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A definitive IELTS frequently asked questions (FAQ)

IELTS Frequently Asked Questions

Got a question about IELTS?  The IELTS examiners that work with us have got the answers. Browse our range of questions to get the answers you need whether you want to book an IELTS test, get your results, get help with your preparation, band scores, refunds and how it’s marked. If you can’t find an answer here, please contact us. and we will answer your question

  1. What is IELTS?
  2. I need help preparing for my test. Can you help me?
  3. Will I be able to take all parts of the test on the same day?
  4. How may I request a refund or test date transfer?
  5. When can I re-sit the test?
  6. I have an accent – will I be understood?
  7. How soon will I receive my IELTS test results?
  8. Can I see my IELTS results online?
  9. Will the test be easier if I sit the IELTS in a different country?
  10. How is IELTS marked?
  11. What is the IELTS Band scale?
  12. Do I still need to prepare for IELTS if I’m from an English-speaking background?
  13. What can I take into the examination room?
  14. Is it necessary to write an essay header before starting the essay or is it not required? Which is the best way?
  15. For IELTS General Training Task 1, we’re instructed to begin our letter with “Dear Sir or Madam”. Should we begin the letter as suggested or should we follow the proper format of writing a letter? Which one is the correct way?
  16. If I make a mistake while writing a letter or essay, is it better to use an eraser or should I cross out the wrong word and carry on. Which is the correct method?
  17. Can I write in capital letters?
  18. For computer-delivered IELTS, do we get a paper and pencil to take notes for the Listening test? Do we also get 10 minutes to transfer answers?

1  What is IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an English language proficiency test for study, work and migration. With more than 3 million test takers each year, it’s recognised by more than 10,000 organisations, including educational institutions, employers, professional associations and governments, in 140 countries around the world.

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2  I need help preparing for my test. Can you help me?

Sure thing! upmyielts uses IELTS examiners to mark your writing and/or speaking.  You can order what you want to practice here.

If you are looking for books then https://www.ieltsbooks.org/10-best-ielts-books has a really good list, selected by IELTS examiners.  Another place to look that is run by IELTS examiners is https://www.amazon.co.uk/shop/upmyielts

3  Will I be able to take all parts of the test on the same day?

This will depend on where you sit your test so kindly check with your Test Centre for details. Sometimes, you will have to do your speaking on a different day.

4  How may I request a refund or test date transfer?

You must contact your test Centre as soon as possible if you seek to request a refund or transfer your test date. Your Test Centre will provide you information on your next steps and administration fees.

5  When can I re-sit the test?

There is no time limit on sitting the test. However, we strongly recommend you practise your IELTS skills in Writing, Reading or Speaking until you’re confident you’ve done enough to increase your band score before taking the test again. We find that most people struggle with writing so it is really important that you work on this part of the exam.  You can do a full writing test here.

6  I have an accent – will I be understood?

IELTS is an international test, we hear all accents. In your Speaking test, you won’t lose marks for speaking with an accent but your pronunciation is important. Rest assured, your examiner will match your speaking pace and proficiency. Feel free to clarify the question if you’re unsure.

7  How soon will I receive my IELTS test results?

Computer-delivered IELTS:

Your results will usually be released between 2-5 days after you sit your test

Paper-based IELTS: 

Your results will be released 13 calendar days after you sit your test.

How you receive your results will depend on which IELTS Test Centre you sit your test with. You may collect your results at some Test Centres so, please check with your Test Centre first. You should receive your Test Report Form (TRF) within 5 days of postage. It will be mailed to the postal address.

8  Can I see my IELTS results online?

Computer-delivered IELTS:

Your results will be available online between 2-5 days after your test date.

Paper-based IELTS:

Your results will be available online 13 calendar days after your test date.

Your test centre will notify you when they become available.

9  Will the test be easier if I sit the IELTS in a different country?

IELTS is an international test created by Cambridge University. Cambridge carefully develops each element of each new test to ensure the level of difficulty is consistent. Rest assured that everything about the test is the same, regardless of where you take the test in the world.

We recommend that you take the test at your preferred centre, a place that makes you feel most comfortable and is ideal for you based on your needs.

10  How is IELTS marked?

A strong structure and process is in place to ensure the marking is consistent no matter where in the world you take your IELTS. Our expert examiners strictly follow comprehensive assessment criteria to grade your skills.

Your speaking is marked by the person you speak to in the exam.  It is recorded so you can query the results and have it rechecked.

Your writing Task 1 and Task 2 are marked by different examiners using a very strict criteria.

Your reading and listening are marked by computer for the computer-based exam and by admin for the paper test.

Training is also provided to our examiners globally and a firm monitoring process is in place to make sure marking quality and consistency is met always.

11  What is the IELTS Band scale?

You will be given a score from 1 to 9 for each part of the test – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. The average produces your overall band score. You can score whole (e.g., 5.0, 6.0, 7.0) or half (e.g., 5.5., 6.5, 7.5) bands in each part of the test.

12  Do I still need to prepare for IELTS if I’m from an English-speaking background?

It’s important that you prepare for the test even if you come from an English-speaking background.  We strongly recommend that you become used to the test format as understanding what to expect on test day is key to performing well. We also recommend you be familiar with the assessment criteria to fully understand how the examiner will mark your test.

13  What can I take into the examination room?

You can only bring in pens, pencils, erasers and the valid passport you used on the IELTS Application Form with you to the test. Everything else must be left outside the examination room. It will be safe in a secure area.

14  Is it necessary to write an essay header before starting the essay or is it not required? Which is the best way? 

There is no need for headings or subheadings in the Task 2 IELTS Writing exam. You will be marked down for incorrect format if you use subheadings. The examiner has the question in front of them, so you don’t need to repeat it by using a heading. Simply start your essay with an introduction as you would normally do. Task 2 starts with an introduction, then 2 body paragraphs and then the conclusion.

15  For IELTS General Training Task 1, we’re instructed to begin our letter with “Dear Sir or Madam”. Should we begin the letter as suggested or should we follow the proper format of writing a letter? Which one is the correct way?

If you have been asked to start the letter with Dear Sir or Madam, this is how you should start your letter – “Dear Sir or “Madam”. This will also signal that the letter must be written in a formal tone.  If the instructions say ‘Begin your letter with “Dear…”, this means that the letter will be semi-formal/friendly, and you should start your letter by inserting a name. E.g. Dear John.

16  If I make a mistake while writing a letter or essay, is it better to use an eraser or should I cross out the wrong word and carry on. Which is the correct method?

If you have an eraser, it is better to erase the error and to replace it with the correct word. If your writing has lots of crossed out lines, it looks messy and may make it difficult for the examiner to read.  Neat presentation and clear handwriting aid the reading process. If you use a pen, try and cross out the word or phrase neatly and write over it, or beside it as neatly as you can.

17  Can I write in capital letters?

We can write all your Reading and Listening answers in capitals, so it is clear for the person who marks it.  You do not have to though.  However, in computer-delivered IELTS handwriting is not an issue, so you should try to write all words using upper and lower case.

However, in the Writing test, it is very important to write Task 1 and Task 2 with correct capitalisation, as punctuation is marked as part of the Grammatical Range and Accuracy criteria.

18  For computer-delivered IELTS, do we get a paper and pencil to take notes for the Listening test? Do we also get 10 minutes to transfer answers?

There is no transfer time for computer-delivered IELTS Listening test. You input answers directly as you hear them. You will get a pencil and a sheet of paper (with your log-in details) that you can write notes on.


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