IELTS is the shortened form of International English Language Testing System, distinct from other English-language exams. But it is also a standard test of English administered by the University of Cambridge, the British Council and IDP Education in Australia.
The Cambridge program is called English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). As with many other educational testing programs, ESOL’s International English Language Testing System is a standardized test that determines if an individual is proficient in the language.
The British Council is considered the UK organization for worldwide “educational opportunity and cultural relations” with operations in 109 countries worldwide. IDP/IELTS Australia performs similar services, such as “student advisory services and educational publications.”
Since it was introduced in 1989, IELTS has grown to serve more than 1 million people every year. One of the things that separates IELTS from some other English exams for non-English speakers is that this test focuses on how individuals communicate. Other exams may focus on writing proficiency or reading proficiency. However, this exam does test skills in all those areas, though it concentrates on how the test-taker uses English in real-life context.
According to official website the scoring system is a nine-band program that measures tests taken in one of 500 test locations around the globe. The test is given four times each month. The Web site states, “You can choose from two types of IELTS test: Academic or General Training, depending on whether you want to study, work or migrate. Both modules are made up of four parts – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. IELTS results are graded on the unique IELTS 9-band scale.” This scale ranges from 0 for those who did not take the test to 9, which would indicate an expert in English communication.
IELTS states that the Academic Version is for individuals who intend to go to a university or another educational institution. But the organization also serves those for whom English is not a native language, but who want to study medicine or open their offices in an English-speaking country. In contrast to that version, the General Training exam program is for people who are following an employment or immigration process.
According to information from the organization, at least 6,000 institutions and organizations use or have used IELTS. The organization notes that the exam caters to “a variety of accents and writing styles” so that test-takers don’t experience a feeling of bias toward one or a few cultures. Some IELTS scores required include 8.5 for one or two exclusive programs, to 7.5 or 8.0 for most-desired educational destinations in the U.K. Entry scores can range from 5.5 for some universities to 6.0 for others.
IELTS grew from the 1980 beginning of English Language Testing Service (ELTS), replacing the English Proficiency Test Battery, which was first given as a multiple-choice exam. Originally, the exam included sections on general academic subjects, medicine, technology, physical sciences, social studies and life sciences. Following what was then called the ELTS Revision Project, the exam process became the current IELTS (1989).