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Higher Education in US: Many Schools Accept the IELTS

The International English Language Testing System measures true-to-life ability to communicate, its British developers say. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

A few weeks ago, we talked about the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL. A listener in Cambodia named Thida asks if American colleges and universities also accept the IELTS exam. IELTS is the International English Language Testing System. It was developed by University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations.

Cambridge ESOL says the test measures true-to-life ability to communicate in English for education, immigration or employment. The IELTS tests listening, reading, writing and speaking skills. It uses a mixture of accents and spellings, including British English and American English.

The test is used by government agencies, schools and professional organizations in one hundred twenty countries. And, yes, that includes the United States. The many American schools that accept the IELTS can be found on the Web at

Some schools accept both the TOEFL and the IELTS. But the graduate school at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, for example, says it prefers the IELTS.

The listening and speaking parts are the same for everyone who takes the IELTS. But people have a choice of reading and writing tests -- either academic or general training.

The listening test takes thirty minutes. There are forty questions based on a recording.

The reading test takes sixty minutes. Students answer forty questions based on three written passages.

The writing test also takes sixty minutes. Students have to write two essays. One essay has to be at least one hundred fifty words long and the other at least two hundred fifty words. The shorter one is a description of something; the longer one has to support an argument.

The speaking test takes less than fifteen minutes. The score is based on a recorded talk between the student and a test examiner.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. A link to the IELTS Web site can be found at You can also find MP3 files and transcripts from our Foreign Student Series. Next week our subject will be the GMAT, a test for getting into graduate programs in business and management.

If you have a general question for our series, write to I'm Barbara Klein.