Frequently Asked Questions About the IELTS Test

Frequently Asked Questions About the IELTS Test

By Clara N. 

You have been dreaming of going abroad to study, work or possibly even live there. Heck why not? After all, they say cast your net far and wide right?

The IELTS test is a requirement that you would be needed to meet amongst a myriad of other requirements in your application process.

And you might ask why should I take an English exam, yet I speak English fluently????

Well the thing is, schools and other institutions will require you to take an IELTS test to show them that you have a basic understanding of English and can actually communicate well in English, meaning that language will not be a deterrent should they accept you into their institutions.

What is the IELTS?

IELTS stands for International English for Language Testing System. It reflects how you’ll use English to study, work and live in an English speaking environment. It provides a valid and accurate assessment of the four language skills – listening, reading, speaking and writing.

Who makes the IELTS?

The IELTS was developed by the British Council, IDP – International Development Program of Australian Universities & Colleges and Cambridge English Language Assessment.

Who takes the IELTS?

IELTS is accepted by more than 10,000 organisations in over 140 countries. Therefore, if you would like to study, work or live abroad, then taking the IELTS would be your best bet in proving your English competency. Passing the IELTS Academic can help you get into English speaking universities. Passing the IELTS General will help you get a job in an English-speaking country and acquire proper visas and residency.

IELTS General Training or IELTS Academic?

There are two types of IELTS. Academic and General Training. IELTS Academic is mostly for people applying for higher education or professional registration. IELTS General Training is mostly for those migrating to Australia, UK, Canada and New Zealand, or applying for secondary education, training programmes and work experience in an English-speaking environment. Find out the differences and similarities between the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training in greater detail to find out which IELTS is right for you.

Paper-Based or Computer-Based? 

IELTS can be taken on Computer or Paper.

Paper-based IELTS – this test requires a test-taker to sit at a desk with the question papers and answer sheets for the Reading, Listening and Writing tests in an official IELTS test center. Test takers can write their answers in either pen or HB-pencils. The Speaking test is carried out face to face with a trained IELTS examiner.

Computer-based IELTS – The test-taker is required to take their Reading, Listening and Writing test in front of a computer with the questions presented on the screen in an official test center. The test-taker submits their answers through the use of a keyboard and a mouse. The Speaking test is not done on the computer but rather face to face with a trained IELTS examiner.

When is the IELTS test?

The IELTS in Kenya is offered by the British Council with test centers in Nairobi, Eldoret and Mombasa. 

The test dates vary and are updated regularly but generally, there are ten test dates in a month. You can check with LTS to find out the available test dates.

What does the IELTS test?

Just like TOEFL, IELTS tests four English Language skills; Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing.

The Reading, Listening and Writing sections of all IELTS tests are completed on the same day with no breaks in between them.

The Speaking test may be offered on the same day as the other sections of the test or up to one week before or after.

You will receive notification in advance if your Speaking test is on a different day to your main test day. 


Time Limit – 30 Minutes

Questions – 40 (4 recordings – 10 questions per recording)

Test Format

You will be required to listen to 4 recordings of native English speakers and then write your answers to a series of questions.

Your listening skills will be tested, logically, as you demonstrate your ability to understand the speech of native English speakers. Each recording represents a different kind of speech; everyday conversation, monologues that occur in an everyday context (e.g. information), conversations in training/classroom settings, and formal monologues, like course lectures.

Test Types

Each recording has corresponding questions, 40 in total. They may be;

  • Multiple choice
  • Sentence completion
  • Matching
  • Plan/map/diagram labelling
  • Form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion
  • Short-answer questions

Skills Tested

IELTS Listening is exactly the same in Academic and General Training and hence tests a mixture of academic and “life skills” listening. You would therefore be expected to understand conversations and monologues related to business, school, and personal life.


Time Limit – 60 Minutes

Questions – 40

Test Format

The reading section tests your reading comprehension. This may include reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument and recognising writers’ opinions, attitudes and purpose.

Test Types

The text types and passage lengths differ for the two versions of the test, but both have the same question formats including;

  • Multi choice
  • Identifying information
  • Identifying writers’ views/claims
  • Matching information
  • Matching headings
  • Matching features
  • Matching sentence endings
  • Sentence completion
  • Summary, note, table, flow-chart completion
  • Diagram label completion
  • Short-answer questions

If you’re taking the Academic version, you will read 3 passages. Each passage will be followed by questions of varied formats. The General Training version contains 3 sections; Section 1 may contain two or three short texts or several shorter texts. Section 2 comprises two text. In section 3, there is one long text.

