If you are a non-native English speaker looking to work in an English-speaking country like UK, Ireland, USA, New Zealand, Australia or Canada, you will most likely have to provide a language proficiency certificate. The most popular test for those looking to migrate is IELTS; it is globally recognised by more than 11,000 employers, universities and immigration bodies and a successful completion of the test can significantly enhance your work prospects.
Registration bodies in health care professions largely accept IELTS. This includes areas such as medicine, nursing and pharmacy where English language competence is vital. This qualification is therefore essential for medical professionals.
We have put together a guide with everything you need to know about IELTS; from preparation, over test day to the results. But before we go into detail, here are:
INTERNATIONAL ENGLISH LANGUAGE TESTING SYSTEM
Our 10 top tips:
1) Make sure to check which test you require prior to booking – you don’t want to take IELTS General Training to then find out your employer is asking for Academic.
2) Choose your test centre not only based on location but also consider the paper or computer test delivery – do you easily get headaches looking at screens? Is your handwriting legible?
3) Work your way through the sample questions on the IELTS website – they are great for preparation and familiarising yourself with the question styles.
4) Do not forget your valid identity document – you will need this to register and to check in on test day. You will not be permitted to take the test without it.
5) Leave valuables you do not need at home – it’s unlikely someone will steal your laptop from the cloakroom, but why take the risk?
6) Try to relax on test day – you got this!
7) Read the questions carefully – the worst mistakes are those that can be easily avoided by understanding the question properly.
8) Take the time to proofread and correct – second looks can spot errors. Make sure to also double-check if you have transferred your answers correctly onto the answer sheet.
9) Check carefully when your Speaking test takes place – it must not necessarily be on the same day as the other test sections and the time can be changed at short notice.
10) Make sure to check what band score your employer is asking for before submitting your Test Report Form – if you did not get the result you need, you may want to consider re-sitting the test and not harm your application with a poor test result.
What is IELTS?
“IELTS” stands for “International English Language Testing System” and is designed to test and certify a person’s ability to listen, read, write and speak in English. The questions and tasks are developed by language specialists from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA and reflect everyday situations.
There are two different types of the IELTS test: Academic and General Training. As a medical professional seeking employment, you will likely have to take the Academic test, but there is a chance your employer might ask for the General Training one, so make sure to check the entry requirements of the position you pursue.
The four sections of the test, Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking, are all being assessed at an IELTS test location. The first three sections will take place on the same day while the Speaking test can be completed up to a week before or after the other tests. This depends on the number of takers – your test centre will advise.
How can you register for IELTS?
There are more than 1600 test locations in more than 140 countries where you can sit the test. You can find your nearest centre on the IELTS website.
Once you have selected your location of choice, you will be able to check the availability of both Academic and General Training tests. You can then either pick your test date, book and pay via the IELTS online service or fill the details into the printed application form and submit it at your test centre. If you choose to do the latter, make sure to include a copy of your valid identity document.
You will receive written confirmation of the date and time of your test from your test centre once your application has been processed.
How can you practise for IELTS?
The best way to practise for IELTS is to complete the free sample questions on the IELTS website.This will help you to familiarise yourself with the format and type of questions and will give you an idea of what to expect on test day.
If you are willing to pay for your preparation, you can complete the Official IELTS Practice Test which will be marked and officially feedbacked by trained and qualified IELTS markers. You may also purchase official IELTS sample test materials from Cambridge University Press or a test centre. These contain practice tests and answer sheets similar to those you will encounter in the actual test, as well as sample candidate tests and responses with examiner comments.
You can even take a preparation course at many IELTS centres and language schools around the world. Your local test location will be able to offer advice.
What happens on test day?
You will check in at your test centre with the valid identity document you provided during registration. You will then be advised about your test room. Before entering the test room, you will have your photograph taken (this will appear on your Test Report Form), your fingerprint scanned and you will have to provide a sample of your signature.
Be aware that you are not allowed to take anything with you into the test room except your ID, pens, pencils, erasers and water in a transparent bottle. This prohibition includes watches – every test room will have a clock on the wall. Cloakrooms are provided, but the test centres do not assume liability, so avoid bringing valuables.
Depending on your test location, you will complete the Listening, Reading and Writing sections either on paper or on computer (you will be able to see this when booking your test). These sections are completed with no breaks in between them. The total time for these tests is two and a half hours; add time for the distribution of test sheets, instructions and transfer times and you should expect a duration of about two hours and 50 minutes. Toilet breaks are allowed with the permission of the invigilator.
