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What is IELTS? 



The international English language testing system (IELTS)

is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration, with over 2 million tests taken in the last year. IELTS assesses all of your English skills — reading, writing, listening and speaking, and is designed to reflect how you will use English at study, at work, and at play, in your new life abroad.


The IELTS test is developed by some of the world’s leading experts in language assessment. It has an excellent international reputation, and is accepted by over 9,000 organisations worldwide, including schools, universities, employers, immigration authorities and professional bodies.


IELTS is the most widely accepted English language test that uses a one-on-one speaking test to assess your English communication skills. This means that you are assessed by having a real-life conversation with a real person. This is the most effective and natural way of testing your English conversation skills.


You can take IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training – depending on the organisation you are applying to and your plans for the future.

Whatever your reason for taking IELTS, make the most of your language skills.





  Which version of IELTS is right for you?


Check with the organisations you wish to apply to before you book your test!


There are two versions of IELTS to choose from:


IELTS Academic

IELTS General Training


Please note that if you are taking IELTS for UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) purposes then additional options (and rules) are applicable. Visitwhat is IELTS for UKVI for relevant information.

Make sure you know which one you need before you book your test.



What do you want to do?

The version you need

I want to:

  • study at university at undergraduate or postgraduate level; or

  • join a professional organisation in an English-speaking country


You should take IELTS Academic

I want to:

  • train or study at below degree level

  • work or undertake work-related training in an English-speaking country

  • emigrate to an English-speaking country


You should take IELTS General Training

Find out which test you need


Every organisation sets its own entry requirements. In some cases both versions of IELTS may be accepted.


If you are in doubt as to which version to take, you should contact the organisations directly in order to check their requirements.

Whichever test version you choose, IELTS can help you make the most of your time in your chosen country.


What is IELTS for UKVI?


'IELTS for UKVI' is a UK government approved Secure English Language Test (SELT).


This means that IELTS can be used to prove your English language abilities in support of a UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) application.


For many categories of visa, you must submit an English language qualification which is included on the UK Home Office’s list of Secure English Language Tests (SELT tests). 

The following IELTS tests are on this list and have been approved for UK Visas and Immigration purposes:





IELTS (Academic or General Training)


If you’re applying for Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas to the UK, this is the test for you.

IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training for UKVI are designed to meet certain administrative requirements that are specified by the UK Home Office.

The actual test taken is the same as IELTS (for all other purposes), same content, examiners, format, level of difficulty, scoring and so on. 

The difference is in the customer journey on the test day. Test Report Forms will be slightly different, to show that you have taken the test at an IELTS UK visa session. 



IELTS Life Skills


If you’re applying for a ‘family of a settled person’ visa, for indefinite leave to remain or citizenship, IELTS Life Skills is the test for you.  

IELTS Life Skills is a new test, approved by UKVI as a Secure English Language Test (SELT).

It’s for people who need to show they have speaking and listening skills at Level A1 or B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.



     Prepare for IELTS Life Skills



For the best preparation, we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the format of the IELTS Life Skills test and complete a practice test. Free practise materials are available below.



At what level is IELTS Life Skills?


IELTS Life Skills is available at A1 and B1 levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This is an international standard used around the world to describe learners’ language skills.

Test format



What happens during the test?


There are two main parts to IELTS Life Skills.

  • In the first part, you are expected to ask and answer questions on familiar topics. 

  • The second part is a combined listening and speaking task.

  • At level A and level B, you will listen to a task played on a CD. Completing the task allows you to show your ability to listen for both the general meaning and detail.

  • You will say your answers, although you can makes notes on paper while you listen to the CD.

  • There will then be a discussion on a theme related to what you have listened to on the CD. 

  • Additionally at B1 level, there is also a task where you plan an activity with the other candidate.




How long is the test?


For IELTS Life Skills you only need to attend one short session to complete the test. The times allowed for each level are:


  • IELTS Life Skills - A1 Speaking and Listening 16–18 minutes

  • IELTS Life Skills - B1 Speaking and Listening 22 minutes.




How will I be assessed in the test?


You will be assessed on your ability in four key areas:

  • obtaining information

  • conveying information

  • speaking to communicate

  • engaging in discussion.

At times during the test, you will be allowed to take notes to prepare your answers. The examiner will not mark your notes – only your speaking and listening skills are marked during the test.



Why do I take the test with another candidate?


IELTS Life Skills tests how well you can communicate with other people in everyday English.

The best way to test these skills is to pair candidates at a similar level of ability, so you can show how well you can speak English to communicate and engage in discussion with others.

2020 How to book an IELTS for UKVI TEST Download
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