If you are about to sit your first IELTS computer based exam, you might have some questions or doubts. Today, I’m going to provide you with IELTS test day tips & a checklist to help guide you through what you need to do, so that you can be fully prepared.
Let’s look at the test in general and then each exam section individually.
IELTS Test Checklist
Before you sit your exam, you should do various things to prepare:
- Get familiar with the test. This is a no-brainer. You should absolutely be familiar with the format and expectations of the IELTS test before you even book your exam date. Make sure that you have adequate English skills but also do at least a few practice tests to ensure you know what to expect.
- Get your ID ready. Before you sit the exam, you’ll need to confirm your identify. Make sure that you have your ID with you and that it is the same ID you used to book the exam. This is really important, so don’t bring a different one with you.
- Arrive with time to spare. Don’t just appear at the last minute. This is an important (and expensive) test, so get there early. This won’t just mean you aren’t turned away, but also that you will have time to prepare.
- Get some rest. Exams can be stressful but try to sleep well the night before the test, and find a way to steady your nerves going into the exam hall. Nervousness can make people do strange things and it is easy to make a silly mistake.
- Dress comfortably. This is a formal exam, but you are not judged on your appearance, so don’t bother with a suit unless that’s what you feel like wearing. It can last a long time, so it is best to wear comfortable clothes that won’t bother or distract you.
- Use the bathroom. While we are on the subject of comfort, go to the toilet first! You can leave the exam room to do this, but it would mean missing some answers. Also, whilst you should stay hydrated, you also shouldn’t drink too much water or else you may need to leave.
- Leave your electronics. You cannot take them into the exam room. You can refer to the time by looking at the clock on the wall, so you don’t need to use your phone for anything. The use of any electronic equipment during the test would be considered cheating.
- Listen and follow the rules. In the exam, you should follow all instructions that are given to you and also refrain from breaking any rules. Cheating is taken seriously, so don’t try to do anything that is forbidden.
Ok, now let’s look at the individual sections.
For the IELTS listening test, you should consider the following:
- Check the equipment. Before the test actually starts, make sure that your headphones are working. If you have a problem later, it could make you miss some answers. Just put your hand up and tell someone if there’s a problem.
- Read the questions first. Before you actually hear any of the recordings, you’ll have some time to check the questions. This is all explained in the test, so listen carefully. Take advantage of this opportunity to give yourself the best chance of getting the right answers.
- Write quickly and make notes. Write your ideas down on your note paper as you hear the answers. Note some guesses and also anything you are certain of. Later, when you transfer your answers to the answer paper, this will help you avoid leaving blank spaces.
- Do not exceed the word count. If it says to use no more than three words, don’t write four. This would be incorrect and you would get no points.
- Check your spelling. It’s easy to make mistakes, but check carefully to make it less likely. You have some time at the end to transfer your answers. Use this to check for errors.
Here are some words of advice for those doing the IELTS reading test:
- Follow the instructions carefully. Read the instructions and listen to what the examiners tell you.
- Highlight the text. One advantage of doing the IELTS computer based test is that you can highlight text on the screen. Use this to help you find the right answers. Note: You can also change the font size to help you read more effectively.
- Think about the questions. Don’t just assume you understand what to look for. Assumptions can lead to big mistakes. Instead, read the question closely and then search carefully for the right answer.
- Copy and paste! One really common problem with IELTS reading on paper is that people misspell words that were in the text. In the computer exam, you can just copy and paste words and phrases to avoid this error.
- Scroll to find words. Skimming and scanning are important for IELTS reading. In the computer test, you can do this by scrolling. It is a bit different from flipping through paper and some people find it a lot easier.
The IELTS writing test is quite different for candidates doing the IELTS computer based test. Here are some things to consider:
- Keep an eye on the word count. Thankfully, you don’t need to count the number of words you write! Instead, you can just look at the word count on screen and keep track. Don’t write too many or too few words.
- Take advantage of the copy and paste feature. If you need to rearrange your essay in any way, you don’t need to re-write anything. Just copy and paste. It’s much more convenient than for the paper based exam.
- Check for typos. When writing with a pencil, it is rare to accidentally misspell a word that you already know… but when typing this can happen a lot. Learn to check your answers carefully at the end.
- Practise typing before the exam. This is a skill that is very useful. Most people can type faster than they can write by hand, but it takes practice.
- You can still use paper! Just use the note paper on hand to plan your ideas and structures before typing your answer on the screen.
This is actually not any different from the regular paper based test, so you don’t need any special skills. Still, here is some exam day advice:
- There are no wrong answers. Just be open and honest. Don’t think you have to say anything special. You are only being judged on your English skills, so if your answers are “boring” or you don’t have a strong opinion, it doesn’t matter.
- Don’t pause too long. Reply quickly in parts one and three. Don’t hesitate too long or else you will lose marks for fluency. Even saying something like, “Hmm, let me see,” or “That’s something I haven’t thought of before…” can buy you a little time as you think of a good answer.
- Don’t try to dazzle the examiner. Many IELTS candidates study lists of idioms. These just sound weird sometimes, so put them aside. Just speak English naturally and answer the questions in a straightforward way. You won’t get extra points for big words and weird phrases.
- You can ask the examiner to repeat something. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for the examiner to repeat or rephrase a question. If you do this in proper English, then it will not harm your chances of a good score.
- Make notes but not too many. For part two, you will have one minute to make some notes. Don’t write full sentences. Just jot down a few helpful words or ideas to help you speak freely for two minutes.