IELTS is one of the most popular international English language proficiency tests. If you plan on studying a Master’s degree or an MBA program taught in English you should aim for a high score.
IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. The test is available in over 140 countries at more than 1,600 locations, including over 30 in the US, and there are 48 test dates each year.
There are two types of IELTS tests. Depending on the organization you are applying to, you can take IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training. Scores are accepted by over 10,000 organizations worldwide. If you want to study in a university, then you should opt for the IELTS Academic test.
Although as of 2020 there is a version of the IELTS that could be taken at home called IELTS Indicator, you will find that the following information and tips will help you achieve your best score with this format too.
What skills do you need for the IELTS test?
IELTS tests all four language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. You should master all these skills equally well because you will need them all during your Master’s degree studies.
Let’s imagine your everyday routine. You will be attending lectures and should be able to understand what your professors say. You will have to read long specialized texts in a short time. You will be expected to produce written assignments and presentations. Participation in class discussions and group projects is an essential part of your learning experience and carries a lot of weight in your final score. So, you should not struggle with either speaking or listening comprehension.
Although IELTS is a British test, you are not required to master the British accent or spelling. IELTS accepts all major variants of native-speaker English, e.g. North American, British, Australian, etc. In class, your professors and peers will speak with quite diverse accents.
What IELTS score is required for a Master’s or an MBA programme?
The overall score on the IELTS ranges between 1 and 9. The scale corresponds to specified competences in English: 1 = non user; 5 = modest user; 7 = good user; 9 = expert user. You should aim to achieve a score of 6.5 or above for admissions to a Master’s degree program taught in English. Individual universities and programs have differing requirements.
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IELTS test structure
The total IELTS test lasts for 2 hours and 45 minutes. The Listening part consists of 40 questions that you have to complete in 30 minutes. The Academic Reading part consists of 40 questions and you have 60 minutes. The Academic Writing part requires that you complete two writing tasks within 60 minutes. The Speaking part takes between 11 and 14 minutes to complete and has three parts. During the speaking part you will have a conversation with an examiner.
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How to obtain a high IELTS score
Before you start preparing for the IELTS exam, to achieve a good score for admission to a Master’s degree program, you should make sure that you are fluent in English.
Only after you have a good foundation - a mastery of standard English grammar, academic level vocabulary, fluency in reading comprehension, writing with good grammar and a rich vocabulary, listening comprehension and speaking - can you take the next step: getting familiar with the IELTS format.
The time taken to improve your overall level of English will differ depending on your starting level and intensity of study. You should then take some time to become familiar with the specific IELTS requirements and accustomed to the exam format.
Here are eleven essential steps that will help you achieve a high IELTS score:
- Start your preparation early, be consistent, and monitor your progress frequently.
- Master standard English grammar in a systematic way.
- Practice using your English skills in four ways – listening, speaking, reading and writing.
- Take every opportunity to communicate in English, orally and in writing.
- Enrich your vocabulary. This doesn’t happen overnight. Aim to learn at least 10 new words from different subject areas every day.
- Read longer texts specialized in different subject areas - management, finance, culture, history, sciences, etc.
- Listen to the news and watch documentaries on various topics in English.
- Practice talking with other English speakers about yourself – your hobbies, interests, everyday life, family, job, dreams and professional aspirations.
- When you have a solid foundation of English language knowledge and skills, join an IELTS course or work with a professional IELTS tutor.
- If you are not sure whether you are ready to start preparing for the IELTS exam, take a diagnostic test and get feedback from a professional instructor on your level and next steps.
- Towards the end of your IELTS preparation, start practicing with full-length tests under realistic conditions for several weeks before the test date.
The aim of IELTS preparation is to make sure you are really fluent in English and ready for a Master’s or an MBA degree program taught in English. Universities will expect that you be equally good in all four skills. So preparation to sit the IELTS is not simply about obtaining a high score. The most important point is improving your English language skills.
This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2016-2017 annual Access MBA, EMBA and Masters Guide under the title “Beat the English Testing System”. The digital guide file will soon be available for download.