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How to apply for your IELTS exam and what to expect on your test day

Posted 23 May 2016
Bellerbys IELTS

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Find out everything you need to know before your IELTS exam.

Written by Finja Ahlborn, Digital Marketing Intern

Did you know that there are two million students who take the IELTS Exam every year and 1,000 testing centres in over 140 countries? Even though the test is so popular nowadays, it can be a challenge to find all the information you need, starting with the application process. I know it can be daunting; I was in the same position a few weeks ago when I applied to take my IELTS exam here at Bellerbys College. In this blog post I want to talk you through the application process, what to expect in your exam and the test day.

One thing that you should think about before you apply for your exam is the type of IELTS Test you need. There are a few different IELTS exams that you can take, for example the IELTS general, IELTS academic or even the IELTS life skills test. If you don’t have a European passport you will have to apply for a so-called UKVI IELTS Test. This is an IELTS Test that is approved by the UK government to prove your English language abilities for your Visa application process. The test itself is no different to the other types of IELTS you can take, only the Test Report Forms can be slightly different and there is only a limited number of test centres around the world that offer this test.

If you own a European passport you can take the standard IELTS academic test, because even though you don’t need to apply for a visa you still have to give proof of your English skills. If you are under 18 years old and don’t own a European passport you should definitely look on the British Council website or contact your student enrolment advisor before you apply for any of these tests. Because of your age you will have to apply for a Tier 4 (Child) student visa, which requires different documents for its application.

The 10 steps to your IELTS test

  1. Go on the British Council website and visit the online registration system for the UKVI IELTS Test
  2. If you want to apply for the IELTS academic, click here to read more 
  3. Choose a country and month that you would like to take the test in. If you’re applying for the IELTS academic Test you will also be asked to select a city that you want to take the test in
  4. If you’re applying for a UKVI IELTS you will now be asked to choose the test type you would like to apply for, select “IELTS for UKVI (Academic)”
  5. View the availability of all test dates and centres and choose one that fits you best
  6. If you’re applying for an IELTS academic test, you will be asked to read and accept the terms and conditions now, if you’re applying for a UKVI IELTS you will have to complete this step after you’ve registered for an account
  7. If you’re applying for a UKVI IELTS test you will have to register for an account. For the standard IELTS academic test you will have to fill in your personal information as well as upload a valid identification document.  
  8. Log in and review all the details of your test. Read through them once more and click on “book test” to continue. You can change your test details by clicking on “select another test”
  9. Once again you will be asked to review your account registration information, click continue and provide other essential information
  10. Choose your method of payment. You can either pay vie direct bank transfer, credit/debit card, with cash or via postal order.
  11. You will now receive a follow-up email, which will include a summary of all your test details as well as your payment confirmation as you complete each step. It also allows you to add any documents or information that might still be missing. You will also be given your personal IELTS reference number. This number will allow to login to the student Test Taker Area online where you’ll be able to access practice material, review the details you have submitted, find a summary of your test information, payment status and centre contact details.  

What to expect on the exam

Now that you’ve successfully applied for your exam I’ll give you a short overview of what to expect on your big day.

After arriving at the given time, you will be allowed to enter the building. You will then be sorted by your surname, your ID will be checked and your photo and fingerprints will be taken. There will be a room in which you can leave all your items, such as bags, jackets and your phone. You are not allowed to take any of these items in the exam hall!

Let me give you a short introduction to the structure of an IELTS test. The test has four sections – Listening (30 minutes), Reading (60 minutes), Writing (60 minutes) and Speaking (11–14 minutes). The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes. The Listening, Reading and Writing tests are done in one go. The Speaking test can be on the same day or up to seven days before or after the other tests. Your answers will be written on paper, so make sure to bring a blue or black pen and pencil with you.

Once you’ve found your seat, put your ID on your desk as the examiners might want to double check it during the exam and also take a look at the little piece of paper that’s attached to your desk, it tells you the time for your speaking test.

During the IELTS test it’s important that you listen to the examiners carefully and follow the instructions, so you won’t miss any important information. Stay aware of the time, so you will be able to complete all of your questions. Furthermore all of the tasks have suggested time limits; it’s a good idea to follow them, as they will allow you to have enough time to complete the test without being stressed out.

After the first part of the test you might have a little break, depending on the time of your speaking test. The speaking test is probably the part of the test that test takers are most scared of. But always remember: the examiner won’t ask about your opinion; he just wants to check your ability to react to questions, your pronunciation, grammar and coherency. Don’t forget that you can always ask for him/her to repeat the question for you if you didn’t understand it in the first go. Always keep in mind that the most important thing is to just speak. Even if you’re not sure about the answer, the worst thing you could do is to be silent. After finishing the speaking test you are done with your exam and allowed to go home.

So what do you do if you have taken your test but didn’t reach the score you need to get into the college or university you would like to? Although it varies from school to school, top UK universities usually require an IELTS score of at least 6.0 in all components. If your IELTS score does not meet your desired university requirement, IELTS express at Bellerbys College might be the right choice for you. We offer an IELTS Express course that is designed to improve your IELTS score up to one point.


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