IELTS: Test Logistics

The IELTS (International English Language Teaching System) is one of two tests (along with the TOEFL) students can take to show proficiency in English. The test is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English Language Assessment, so if you're applying to universities in the United Kingdom, Australia, or Canada, the IELTS will be a requirement not just for university admission, but obtaining a visa as well.

There are two types of IELTS exams: Academic and General Training. The General Training focuses on "survival" and workplace English, and is used for visa requirements or those who will travel for training programs or secondary education. The Academic Test is more geared towards those who need to prove their proficiency for professional registration or postsecondary education. The Magoosh IELTS program is designed for the Academic Exam. 

Although the TOEFL is most commonly used for admission to colleges in the United States, many U.S. schools are rapidly adopting the IELTS as a test that can be used in place of the TOEFL. You can search for schools that accept the IELTS here. So which test should you take? This article from the Magoosh TOEFL blog will help you make that decision.

How Much Does the IELTS Cost? 

The fees vary depending on where you take the IELTS. For example, U.S. testing centers will charge $210-$240, while testing centers in India will charge RS. 11,300 (about $175 US Dollars).  In short, you can expect a fee somewhere in the $200 US range.

Where Can I Find a Testing Center?

Use this link to find the testing center closest to you. Keep in mind that, in the US, there are only around 50 testing centers which give the test, which means your nearest location could be hours away. Make sure to take that distance into account when choosing between the TOEFL and IELTS. 

How Long Is the Test? 

2 hours and 45 minutes. However, the written portions of the test most often take place in the morning, and the speaking portion takes place in the afternoon, so you may have to wait for hours to complete the speaking section, or take it on a different day -- you can take the speaking section up to a week before or after the test, and your testing center will inform you on the date and time. You can find more information about this here: IELTS Test Format. 

What Do I Need? 

When registering for the IELTS, you will need to scan and send them a copy of an identity document. It must include:

  • Your ID or Passport number
  • Your Date of Birth
  • Your photograph
  • Your ID or Passport expiry date
  • Your signature

Your passport or your national ID will work as valid identification as long as it contains the above. You also are required to bring the same ID you scanned to the testing center to be admitted to take the IELTS. You might also have to bring your own stationery, but make sure to check with your testing center beforehand to ensure this. Although you might not have to bring your timetable or confirmation email to the testing center, it's still a good idea to do this to make sure there's no confusion on test day.

Lastly, you can bring a clear bottle of water if you choose to do so.

What ID Verification is Performed at the Testing Center?

First, make sure to arrive well before your scheduled testing time; preferably 30 minutes to an hour before.

As part of the check-in process, you will be photographed. You must be photographed or otherwise you will not be able to take the IELTS. Many testing centers will also take your fingerprints or do a finger scan as part of the mandatory check-in, as well as have you sign your name or scan you with a metal detector.

What Is Allowed in the Testing Room? 

These are the only objects allowed with you in the testing room:

  • Your ID document
  • pen(s)
  • pencil(s)
  • eraser(s)
  • a bottle of water (label-free)

Any other objects must be left in the designated belongings area and turned off. 

Make sure that you carefully read all of the terms, conditions and rules in the Application Form before your test date to avoid issues during test day. 

Is the IELTS Given on a Computer or on Paper?

For the vast majority of test-takers, IELTS is a paper-based exam, for all sections except the speaking section (which is an interview). For the paper-based IELTS, your answers must be given in pencil for the listening and reading sections. For the writing section, you can choose to use either a pen or pencil.

A limited number of students may also have the option to take the IELTS on computer, depending on their reason for taking the test, and the city or country they live in. This article will focus on the much more common paper-based IELTS. But for info and updates on the computer-based IELTS, see out Magoosh IELTS Blog article, "Is it Possible to Take IELTS on Computer?"

What is the IELTS Format?

These IELTS sections are given in this exact order:

