IELTS Test Information FAQ

This page contains IELTS FAQ and IELTS test information.  Below are over 100 questions answered about the IELTS test, results, listening, reading, writing and speaking. If you want to find information about the IELTS Test, look below.

IELTS Test Information

  1. What does IELTS mean? Answer
    IELTS stands for: International English Language Testing System.
  2. How many skills are tested in the IELTS test? Answer
    There are 4 skills tested: listening, reading, writing and speaking.
  3. Which is best, IDP or British Council? Answer
    See this page for tips and advice about where to take your test: IDP or BC?
  4. What is IELTS UKVI?  Answer
    See this page for information on IELTS UKVI: http://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/ielts-ukvi 
  5. Does the IELTS test accept American English? Answer
    Yes, it does. It is an international test of English. However, most examiners in speaking are English or Australian and may not be familiar with very modern American terms.
  6. Which skills do I take on the same day? Answer
    Listening, reading and writing are all taken on the same day. The speaking test can be taken either before, after or on the same day as the other skills.
  7. Is there a break between the reading and writing test? Answer
    No, there is no break between the listening, reading and writing test. They are all taken together and take a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes. So, make sure you eat and drink well before you take your test
  8. Can I use a pen in my IELTS Test? Answer
    You can use a pen or pencil for your IELTS writing test. However, for your listening and reading test, you must use a pencil (don’t forget to take an eraser with you).
  9. How many times can I take my IELTS test? Answer
    You can take it as many times as you want. There is no limit.
  10. Can I wear a watch in my IELTS test?Answer
    No, you can’t. You can’t wear a watch in any of the IELTS tests, even the speaking test. There will be a clock on the wall so you can check the time.
  11. What happens if I am colour blind?Answer
    You should contact your IELTS test center before the exam to let them know. They will adapt any colour pages or illustrations for you in the test.
  12. Can I write using capital letters? Answer
    Yes, you can. Click on this link to learn more: Capital letters in IELTS Answers.

Test Results Information

  1. How is IELTS scored? Where can I find out about band scores?  Answer
  2. How long does it take for my test results to arrive? Answer
    Your results will be posted to you 13 days after you have taken your test. It is possible to get your results by sms or online at some test centers. Contact them to find out. However, there are times when results are delayed longer than 13 days – see question number 5 below.
  3. How long are my IELTS results valid? Answer
    Your IELTS results are valid for 2 years.
  4. Can I get my IELTS test remarked? Answers
    Yes, you can. In 2014, it costs around 100 usd to get your test remarked. It is the same price for all 4 skills or just one. You should contact your local IELTS test center to get the form for remarking.If your results change and your band score goes up, you will get your money refunded. You have 6 weeks after taking your test to get your test remarked. Your test will be remarked by a different examiner. It takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the results of your remark to arrive. Alternatively, you could take your test again.
  5. If I take IELTS twice, which result can I use? Answers
    You can use the test in which you scored the highest as long as the result is still valid (which means as long as it is not more than two years old).
  6. My IELTS results have not arrived and it is longer than 13 days late? Why has this happened? Answer

