All you need to know about the IELTS exam

The IELTS exam is one of the most common English proficiency exams used within immigration processes in Canada.

In order to apply for Canada PR (permanent residency), you will need to prove your English proficiency by taking an IELTS test. It will also be required should you decide to study in Canada.

There are several different versions of IELTS: IELTS Academic, IELTS General Training, and also IELTS for the UK (which is, of course, not relevant to Canadian migration).

In this article, we will talk about the IELTS General Training exam.

This exam is designated to evaluate your abilities to use English in everyday contexts.

There are four parts to the test and you must take them all. The total test time is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Reading (60 minutes – 40 questions)

The Reading section consists of 40 questions divided into three sections that are designed to test a wide range of reading skills.

Section 1 (social survivor) may contain two or three short texts or several shorter texts that are relevant to basic linguistic survival in English such as notices, advertisements, college brochures, and accommodation lists.

Section 2 (workplace survival), focuses on the workplace context, so texts might include job descriptions, contracts, work policies, manuals, staff development, and training materials.

Section 3 (general reading) contains one longer and more complex text of general interest. Text types include newspaper and magazine articles, book extracts, or internet texts about a variety of topics.

Each answer is worth 1 mark and you will not be penalized if you leave an answer blank.

Writing (60 minutes)

There are two tasks in this part: Task 1 and Task 2.

Task 1: Letter writing

You will be presented with a situation and asked to write a letter requesting information, or explaining the situation. The letter may be personal, semi-formal, or formal in style, and it should be at least 150 words. Your writing will be assessed on four criteria: task achievement, coherence, and cohesion, lexical resource, grammatical range, and accuracy (these sections mentioned here will influence your scoring).

Task 2: Essay writing

You will be asked to write a discursive essay in response to a point of view, argument, or problem. Topics are of general interest and the text should be of at least 250 words. Your writing will be assessed on task response, coherence, cohesion, lexical resource, grammatical range, and accuracy (these sections mentioned here will influence your scoring).

Listening (approximately 30 minutes – 40 questions)

In this part of the test, you will listen to recordings of native English speakers with a variety of accents and write your answers to a series of questions on the question paper as you listen.

You can listen to the recordings only once and if you take IELTS on paper, you will be given ten minutes at the end of the test to transfer your answers to an answer sheet.

You will hear four recordings:

  • Recording 1 – a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 2 – a monologue set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 3 – a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context.
  • Recording 4 – a monologue on an academic subject.

Each answer is worth 1 mark and you will not be penalized if you leave an answer blank.

Speaking (between 11 and 14 minutes)

The Speaking test is a face-to-face interview with an examiner. It is divided into three parts and each part gives you the chance to demonstrate your English-speaking skills in different ways.

  • Part 1 (4 to 5 minutes) – The examiner asks you questions about your daily life and other everyday topics such as work, study, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and so on.
  • Part 2 (1 to 2 minutes) – The examiner gives you a topic to talk about on a task card and you are given 1 minute to prepare your talk, which should last between one to two minutes. Again, the questions are on familiar, everyday topics.
  • Part 3 (4 to 5 minutes) – The examiner starts a discussion with you that is related to the topic you talked about in Part 2. You will be asked to give opinions about things and justify them.

Your speaking will be assessed on fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation.

You can do the IELTS exam repeatedly until reaching your desired score, but this may cause time and money loss. Hence, we recommend taking a preparation course, or any form of preparation studies before taking the exam.

Here are some tips on how to prepare for this exam:

Understand the format of the test in detail

To achieve the score that you need, it is important that you get familiar with the format of the test. You need to make sure you know exactly what you are expected to do and how each part of the test is structured, timed, and scored.

You might already have an excellent level of English. Still, if you do not know how the test works, chances are that you will struggle to complete tasks on time or misunderstand what they require you to do, or, worst of all, panic during the test because you are presented with tasks you were not expecting to do.

So, first, take the time to study for the test.

Identify and focus on your weaknesses

When it comes to preparing for IELTS, it is easy to practice doing what you are already good at, but it is harder to focus on what you are not able to do yet.

Try spending more preparation time on language areas, skills, and test sections that you do not feel confident with. For example, if you have already taken several listening practice tests and feel confident about your listening skills, start directing your energy to the areas that need your attention because those, too, will be assessed.

Identify your weaknesses and work on those first. You might want to take IELTS Progress Check to help you prepare and understand the areas you need to improve or focus on.

Work at improving your general English, not just your IELTS skills.

After learning the test format it is recommended to also develop a test strategy. Without a good strategy, you may not reach the needed IELTS score for your program.

Test and language skills are equally important, so make the most of your preparation by taking practice tests and courses as well as exposing and using English as much as you can. Listening, reading, writing, and speaking regularly are recommended while preparing for this exam.

Spend time improving your language skills in general too, which will be the same skills you will need to live in the real world once you have obtained permanent residency in Canada.

Here are some helpful links for your convenience:

Explanation of the test format

Samples of test questions

Link to purchase an exam for practicing (with time limits or without time limits)

Who are we?

“Ok4Canada” is an Immigration Agency, located in Israel, that is managed and organized by an attorney at law Michal Kaplan Hachmon, with 20 years of experience practicing law. We specialize in Immigration programs to Canada, and work with a certified immigration consultant (RCIC), representing and accompanying potential candidates in the process of immigration.  

Our clients will receive full registration details of our RCIC on the official government Immigration site.

If Canada is a dream you want to fulfill, we invite you to take this journey with us. We will personally and professionally escort and guide you throughout this life-changing step, in a way you will feel safe and secure.

To take your free assessment please click here and fill out our questionnaire.

Skip to content