuilder by Sam McCarter and Judith Ash (published in Germany by Hueber Verlag). The IELTS Testbuilder provides four complete original tests, additional practice material and two CDs with which the listening section can be trained. The book is specifically tailored to the target group who want to end up in Volume 7 or higher in the test and is particularly convincing with regard to the methodical preparation for the test.

Aside from the preparation material from private providers, there are of course also exam and preparation materials from the official test provider themselves. On the British Council Germany page, under the menu item "IELTS Preparation", there is an overview of additional exam material with which the test can be prepared from home can. The relevant teaching material can then be ordered online directly from the British Council website.

Anyone who has never been to an English-speaking country for a long time and has never taken a test like the IELTS should also see whether they can take two or three days off before the test so that they can go through everything again after the first preparations.

Registration for the test and the course of the exam

The IELTS test is offered in more than 500 test centers in over 121 different countries around the world. Usually around 48 different test dates are available per year, with each test center offering up to four test dates per month. Thus, the IELTS is offered practically every week and test dates can be arranged flexibly and at the right time for most candidates. According to the current status, IELTS test participants can take the test as often as they want and at any short notice. An earlier restriction that the test may not be taken twice within 90 days has now been suspended.

You can register for the IELTS test in Germany via the British Council Germany on the website There, new users of the site can register for the first time, search for a test center in their area and finally register for the test. Test centers that offer the IELTS in Germany can be found in Aachen, Berlin, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Dortmund, Frankfurt am Main, Freiburg im Breisgau, Hamburg, Hanover, Cologne, Leipzig, Mannheim, Munich and Stuttgart. The respective test dates can be viewed online on the British Council website. After the registration process for the test has been completed online, the test participant receives further information by e-mail, which he must then read and sign. When the test is registered, the test participant then has to pay the test fee of 210 euros. The proof of payment and the signed documents will then be sent by post to the administrative address responsible for Germany (the address is mentioned in the e-mail). In addition, test participants must also enclose a current passport photo, not older than 6 months, as well as a copy of their identity card or passport with their letter. All documents must be received within 5 days, i.e. timely dispatch is important, because if the requested documents are not available after 5 days, the registration for the IELTS test will be canceled again.

Finally, for the exam, test participants are only allowed to bring pencils, erasers and the identity card or passport that was given when registering to the test center. All other personal items such as cell phones and the like must remain outside and can be deposited at the test center.It is important to ensure that all electronic devices are completely switched off. After a brief introduction by the staff, the test finally begins. Each test participant begins with the listening section, followed by the reading and writing sections. The speaking section follows later or can even take place on another day shortly before or shortly after the main test date.

After the exam, participants receive their exam results 13 days after the test date and can view them online. The test report is also sent out by post and must be kept safe afterwards; test participants only receive a copy and cannot request any further copies. However, upon request, the IELTS provider will send copies of the test report to any institution or university to which the test participant applies.