The IELTS Life Skills Test

IELTS Life Skills Availability

The IELTS Life Skills Test has been available since April of 2015. The exam may be taken throughout the year at test centers worldwide, although availability at any given location is determined by demand. According to IELTS, dates can be found within 28 days at permanent test centers and within the quarter otherwise. Test-takers may search test dates and register on the IELTS website, and there are no official restrictions on retaking the exam. The registration fee depends on the testing location (the cost in London, for example, is usually £150). Individuals required to take the Life Skills Test are advised to plan ahead and select test dates that are well in advance of any relevant deadlines.

IELTS Life Skills Acceptance

The Life Skills Test is taken only for the purpose of securing UK visas. Three types of visas are relevant to this version of the IELTS: immigration for a family of a settled person (CEFR level A1), immigration for a family of a settled person extension (A2), and indefinite leave to remain or citizenship (B1). Each of these CEFR levels involves a different version of the Life Skills Test, but the three tests have the same core emphasis on general language abilities.

IELTS Life Skills Format and Timing

The IELTS Life Skills Test assesses speaking and listening abilities only. Students take the test in pairs, moderated by a live IELTS examiner who evaluates the listening and speaking modules simultaneously. The exact content and timing of the test depend on the visa sought. The Life Skills Test at level A1 lasts for a total of 16-18 minutes and consists of two parts. In the first, students ask and answer questions on general topics, such as work, education, the weather, leisure activities, and personal background. The second part involves discussing and answering questions derived from an audio recording, played on CD. Students may take notes during part 2. The A2 test is also in two sections and is completed in a maximum of 20 minutes. The main difference between A1 and A2 is the length of some exercises, and the A2 test can be taken in the UK only. The Life Skills Test for the B1 level includes a third section in which the two test-takers plan an activity together, and total timing is 22 minutes.

IELTS Life Skills Scoring

The only two possible outcomes for the IELTS Life Skills Test are "pass" and "fail," and these results are based on the judgments of IELTS examiners. Assessment criteria include obtaining information, conveying information, speaking to communicate, and engaging in discussion. Students are evaluated individually, and the assessment of one test-taker is not affected by the other candidate. Students who fail the IELTS Life Skills Test cannot use the exam to qualify for visas. IELTS score results are usually reported within seven days of the examination. Test-takers are provided with one copy of their Test Report Form.

IELTS Life Skills Preparation

The IELTS website offers several sample tests, which can be downloaded as PDFs free of charge. The website of Cambridge English Language Assessment is also a resource for sample tests and answers to frequently asked questions on the Life Skills Test. Cambridge English has published official guides, in separate volumes for the A1 and B1 versions. These books include practice exercises, downloadable audio content, and tips for effective study, and the cost is nominal (less than $20 at online bookstores). Some commercial test prep firms offer preparation courses for the Life Skills Test, which may be available either on-site or online. A typical course format includes five consecutive days of class meetings.

IELTS Life Skills Test Privacy

Students who take the IELTS Life Skills Test must sign an agreement to certain terms and conditions. Test-takers allow IELTS to use their personal information for the purpose of test administration, and they also grant permission to report test outcomes to those organizations that have designated to receive verification (such as visa agencies). IELTS may also use student data in anonymous form for research, but in these cases, test results will not be associated with specific individuals.

Fill out Info Request