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The difference between the Hong Kong HKCEE and IELTS
taking a test
Shum Chun Hung from Hong Kong asks:

I'm a fashion design student in Hong Kong. I'm planning to study in London, but first of all I have to take the IELTS English test. I would like to know what's the difference between the Hong Kong HKCEE and IELTS. Is it simply the same?
Roger replies:more questions
I haven't been able to find out very much about the HKCEE, but I don't think they can be identical. IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is designed to provide an assessment of non-native speakers' language competence for study or training through the medium of English. It is recognised by British higher and further education institutions as fulfilling English language entrance requirements and by professional bodies such as The General Medical Council.

It is broadly similar in format and design to the UCLES FCE and CAE exams, which you may be more familiar with, and comprises separate listening, speaking, reading and writing tests. Differences include: the listening is only heard once in IELTS, there is no choice in the writing tasks and the speaking test is not quite as structured as in FCE or CAE and is conducted on a one-to-one basis, rather than two examiners to two candidates.

The benefit of IELTS to the candidate is that it is not held on set dates during the year. Test centres all over the world arrange for IELTS to be taken at any time according to local need and test results come out within two weeks of taking the test.

For their performance on each of the four sub tests (listening, speaking, reading and writing), candidates receive separate scores on a band scale of 1 to 9 and then an overall band score in which individual scores are added together and then averaged.

Receiving institutions and departments - in your case fashion design - then review the band scores and educational background of the candidate and, if they want to offer him a place, decide whether he is likely to be able to pursue the course of study with or without additional English study first of all.
For a linguistically less demanding course such as fashion design, it may be the case that the institution might be satisfied with an overall band score of 6.0 or 6.5, rather than the higher level band of 7.0. The appropriate level required for a given course of study or training is ultimately something which institutions decide in the light of their knowledge of their own courses and their experience of overseas students taking them.
The IELTS Handbook defines Band 6 as reflecting a:

'COMPETENT USER: Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriaces and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.'

Band 7 will reflect the abilities of a:

'GOOD USER: Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriaces and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.'

I hope this is helpful. Try to obtain the IELTS Handbook and the specimen materials that are available. These will give you all the detailed information that you need. Contact UCLES in Cambridge who jointly manage IELTS with The British Council and IDP Education Australia. The website address is: www.ielts.org and the email address is: guymer.l@ucles.org.uk


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