So, you want to study in Australia. Well guess what? You’re going to have to sit an English Language Test. You need to show us how skilled and oh-so proficient you are in English. And this is regardless of whether you’re a native English speaker or not!
You need to ace the IELTS. Or at least pass the test. With the required score that is…
So, what’s the required score? Well the IELTS results you need will vary depending on the what and where of your planned studies. The what being the course you’re going to study, and where being your university of choice.
For student visa applications you’ll need the right IELTS score. You need to tick off the English Language requirements. And if you don’t? Say so long, farewell to your student visa, and wave goodbye to your student exchange.
That doesn’t sound too appetising does it? Well then, how do you avoid this dilemma? Simple. You just need to become better at speaking English than us Aussies (not a hard thing to do really). Because if you want to study in Australia you’re going to have to show some top-notch English Language results.
Let’s get started.
WHAT IS THE IELTS?
Lesson one. Let’s get back to basics. If you haven’t heard of the IELTS, get out from that rock you’ve been hiding under!
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the world’s most popular English Language proficiency test. It’s used for assessing the English competency of visa applicants for work, migration and study (student exchange) goals. The test is accepted by over 10, 000 organisations globally; schools, universities, employers, immigration authorities, and professional bodies.
The IELTS is the most widely used and respected measure of English skill in Australia. So, you’ll find all universities and colleges in Australia will accept IELTS.
Every year more than half a million international students choose Australia as their study destination. And every year, more than half a million international students have to sit their IELTS (or its equivalent) to score for entry into universities, schools and tertiary institutions.
In absolute basics, the IELTS test assesses your English skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking. Body language is not included so you can forget those Aussie hand gestures you’ve been working on.
WHAT IELTS RESULTS DO YOU NEED?
When it comes to exchange in Australia, the university and immigration authorities want to know you can actually study in English. Fair call. So, if you want their seal of approval, you’ll need to nail the IELTS test and get the required score.
The IELTS is divided into the following scores:
- 9 Expert User: Has fully operational command of the language.
- 8 Very Good User: Has fully operational command of the language, with occasional unsystematic inaccuracies.
- 7 Good User: Has operational command of the language, with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings.
- 6 Competent User: Has generally effective command of the language, with some inaccuracies, inappropriaces and misunderstandings.
- 5 Modest User: Has partial command of the language.
- 4 Limited User: Has basic competence which is limited to familiar situations.
- 3 Extremely Limited User: Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations.
- 2 Intermittent User: No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs.
- 1 Non-User: Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond a few isolated words.
- 0 Did not attempt the test: This is pretty self-explanatory…
When it comes to IELTS scores, you’re going to need a bare minimum of 5.5. This is a government visa requirement. You won’t be able to apply for a Student Visa (Subclass 500) without this 5.5 minimum band.
If your English isn’t too hot at the moment, have no fear. For those students planning on combining their studies with an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) the minimum requirement drops a little. Combined with a 10 week ELICOS course the minimum is 5.0, and with a 20 week ELICOS course the minimum drops again to 4.5.
The 5.5 can also be a minimum score for low-grade educational institutions. However, for most universities in Australia, the requirements are much higher than this. With some of Australia’s top universities… (University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, Australian National University, Monash University, University of Technology Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Western Australia)… you’re looking at an undergraduate course minimum IELTS requirement of 6.0-6.5. Still, if you get below a 7.0, you’ll be asked to take a diagnostic language test on enrolment.
For postgraduate courses: minimum requirement is hiked up to 7.0. This is subject to a lot of change (in an upward direction) depending on which MA or PHD program you plan on undertaking.
But again, the visa score required of you all depends on what and where you study.
The best way to get high IELTS scores and meet those requirements is to study, study, study. So, let’s run through a few basic steps to get you studied up and feeling confident.
1. Familiarise Yourself With The IELTS Format
First things first. You’re going to want to get up close and personal with your IELTS test. Find out what makes it tick. Its favourite questions, topics, colour, movie, dinner venue, hopes and dreams. All the usual ‘get-to-know-you’ stuff. That means reviewing the content of the test: The FORMAT.
Getting to know the format is strongly advised for Native English Speakers as well! It’s easy to feel overconfident about the test when you’ve been using English your whole life. BUT if you want the best possible score you need to familiarise yourself with the test format!
So, find out what kinds of questions and task types are going to be thrown around in the different testing sections. The IELTS test format is laid out in the following sections:
Listening (30 minutes)
You will listen to four recordings of native English speakers and then write your answers to a series of questions.
- 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.