  • Listening (about 30 minutes, plus 10 minutes to transfer your answers from the question sheet to the answer sheet)
    • Four sections, with 10 questions for each section:
      • Section 1: Conversation between two people in an everyday context
      • Section 2: A monologue about an everyday situation (ex: a speech about a town)
      • Section 3: Conversation between two people in a university context
      • Section 4: Monologue on an academic subject
    • A variety of question types are used, chosen from the following: multiple choice, matching, plan/map/diagram labelling, form/note/table/flow-chart/summary completion, sentence completion.
  • Reading (60 minutes)
    • Three reading passages, with 40 questions over the three passages (so about 13-14 questions per passage)
      • The passages are taken from newspapers, magazines, journals, and will be of general interest -- there will be no specialized subjects, and you will not need outside information to answer the questions.
      • If a text does contain technical terms, definitions are provided.
      • Texts may contain illustrations, graphs, charts, or other visual elements.
      • At least one section will contain a detailed logical argument.
      • A variety of question types are used, chosen from the following; multiple choice, identifying information, identifying the writer’s views/claims, matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, diagram label completion and short-answer questions.
  • Writing (60 minutes)
    • Two tasks, and although you can spend to split the 60 minutes however you choose between the two tasks, no more than 20 minutes is recommended for Task 1, and 40 minutes is recommended for Task 2.
      • Task 1:
        • You will either:
          • Be given graphs, charts, and tables on a topic and asked to describe those figures,
          • Or given a diagram of a machine, process, or device and explain how it works.
        • You should write formally, as you would in an academic setting, for the task.
        • Leaving out small details will not hurt your score; you should cover the most important aspects of the figures or diagram.
        • You will be penalized if your answer is less than 150 words. You will not be penalized if your response is more than 150 words, but writing too much may hurt the amount of time you have to complete Task 2.
      • Task 2:
        • You will be given a topic to write about, and discuss relevant issues about that topic.
        • Make sure to maintain focus. For example, if the topic is about a specific part of town, write about that specific part and not about the town in general.
        • As with Task 1, write as you would in an academic setting.
        • Task 2 contributes twice as much to your writing score than Task 1, so it makes sense to take twice as much time as you would with Task 1 to complete it.
        • You will be penalized if your response is less than 250 words, but you will not be penalized if it is more than 250 words.

After the Writing Tasks, the written part of the IELTS is done.

  • Speaking (11-14 minutes)
    • Note: This part of your IELTS may occur up to a week before or a week after your written test date; the testing center will let you know the exact time.
    • The speaking task is an in-person interview as the testing center. The interview is recorded.
    • The number of questions for each part is variable.
    • There are three parts:
      • Part 1: Introduction (4-5 minutes)
        • In this part, the examiner introduces him/herself and checks the test takers' identity. They then ask the test takers general questions on some familiar topics such as home, family, work, studies and interests. To ensure consistency, questions are taken from a script.
      • Part 2: Long Turn (3-4 minutes, including prep time)
        • The examiner gives the test takers a task card which asks the test takers to talk about a particular topic, includes points to cover in their talk and instructs the test takers to explain one aspect of the topic. Test takers are given one minute to prepare their talk, and are given a pencil and paper to make notes. The examiner asks the test takers to talk for 1 to 2 minutes, stops the test takers after 2 minutes, and asks one or two questions on the same topic.
      • Part 3: Discussion (4-5 minutes)
        • The examiner and the test takers discuss issues related to the topic in Part 2 in a more general and abstract way and, where appropriate, in greater depth.
    • You are graded on fluency and coherence, range of vocabulary used, grammar range and accuracy, and pronunciation.

How is the IELTS scored?

Each section is scored on a 0-9 scale, or band. The scale goes from 0 (did not attempt the test) to 9 (expert user). The bands are explained in more detail here.  You scores from the four sections are then averaged and rounded to the nearest half-point to get your overall band score.

What are the percentiles for the IELTS?

Refer to the official IELTS site for the latest percentile data.

How do I get my IELTS Results? 

Your test report form will be available 13 days after your test. You can pick up your copy at the testing center, or arrange for them to mail it to you. Your tests will also be available for viewing online for 28 days after you have taken the test. The Test Center will provide you with a link to view your results. See this page to find the website for your Test Center. 

Note that you will only receive one copy of your Test Report Form unless you are applying to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (in which case you will receive 2). This piece of paper is your official record of your English level, so keep it safe with other important documents! 

How do I send my IELTS scores to schools?

You can send scores to up to five schools for no charge. You will select these recipients when you register for the test. You can send your scores to additional schools by obtaining additional copies of your score report for a small fee (this fee depends on the country in which you take the IELTS). If you want to select score recipients after registration (for example, a few weeks later), you might need to pay an additional fee. This policy varies by Test Center, so you'll need to contact your Test Center for more information. 

Please note that each organization will set their own validity period for the IELTS test, but the IELTS partners recommend a 2-year validity period. 

How many times can I take the IELTS?

You can take the IELTS as many times as you choose, and you can sign up for another sitting as soon as you finish the test. However, without devoting a significant amount of time to improve (at least two months), a score increase is unlikely.

Can I get a refund if I need to cancel or postpone my IELTS?

You can get a refund if your test date is at least 5 weeks away; you will receive a refund minus an administration fee. If your test date is within five weeks, you can only receive a refund if you have medical documentation that you were ill the day of the test and send that information no later than five days after your scheduled test date.




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  • 0

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