The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) has become the world's leading test to assess English language skills for those that require reliable evidence of such skills for any of the following purposes:
The IELTS range of exams comprises both the Academic and General Training exams and well as the more recent Life Skills options. IELTS Life Skills tests at A2 and B1 levels are part of the UK's Secure English Language Test scheme aimed at checking the general listening and speaking skills of family members of UK citizens wishing to take up permanent residence in the UK. Life Skills results are on a Pass-Fail basis whereas IELTS Academic and General Training are assessed on an overall scale from 0 to 9 which includes the four skills of Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing. Countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK fix their own criteria in terms of the minimum score acceptable for immigration or short term work purposes, for example, Universities worldwide will do the same. (https://www.ielts.org/about-the-test/who-accepts-ielts-scores)
There's no one answer to that question. In a way, it's very simple. If a university asks you to get an average of 7.0 with no score less than 6.5 in any of the four areas and you do, then it's a "good" score. The same if for migration purposes, they ask you for an overall 5.0 or maybe 6.0 in General Training.
At the same time, you may work towards perfecting your English language proficiency and by doing so, obtain a score of 8.0 or higher. That may go beyond what is required of you but would certainly give you a great sense of personal achievement.
An option available from March 2020 as a response to many test centres suspending IELTS exams because of Covid-19. IELTS Indicator is a mock Academic IELTS test to assess your likely IELTS score. You do it at home. Results are given after 7 days and can be used as give educational institutions useful and reliable information on your proficiency in English. The benefit for you is that it allows you to accurately measure your abilities. It will only be available in places where official IELTS exams are temporarily suspended.(https://www.ieltsindicator.com/)
Yes. You can take it as many times as you wish. Of course, you have to pay for it each time! There are candidates that re-take the test because the first time around, they didn't get a high enough score in one or more area.
This happens of course but one way to reduce the chances of it happening is to prepare very well for the test and take it when you know you have a very strong chance of obtaining the score you need. Most candidates naturally prefer to seek professional help in order to achieve this.
IELTS is valid for 2 years from the date you take the test.
This means it may be necessary for you to eventually re-take the exam to obtain professional assessment of your English language skills.
The cutoff date of two years is not arbitrary but based on the premise that we all need to continue using a language so as not so lose touch with it.
Note that continued practice using the English language either through studies or your chosen career, during the 2 years after taking the test, will be considered if further proof of proficiency is required.
In the case of those applying for Canadian residence, IELTS results remain valid for as long as the case is being considered even if that exceeds the 2 year time lapse.
Is it not valid now for 3 years?
Only in the case of Australian Skilled Migration applications. From July 2018, this was extended to 3 years.