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English / Exams / IELTS
The IELTS exam
A comparison between IELTS and TOEFL
  Further information
Related pages:
Guide (information about all of the English language tests)
  Cambridge exams


IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an English language exam taken mainly by students wanting to study at British, Australian, New Zealand or Canadian universities or colleges. IELTS scores are also accepted as proof of English ability by many American universities or colleges. They are also used to demonstrate English ability when registering as a professional overseas, for example for overseas nurses coming to work in the UK.

The exam is managed by the Cambridge ESOL (formerly known as UCLES), the British Council, and IDP Education Australia.

There is a choice of taking the Academic Module or the General Training Module (the reading and writing parts of the tests are different, but the listening and speaking parts are the same). Scores range from 1.0 to 9.0.
A score of at least 6.5 in the Academic Module is usually needed for an academic course at a UK university; 7.0 or 7.5 may be needed for subjects which require a lot of reading and writing (for example, linguistics or medicine) and for those wishing to be doctors or dentists in the UK.
A score of at least 5.5 in the General Training Module is usually needed for non-academic training courses in the UK; a score of 6.0 or 6.5 may be needed for subjects which require greater language skills.

Practice Tests
Complete IELTS (book & CDs, for IELTS levels 5-6.5)
Authors: Guy Brook-Hart, Vanessa Jakeman
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date: January 2012
Cambridge IELTS 8 (book & CDs)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date: March 2011
Book only
Objective IELTS Intermediate (book & CDs)
Objective IELTS Advanced (book & CDs)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date: May 2006
(IELTS levels: Intermediate: 5-6, Advanced: 6-7)
Cambridge IELTS 7 (book & CDs)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date: June 2009
Book only

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Details of TOEFL are shown at: English/Exams/TOEFL. TOEFL and the academic module of IELTS are both used to prove English ability when applying for an academic course at university (IELTS also has a general module suitable for entry to courses in less academic subjects, or to prove sufficient language ability in practical work situations).

IELTS is managed by Cambridge ESOL (formerly known as UCLES) and the British Council and is a British English exam. Most British universities recognise IELTS scores and prefer candidates to take this test, although they sometimes accept TOEFL scores instead.

TOEFL is an American exam using American English (the computer-based test is becoming more common than the paper-based test). It is recognised for entry to most American universities (not all US universities accept IELTS scores).

The table below compares some of the main features of the two tests:

  IELTS (Academic Module) TOEFL
Typical usage: Entry to UK/Canadian/Australian/New Zealand universities (accepted by some US universities) Entry to US/Canadian universities (also accepted by many universities in the UK and other English-speaking countries)
Type of English: British English (academic situations) American English (academic situations)
Skills tested: Listening, reading, writing, speaking (face-to-face oral test) Listening, reading, writing. TSE speaking test at extra cost (not face-to-face)
Cost (2012): Exam fee: about £130 (in the UK) Exam fee: 160-250 US dollars depending on the country where you take the test
Test type: Paper-based or computer-based (CB IELTS), depending on the country. Main UK format is currently paper-based Internet-based (TOEFL iBT), computer-based (TOEFL CBT) or paper-based (TOEFL PBT), depending on the country. Main UK format is currently internet-based
Question style: A variety of styles (only a few questions are multiple-choice) Mostly multiple-choice (except writing)
UK test centres: Locations throughout the UK London area (paper-based tests available in some other major cities)
Test date frequency: At least monthly (depending on local demand) Very frequent

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Further information is found at, or from your nearest British Council office (see: Links and choose your country).

There are sample test questions for each IELTS paper which can be downloaded from the IELTS website at:

An IELTS handbook can be downloaded from:

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