IELTS Listening Test Information

  1. How many sections are there? Answer
    There are 4 sections in the IELTS listening test. Section 1 and 2 are based on social situations while sections 3 and 4 are academic.
  2. Does everyone take the same test or are there different listening tests? Answer
    There is only one listening test for everyone.
  3. How many questions are there? Answer
    There are a total of 40 questions in the listening test. 10 questions in each section.
  4. How long is the listening test? Answer
    The IELTS listening test lasts for 40 minutes. You listen to the recording and answer the questions for 30 minutes. After that you have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.
  5. How many times will I be able to listen to the recording? Answer
    You only get a chance to listen once to the recording. So make sure you prepare the questions well and that you concentrate.
  6. What is the listening answer sheet? Answer
    You will have time to transfer your answers to the answer sheet when you have finished listening. You will have an extra 10 minutes to transfer your answer to the answer sheet. You should practice using the answer sheet at home before you take the test.
  7. How can I find my score for listening? Answer
    Here is a list of points for band scores 6-8 (visit the listening band scores page for all scores)
    • band score 6 = 23 correct answers out of 40
    • band score 7 = 30 correct answers out of 40
    • band score 8 = 35 correct answers out of 40
  8. Do I lose a point if my answer is wrong? Answer
    No, you don’t lose a point for a wrong answer. So, never leave an empty space on your answer sheet – always have a guess.
  9. Do the answers come in order? Answer
    It depends on the type of question. For some questions the answers are in order, for other types they are not. Read through my blog to find out.
  10. Will I have time to read the questions before I listen? Answer
    Yes, you will be given some time to look over the questions before the recording begins. Use this time wisely. Read the questions, underline key words and think of any possible paraphrases you might hear. They will tell you how many questions to read through “you will now hear questions 4-10….” – this for this information to make sure how many questions you must read through before the recording starts.
  11. Can I write on the listening question paper? Answer
    Yes, you can. You can make notes, underline words and write on any part of the question paper. Only your answer sheet will be marked. In fact, it is very useful to make notes on your question paper and can help you locate answers.
  12. Can I have extra paper for making notes? Answer
    No, you should use the question paper to write on while you listen.
  13. Are capital letters important? Answer
    No. Capital letters are not important. They won’t affect your score. See this page: Capital Letters in IELTS Answers 
  14. Should I use a pen or pencil? Answer
    For your listening and reading test, you must use a pencil. so don’t forget to take an eraser with you. However, for writing you can choose either pen or pencil.
  15. In multiple choice questions, can I write words or do the answers need to be letters?? Answer
    It is very important that if the instructions ask you to choose a letter, then your answer must be a letter not words. Read the instructions very carefully so you don’t lose points.
  16. How can I improve my multiple choice listening?Answer
    Watch this video lesson, by clicking on the link, to get tips and practice for multiple choice questions in listening
  17. What accents will there be in the listening test? Answer
    IELTS is an international English language test so you might hear a variety of different accents in the recording. You should practice listening to different accents before your test.
  18. Is spelling important? Answer
    Yes, it is. If the answer is spelled incorrectly, it will be marked wrong.
  19. How can I improve my listening?  Answer
    You can improve by doing IELTS listening practice exercises: IELTS Listening Page. And you can develop by listening to a range of accents and topics. If you visit my “Useful Websites” page, you will see links to BBC news and other useful sites for listening. But remember that these sites will improve your listening ability but you will still need to work on listening skills for your IELTS test in order to listening for specific information and answers to questions.
  20. How can I improve section 4 of the listening test?Answer
    1) Section 4 is a lecture so that means it will be structured. The information will follow a normal pattern which you must try to follow. The speaker will move from point to point. Check your questions to see if they are a new point or examples etc. See the order of information in the questions. 2) You must build speed at preparing the questions for section 4. You must be able to read and prepare all questions in the time given. This is skill you must practice. Immediately underline key words which will help you follow the information coming. You should practice this skill again and again to improve. Always underline or circle the words which will help you locate your place in the listening. 3) Always keep your eye on more than one question at once. If you are listening for question 34, then you must also have your eye on question 35. When I say “keep your eye on” , I mean keep your mind open for the key words in the next question(s). 4) Some key words will be repeated but that doesn’t mean other key words will be. You must learn to identify which are useful key words and which are not. Any word that can’t be paraphrased will be useful to help you find your place in the talk. So, academic words, names, dates etc are all useful and can help you. 5) Listen for signposts. These are words which indicate when the speaker is repeating information, when the speaker is moving on to another point in the talk or just giving examples and details. Signposts are similar to linking devices “Another point to consider is…” or “if we look at the aspect of …”. Pay attention to these words.
  21. What does “two words and/or number” mean? Answer
    It means you can write two words with a number (for example “26 local men”) or you can just have a number. You can also have one word with a number. But you can’t have more than two words with a number. This is explained very clearly in the 25 essential tips video for listening: http://ieltsliz.com/ielts-listening/.
  22. Should I use “the” or “a” with my answer? Answer
    If you are completing a sentence then you must make sure the sentence is grammatically correct when you fill in the answer. That means you might need to use articles (a / the). However, if you are only writing notes, forms or completing a table, diagram or flowchart, you won’t need to think about grammar.
  23. How can I write the time? 9am or 9.00am? Answer
    IELTS accept all forms of written time: 9AM, 9am, 9.00AM & 9.00am.
  24. If I write Northroad instead of North Road, is the answer correct? Answer
    No, it is wrong. If the answer contains two separate words, then they must be written separately. This is testing your spelling of compound nouns. 

