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Is the IELTS Exam Really that Hard?

You may have heard from other IELTS exam takers that the test can be difficult if you come unprepared on examination day. Preparing for this exam requires that you focus on several different areas of English including:
• Speaking
• Listening
• Writing
• Reading

Before you start worrying, you need to remember the difficulty perceived will vary from one person to the next. One person might tell you the listening and reading sections were the hardest, while someone else may say to you that the writing and speaking sections were the hardest for them.

How hard you find the IELTS exam will depending on how much you practice ahead of time, your particular learning style, and your ability to retain what you learned. The best place to start your exam prep is to perform a self-assessment of the various examination areas.


The speaking section might seem easy for many people if they've been practicing speaking English on a regular basis. However, it's important to fully answer questions and stay on topic while doing so. Straying from the main topic is where some people have difficulties.


The listening section requires you to pay attention and to listen to what's being said to you before answering the questions. Many people find this test section one of the hardest if they haven't prepared ahead of time using test prep tools, or by listening to English music or by watching English television shows.


This section of the exam requires you to complete two writing tasks. What people find the most challenging, is being able to write complete answers for each task within the allowed time limit. You only have a total of one hour to complete this section, with 20 minutes allotted for the first task and 40 minutes for the second task. You must also satisfy the minimum number of words for each task.


The reading section has a one-hour time limit. You must answer 40 questions while reading well over 2,000 words. People may find this section hard if they haven't practiced their English vocabulary and they may have problems scanning and skimming the test text. You'll want to spend time reading English books, newspapers, and magazines to improve scanning and skimming skills, as well as your English vocabulary.

IDP Canada offers different practice examinations you can take as many times as you want to help prepare for your actual IELTS exam. You can use these to get a better idea of what areas are going to be more difficult for you and will require more study and preparation.

Any areas where you're struggling, you may also want to seek outside help from a qualified tutor. As you improve your English skills in each of the exam areas, remember to retake practice tests to see if you find the sections less challenging to complete.

Please feel free to explore our website further for test preparation materials and practice tests, or contact your nearest IELTS Canada test location directly.

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