IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish, New Zealand and South African academic institutions, over 3,000 academic institutions in the United States, and various professional organisations.
No minimum score is required to pass the test. An IELTS result or Test Report Form is issued to all candidates with a score from 1 (no knowledge) to 9 (expert user) and each institution sets a different threshold.
All candidates must complete four Modules – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking – to obtain a band score, which is shown on the IELTS Test Report Form (TRF).
The listening module comprises four sections. Each section begins with a short introduction telling the candidates about the situation and the speakers. Then they have some time to look through the questions. The first three sections have a break in the middle allowing candidates to look at the remaining questions. Each section is heard only once.
In the academic module the reading test comprises three sections, with 3 texts normally followed by 13 or 14 questions for a total of 40 questions overall. The General test also has 3 sections. However the texts are shorter, so there can be up to 5 texts to read.
In the Academic module, there are two tasks: in Task 1 candidates describe a diagram, graph, process or chart, and in Task 2 they respond to an argument. In the General Training module, there are also two tasks: in Task 1 candidates write a letter or explain a situation, and in Task 2 they write an essay.
The speaking test contains three sections. The first section takes the form of an interview during which candidates may be asked about their hobbies, interests, reasons for taking IELTS exam as well as other general topics such as clothing, free time, computers and the internet or family. In the second section candidates are given a topic card and then have one minute to prepare after which they must speak about the given topic. The third section involves a discussion between the examiner and the candidate, generally on questions relating to the theme which they have already spoken about in part 2. This last section is more abstract, and is usually considered the most difficult.
The total test duration is around 2 hours and 45 minutes for Listening, Reading and Writing modules. Listening: 40 minutes, 30 minutes for which a recording is played centrally and additional 10 minutes for transferring answers onto the OMR answer sheet.