Click here: IELTS Listening Exercises & Tips

Reading and Listening

  1. If I use all capital letters in listening, do I need to do the same for reading? Answer
    No. For each part of the test, you decide if you want to use capital letters or lower case. This means you can use all capitals for listening and lower case for reading.

IELTS Reading Test Information

  1. How long is the IELTS reading test? Answer
    The reading test is 1 hour in length and it comes directly after your listening test. There is no extra time given to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.
  2. How many reading passages are there? Answer
    There are three reading passages for the academic paper and the general training paper. 
  3. Does everyone take the same reading test? Answer
    No, there are two different tests for IELTS reading. One is the academic paper and one is the general training paper. Before your test you will decide which IELTS test you will take and this will affect both your reading and writing papers. If you don’t know which one you are taking, please follow the link to the IELTS British Council page for information.
  4. What kind of reading passages are there for the academic paper? Answer
    Each passage in the academic reading paper is long. The passages are usually taken from books, magazine and newspapers (they are authentic passages). They can often contain complicated language, academic vocabulary and sometimes diagrams, maps or some kind of illustration.
  5. What kind of passages are there for the general training paper? Answer
    The GT reading paper has three passages, each one getting more difficult. The first one is relevant to everyday English life and could be factual information about a school course or some kind of service, such as a hotel. The second one focuses on work issues, such as training courses at work, resources at work, application procedures or about pay schemes.  The last reading passage is longer and is the most difficult. This is based on a topic of general interest.
  6. How many questions are there? Answer
    There are 40 questions in total for your reading test. 
  7. How are the scores calculated? Answer
    You get one point for each correct answer. You do not lose points for an incorrect answer. The academic and general training papers have different scoring. Please visit the reading band scores page for a list of the scores.
  8. Do I lose a point if my answer is wrong? Answer
    No, you don’t lose a point for a wrong answer. So, never leave an empty space on your answer sheet – always have a guess.
  9. Do I have time to transfer my answers at the end of the reading test? Answer
    No, there is no extra time for transferring answers. You must write your answers directly on to your answer sheet during the 1 hour.
  10. How long should I spend on each passage? Answer
    It is recommended that you spend 20 minutes on each passage. I agree with this completely. Make sure you keep your eyes on the clock to make sure you manage your time effectively. Don’t leave yourself too little time for passage 3.
  11. What types of questions will I get in IELTS reading? Answer
    There are many different types of questions and you must practice all of them. Here’s a link to a page with a list of IELTS reading question types and tips on how to deal with them. It is an essential page to read in your preparation for IELTS reading.
  12. Can I write on the reading question paper? Answer
    Yes, you can. You can make notes, underline words and write on any part of the question paper. Only your answer sheet will be marked. In fact, it is very useful to make notes on your question paper and can help you locate answers.
  13. Can I write all my answers in capital letters on my reading answer sheet? Answer
    Yes, you can. Sometimes this is a good idea because usually your writing will be easier to read.
  14. Can I use a highlighter pen? Answer
    No, you can’t. So, get used to using a pencil to highlight ideas and words in reading passages before your test.
  15. Should I use a pen or pencil? Answer
    For your reading and listening test, you must use a pencil. so don’t forget to take an eraser with you. However, for writing you can choose either pen or pencil.
  16. Is spelling important? Answer
    Yes, it is. If the answer is spelled incorrectly, it will be marked wrong. So pay attention to your spelling of long academic words.
  17. Can I write T instead of True for the True False Not Given questions? Answer
    Yes, it’s possible to write a letter instead of the word True or you can write Y instead of the word Yes. 
  18. How can I improve my reading skills? Answer
    Here are some tips for improving your reading skills for IELTS. (1) develop skills of each type of question in reading – focus on just one type of question each day to improve your technique. Follow the link to get information and tips on question types. (2) develop your speed reading skills –  the passages are long and time is limited so you need to build your speed. (3) develop your ability to scan – IELTS reading is not about understanding everything, it’s about locating answers. (4) read academic articles on various topics – read the bbc news, the new scientist, the economist etc. Here’s a link to a page with useful websites for IELTS. (5) practice – use my practice lessons to improve your techniques and skills (6) practice tests – do practice tests to develop your concentration, test your timing and to know your band score. You should take your practice tests from the IELTS Cambridge books 1-10 because they are real past exam papers.
  19. Do all answers come in order? Answer
    No, only some of the question types have answers which follow the order of information in the passage. You need to learn which ones do and don’t. Here is a link to read information and tips about the question types in IELTS reading.
  20. How can I improve my score for matching headings? Answer
    There are a number of issues with matching headings. Firstly, you need to identify the main point of the paragraph or section. The main point could be the first sentence, in the middle or at the end of the paragraph. This is testing your ability to see the difference between a main point and supporting points. Secondly, spend time looking more closely at the headings. Think of what they mean, paraphrase the words and spot headings which seem to be similar to each other. Thirdly, you don’t need to approach the headings in order. I recommend you start with a heading which is distinctly different in content to the others – it will be quicker and easier to find. Fourthly, don’t waste time, if you can’t match the heading, then move on to the next heading. There are often more headings than you actually need. Lastly, don’t just try to match key words, try to match meaning. If the heading says “A description of …”, then you need to look for a paragraph which contains adjectives and descriptive language rather than looking for the word “description”.  So, don’t just match key words, try to predict the type of language you might find in that paragraph. Follow the link to practice Matching Headings Questions.

