The IELTS Test – What do I need to know for success?

info-31185_1280OK, so the most obvious thing is to do lots of practice and make sure your reading, writing, listening and speaking skills are good enough to get the IELTS Band Score you need.

In the last post, I suggested that you familiarise yourself with what’s expected in the test at the official IELTS website but in the meantime, I’m going to make it really easy for you by giving you some information about what to expect.

As I said in my last post, in my opinion half the battle is knowing the IELTS test procedure.  If you’ve ever had to sit a test more than once, think how much easier it was the second time because you knew what to expect!  I should know; I failed my driving test FOUR times!

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What is the IELTS test?

The first thing to do is to check that IELTS is actually the test you need.

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System; it is an English testing system which assesses the language ability of people who want/need to study in an English speaking environment. Many employers, universities and immigration authorities require that you have a certain IELTS Band Score before they will accept your application.

When thinking about when you’re going to take the test, it’s important to remember that your IELTS Band Score is only valid for 2 years.

Next, you must decide which version of the test you are going to take.  There are two versions of the IELTS test; the Academic version and the General Training version.  If you wish to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level, you must take IELTS Academic version, if you wish to emigrate or work overseas, IELTS General Training version is appropriate.

The two versions have four sub-tests or modules; reading, writing, listening and speaking.  The IELTS Listening and IELTS  Speaking sub-tests are the same in both the Academic version and the General Training version  but the IELTS Reading and IELTS Writing sub-tests are different.  A certified examiner, who has undergone thorough training will assess your writing and speaking skills and give you a Band Score in those sub-tests.

You can download a really useful booklet called IELTS Information for Candidates at the official IELTS website for more detailed information.

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How do I apply for the IELTS test?

Once again, I recommend you go to the official IELTS website and download The IELTS handbook and IELTS Information for Candidates.  These 2 booklets both explain how to apply to take the test, however I’ll give you a brief overview and some of my own comments here.

1.         You apply to your local IELTS Test Centre to sit the test.

To find your nearest IELTS Test Centre, click here.  Here you’ll find the  address, contact details and the upcoming test dates.

2.         Go to the IELTS Test Centre to get an application form.  If it’s difficult for you to go there, you can download an application form from the official IELTS website.  You could even ask if the Test Centre would mail one out to you.

3.         Decide what date you want to take the test and fill in the application form.  Make sure you write the correct module; Academic or General Training, depending on what you need.

4.         If possible, get a native English friend to check over your application form for you.

5.         Send your completed form to the Test Centre you wish to attend, together with 2 passport sized photos and the test fee.

6.         Make sure you provide the same ID on test day as you put on your application form. If the 2 forms of ID are different, you will not be allowed to take the test.  If for any reason, this won’t be possible, contact the Test Centre immediately.

7.         Once your application form has been processed, the Test Centre will send you a confirmation letter with the date and time of the test and also some instructions for the day.

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What do I do on Test Day?

Well, first of all make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before and that you have a good breakfast (yes, I’m also a mum!).  If your speaking test is on the same day, remember you will also need to have lunch.

Don’t forget to take your ID with you as it will be checked on your arrival.

Be aware that you can’t take your belongings, including your mobile phone into the test room.  There will be a specified area outside the room where you can leave them.

As with all exams, once the invigilator (the test supervisor) has stated that the test has started, no talking is allowed.  If you need to ask something, just raise your hand.

The listening test is first, then reading, then writing .  Your Test Centre will tell you the time (and date) of your speaking test.

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And then what?

Once the test is over, all there is to do is to wait for your results.  IELTS test results are posted out on the 13th day after your test so you should receive them 2 weeks after the test.  It may be possible to go to the Test Centre on the 13th day after the test to collect your results but you will have to ask them.  The Test Centre cannot, however, give you your results over the phone or via fax or email.

You don’t get a certificate after taking IELTS; you get a Test Report Form (TRF) with your results. Look after your Test Report Form, you only get one copy.  Remember, however, that you can ask for additional copies (a maximum of five) to be sent to the organisation asking for your result (university, immigration etc.)

Hopefully it’s now time to celebrate!  If not, don’t despair, see my post What to do if your IELTS score isn’t high enough. It may be possible to salvage the situation.  In any case, it’s time to move ‘onwards and upwards’!

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

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