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Know What to Expect Before You Take Your IELTS Test

As an IELTS examiner, I am often asked – Is it possible to prepare for the IELTS test? The simple answer is: Yes, it is! 

Time and time again, I see how important it is for candidates to know the basics about the IELTS test before they take the test. Although it’s not possible to know everything – like what questions you will be asked – it is possible to know the schedule and format, the kinds of questions you could be asked, appropriate answers, and more! By taking time before your test to do some research, and by taking advantage of opportunities online and face-to-face to help you prepare, you can go into your IELTS test with some important knowledge about what to expect. 

Below are some tips for things you should know before your IELTS test:

1/Know the Schedule and Format

Knowing the schedule and format of the IELTS test can help you prepare for your test. 

Let’s start with the basics: the listening, reading, and writing tests are all scheduled and completed on the same day, with no breaks between each part of the test. Depending on the IELTS Test Centre, you may also have your speaking test on the same day. 

In addition to knowing the scheduling, I recommend you have an idea about the structure and format of each part of the test:


The listening test is 30 minutes and includes four different recordings, including monologues and conversations. You will be asked a variety of questions about these recordings, and you will hear each part of the listening test once. 


The speaking test has three sections, which includes short questions and longer questions, as well as a structured discussion with your IELTS speaking examiner. The speaking test lasts between 11-14 minutes, and while you can’t plan your answers for the speaking test ahead of time, you can be prepared by knowing the types of questions you could be asked. Take a moment to browse through our Speaking blog posts.


The reading test has three sections and lasts 60 minutes. You will be using a variety of skills for the reading section, including skimming, reading for main ideas, and more. You should be aware that there is an Academic Version of the reading test, as well as a General Training Version. 


The writing test has two sections and lasts 60 minutes. The first task includes writing at least 150 words, and the second task includes writing at least 250 words. As with the reading test, there is an Academic Version and a General Training Version. 

For more information about the format of the IELTS test click here

3/Know what your examiner is looking for

It is important to know what your examiner will be looking for in the speaking and writing sections of the test. By knowing this, you will be better able to focus your answers and give the kinds of answers the examiner is looking for. Click here for IELTS scoring guides as well as test samples and examiner comments to help you prepare for your test.

4/Do practice tests

Take advantage of the practice tests and model answers available online to help you prepare for your IELTS test. These tests are a great way to get a sense of the kinds of questions that are asked, as well as possible answers. 

Another advantage of using practice tests is they give you an opportunity to time yourself. The IELTS tests are carefully timed, so you should know how long it takes you to prepare your answers. I recommend that you use these practice tests and time yourself; then, if necessary, you can work on improving your timing before you take the test.

5/Get help!

Do you have questions about the IELTS test? Do you need some help with certain aspects of the test? If so, help is available. I recommend that you take advantage of free online IELTS webinars and in-class seminars to ask questions, get tips on how to improve your score, and much more! Click here for schedules and further details about webinars and seminars. If you are in select locations in Canada, you have access to free online IELTS preparation once you register for your test. Click here for details.

Preparation is key before you take your IELTS test. I recommend that you take time before your test to plan, prepare and inform yourself. Take advantage of the information that is available to you before you take your test – it’s there for the taking!

Good luck in preparing for your IELTS test.

By Lyla Hage

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