IELTS Writing Test Information

  1. How many parts to the writing test are there? Answer
    There are two parts. Writing task 1 is a report for the academic test and a letter for the General Training test. Writing task 2 is an essay for both tests.
  2. How long is the IELTS writing test? Answer
    It takes a total of 1 hour. You should spend 20 minutes on writing task 1 and 40 minutes on writing task 2.
  3. What is the difference between the General Training paper and the Academic Paper? Answer
    The general training paper is mainly for people who want to migrate to a foreign country. For this paper, students need to write a letter for task 1 and an essay for task 2.
    The academic paper is mostly for people who want to enter college or university or for doctors and nurses. Most people take this paper. For this paper, students need to write an academic report for task 1 (based on a bar chart or other types of graphs) and an essay for writing task 2. To read more about the differences, see this page: http://ieltsliz.com/ielts-gt-academic-writing-differences/.
  4. Can I have extra paper for planning and making notes? Answer
    You should make notes and plan on the question paper before you start writing. You are not usually given extra paper for planning.
  5. Should I do writing task 1 or writing task 2 first? Answer
    It is recommended that you spend the first 20 minutes writing task 1. However, if you choose to start with writing task 2, it is your choice. Do what works best for you.
  6. Should I leave a space at the start of a paragraph? Answer
    No, it is not necessary to do that. It is better to leave one empty line between your paragraphs to help the examiner identify the paragraphs.

