Find answers to common questions about the IELTS test, the British Council, the booking process and preparing for a test.
Questions about IELTS
What is IELTS?
IELTS is the International English Language Testing System which tests English proficiency across the globe. Conducting 1.7 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. We cannot advise you on which module you need to sit.
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 candidates with special requirements?
Test centres make every effort to cater for the special needs of candidates. It is our aim for all candidates to be assessed fairly and objectively. If you have a special need, please visit our special arrangements page.
When can I take IELTS?
IELTS is available in Switzerland on 40 dates a year – up to four times a month, depending on local demand. Please have a look at our IELTS dates page.
What if I need to postpone or cancel my application?
If you postpone or cancel your application (IELTS refund and transfer policy form) 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 (please use the IELTS refund and transfer policy – forms)
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. In Switzerland, the Speaking test is usually held on the same day, after a short lunch break.
What can I bring into the examination room?
You must bring the passport/national identity card you used on your 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 followed 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 – in Switzerland we usually hold the Speaking test on the same day as the other components.
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. At the end, you will have 10 minutes to transfer your answers from the question booklet to the answer sheet.
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. However, the person marking your Listening and Reading will not see your question paper, therefore make sure that you transfer all your answers.
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 with 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. Your results will also be on-line after 3pm on the 13th day after your test day. Please note that you will need the information on your desk label to access your results, therefore please make sure to take it with you after your test.
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. 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 us 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 of £60 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 if I am delayed by circumstances beyond my control?
The test centre may offer you a test on the next available test date – please discuss this with the IELTS administrator.
Questions about IELTS test day photography
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 be taken before the first test takes place which in Switzerland will usually mean before the Listening 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. Candidates will be provided with instructions advising them to arrive at the test venue prior to the test 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 one passport size colour photograph 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 or a refund of any kind.