What is the IELTS Life Skills Exam?

IELTS Life Skills is an exam provided by IELTS and their test partners. It’s a brand new exam introduced in 2015. The test is designed to meet the requirements for UK visas (UKVI). The exam only includes a speaking and listening section, because it is the only skills applicants need to demonstrate when applying for a visa in the UK. The IELTS Life Skills test is available all over the world.

IELTS Life Skills Test Format

There are two versions of the IELTS life skills exam, the A1 and the B1. The A1 version is for “family or settled person” visas while the B1 is for “indefinite leave to remain or citizenship”.

The A1 version of the IELTS Life Skills takes about 16 to 18 minutes to complete which includes two sections. The B1 takes 22 minutes to finish, which includes three different sections. When taking the test, there will be two candidates taking the exam and one examiner in the room.

IELTS Life Skills at Level A1 has two parts. IELTS Life Skills at Level B1 has three parts.

Part I: Ask and answer general questions, this is the section in which candidates have basic conversations and discussions. Topics include weather, family, friend’s work, health, education etc.

Part II: Candidates will have to listen to a recording and understand the general meaning and details of what they have just heard. Candidates will be asked questions about the recording and will also have discussion on the same theme.

Part III (B1): A more advanced discussion between the two candidates. Often required to plan an activity or event together.

IELTS Life Skills Test Score

Your IELTS Life Skills Score are based on these four factors: obtaining information, speaking to communicate, engaging in discussion and conveying information.

There are two types of scores on the IELTS Life Skills, pass or fail.
If you fail it means that the test cannot be used for the Visa application however, if you pass you may use the test. The results are usually available within 7 days of taking the exam. If you fail the exam, there are no restrictions on retaking the test.

To learn more about IELTS Life Skills exam visit IELTS official page.


Both the TOEFL and IELTS test are widely accepted English language proficiency exams. Students often wonder which one they should take.

Ultimately it all comes down what the admission process looks like at the institution (college, university) you are applying to.

However, there are cases where schools accept both the TOEFL and IELTS. Then the question becomes which test will you perform the best. Let’s take a look at the difference between the TOEFL and IELTS test.

TOEFL is about 4 hours long while the IELTS is 2 hours and 45 minutes long. If you have trouble concentrating, IELTS might give you a small advantage since it’s shorter.

The fee for the TOEFL test ranges between 160 to 200 USD while the IELTS cost around 200 USD. Both the IELTS and TOEFL scores are valid for 2 years.

TOEFL is generally used for academic purposes; therefore the content resembles what you will see at a college or university. The IELTS has a version of their exam called IELTS Academic test.

Universities often want you to submit the academic version of the IELTS and not the general version.

The format of the two exams is fairly similar but there is some factor that makes them different. The similar part is that both of them include four different sections (reading, speaking, listening and writing). The difference between the two tests lays more within the content of the exams.

For example the IELTS listening section does not include an integrated part like the TOEFL. Another example is the IELTS speaking section involves conversations with an actual person while on the TOEFL you record your answers through the computer.

Another difference between the two exams is the dialect. IELTS uses British English while the TOEFL is American English.

So which one should you choose given the option?
If you prefer to take the exam on a computer as much as possible, feel comfortable with American English, like multiple choice questions, have experience with informational content in English, have no problem multitasking in English and you prefer to record your answer rather than having a conversation, then the TOEFL might be a better fit.

The best way to find out which exam you will do better in is to take practice tests. Try to find test materials that simulate the real TOEFL and IELTS exams and choose the one you think is easier for you.

Remember to first consult the school/program you want to get admitted to. Research which language proficiency exam they require for admission. If they accept both, evaluate which exam that would be the best fit for you.

IELTS Reading Tips and Strategies

There are many similarities between the general and the academic version of the IELTS reading section. However there are some things that differ between the two versions of the IELTS reading.

For example, the topics in the reading passages will be different, as the general module will include broader topics while the academic version focuses on academic topics.

The general module covers social, ethical, practical and work related topics whereas the academic texts cover mostly advanced areas relating to graduate and undergraduate studies.

Test-takers usually experience the general reading content text to be easier to understand than the academic module.