Skills Tested

In General Training, you are being tested on “life reading”, the ability to understand extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks, and guidelines. These are materials you are likely to encounter on a daily basis in an English-speaking environment. GT has more of a mix of skills. Academic reading ability is also assessed in IELTS General Training.

In IELTS Academic, you are being tested on your ability to comprehend academic and educational passages.


Time Limit – 60 Minutes

Questions – 2 Writing Tasks

Test Content – IELTS Academic vs IELTS General Training

In Academic writing, you will have 2 tasks – In task 1, you will be required to describe some visual information (graph/table/chart/diagram) in your own words. You will need to write 150 words in about 20 minutes. In task 2, you will be required to respond to a point of view or argument or problem and here you will need to write 250 words in about 40 minutes.

In General Training, there are also 2 writing tasks to complete. In task 1, you will be required to respond to a situation, for example, by writing a letter requesting information or explaining a situation. You will be given 20 minutes to write about 150 words. In task 2, you will be required to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem in less than 250 words and 40 minutes.

Skills Tested

The focus for IELTS Academic Writing is purely academic. IELTS Academic writing tests your ability to write a short source-based academic essay (the source is the graph, table, chart or diagram). It also tests your ability to write an academic-style opinion essay. The opinion essay is also tested on the IELTS GT. Additionally, on the IELTS General, you will be tested on a life skill by asking you to write a letter to a friend or colleague.


Time Limit – 11 – 14 Minutes

Questions – 3 parts to the test

Test Format

As you know by now, the Speaking test is the shortest section of the test. It assesses your use of spoken English and is broken into 3 parts. Every test is recorded. It consists of an oral interview between the test taker and the examiner.

Part 1 – The examiner will ask you general questions about yourself, and a range of familiar topics such as home, family, work, studies and interests. This part lasts between four and five minutes.

Part 2 – This requires you to speak on a topic in what is called the “long turn”. You will be given a card which asks you to talk about a particular topic. You will have one minute to prepare before speaking for up to 2 minutes. The examiner will then ask one or two questions on the same topic.

Part 3 – You will be asked further questions about the topic in part 2. This will give you the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issues. It lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.

Skills Tested

IELTS Speaking, mostly focuses on life skills. The interview focuses on light personal conversation. It’s the kind of talk you will have with many different people when you work or study in the English speaking world. There is also an academic component, the “long turn” in part 2 which is similar to the kind of short speech you might be given in a university communications course.

How do I register for the IELTS?

Registration for the IELTS test might seem a bit cumbersome. LTS helps test-takers register for their IELTS test in a fast, reliable and convenient way.

Learning and Testing Services (LTS) of East Africa is an authorised Registration and Testing Centre for IELTS and is a proud member of British Council IELTS Partnership Program. 

Where do I take the IELTS test?

The IELTS test in Kenya is offered in Nairobi, Eldoret and Mombasa by The British Council. 

Learning and Testing Services (LTS) of East Africa is an authorised IELTS Testing Centre. 

How is the IELTS scored?

The IELTS results are reported on a 9-band scale. They are reported as band scores on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest)

We had covered this in our previous post and you can read more about how the IELTS is scored here

What is a good IELTS score?

Well, it all depends. Individual institutions set their own IELTS requirements. But from the IELTS scale, a good IELTS score is 7.0, 8.0 is a very good score and 9.0 is an excellent score. You can learn more about what a good IELTS score for universities is and what is a good score for immigrating to Canada. 

When are IELTS scores released?

Your test report form will be available 13 days after the test date for the paper-based test and 5-7 days for the computer-based test.

You will receive one copy of the test report form. Your results will also be available to view online for 28 days (but this is not an official confirmation of your performance).

When you book your test, you can nominate up to five organizations to be sent your IELTS results on your behalf for free.

How can I best prepare for the IELTS exam?

IELTS preparation requires a lot of preparation and practice. Like I mentioned, IELTS can open up a world of opportunities for you. Taking the IELTS when you’re not prepared, is as good as not taking the IELTS at all.

A good IELTS score will allow you easy admission into a university or any work environment in an English-speaking country.

LTS helps prepare test-takers just like you for the IELTS test. With the wide range of test preparation packages available, you’re sure to find a package that best suits your study needs.

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