3 questions I get more than anything else as an IELTS examiner

Throughout my IELTS teaching as well as examining career with the British Council, I get asked these same questions each time wherever I go. I normally try to answer them to the best of my ability especially for those who are doing the test at first attempt. I hope you will find the responses below helpful to understand what to expect.

1) How can I prepare for my IELTS test?

OK, now this can be quite difficult for those who have no idea of what the test is about and not knowing where to begin. If you are not familiar with its format, a good place to start is the official IELTS website itself. What candidates need to know is that it is not just a language test but also a test of your time management. Managing your time is something that you can easily improve on with plenty (and I mean PLENTY!) of practice. So, the first thing you’ll need to do to work on this is to have a timer in front of you whenever you do a practice test. You will need to be strict with yourself on this. You do not get extra minutes when the invigilator tells you to submit your paper. The other thing is to brush up on the four skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. This, however, takes time. If your English skills are quite weak, then you will need to make sure that you do some lessons or self-practice to improve yourself. This is a little harder to do over a short period so it is wise to give yourself some window between improving your language skills and sitting for the test.

2) Does the test get more difficult each time?

No, it doesn’t. Every test is centred around various topics and the task format is essentially the same. The language or vocabulary will be not be any more difficult than the last test you took, so the level of difficulty remains the same for every IELTS test taker. What you may perceive to be difficult is possibly because of your lack of knowledge about the topic and by extension, the vocabulary that surrounds it. So, what may be hard for one person may be easy for another. It can depend on your familiarity around what is being asked. For example, if you are a very good chess player and the reading passage is all about chess, then this may be an easy topic for you compared with someone who does not know anything about it. But this does not mean that you may do very well! The test also involves your understanding of the language that describes the topic. So, even though you may feel that you are at an advantage as a chess player, you may still fail because your vocabulary and grammar skills are not up to the required standard, as compared to someone who has never played chess but have very good language skills!

3) How did I do?

This has been been asked by some (perhaps first-time?) candidates at the end of their IELTS interview. Examiners are not able to reveal results at the end of each speaking test, so please do not put your assessor in a spot by asking, or even worse, demanding this. (Yes, I have seen this!) All candidates will receive their oral test results at the same time as the results of all the other tests they have taken. This usually takes 14 days in most centres. You will find out how you have performed only then.


I hope these have helped answer your questions to a certain extent. Don’t hesitate to comment below if you have more.


Until next time!

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