What is IELTS?

When you apply for bachelor’s or master’s programs in Finland, many universities require IELTS. As it is very important to be familiar with the admission requirements, we would like to introduce you to IELTS and tell you how to prepare for it.

IELTS is the standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. No matter where you come from, when you search for IELTS, you can find the test locations nearby easily. Basically, British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English are the main organizers of IELTS tests around the world.

Notebooks and homework on a table
Study notes

IELTS format

IELTS has four parts: listening, reading, speaking and writing. The maximum score from each part is 9. The test takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes so reserve enough time for it.

Listening: You will listen to four recordings of native English speakers and then write your answers to a series of questions.

Reading: You will be asked to read three long texts and answer questions based on them. The texts can be from books, journals, magazines or newspapers.  They have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for people entering university programs.

Writing: There are two types of tasks you are asked to do:

  • Task 1 – you will be presented with a graph, table, chart or diagram and asked to describe, summarise or explain the information in your own words. You may be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process, how something works or describe an object or event.
  • Task 2 – you will be asked to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Responses to both tasks must be in a formal style.

Speaking: This part has three sections:

  • 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  – 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 two 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. These will give you the opportunity to discuss more abstract ideas and issues. This part of the test lasts between four and five minutes.

You can find more information about the format on IELTS’ website.

Old brown books on a table in a university library in Finland

Application and test scores

You can apply for the test on the official website of the organization. You can take the test in the place you are currently living. For instance, if you are living in India, you can apply for the test, pay online and choose the city where you want to take the exam. Even if you are not a citizen there, it is still possible to take the test with your passport or other identity document.

Every university has their own requirement for how the test score should be sent to them and the minimum scores required. The required scores  usually range between 5.5 and 6.5 depending on the program. You can check the requirements on each university’s profile under admission criteria. Therefore, make sure you have attained the minimum requirement in IELTS before you apply to the university.

It takes about two weeks for the results arrive. Thus, don’t do it right before the end of the application period. If you think your English is not good enough and want to try the IELTS test, please ensure you have enough time to prepare for it. Remember also that the test is valid for two years so check the validity period before applying to a university.

Campus building front of University of Helsinki in Finland

Preparation

Here are some tips on how to prepare yourself for IELTS. Free practice tests are offered online and we recommend trying them out. Count the time when you are practicing to make sure you can finish the whole test on time. Remember that practice makes perfect

Listening: Listen to practice test recordings. You can also listen to foreign news or watch English language movies without subtitles to improve your listening skills.

Reading: In addition to the practice test, you can also read different kinds of newspapers, magazines and books. There is plenty free material online.

Writing: Practicing reading helps here too, because you will need to expand your vocabulary in order to write more fluently. Use more varied sentence structures and try your best not to repeat the same words over and over. You can also read sample test answers online for more tips.

Speaking: As most of you will be nervous and your mind won’t work well in front of the examiner, you will need to practice talking with your friends. You cannot only talk to yourself since your speech won’t be natural then. Record what you have said in the practice since that way you can catch the most common mistakes you make.


If you want to apply for the IELTS test or learn more about it, visit their website.

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