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IELTS Exam: Meaning, How To Prepare, Test Types, Pass Mark & Questions Asked

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is a standardized test that measures the proficiency of non-native English speakers in the English language. It is accepted as proof of English language proficiency by many universities, immigration authorities, and professional organizations around the world.



The test assesses four language skills: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. The test is designed to evaluate the candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in English and is divided into two formats: Academic and General Training.

The Academic format is intended for Nigerians and others nationals who want to pursue higher education or professional registration in an English-speaking environment. The General Training format is suitable for those who are seeking employment, training, or migration to an English-speaking country.

IELTS Exam: Meaning, How To Prepare, Test Types, Pass Mark & Questions Asked 1

The test is scored on a nine-band scale, with each band representing a level of competence in the English language. The scores are valid for two years, and the test is conducted by various organizations around the world.

Preparing for the test involves improving your language skills through reading, writing, listening, and speaking practice. There are also many online and offline resources available, including study materials, practice tests, and coaching classes.

Types of Tests in IELTS

Under the IELTS, there are two main tests:

  1. IELTS Academic
  2. IELTS General Training

1. IELTS Academic:

IELTS Academic is a test designed for individuals who wish to study at universities and other higher education institutions in English-speaking countries. The test assesses your English language proficiency in an academic context and consists of four sections:

  1. Listening: This section consists of four recordings of native English speakers, and you will have to answer 40 questions in 30 minutes based on what you hear.
  2. Reading: This section consists of three long passages with a total of 40 questions, and you will have 60 minutes to complete it.
  3. Writing: This section consists of two tasks. In Task 1, you will have to describe, summarize or explain the information presented in a chart, graph, diagram or table in at least 150 words. In Task 2, you will have to write an essay in response to a given prompt in at least 250 words. You will have 60 minutes to complete both tasks.
  4. Speaking: This section consists of a face-to-face interview with an examiner. It will be divided into three parts. In Part 1, you will have to answer general questions about yourself and your life. In Part 2, you will be given a topic to speak about for two minutes. In Part 3, you will have a discussion with the examiner based on the topic in Part 2.

The test assesses your English language proficiency in an academic context and consists of four sections:

  • Listening: 40 questions, 30 minutes
  • Reading: 40 questions, 60 minutes
  • Writing: 2 tasks, 60 minutes
  • Speaking: 11-14 minutes

2. IELTS General Training:

This test designed for individuals who are going to English-speaking countries for work, training, or migration. The test assesses your English language proficiency in general situations and consists of four sections:

  1. Listening: This section consists of four recordings of native English speakers, and you will have to answer 40 questions in 30 minutes based on what you hear.
  2. Reading: This section consists of three sections, and you will have 60 minutes to complete it. The first section contains texts related to social contexts, the second section contains texts related to work contexts, and the third section contains texts related to general topics of interest.
  3. Writing: This section consists of two tasks. In Task 1, you will have to write a letter in response to a given prompt in at least 150 words. In Task 2, you will have to write an essay in response to a given prompt in at least 250 words. You will have 60 minutes to complete both tasks.
  4. Speaking: This section consists of a face-to-face interview with an examiner. It will be divided into three parts. In Part 1, you will have to answer general questions about yourself and your life. In Part 2, you will be given a topic to speak about for two minutes. In Part 3, you will have a discussion with the examiner based on the topic in Part 2.
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The test assesses your English language proficiency in general situations and consists of four sections:

  • Listening: 40 questions, 30 minutes
  • Reading: 40 questions, 60 minutes
  • Writing: 2 tasks, 60 minutes
  • Speaking: 11-14 minutes

Both the IELTS academics and general training tests are scored on a nine-band scale, with 9 being the highest possible score. The scores are valid for two years.

What is the Pass Mark for IELTS?

There is no pass or fail mark for IELTS. Instead, the test provides a score on a nine-band scale, with each band representing a level of English language proficiency. The band scale ranges from 1 (Non-User) to 9 (Expert User).

The score that you need to achieve in order to meet the English language requirements of a particular organization or institution varies depending on their specific requirements. Different institutions and organizations have different score requirements, and it is important to check their requirements before taking the test.

For example, some universities may require an overall band score of 6.5 or 7.0 for admission, while immigration authorities may require a higher score for visa applications. Therefore, it is important to research the score requirements of the institution or organization you are applying to and aim to achieve the required score.

