Which IELTS Should I Take?

For those who want to demonstrate their English skills, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is one of the most widely recognised systems worldwide. Businesses, universities, professional organisations, and government agencies all accept the qualification as proof of English proficiency. But what is the IELTS? And why is it so useful? 

Here, we explain the purpose of the IELTS, look at who’s eligible to take the qualification, explore the four sections, and examine the test and grading formats. We’ll also outline some of the ways in which you can prepare for the IELTS exam. 

Wha is IELTS? 

The International English Language Testing System, known commonly as IELTS, is a standardised English language proficiency test. It’s an international framework aimed at non-native English speakers.

Learners around the world use the IELTS when they’re applying for jobs, universities, and migration in countries where English is the main language. 

The British Council and Cambridge English Language Assessment formed the concept in the 1980s, and the qualification soon gained popularity. By 1989, the International Development Program of Australian Universities and Colleges (IDP) joined the founding organisations, and the IELTS went live. 

The test has seen changes over the years – it was revised in 1995 and then again in 2001 and 2005. Today, over 3.5 million people across more than 140 countries take the IELTS each year. 

IELTS tests more than just a passive knowledge of English. The framework is designed to allow learners to show they can use English in a range of real-life situations, whether in higher education, employment, or everyday life. 

IELTS has two types: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Both tests assess your English language skills in listening, reading, writing and speaking.

IELTS Academic

The IELTS Academic test is suitable for those wanting to study in an English-speaking environment or university (higher education). You can also take IELTS Academic for professional registration purposes.

The test measures if you are ready to begin studying in English. It features vocabulary that is familiar within an academic setting.

You can choose whether to take IELTS Academic on paper, on computer or online at home or other suitable location.

Take this test if you want to: 

  • study at an undergraduate level or postgraduate level anywhere in the world
  • apply for Student Route visa (Tier 4) at a university that is a Student route (Tier 4) Sponsor in the UK
  • work in an English-speaking country for a professional organisation.

IELTS General Training

The IELTS General Training test is suitable for those applying to study below degree level. This includes an English-speaking school or college. It can also be taken for work experience or other employment training.

IELTS General Training is also required for migration to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The test features everyday English language skills that you will need in social and workplace environments.

IELTS General Training is available to take on paper and on computer only.

If you plan to study in higher education or seek professional registration, you can take the IELTS Academic test. Or if you want to study in secondary education, work or migrate to an English-speaking country, the IELTS General Training test might be right for you.

Where you want to study, work or migrate to will affect which test you need to take. If you want to go to the United Kingdom, you will need to specifically take the IELTS for the UKVI test. This can either be the IELTS Academic for UKVI test, IELTS General Training for UKVI test, or the IELTS Life Skills A1, A2 or B1 test.

Make sure you visit the relevant government or institutional websites to confirm which test you need to take, as government agencies, institutions and other recognising organisations set their own IELTS entry requirements.