A Breakdown of the IELTS Exam

An overview of the IELTS

In this article, we will give you a brief overview of one of the most well known English exams, the IELTS. Moreover, we will provide you with a breakdown of the test and its different sections. Finally, we will outline what services we as Hong Kong’s premier learning center can provide you with in order for you to reach the score you need.

The IELTS, or the International English Language Testing System, was created in 1989 as a joint collaboration between the British Council, the University of Cambridge, and IDP Education, which is an education agent for international students. Since its launch, IELTS has steadily increased in popularity, and is now, together with the TOEFL, one of the most taken English tests among international students all over the world.

Before you decide whether you need to take the test, there are a few things you need to be aware of:

  • The test result is valid for two years, so you need to match that with when you will need to use the test, e.g. for an application to college or university.
  • Does the school you are aiming for require you to take the IELTS, and what scores do you need? At present, over 9.000 schools and organizations world wide recognize and use the IELTS exam, but to be sure, follow the link below where all these locations are listed, together with the required scores for matriculation:


If you do not find the information you need, just give the school a call – they will be happy to help.

  • The minimum age for taking the IELTS is 16 years.

Structure of the IELTS

So how does the IELTS test look? Well, the IELTS is a broad measure of your language ability. The testing philosophy behind IELTS is for you to show how well you can use the English language in practice rather than what you know about the language. Therefore, the test consists of four test modules: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. During all of these sections the IELTS exam covers a very wide range of topics, tasks, and skills. In the figure below, you can see a schematic outline of the test, and how much time you have to complete them.


What about the scores? The scores you receive on each test section are converted to a nine-band scale, and you will also receive an overall score, which represents the mean of the different sections. The nine-band scale can generally be interpreted like this: 5: Modest user, 6: Competent user, and finally, 7: Good user. Most universities will look for 5.5-7 band scores for admittance. But, be sure to check that out, for example via the link above, so that you know exactly what you are aiming for.

In the table below, you can check the average score for Hong Kong and some other countries in 2015 for comparison.


The Edge IELTS courses

The Edge Learning Centers offer you two different IELTS courses. The Edge IELTS Foundations course is an introductory course that will increase your general level of language proficiency. This course is suitable if you are at a beginner- to intermediate-level (previous IELTS test score around the 5.5 band). This course is also a suitable preliminary for The Edge IELTS Essentials course, which aims at increasing test scores for intermediate to advanced students (previous IELTS test score around the 7 band). In order to make sure that you enroll on the course that will benefit you the most, we will use IELTS mock tests to measure your initial level of English.

The two Edge IELTS courses not only introduce you to all of the topics, tasks, and skills that you will encounter in the actual IELTS test. In addition, you will further develop your general English language skills. Your test accuracy will therefore increase over all test modules: Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening. Our specific teaching and learning approach include the ability for you to recognize types of Classic Questions and to apply the fundamentals needed to answer those questions successfully. Throughout our two courses, a range of question types is covered in a systematic way. In addition to taking a complete course, you may also want to focus on one or two sections that you find particularly challenging; for example, you can see from previous test results above that most students struggle with writing and speaking – that means that there are points to collect in those sections! Our flexible teaching and course structure certainly allows for this approach as well.

To finish off, here is what our co-creators of The Edge IELTS courses said in an interview with the South China Morning Post:

The course we have co-created represents a crystal clear understanding of what the IELTS is and simultaneously provides students with both excellent language skills development and highly precise strategies for success in the exam room.

That is exactly the aim of the educational service that we provide for you.