How To Prepare for IELTS

Preparing for the IELTS can be a challenging task, but with the right approach and study materials, it can also be an achievable goal. Here are some tips for preparing for the IELTS:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the test format: It is important to know what to expect on the test day. Get familiarized with the test format, time limits, and scoring system. You can do this by reading through the IELTS handbook, taking practice tests, or attending preparatory classes.
  2. Improve your English language skills: The IELTS test assesses your English language skills, so it is important to improve your skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Read English texts, practice writing essays, listen to English podcasts, and practice speaking with native speakers.
  3. Practice with sample tests: Take practice tests to get a feel of the test format and time limits. This will also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and focus your preparation on areas that need improvement. The official IELTS website provides free sample tests that you can use for practice.
  4. Get feedback from a teacher or tutor: Consider enrolling in a preparation course or hiring a tutor to help you prepare for the test. A teacher or tutor can provide feedback on your speaking and writing skills, and help you improve your language skills and test-taking strategies.
  5. Manage your time effectively: Time management is key to doing well on the IELTS. Practice completing the test sections within the allotted time limits, and develop a time-management strategy that works for you.
  6. Stay motivated and confident: Preparing for the IELTS can be a long and challenging process, but staying motivated and confident can help you stay focused and achieve your goals. Set achievable goals, celebrate your successes, and stay positive throughout the process.
  7. Pay the Exam Fee: This is the final stage. Upon payment of the IELTS exam fee vis the British council website, you select a date and venue. When this is done, you are simply all set.
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How To Pass IELTS Exam in One Attempt

There is no guaranteed way to pass the IELTS exam in one attempt, however, there are several tips that can help you increase your chances of achieving a good score:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the test format: Understand the test format, time limits, and scoring system. This will help you feel more confident and comfortable on test day.
  2. Improve your language skills: Work on improving your English language skills in all areas, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Read widely, listen to English media, practice speaking with native speakers, and write regularly to improve your writing skills.
  3. Take practice tests: Take practice tests to get a feel of the test format and time limits. This will also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and focus your preparation on areas that need improvement.
  4. Develop a study plan: Develop a study plan that is tailored to your specific needs and goals. Create a schedule that includes regular study sessions and practice tests.
  5. Get feedback from a teacher or tutor: Consider enrolling in a preparation course or hiring a tutor to help you prepare for the test. A teacher or tutor can provide feedback on your speaking and writing skills, and help you improve your language skills and test-taking strategies.
  6. Manage your time effectively: Time management is key to doing well on the IELTS. Practice completing the test sections within the allotted time limits, and develop a time-management strategy that works for you.
  7. Stay motivated and confident: Preparing for the IELTS can be a long and challenging process, but staying motivated and confident can help you stay focused and achieve your goals. Set achievable goals, celebrate your successes, and stay positive throughout the process. Remember, success on the IELTS depends on a combination of language skills, test-taking strategies, and preparation.

100 Common Questions Asked in IELTS Exam:

There are many common questions that can be asked in the IELTS exam, but here are some examples of frequently asked questions across the different sections of the test:

Listening Section:

  • What is the speaker’s opinion on…?
  • What is the main idea of the recording?
  • What is the speaker trying to achieve in the recording?
  • What is the speaker’s attitude towards…?

Reading Section:

  • What is the main idea of the passage?
  • What is the author’s point of view on…?
  • What is the author’s purpose in writing this passage?
  • What is the meaning of the word…?
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Writing Section:

  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of…
  • To what extent do you agree or disagree with the statement…?
  • Describe the chart/graph/table/pie chart.
  • What are the causes/effects of…?

Speaking Section:

  • Can you tell me about your hometown?
  • What is your favorite hobby and why?
  • What do you like about your job/studies?
  • Do you prefer living in the city or in the countryside?

General Questions:

  • Can you tell me about your family?
  • What do you like to do in your free time?
  • Have you ever traveled to another country?
  • What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
  • What do you think are the benefits of learning a second language?
  • What is your opinion on social media?
  • What do you think are the advantages of studying abroad?
  • Can you describe a memorable event in your life?
  • What kind of books do you like to read?
  • Do you think it is important to learn about other cultures?
  • What are some of the environmental issues facing the world today?
  • Can you describe a typical day in your life?
  • What is your opinion on the use of technology in education?
  • How do you stay fit and healthy?
  • What do you think are the advantages of living in a multicultural society?
  • Can you tell me about a famous person you admire?
  • What do you think are the benefits of exercise?
  • What is your opinion on the role of the media in society?
  • Can you describe a time when you faced a challenge?
  • Do you think it is important to have hobbies and interests?
  • Can you tell me about your favorite holiday?
  • What do you think are the advantages of having a large family?
  • What is your opinion on the impact of tourism on local communities?
  • Can you describe a place you would like to visit?
  • How do you usually spend your weekends?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to solve a problem?
  • What do you think are the benefits of team sports?
  • What is your opinion on the use of public transport?
  • Can you describe a historical event you find interesting?
  • Do you think it is important to learn about history?
  • Can you tell me about your favorite food?
  • What do you think are the benefits of volunteering?
  • What is your opinion on the use of animals in medical research?
  • Can you describe a project you have worked on recently?
  • What do you think are the benefits of reading?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to work in a team?
  • What do you think are the advantages of online shopping?
  • What is your opinion on the use of renewable energy?
  • Can you describe a piece of art you find interesting?
  • How do you usually celebrate important events?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision?

I hope this helps? Please share your opinion as regards the above via the comment section below.