Find answers to common questions about the IELTS test, the British Council, the booking process and preparing for a test.
What is IELTS?
‘IELTS is the International English Language Testing System which tests English proficiency across the globe. Conducting one million tests globally, IELTS is the world’s most popular English testing system.’
‘Which organisations accept IELTS?’
‘IELTS is accepted by more than 7000 organisations worldwide. These include universities, immigration departments, government agencies, professional bodies and multinational companies.’
‘Who owns IELTS and who writes the test?’
‘IELTS is jointly owned by British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL). International teams of writers contribute to IELTS test materials. Ongoing research ensures that IELTS remains fair and unbiased. Test writers from different English-speaking countries develop IELTS content so it reflects real-life situations.’
‘Why are there two versions of the test?’
‘IELTS has two versions – Academic and General Training. The Academic test is for those who want to study at a tertiary level in an English-speaking country. The General Training test is for those who want to do work experience or training programs, secondary school or migrate to an English-speaking country. All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking tests but different Reading and Writing tests.’
‘Which version should I do?’
‘Read the explanation of the Academic and General Training tests, then contact the organisation or institution to which you are applying to find out what it requires. Note that you must know which version to take when you complete the online application form.’
‘What is the test format and how long will it take?’
‘IELTS has four parts – 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 sitting. The Speaking test may be on the same day or up to seven days before or after the other tests.’
‘What help is available for disabled candidates?’
‘Test centres make every effort to cater for the special needs of disabled candidates. It is our aim for all candidates to be assessed fairly and objectively. If you have a special need, talk to your local test centre when registering. Centres may need three months to organise arrangements.’
‘When can I take IELTS?’
‘IELTS is available on 48 fixed dates a year – up to four times a month, depending on local demand.
‘What if I need to postpone or cancel my application?’
‘If you postpone or cancel your application more than five weeks before the test date, you will receive a refund minus an administration charge. If you postpone or cancel within five weeks of the test date, you will be charged the full fee unless you have a medical reason. If you provide a medical certificate within five days of the test date, you will receive a refund minus the local administrative cost.’
‘What if I am absent or sick on the test day?’
‘If you are away on the test day with no prior notice, you will lose your full fee. However, if you provide a medical certificate within 5 days of the test date, you will receive a refund minus the local administrative cost.’
‘Is the IELTS test completed in one day?’
‘The Listening, Reading and Writing components of the test are always completed immediately after each other and with no break. Depending on the test centre, the Speaking test may be taken up to seven days either before or after the test date.’
‘What can I bring into the examination room?’
‘Only pens, pencils and erasers. You must bring the passport/national identity card you used on the IELTS Application Form to the test. You must leave everything else outside the examination room. Mobile phones and pagers must be switched off and placed with personal belongings in the area designated by the supervisor. If you do not switch off your phone/pager or keep it on you, you will be disqualified.’
‘Which part do I take first?’
‘You do the Listening test first following by the Reading and Writing components of the test. Depending on the test centre, the Speaking test may be taken up to seven days either before or after the test date.’
‘What kinds of accents can be heard in the Listening and Speaking tests?’
‘As IELTS is an international test, a variety of English accents are used in both of these tests.’
‘Does the Listening tape provide instructions and pauses?’
‘Yes. At the beginning, you hear instructions and a sample question. Then you read section 1 questions, listen to section 1 and answer the questions.’
‘Is there a similar period of 10 minutes in the Reading test to transfer answer?’
‘No. The Reading test is one hour, and you must write all your answers on the answer sheet in this time.’
‘Can I use a pen for the Listening and Reading tests?’
‘No. You must do it in pencil. The answer sheet is scanned by a computer which cannot read pen.’
‘Can I make notes on the Listening and Reading question papers?’
‘Yes. The IELTS Examiner will not see your question paper.’
‘What is the Speaking test?’
‘The Speaking test is a conversation with a certified IELTS Examiner. The Speaking test is made up of three sections. It is recorded on an audiocassette or a digital recorder. ‘
‘What do I need for the Speaking test?’
‘You must bring the same identification documents you supplied on your IELTS Application Form and used for the rest of the test. Your ID will be checked before you enter the interview room.’
‘How are the tests marked?’
‘IELTS uses a nine-band scoring system to measure and report test scores in a consistent manner. You receive individual band scores for Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking and an Overall Band Score on a band scale from one to nine.’
‘Who sets the ‘pass’ mark for the IELTS test?’
‘There is no pass or fail in IELTS. Scores are graded on the nine-band system. Each educational institution or organisation sets its own level of IELTS scores to meet its individual requirements.’
