The IELTS [ˈaɪ.ɛlts] (International English Language Testing System) is another internationally acknowledged test available in multiple countries which helps to determine people’s level of proficiency in English. Unlike the TOEFL, the IELTS has two versions: 1) Academic and 2) General. The students who are applying to an English-speaking university are required to take the Academic version while the people who are applying for immigration programs or jobs are usually required to take the General version. In fact the versions are quite similar: for example, the listening and speaking parts are completely identical, while the reading and writing parts are specific to each version (not totally dissimilar though). People who take different versions are usually seated in the same room.
Despite the similarities between the versions, it is important to clarify, which version is required for the program in which you are interested. For example, even if you take the Academic version (which is considered to be somewhat more difficult), it is extremely unlikely that your results will be accepted for immigration purposes, unless this is the requirement.
From my own experience, the TOEFL and the IELTS seem to be very similar in terms of the structure of their listening, speaking, reading, and writing exercises. It is also notable that both tests require a lot of practice to get a high score. In other words, even if your proficiency in English is quite high, it is doubtful if you will get the desired results in the IELTS (or the TOEFL) unless you practice a lot. Therefore, I encourage you to work on your IELTS/TOEFL skills at least some time every day.
Whether you choose to prepare by yourself, hire a tutor, or take a course in the IELTS, the books below may be of help (at least they were of help to me):
“Target band 7” is the book for the Academic version and “Ace the IELTS” is for the General version. The books do not teach English in general, but prepare you specifically for the IELTS. Before I had found these books, I had some negative experience with other books which were also designed for IELTS test takers, but contained so much irrelevant information (e.g. general grammar rules) that it was very difficult to focus on the test itself, which is very important, particularly when the time that you dispose of for your preparation is limited. Both “Target band 7” and “Ace the IELTS”books can be of use to students and instructors.
Braverman, S. (2012). Ace the IELTS: How to get the IELTS score that opens doors for you (2nd ed.). Publisher: Author.
Braverman, S. (2012). Target band 7: IELTS academic module: how to maximize your score/Simone Braverman. [Frankston, Vic.]: Author.