Of the most widely recognised tests, we prefer IELTS for three main reasons:
We strongly urge admissions tutors to ask for an IELTS grade wherever possible. IELTS tests can usually be arranged via the British Council (usually contactable via the British Embassy or Consulate) in the country concerned. Specify the academic version of the test (rather than the General Training Version).
The IELTS test reports an overall assessment of English competence and also provides a specific score for each of the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing). The test scores are reported in a series of nine bands from Band 1 (non-user) to Band 9 (expert user). For broad descriptions of the bands, see below.
Depending on the subject, we also recommend that you ask for a specific grade in writing. The overall average score can disguise a low grade in one of the skills, in particular writing. Writing is the skill that takes most time to improve. We would recommend a minimum writing band 6.0 for subjects involving essay/examination writing: and a band 7.0 for those subjects requiring higher levels of language competence (eg English, Law, etc).
The IELTS is run by the British Council/Cambridge University Local Examinations Syndicate. A list of IELTS test centres can be found on the IELTS website.
The nine academic bands and their descriptive statements are as follows:
|9||Expert User||Has fully operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.|
|8||Very Good User||Has fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations.|
|7||Good User||Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.|
|6||Competent User||Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.|
|5||Modest User||Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.|
|4||Limited User||Basic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.|
|3||Extremely Limited User||Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.|
|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. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.|
|1||Non-User||Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.|
|0||Did not attempt the test||No assessable information.|