You’ll be assessed on your ability to understand the main ideas and factual information, the opinions and attitudes of the speakers, the purpose of an utterance, and your ability to follow the development of the conversation ideas.
Reading (60 minutes)
You’ll be given 40 questions, testing your reading skills: reading for gist, main ideas, detail, skimming, understanding logical argument, and recognising a writer’s opinion and purpose. It includes extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, and other materials you’ll encounter on a daily basis in an English-speaking environment.
Writing (60 minutes)
You’ll be given two tasks:
- You’ll be presented with a situation and asked to write a request letter (either personal, semi-formal, or formal style)
- You’ll write an essay in response to a point of view, argument, or problem.
Speaking (11-14 minutes)
- 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.
- Part 2 – you’ll be given a card which asks you to talk about a particular topic. 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. These will give you the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issues.
All of these sections will be assessed in less than three hours! So, you’re looking at a total test time of 2hours and 45minutes.
The good news is that if you want to avoid feeling overwhelmed, you have the option of completing the Speaking component separately. You can sit the speaking assessment up to a week before or after the other tests.
As a side note, you should also check out the Notice to Candidates and Declaration which will run you through the IELTS rules and regulations.
2. Do Sample Tests:
Sample tests are a great way to get your head around the IELTS exam. The IELTS website offers a bunch of sample test questions that you can run through in your spare time to help you study. This is one of the best ways to get a gauge of the types of questions that they will throw at you, as well as an indication of how you’ll perform in the real IELTS test.
3. Suss out the Official IELTS Practice Materials:
If you’re after some additional resources, you can purchase the Official IELTS Practice Materials CDfrom your local testing centre. This comes in two volumes that offer comprehensive samples of the Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking tests.
They feature sample answers and examiner comments. These are the only practice materials endorsed (officially) by the IELTS partners. So make sure that if you buy any study resources, these are your choice. No point studying the wrong stuff is there?
4. Try A Preparation Course:
If you feel like you need extra assistance with test preparation, just find your local IELTS centre or English language school, they’ll prep with you. You can organise to attend a preparation course, where you’ll get plenty of tuition assistance and improve your performance. There’s the option to do one-on-one or group courses with a tutor. So, it all depends on what kind of learning environment suits you. We’re all different.
This is a bit of an obvious tip, but if you want to sit the IELTS exam you’ll need to register. Booking fees are $330 AUD, but of course, if you’re sitting the test overseas the fee will be in your local currency. The Aussie dollar doesn’t have world dominion. Yet…
Find A Test Centre: There are more than 1,100 IELTS test centres across the globe. So, finding a testing location shouldn’t be much of a hassle. You can also sit the test in universities or educational institutions in your home country.
And to make things a little more 21st century: there’s the option of doing the test online, with a Computer Delivered IELTS test format. The computer-delivered option will assess your Listening, Reading and Writing sections, however the speaking test remains face-to-face.
Register: Registration is super easy nowadays as you can register and pay online. Or if you’re an old school type of person… you can also download an online application form, fill it out, and bring it along to your testing location. Then it’s just a matter of confirming a date and time for your test. Once your booking’s complete you’ll be sent a written confirmation with the details.
ACING THE IELTS EXAM
Test day has arrived. Make sure you bring identification, so examiners will have proof that you are actually you! For a few safety precautions, make sure you chow down on a banana (brain energy folks), arrive early, and are relaxed! The best test sitters are always cool as a cucumber.
Good luck! But assuming you’ve done the right preparation… winners don’t need luck.
You’re on the other side of the exam now. Time to play the waiting game.
IELTS results get released 13 days after you sit the test. When the (un)lucky number 13 has arrived, you can pick up your Test Report Form from the testing centre. Or, if you’re feeling lazy, just get it mailed.
If you want to save yourself even more effort, you can also get your Test Report Form sent to five organisations of your choice for freeee.
Now listen carefully. Keep your copy safe and locked up because you won’t be able to have a replacement made. You don’t want to re-sit the test if you don’t have to.
For those of you feeling a little dissatisfied with your test scores, don’t run around shouting “woe is me”. If you’re not digging your score, not to worry you can take the test as many times as you heart desires.
Just go through the IELTS motions again. Run through a few more practice tests, speak English to (or at) every person you pass in the street, re-register, eat TWO bananas, and ace your exam on round two (or three, or four…). Ding ding ding, we have a winner!
In your victory speech or as you’re ruminating on your successes while settling into your new Australian student accommodation, just make sure you remember your friends here at The Student Housing Company who helped get you there.