IELTS was launched in 1990 as a test designed to assess the English language abilities of people wishing to gain access to universities in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia and as a language requirement for immigration to these countries.
IELTS enjoys widespread recognition amongst the majority of higher education institutions in the above-mentioned countries and promotional activity is currently underway in the USA, in an effort to increase its recognition among American universities. In addition to university acceptance, IELTS is likewise accepted as an English Language qualification by a number of professional bodies worldwide, including the British Ministry of Defense, the UK General Medical Council, the Australian Medical Council, the Medical Council of Ireland, the Australian Department of Immigration and the New Zealand Immigration Service.
IELTS, unlike an achievement exam, is based on language assessment. Therefore, it can be taken by anyone studying English or wishing to know his or her current performance level with regard to the speaking, reading, writing and comprehension of English. Exam results are expressed as 'bands' with a band of 9 (Expert User) being the highest score possible and 0 (Did not attempt the test. No assessable information.) Acceptance of the IELTS as a criterion of admission (either to university, for immigration, etc.) is based upon the amount of English that is perceived as being necessary to the success of a given endeavour. In other words, the more difficult the subject(s) being studied at university, the higher will be the minimum 'band' necessary for admission. Most universities and colleges in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada accept overall band scores of 6.0 or 6.5 for entry to academic programmes of study.
Preparation for the exam
There are two methods of preparing for the IELTS exam. The first option, as an independent learner, requires purchasing an IELTS preparation textbook, of which there are many, or visiting the library at the British Council and borrowing one of theirs. For those on a tight budget or who do not have the time to attend a fixed course of lessons, this is the ideal option. Obviously, this method involves a degree of self-motivation. Regardless, the student budgets his or her time and studies when they want for as long as they want.
The second option involves attending an IELTS preparation course, of which there are no shortage, either here in Russia or abroad. These courses are ideal for those who are not so self-disciplined and find it difficult to work towards a goal without any structure to help them. A second advantage is that of having regular contact with a teacher, often a native speaker of English, who will have extensive knowledge of the IELTS exam and will be able to assist the student with any problems that he or she may encounter whilst preparing for it. They will also be able to provide the student with valuable advice and help concerning exam techniques, which play an important part in successful completion of this exam.
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