Both the general and academic reading sections must be completed within 60-minutes. Both modules include 3 passages and 40 questions total. Check out this article to learn more about the IELTS reading test. Take practice tests to find your level and what you can improve before taking the IELTS test.

Focus on improving your ability to locate details and relevant information, summarizing passages, distinguishing facts from opinion, and identifying major and minor points of an article.

Remember that the test questions become harder as the test progresses. You should give yourself more time for the second and third section as they have questions that are slightly more challenging.

It’s important that you don't get stuck on a question, as that will waste too much valuable time. Skip the question and return to it afterwards if you have any time left. If you are running out of time don't forget to guess and leave an answer.

It’s important to be able to focus for the duration of the reading section (60 minutes) as it’s easy to lose concentration and make simple mistakes. You can improve your focus by taking practice tests that has a time limit. Familiarize yourself with the types of questions that might appear in the Reading test.

Another IELTS tip is to read the questions before reading the text. By doing this you will find initial answers as you read the text and will save you valuable time. Always read the text carefully the first time and use your scanning method afterwards when looking for an answer to a specific question.


Improving your IELTS reading skills is a long-term tactic; if you have a short time to prepare these tips will give you an edge when taking the test.

6 IELTS Speaking Tips

1. Avoid unfamiliar vocabulary. A lot of test-takers try to use vocabulary that may be unfamiliar when taking the IELTS. That increases the risk of making mistakes, stick to words you are comfortable with and used before.

2.There is no right or wrong answer in the interview section. The examiner does not have to agree with your opinion. Many students think there is a right or wrong answer to the interview questions, there are not. The examiner is looking at how fluent you are and if your answers are grammatically correct.

3. Ask the examiner to repeat the question. If you are unsure on what the examiner is asking, don't be afraid to ask that he or she repeat the question. However, you don't want to ask the examiner to repeat every question.

4.Avoid giving short answers. Do not give simple yes or no answers. If you notice your answer is short, you can extend your answer by giving examples that support your opinion and examples from the opposite sides point of view.

5.Practice answering different types of questions and how to support your answers. Before taking the test you should practice speaking about the following. Giving your opinion on different topics, sharing examples to support your topics, sharing examples that contradict your opinion, evaluating someone else’s opinion, speaking about cause and effect and speaking about hypothetical situations.

6.Don't rush when speaking. Many test-takers tend to rush when speaking in a non-native tongue. If you need a moment to think about your answer during the interview section let the examiner know that you will need a few seconds t to think about the question. However, avoid doing that for every question you face during the interview section.

The most important tip for the IELTS speaking test is to practice your speaking skills before taking the test. By practicing and listening to recordings of you answers you will learn more about your speaking patterns and how you can improve your speaking skills.

IELTS Exam Strategies that Gives you an Edge

IELTS Speaking Strategy

Always make sure that you understand the question. It’s better to ask the examiner to repeat the question then to guess what the examiner is asking.

Use bullet points when writing down notes for the second speaking task. You will only have one minute to take notes so make it count.

Speak at a regular speed; it’s easy for non-native speakers to rush when speaking. Avoid it by practicing the tempo of your English speaking beforehand.

Make sure that your answer is always the length that is required from you. It’s also a good idea to practice recording your speech so you can get a feel of the speed and length of your answers.

Learn more about the IELTS speaking test.

IELTS Listening Strategy

If you’re able to look at the questions before or during your listening it will give you an edge.

It’s important that you are focused when listening since you will only hear the recording once.

Learn more about the IELTS listening test.

IELTS Writing Strategy

Always write the amount of words that is requested from you.

Know the different question types you might see in the IELTS writing section.

Avoid repeating the same words over and over. Use synonyms and a diversified vocabulary in your writing.

Learn more about the IELTS writing test.

IELTS Reading Strategy

Have a clear structure of how you approach the IELTS reading test before taking the exam. Maybe you like to mark keywords or write bullet points while reading.

Be aware of the time constraints and how to best utilize your time.

Always answer all the questions even if you have to guess on a few, if you have some time over go back and recheck your answers.

Learn more about IELTS reading test.