What score can I get on IELTS and how do Russian-speaking students pass the test?
What score can I get on IELTS and how do Russian-speaking students pass the test?



If you plan to enroll in higher education programs abroad and study in English, then you must provide an English certificate confirming knowledge of the language at the required level. One of the most popular tests, which are accepted by almost all universities where training is conducted in English, is the IELTS exam. Each university sets a minimum score, which you must confirm by entering a particular study program.

In order to successfully prepare for such a test, it is important to clearly understand what the scores required by universities mean in terms of language level. We will also pay attention to how Russian-speaking students pass the test in order to conclude what skills should be emphasized in preparation.


General or Academic

IELTS exists in two versions - the general module (General Module) and the academic module (Academic Module). As a rule, employers require the IELTS General Module to confirm the level of language sufficient for successful communication in a professional environment, as well as immigration programs, for example, in Canada, or educational training programs. IELTS Academic is a module that is required for admission to higher education programs. In addition, like most international English tests, IELTS has four parts and separately assesses the level of language proficiency in all four competencies: listening, reading, speaking and writing.

Accordingly, the first thing you should clearly understand is which module you need to take, because due to the difference in goals, different skills are evaluated, accordingly the nature and level of training will differ. Although the content of the Listening and Speaking parts in General and Academic are the same, they differ significantly in the Reading and Writing parts.

In general, the content of the texts and the nature of the questions for the essay in the Academic Module are more complicated because it evaluates the more comprehensive English language skills for the academic environment.

Despite the fact that both the academic and the general module evaluate the level of language development due to differences in structure and issues, the same score for IELTS General and IELTS Academic does not mean the same level of language. Scoring 7.0 on Academic Module is much more difficult than scoring the same score on General Module.


Minimum score

Second, you need to know the minimum required score for the selected study program. IELTS evaluates the overall level and level for each of the skills on an 0 to 9.0 scale in increments of 0.5 points. The testing developer gives educational institutions recommendations on setting the minimum acceptable score depending on the nature of the program. So, for example, for “linguistically demanding programs” - these may include competitive undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate programs in the humanities, as well as programs in top universities - the minimum recommended score is 7.5 or more, which corresponds to the level of C1 (Advanced) by standards European Scale (CEFR). For “linguistically less demanding programs” the recommended level is 7.0, which according to the European scale also corresponds to the advanced level. For many universities in Europe and streaming universities, a score in 6.5 is sufficient, which corresponds to a level above the average - B2 (upper-intermediate).

Each year, the testing developer issues a report with statistics on delivery, where you can compare the results by demographic data, country of delivery, mother tongue of the dealer, and also track differences in the results by section.

It is interesting that according to the average indicators of students from Russia who passed the test in 2017, the average student passes below the minimum required points of highly competitive educational institutions in countries such as the USA and Canada, but such points are quite suitable for admission to many programs in European countries and average paid universities , especially for technical specialties.

IELTS statistics

Data Source: Official Statistics www.ielts.org


Points for each part of IELTS

Third, pay attention to whether the university has requirements for minimum scores for each individual part. Statistically, the majority of those who pass the exam have four-part skills developed unevenly. That is why many universities began to establish minimum requirements not only for the total score, but also for the minimum scores for individual parts, which they consider important for successful training in a particular program.

This is understandable! Reading and listening skills are passive language skills; they are easier and more pleasant to train, especially in educational systems, where we are used to “book” learning. Speaking and writing skills are “active skills,” and in order to succeed in them you need to practice a lot. Such an activity involves a large load on the brain and causes a desire to postpone the essay until later. According to the results of the analysis of the homework of students preparing for IELTS courses in the Global Ambassador, many students perform written and oral tasks reluctantly or do not do them at all.

Often, a student believes that he can easily cope with oral and written tasks, since many questions are “open-type” questions and appeal to the student’s knowledge and experience. However, many students forget or do not know that such answers are evaluated according to certain criteria. When compiling such questions, test developers suggest the use of a specific grammar, response structure, and logical connectives. All this is taken into account when evaluating answers in conjunction with the vocabulary and semantic content of the answer. The student may falsely feel that he gave an excellent answer, because “he had something to say,” and the examiner nodded sweetly and actively to him, and as a result received low scores.

Below are vivid examples of how section results (from real IELTS certificates) can differ greatly:

IELTS result 1

1 example. Table of official results of a Russian-speaking student. 


In this example, the student demonstrates an advanced general level (C1), but in the parts of writing and speaking only “average - above average” (B2). Therefore, if the selected training programs has requirements not lower than 7.0 in each of the sections, the student is no longer suitable for such a program, despite a high overall score.

IELTS result 2

2 example. Table of official results of a Russian-speaking student. 


The same can be seen in the second example, where the student shows the highest result in reading and slightly lower in listening, but a relatively low result in writing. Most likely, entering a humanitarian program, such a letter score will not be enough for admission.


Conclusions and recommendations

From all this, it’s worth making several conclusions about how best to organize preparation for IELTS:

1. Take the preliminary trial IELTS of the required module. This will allow you to assess the level of development of skills in each of the four sections in a testing format, get a preliminary score and focus training on those skills in which significant shortcomings are observed.

2. Understand your current level and adequately evaluate the required training period. For example, if you need to get an 7.0 score, which corresponds to the advanced level, and your current level is intermediate (intermediate), which, tentatively, will allow you to take the 4.5 test, then you need not only to devote considerable time to preparation, but also concentrate on increasing level of the language as a whole, before proceeding with the preparation.

3. Choose courses, materials and a teacher that are suitable for preparing not only for the testing format, but also for the types of tasks, the skills that these tasks test, and the criteria for their assessment. Many training courses pay little attention to the development of language skills that are tested by various IELTS assignments. They put more emphasis on getting to know the format of tests by “dragging”. Such preparation, of course, will introduce you to the format, but if you change the essence of the question or the structure of the task, you may not have the skill to successfully complete it.

4. Train active skills - writing and speaking, because their development requires more practice. Do not rely on familiar questions regarding reading and writing - and they will not help if you do not know how to apply the correct structures for constructing arguments, descriptive answers, etc. Take advantage of the experience of other students, who confirmed that for writing and speaking, as a rule, students receive a lower score. Set yourself up to work on these skills.


We wish you a successful and effective preparation!


Author: Evgenia Efremova, Master of Harvard University, author of preparation courses for IELTS, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, etc. 



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