IELTS: How has the pandemic hit test takers

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a test to check the English proficiency of non-native speakers of English. The test is accepted as one of the main eligibility criteria for international students and people who want to migrate from non-English speaking regions to other countries.

It started about 40 years ago and was designed by English language experts from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and US.

Types of IELTS

IELTS is held in two formats: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

IELTS Academic

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The IELTS Academic has been developed for those who wish to study at a university or college as an undergraduate or postgraduate student, or who wish to join or gain entry into a professional institution. Organizing authorities boast that this test has been accepted by nearly 11,000 organizations in more than 140 countries.

Educational institutions usually have a minimum set score (on a scale of 1 to 10) that they require from international students when assessing their admission applications.

IELTS General Training

This test usually applies to people trying to migrate to English speaking countries from non-English speaking regions. It is also sometimes required for access to secondary education, a college or a training center.

IELTS Test Sections

The IELTS test has four sections: writing, reading, listening, and speaking. While the writing and reading sections are different from academic and general tests, speaking and listening tests are almost the same for the two types of tests.

Changes due to Covid-19

While there has been no major change in the content, structure, marking, or security of the test, there has been a minor change in the speaking portion of the exam. “In the past, the exam was always personal and the examiner discussed a topic with the student and assessed him on it. However, sometimes a student’s speaking test is administered through a video call. The timing of the video call will be made known to the student when the details of the test site are emailed to the student,” Parul Mittal, director of International Placewell Consultants Pvt Ltd, told

“In addition, the speaking test has rapid-fire questions where the examiner can ask quick questions during the discussions and the student must answer them quickly,” added Mittal.

This is part of the launch of an online exam. This has “gave students the option to take the test at their home or wherever it is convenient for them. The new online test will be delivered through a purpose-built platform packed with security features to ensure test integrity,” Lucia Figar, President and CEO of The Global College in Madrid, told

However, candidates should note that not all universities accept the IELTS indicator, the online or “home” version.

Setback amid Covid-19

The IELTS test subjects and organizing authorities were also affected by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the organizers tried their best to come up with solutions. “Due to the limited movements and temporary closure of the test centers, the pandemic has affected the candidates for a short period. Given the importance of the test in a candidate’s study abroad process, we wanted to come up with a solution that would allow them to still take the test during the pandemic,” Piyush Kumar, Regional Director (South Asia) of IDP Education told Indianexpress .com.”We launched the IELTS indicator, an online test for aspirants studying abroad that can be taken during difficult times from the comfort and safety of home. The academic test was available for a limited time while the IELTS testing in the standard formats was suspended due to COVID-19.”

In India, many candidates relied on IELTS coaching classes, especially in the northern region of the country. As Covid-19 spread across the country and all educational institutions and coaching centers closed, IELTS coaching also took a hit.

“The pandemic has certainly created difficulties in preparing students for IELTS. Before the pandemic, IELTS coaching centers had large groups of students and helped them prepare,” said Mittal of International Placewell. “However, with the lockdown, coaching has slowly shifted online. Most IELTS coaches now teach online classes in groups or individuals. The advantage is that it saves the travel time of the student. Also, students living in the smaller cities can now receive coaching from IELTS coaches in metro cities without having to travel,” she added.

An IELTS coach from Panchkula in Haryana told on condition of anonymity that many of his students at his institute have returned to classes after phased reopening, but their “skills have taken a bad turn”.

“You have to practice every day and that too in the presence of an expert. This is especially important for people who come from rural areas. However, with the Covid shutdown, many students lost that practice and that led to some of my students failing to crack the exam this time. While some were ready, some now need more practice,” he said.

Sajal Jain
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