The test will start with the Listening section, these tasks are the same for Academic and General Training. You will listen to recordings of native English speakers with various accents and write your answers to a series of questions.
There are four parts with ten questions each. The first recording is a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context, the second is a monologue set in an everyday social context, the third is a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context and the fourth is a monologue on an academic subject.
The recordings are only played once, but you are allowed to read through the questions of each part before the recording is being played. The questions are designed so that the answers appear in the order they are heard in the audio.
A variety of question types are used in the test. These can include multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labelling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, sentence completion and short-answer questions.
You will note your answers on the question paper as you listen and will be given time after the final recording has been played to transfer your answers to an answer sheet. If you are taking IELTS on paper, you must use a pencil to fill out the answer sheet.
The Reading section includes 40 questions on a variety of written texts. These questions can include multiple choice, identifying information, identifying writer’s views/claims, matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary/note/table/flow-chart completion, diagram label completion and short-answer questions.
There are different types of text in the Academic and the General Training test. Academic Reading will require you to read and understand three long texts which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. These may be taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers.
In General Training Reading, you will encounter everyday texts that can be extracted from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines.
You can note your answers on the question papers, but you will have to transfer them to the answer sheet within the 60 minutes allocated for the Reading section. If you are taking IELTS on paper, you must use a pencil to fill out the answer sheet.
The Writing section consists of two tasks which are again different for Academic and General Training. You have 60 minutes to complete both tasks and note your answers on the answer sheet. These must be written in full – notes or bullet points will not be accepted. If you are taking IELTS on paper, you may use a pen or a pencil to fill out the answer sheet.
In either test, your answer to Task 1 must be at least 150 words long and you should take approximately 20 minutes to write it. There is no penalty for writing more, but remember this may mean that you have less time to spend on Task 2, which counts twice as much to the Writing band score.
You should spend approximately 40 minutes on Task 2 and write at least 250 words. It is recommended to schedule in time for proofreading and correcting.
Task 1 of Academic Writing will present you with a graph, table, chart or diagram and you will be asked to describe, explain or summarise the information in your own words.. This should be written in an academic or semi-formal/neutral style and include the most important and the most relevant points.
Academic Writing Task 2 will require you to write an academic or semi-formal/neutral essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem in regard to any possible subject. This should be a discursive consideration of the relevant issue – you will be penalised for irrelevance if going off-topic.
In General Training Writing Part 1 you will be presented with a common, everyday situation and asked to write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation. You will be given three bullet points of information which you must include in your response. The letter can be written in informal, semi-formal or formal style.
Task 2 of General Training Writing will ask you to write a semi-formal/neutral essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. This will be on a topic of general interest and your essay can be fairly personal in style. You will be required to provide general factual information, outline and/or present a solution, justify an opinion or evaluate evidence and ideas.
Whether you are taking IELTS on paper or on computer, the Speaking section will always be in-person and is the same for Academic and General Training. The section consists of three parts and will last between 11 to 14 minutes in total. All Speaking tests are recorded.
Going into Part 1, the examiner will introduce him-/herself and check your identity – make sure you take your valid identity document with you. They will then go on to ask you questions on some familiar topics such as home, family, work, studies and interests.
You will be given a task card for Part 2 which asks you to talk about a particular topic and includes points and aspects you will have to cover. You have one minute to prepare and take notes with the pen and paper provided. You will then have to talk for one to two minutes before the examiner will ask further questions on the same topic.
In Part 3, you will discuss issues related to your talk with the examiner in a more general, deeper and abstract way.
When will you get your results and what do the band scores mean?
You will usually receive your results 13 days after completion of the on paper test or three to five days after completing computer-delivered IELTS. The results are reported on a 9-band scale where 1 is the lowest (non-user) and 9 the highest (expert user) rating.
An individual score is given for each test section – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking – which will be listed on your Test Report Form. This form will also provide your overall band score which is the average of the four section marks, rounded to the nearest whole or half band. All components are weighted equally.
The minimum band score you need depends on your organisation or institution – check the requirements in the job description or enquire with your employer. As an example, to become a doctor in the UK, the General Medical Council requires you to have an overall band score of at least 7.5 with at least a 7 in all section scores of the Academic test.
If you did not get the result you were looking for, you can retake the test whenever and as many times as you want. You will however have to go through the entire booking and testing process again and you will also have to pay the test fee again.
Although an IELTS English Language Proficiency Certificate does not formally expire and it is up to each organisation to set a validity period that work for their purposes, it is recommended to assume a two-year validity.
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