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IELTS: myth vs. truth

Published on May 19, 2017

Myth or truth? Make sure you know the truth about IELTS testing as part of your preparation for taking the test. The best place to get that truth is here, on the website of IDP Education, which is one of the co-owners of the system.

Myth: British Council and IDP do not run the same IELTS test. Also, the level of difficulty of the test depends on the country in which the test is taken.

Truth: British Council and IDP are the two organisations tha t run the IELTS test, which is created by Cambridge University. Cambridge carefully builds each element of each new test to ensure the level of difficulty is consistent, no matter which country you are in or which test is used. IDP and British Council both use the same tests developed by Cambridge.

Myth: A high score can be achieved only by doing IELTS practice tests.

Truth: There are lots of ways to improve your ability to do well on an IELTS test.

  1. Listening and speaking skills can be improved by watching English-speaking TV, movies and videos and listening to English radio programs.
  2. Reading skills can be improved by reading English newspapers, books, magazines and websites.
  3. Writing skills can be practised by writing a blog, journal or diary, or even an email, in English.
  4. Speaking skills can also be improved by practising with your friends.
  5. Language classes are very useful because they teach you the theory and rules behind how the language works. They can also provide extra practise and a teacher who will guide and support you.
  6. IELTS practice tests are very useful because they get you familiar with the test format and the time limits – both important to your success. However, by themselves they will not improve your English skills.

So spend lots of time on practising to improve your English, and some time on practising the test format so there are no surprises when you sit your real test.

Myth: Cheating is possible on the IELTS test.

Truth: IDP Education and British Council do everything they can to make sure nobody can cheat during their test. There are lots of security measures including:

  1. Candidates must provide their passports or permanent residency cards to confirm their identity when registering, plus show it again on test day.
  2. On test day, all candidates have their photo taken plus a scan of their right index finger.
  3. Both photo and finger scan will be checked by examiners and supervisors during each section of the test.
  4. Any candidate taking a washroom break will have their right index finger re-scanned before they leave the testing room and when they return.

These rules are followed for every test at every test centre. There are also other confidential security measures in place to ensure no cheating takes place.

Test myths

There are also myths about the various sections of the test.

Speaking

Myth: My speaking score is affected by my opinions and views.

Truth: All the examiner assesses is how well you speak English. That’s all. By answering honestly you are likely to be more fluent, accurate and confident in how you speak.

Reading

Myth: Finishing the Reading section on the IELTS test is impossible.

Truth: It is not impossible, but if you are going to attend an English-speaking university this is the level you need to be able to read at to study for your classes. The same applies if you need to gain professional registration for work in an English-speaking workplace. Readings for IELTS Academic are taken from real books, journals, newspapers and magazines – things you will have to use every day.

Readings for IELTS General Training are taken from things you will come across in daily life in an English-speaking country, such as notices, books, newspapers, magazines and advertising.

The Reading section can be completed in one hour if you are a confident reader and have really practised your reading skills. Doing some practice Reading tests will get you familiar with the format, which is important. This will help you to develop a plan and method to complete the Reading section in the time allowed.

Writing

Myth: My band score will improve the more I write over the word limit on the Writing section.

Truth: To gain the maximum points for the Writing section, you must write at least 150 words for Task 1 and 250 words for Task 2. You can write more, but be careful.

  1. Do not write extra words on Task 1 and then run out of time to complete Task 2 or be forced to rush Task 2.
  2. If you are going to write more words, then make sure they are words that benefit the task. The more words you write, the more mistakes you can make.

Listening

Myth: Headsets will always be provided during the Listening section in every IELTS centre.

Truth: Equipment varies among centres. Some centres use a sound system with speakers; however, some centres provide headsets. Check ahead with the test centre you plan to use to ensure that you practise in the same way that the test will be held.