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Common queries about IELTS

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Here are some questions often asked by candidates sitting for IELTS (International English Language Testing System).

The schedule

The exam consists of four parts. The first three modules – listening, reading and writing – are held in the morning, and you do them in that order. The three tests are given without any break between each.

The fourth module, the speaking test, is usually given some time in the afternoon on the same day. Occasionally, however, candidates are asked to do the speaking test a few days before or after the other three tests. The test centre that takes your application for the exam will tell you when the speaking test will be held

You must arrive on time for the start of the morning tests. If you’re even a few minutes late, you won’t be allowed to take the exam as you’ll disturb the candidates already doing the test.


In the case of the speaking test, it’s important to stay in the waiting area since you may be tested before the scheduled interview time. For instance, if another candidate is away sick, you could be examined an hour or more early.

Staying in the waiting area is also an excellent opportunity to prepare yourself for the test. How? Simply by talking in English, about anything at all, to another candidate. Don’t wait until that final moment when you sit down on the chair in front of the examiner to “turn on” the “English Department” in your head!



Things to take

For all four modules, the only thing you’re allowed to take into the exam room is your proof of identity (e.g., a passport or identification card). That document must be the same one you used when you registered for the exam. As pencils and rubbers are provided by the test centre staff, don’t take any to the exam.
All your personal belongings must be left outside the exam room in a secure area provided for this purpose. Turn your mobile phone off before giving it to the IELTS staff looking after personal belongings. If you take anything such as a mobile phone, an electronic dictionary or a recording device into the exam room, you’ll be disqualified. As well, your test fee won’t be refunded.

Getting help

Once you’re in the exam room, you mustn’t talk to other candidates or disturb them in any way. However, you can always request the help of the test centre staff, who’ll be present throughout the exam. If you need help, raise your hand to get the attention of a staff member.

Listening test format

At the start of the listening module, the test instructions will be given by a speaker on the listening test recording. There’ll also be a sample question and answer.

Next, you’ll be given a short time to read the questions for the first of the four sections in the test. You’ll then listen to Section 1 and write your answer to the questions as you listen. There’s a short break of up to 30 seconds in the middle of Section 1 to let you read the next few questions.

At the end of the section, there’ll be another short break to let you finish writing the answer to the last question in Section 1. As soon as you’ve done that, start reading Section 2’s questions.

You’ll follow the same procedure in the other three sections of the listening test.

The actual listening test takes 30 minutes. During that time, write your answers in the listening test question booklet, not on the answer sheet.

After the 30-minute recording has finished, you’re given another ten minutes to transfer your answers from the
question booklet to the answer sheet. This is plenty of time. Use the time wisely by carefully checking the spelling and grammar of all answers.

Reading test timing

The reading test is one hour, and it has three reading passages.

Unlike the listening test, you’re not given any extra time to write answers on the answer sheet. All answers must be written on the sheet during the 60-minute test period.

Speaking test format

The whole speaking test takes between 11 and 14 minutes, and it’s in three parts. In each part, the examiner asks you a series of related questions designed to get you to talk at length in English and to show off your speaking abilities.

In the first part, you’re asked questions about yourself and familiar topics, such as the transport services in your hometown. In the second part, the examiner asks you to give a two minute-talk on a straightforward topic, such as your idea of a perfect holiday.

In the last of the three parts, the examiner asks for your opinions on certain social issues in modern society. You may also be asked to compare particular aspects of life today with life in the past or the future. You’re expected to
support your opinions by giving reasons and examples.

Try to answer questions as fluently and fully as possible. Remember, the speaking test is your opportunity to show off your spoken English.

Don’t worry about the fact that the examiner records the test. This is just one of the many procedures that are used to ensure that the standard of examining in the IELTS speaking test is at the highest possible level.

Accents used

As IELTS is an international test, a variety of English accents is used in the listening module. In other words, you’ll hear International English – not just British English.

As well, the speaking test examiners may be from any one of the English-speaking countries in the world (e.g., Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and the United States).

For this reason, it’s an excellent idea to listen to as many different native-English accents as you can as part of your preparation for the test.

An easy way to improve your International English listening skills is to be taught by a number of instructors who have come from different English-speaking countries. Of course, doing IELTS preparation courses is also very helpful, especially if the teachers are expert in the test.

This article was written by David Park, a highly experienced IELTS teacher. Ajarn David teaches at Paradigm Language Institute. 

If you have any questions about IELTS that you would like Ajarn David to answer, or if you wish to do an IELTS preparation course, write to: IELTS-training@paradigm-language.com.

IELTS is owned by Cambridge ESOL, the British Council and IELTS Australia.
 

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