‘When will I receive my test results?’
‘Your Test Report Form will be posted to you 13 days after your test date. Keep your Test Report Form in a secure place as you only receive one copy.’
‘What if I lose my Test Report Form?’
‘Test Report Forms are valid for two years. Copies cannot be sent to candidates but IELTS will forward a Test Report Form to your relevant institution or embassy. Up to five copies will be sent free of charge. Additional copies will incur a small administration charge. Talk to your test centre for further details.’
‘How soon can I re-sit the test?’
‘There is no limit on sitting the test. However, IELTS recommends you do additional study before taking the test again. Some test centres offer preparatory courses and language classes. You can also improve your skills by using the IELTS Official Practice Materials – ask for details.’
‘What if I feel my test result is wrong?’
‘You can apply for an ‘enquiry on results’ procedure at your test centre within six weeks of the test date. You must pay an enquiry fee, which is fully refunded if your band score changes. Note that IELTS Examiners and markers follow strict assessment guidelines and are regularly monitored. The IELTS testing process has the highest quality control procedures.’.
‘What is Test Day Photography?’
‘Certain test locations have introduced a new procedure for enhancing IELTS test security that involves taking and authenticating photographs of test takers on the test day. Under this new procedure, IELTS administration staff will take an individual, passport style, photograph of all candidates present on the test day. The photograph will normally be taken on the day of the speaking test.’
‘What is this used for?’
‘The test day photograph will be printed on candidates’ Test Report Forms, and will only be used for test related purpose (including but not limited to Test Report Form issuance, receiving organization verification, etc.) in accordance with national and international data protection law.’
‘How long will the test day photo take?’
‘It takes 30 seconds per candidate on average to take the test day photo. The process is usually conducted in the speaking test venue, however this may vary due to different venue locations. Candidates will be provided with instructions advising them to arrive at the test venue prior to their interview schedule to have their photograph taken.’
‘Do I still need to submit another photo given that my photo is already taken on the test day?’
‘Yes, you are still required to submit passport size colour photograph(s) along with your application form, whether offline or online. The photograph must be taken within the past 6 months and against a white background. Hard copy photos must be passport size, with the candidate’s full name written on the back.’
‘If I withdraw from the speaking test, and fail to participate in the test day photography, can I still get the TRF?’
‘This is an important identification authentication system to enhance IELTS test security. If you withdraw from the speaking test, and failed to attend test day photography before completing the session, the IELTS administrator will not issue the Test Result Form (TRF) to you. If you decide to withdraw from the speaking test but would still like to receive your TRF, you must come to the speaking test venue to complete the test day photography procedure.’
‘Can I refuse to participate in the test day photography system?’
‘IELTS Test day photography is an important global initiative, which requires all candidates’ cooperation and participation. If you have any questions, or this causes inconvenience on the test day, please notify our staff immediately. Refusal to follow our security procedures may result in candidates not being allowed to sit the test, and not be eligible for transfer, cancellation refund of any kind.’
Please send all other IELTS related queries to email@example.com.
How can I provide feedback on any aspect of service by British Council Germany ‘s Exams Department?
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What we will do
All customer feedback is dealt with seriously and impartially and is responded to promptly – regardless of the subject matter or medium in which the feedback has been made. We will acknowledge your comment or complaint within three working days and will respond to your feedback within ten working days. Complaints that are complex may take longer to deal with. In these cases we will keep you updated on the progress of your enquiry. We will draw on information received from your comments to improve our services and products.
How to make a comment or complaint about IELTS Germany:
COMPLAINTS about the IELTS TEST DAY must be made on the test day using the required complaints form. Please do not forget to include your contact details. You will then receive a reply within 5 working days.
Any other feedback should be made by using our customer feedback form.
This can by returned to us by email or post.
In order for us to be able to respond to you, please provide your name, e-mail address and/or telephone number. Please also provide the date when the incident occurred so that we can identify the source of the problem and give you a satisfactory explanation.
Contact the British Council Customer Service team in your local office. The contact details for all our offices worldwide can be found here.
Who will deal with your comments or complaint?
We aim to resolve most issues at the first point of contact. The first member of staff who receives feedback from a customer is empowered to ‘own’ the comment or complaint and see it through to resolution, although he or she may have to liaise with other colleagues to gather the necessary information to respond effectively to the customer.
In more complex cases customers may receive the response to their comment or complaint from the person or department who is responsible for that aspect of our work.
In cases where a customer’s comment or complaint is of a serious nature, the complaint will be referred to the Exams Manager.
IELTS is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations.