The University of Cambridge, British Council
and IDP:IELTS Australia manage this system jointly.
The IELTS exam contains tests on listening, reading, writing and speaking.
In Australia it is very important to get a good score in your IELTS exam as it could mean the difference between being accepted into a university or not.
The IELTS exam mark is also required to be able to apply for permanent residency in Australia. It is referred to when applying for a job and can also be useful in applying for certain visas.
As the IELTS mark is an overall mark encompassing the 4 major areas of communication, it is more comprehensive than TOEIC which does not test speaking. (Note to this. I believe there have been changes to the TOEIC test and the new TOEIC includes a short test on speaking)
It's quite possible to be absolutely brilliant in English language grammar and writing and still fail the IELTS test because your listening and speaking skills are bad.
The hardest part for many people is the speaking section. While it is possible to scrape through with a 6 or even a 7 in other sections, it is extremely difficult to get more than a 5 in the speaking section.
A great guide to IELTS, the IELTS Handbook, can be downloaded for free from the IELTS site here. (Right click on the link and choose save) The IELTS Handbook gives example questions and explains how the test is run. The main IELTS site is here.
As well as the handbook, there are many other sites online that can help you with IELTS. Here is a summary of some of the best.
Useful Free and Fee IELTS Preparation links:
Insearch IELTS features a free online video course that helps you study for IELTS.
IELTS Preparation Hints This chinese site has a great English Language summary on what you should do to help you prepare for the test.
IELTS online test practice This Russian site features a useful online IELTS exam for students to test themselves.
IELTS test Another online test
Holmesglen Features a very comprehensive guide to the IELTS exam. Download materials to help you practice in your own time. Please note that the official site no longer offers this material. This link goes to archive.org
Hong Kong Polytechnic University has a great IELTS test preparation guide and exam system online with LOTS of examples!
City University Hong Kong has some lessons and downloadable materials for IELTS
IELTS essay template This page features a guide to how to set out your essay and is useful for the IELTS examination.
One Stop English IELTS preparation
Click here to download IELTS Practice Tests