The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the most popular assessment of English proficiency in the world. Whether English is your first, second, or seventh language, you may be required to take an IELTS test. If English is your mother tongue, or if you're doing very well in your English courses, you might think that showing up on the IELTS test day is all you need to do to get a high score. However, test day can be more challenging than you think. The difference between achieving the IELTS results that you want and not getting the best score could be as simple as not knowing what to expect on test day. Let's walk through a typical test day, so that you know what to expect.
First, candidates need to show up on test day at least an hour before delivery of the test. IELTS tests are typically expected to start around 9:00 a.m., which means candidates should arrive no later than 8:15 a.m., and sometimes even earlier, depending on the number of candidates expected to test that day. Candidates must also bring ID that is recognized by IELTS, which in Canada is typically one of two pieces: A passport or a PR (permanent resident) card. If you do not have either of these types of ID, please contact your IELTS Test Centre. Candidates may sometimes want to bring their favourite pencil or pen, however, IELTS staff will provide you with enough pencils throughout the test. Similarly, some candidates have a good luck water bottle, cup or mug. Only water in clear bottles (with no labels) can be brought into the test room. All of your belongings will then be put into a special storage room that is locked during the test. You will then have a biometric scan (your fingerprint scanned) and other details about you will be confirmed.
Now, the test begins. The IELTS staff will walk you through the important information you need to know for test day. The first skill to be tested is Listening. Expect to sit down and listen and make notes for the next 30 minutes or so. No one can leave the session to go to the bathroom during this time (visit the bathroom before the test). You then have 10 minutes to transfer your answers from your notes onto the answer paper. Take your time and make sure the spelling is correct. Pencils go down when the 10 minutes is up. IELTS staff will then come around and collect your Listening test materials.
You will then be given your Reading test materials. The IELTS staff will walk you through the instructions and leave a countdown clock posted on the screen, so that you always know how much time you have during the test. If the water that you've been drinking is now too distracting, you have to go to the bathroom, go! Remember, the time that you miss to go to the bathroom is time that you take away from the Reading test. You have to scan your fingerprint before you leave for the bathroom and then again when you return from the bathroom. Hope you were quick! You don’t want to have lost too much time from your Reading test. You have only 60 minutes for it, and any time used to go to the bathroom is taken away from that 60 minutes. Be sure to write your answers on the answer sheet during the 60 minutes, as no extra time is given to transfer your answers from your notes to the answer sheet. When the time is up and pencils are down, IELTS staff will come around to collect the Reading materials and give you the next set of materials.
Next is the Writing test. You have 60 minutes for two tasks. The suggested time to take for Task 1 is 20 minutes, as you will need to write about 150 words. Task 2 should take about 40 minutes, and you should write about 250 words. Start with the task that is easiest for you. For example, read both tasks first. If you can think of a lot of ideas for Task 2, then start with Task 2, outline your ideas, and write, write, write! Then, move to Task 1. Again, time is precious, and you will likely be surprised at how quickly the time passes – and you have that countdown clock to keep track of how you're using your time. When the time is up and pencils down, it will like likely around 12:30 p.m., or perhaps a bit later depending on the number of candidates sitting for the test.
IELTS staff will then collect all remaining materials from you. As the candidates file out of the room, fingerprints are scanned. Candidates can then pick up their belongings from IELTS staff at the locked storage rooms. Before you do anything else, check the Speaking test schedule to see when your Speaking test is scheduled. Speaking tests usually begin around 1:00 p.m. and have 20-minute blocks.
If you are not scheduled for 1:00 p.m., then please be sure to be back at the testing session about 20 minutes before you are scheduled. That may mean that you have a quick lunch or no lunch! It's a great idea to bring a snack just in case.
Before the Speaking test, you check into a special room designated for those candidates who are about to be escorted to their respective Speaking test rooms. You will be scan for a fingerprint, and your belongings must be left in the holding room (and be very sure that you do not have your cell phone with you). You will then be escorted to the Speaking test room. The Examiner will then open the door and begin delivery of the Speaking test. After about 14 minutes, you will have finished the Speaking test.
I’m sure that you want to ask the Examiner how you did, but don't! The Examiner can tell you nothing about your performance. You'll get your results in 13 calendar days.
Before you leave, be sure to check back into the holding room. You're fingerprint will be scanned one last time, and you can collect your belongings.
You have now finished your IELTS test!
Were you surprised? Felt unprepared just for this delivery? If so, you are not alone. For this reason, many candidates take mock tests which attempt to mimic test-day situations and the environment. The more comfortable and familiar you are with the IELTS test, the greater your chances for reaching your goal. If you'd like to be better prepared for your IELTS test day, visit our IELTS Test Preparation Course to see how we can help.