IELTS Writing Task 1 Test Information Click to open

IELTS Writing Task 2 Test Information Click to open

IELTS Speaking Test Information

  1. How many parts are there to the IELTS speaking test?
    There are 3 parts. There is an interview, a talk and a discussion with the examiner.
  2. How long does the speaking test take?
    It takes a total of 11 to 14 minutes. Part 1 is 4-5 mins, part 2 is 3-4 mins and part 3 is 4-5 mins.
  3. Is the speaking test face to face with an examiner or by computer?
    Your speaking test will be face to face with an IELTS examiner. There is no option to do your IELTS test by computer.
  4. How will the speaking test be marked?
    You will be marked on fluency, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. Each one accounts for 25% of your marks. Learn learn more about the speaking criteria, follow the link.
  5. What kinds of topics will be asked in the speaking test?
    There are many different topics for each part of the speaking test. Follow the link to get a list of common topics and questions for part 1, part 2 and part 3.
  6. How many questions will I be asked?
    You will be asked 12 questions in part 1 (these are based on 3 different topics) and in part 3, you will be asked 5 or more questions – it depends on the length of your answers. Try to aim for long, detailed answers in part 3.
  7. Why do I need to expand my answers in my speaking test?
    To get band score 6 and above for the criterion of fluency, you must show the examiner that you are willing to speak at length. This means you are happy to give longer answers.
  8. Do I need to talk for 2 minutes in part 2?
    In part 2, you must talk for between 1 and 2 minutes. I recommended you aim for between 1.5 to 2 mins which will show a good level of fluency and the ability to speak at length. However, if you are not a confident speaker, don’t try to push it too far and just aim for slightly over 1 minute.
  9. What happens if I continue talking past 2 mins in speaking part 2?
    The examiner will control the time very strictly in your test. The examiner will stop you when you reach 2 minutes and then he/she will move on to part 3.
  10. Can I choose my topic to talk about in part 2?
    No, the examiner will give you a topic card which contains a list of prompts.
  11. Can I ask the examiner to change the topic is part 2 if I can't talk about it?
    No, you can’t change the topic. You must try to talk on the topic you are given.
  12. Do I need to follow the prompts on the cue card in speaking part 2?
    No, you don’t have to, it’s not compulsory. However, I recommend that you do follow the prompts because they offer a good structure for your talk. This is part of the criterion of fluency.
  13. What's the difference between part 1 and part 3 in the IELTS speaking test?
    Part 1 is like an interview. The examiner will ask you short answer questions on common topics relating to your life or your country. In part 3, it is more similar to a discussion. The examiner will ask you about world issues or broader, more complex questions. In part 3, your answers should be longer and more detailed.
  14. Should I give examples in my answers?
    Yes, it is very useful to do that, particularly in part 3 when you need to give longer, more detailed answers.
  15. What can I do if I don't understand the question?
    In speaking part 1, you can ask the examiner to repeat the question but the examiner can’t explain it or help you. In part 2, the examiner will give you a topic and you can’t change it. In part 3, you can ask the examiner to explain the question, just say ” I’m sorry could you explain that, please?
  16. Will I get a lower score if I ask the examiner to repeat the question?
    No, it will not affect your score. However, only do this two or three times and no more.
  17. What can I do if I don't have any ideas for the answer in part 3?
    It sometimes happens that you are asked a question for which you have no ideas. Here’s a typical example “How do you think space exploration benefits mankind?” If you get a question but you have no ideas for the answer, you can say “To be honest, I’ve never really thought about it before. I guess there are benefits to space exploration but I can’t say what they are.” This answer is still good. You are still using a range of good language.
  18. Does it matter if I have an accent when I talk?
    No, as long as the examiner can understand clearly. If your accent prevents the examiner from understanding you, it will lower your score drastically.
  19. Why did the examiner interrupt my answer?
     It is possible for the examiner to interrupt your answer and not let you finish. There are three main reasons why this might happen. Firstly, there is a time limit and the examiner must move on to the next question. Secondly, the examiner is satisfied with the language in your answer and wants to move quickly to a new question which tests another part of your English. Thirdly, your answer has gone off topic and the examiner wants to start a new question. So, if the examiner interrupts your answer, don’t worry about it. Just focus on the next question and answer confidently.
  20. Can I ask the examiner for his or her opinion?
    No, this is a language test, the examiner wants to hear your English and your opinions.
  21. Where can I get a practice speaking test from?
    Follow this link and you will be able to do a practice speaking test on video and then get a link to model answers.
  22. Should I correct my mistakes when I'm speaking in the test?
    It is ok to correct some mistakes but make sure it doesn’t affect your fluency. Every time you stop speaking to correct a mistake, it will affect your fluency score. So, mostly just ignore your mistakes and keep talking.
  23. How should I greet the examiner?
    When you walk into the speaking exam room, the examiner will greet you and do an ID check. Follow this link to learn all about the questions for the ID check and how to greet the examiner: Greeting & ID Check in IELTS Speaking.  After the ID check, the examiner will start the recording device and your speaking test begins.
  24. What should I wear for my speaking test?
    You can wear whatever you want. This is not a formal interview, it is only an informal speaking test. Wear clothes that you are most comfortable in.
  25. What happens if my answer includes the answer to the next question on the examiner's list?
    The examiner has quite a long list of possible questions and they choose which questions to ask and which not to ask. So if you answer includes the answer to the next question on the examiner’s list, he or she will skip that question and move on to the question after that. So never worry about adding extra information to your answer – it won’t affect the next question.
  26. Can I use body language in my speaking test?
    The examiner is only interested in hearing your English language. It is your choice if you want to use body language or not. Most people find it natural to use body language while talking so feel free to use it. It is important that you are relaxed and talk naturally during your test.

Main IELTS Pages

Develop your IELTS skills with tips, lessons, free videos and more.

 

Ask me a question: click here.