Graduate Applications: IELTS

Hi everyone,

After a long break, we are back again, as Sayak Banerjee helps all of us by sharing his experience of the IELTS exam and preparation tips. He has scored above cut off for all the major grad schools. We feel many of us may find a lot of help from his effort. If interested,  read on below...

What is IELTS ?

The International English Language Testing System or IELTS is an international standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. It is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English.
IELTS is one of the major English-language tests in the world, others being the TOEFL, TOEIC, etc.
IELTS is accepted by most Australian, British, Canadian, Irish and New Zealand academic institutions, by over 3,000 academic institutions in the United States, and by various professional organizations across the world.


IELTS is the world's biggest English language test with test centres in the most countries. This means it is a test which accepts international English, not only British English.
For higher studies in US and Canada it is a good alternative for TOEFL. Not only these two countries, IELTS brings up the opportunities of higher study in UK and other countries where some of the universities only consider the IELTS score as a requirement.
In this regard, here is a comparison in a nutshell between the two tests :

Total Test Time
3 hours and 30 minutes
2 hours and 45 minutes
Score Range
Sections (in order)
Number of Institutes which accepts these scores
Over 9000
Over 9000

When Should I take the Exam ?

The answer will be same as [When Should I Give TOEFL]

Exam Structure

There are 4 parts to the IELTS test :
  • IELTS Speaking : a face-to-face informal test with an examiner which lasts between 11 to 15 mins and consists of 3 parts. All IELTS candidates take the same test. 
                Part 0 - Greetings and ID check. Just after you have taken your seat in front of the                 examiner, he/she will greet you and ask for your passport for verification. 
                Part 1 - General Questions ( 4 -5 mins ). In this part the examiner will ask you some general questions about yourself and your study area/job and some general topics.
               Part 2 - The examiner will provide you a question and 1 minute time for prepare. You have to construct your answer and talk for 1-2 mins.
                Part 3 - (4-5mins) In this part a discussion will be held between you two based on the topic from part 2. Questions based on other related topics can also be asked.

  • IELTS Listening : a 30 minute audio recording with 40 questions. 
  • IELTS Reading : 3 reading passages with 40 questions which lasts for 1 hour. 
  • IELTS Writing : this part is divided into task 1 and task 2. Task 1 Academic is a short report of chart, graph,map, table etc. Task 2 Academic is a formal essay. The whole thing lasts for 1 hour in total.


This is the main part of this post. It is very very important that how you can manage your busy schedule to practice for this test and score maybe a good 6.5 score. Experience says, even if you have 1 month in your hand, it is absolutely fine and you can be well prepared before your exam day. 
  • Listening - 
This is the most scoring part of the entire test. Start listening to some english broadcasts in the daily basis, practice watching movies without subtitles. This will help you to build up a sense about the different accents and pronunciations. 
Visit . Start practicing. After you've finished it, visit for a bit advanced listening. Keep in mind that, in the exam day the pace of the narrator may vary from what you've practiced with. So be prepared accordingly. Listen to the BBC news or Britain's Got Talent show regularly. After completing these practice sets you can visit Youtube for more listening tests but its not recommended since the answers provided there are often wrong.

  • Reading -
Start reading English newspaper daily. Increase your pace of reading day by day, look at the headings, make your own heading after reading a report. Visit and practice. After finishing, visit for more practice and tips. Note that, there can be various types of questions in this part, so one needs to practice all kinds of questions. It is not good to get a new type of question in the exam hall !!
  • Writing - 
This can be a little tricky cause practicing this on your own will do no good. You need to have someone to check your writings. 
 Writing part is divided into two. In the first part, academic people need to describe a graph, map, table etc. and for general people it is writing a letter. To describe a graph, all you need is some trick and good vocabulary. You can visit to get some idea about it and to strenthen your vocabulary. You are recommended to finish it within 20 mins. Visit and for some extra tips and topics.
 Writing part 2 is an essay writing which is recommended to finish within 40 mins. You can visit for tips and topics. The more you practice, the more will be your time management.
Note that, for Computer Based IELTS, your word counts are given in the bottom of the page whereas, in the Paper Based Exam, you have to count on your own. So be careful.
  • Speaking -
This can be hard for some people since we in general are not that much used to in speaking in English spontaneously. I will recommend to have a partner with whom you can practice talking at least once a day.  Watch and and start preparing accordingly. After a few days maybe, will help you a bit and then straight go to and for more practice. Work on your body language and try to speak normally. It's not a big deal. If you have extra time, visit and practice.

Registration Process and Prep Materials :

You can register though IDP or British Council (BC) both. As per my experience, just after one enrolls for the test, BC provides study materials; for Paper based it will come via post and for Computer Based, it will be immediately available in your account. Though all of the aforementioned links are more than enough for preparation, you should also practice the official materials and keep an eye on your score. 

Final Tips :

Generally 6.5 or 7 is the cutoff score for any university but while practicing, you should add 1 with your targeted band score and prepare accordingly. 
On your test day, wear comfortable dress, look good, smart and give your exam without stress. The test results are given in your account after 4-5 days from your test day. 

So, That is all for today. We will be coming back from time to time with more helpful and interesting posts. Please, let us know your thoughts, suggestions and any questions in the comments below. Have a nice day. See you soon :-)


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