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Breaking through the myths

1. IELTS is too difficult


IELTS is no more difficult than any other exam. The questions are straightforward and designed to assess how well you can use your English – not to trick you or test your opinions. As with any exam, IELTS requires thorough preparation. Also, remember that there is no pass or fail in IELTS. The results are reported on a 9-band scale (1 being the lowest, 9 being the highest). This scale has remained consistent for over 20 years. The score you need is determined by the requirements of your visa or the institution/ organisation to which you are applying.


2. If I write more than the word limit in my Writing test, I will get more marks...


The minimum word limit is important. You must write at least 150 words for Task 1 and at least 250 words for Task 2. If you write less than this, you will lose marks. However if you write more this does not mean you will gain marks. Rather it is more important that you use correct English, appropriate grammar, a wide range of vocabulary and sentence structures.


3. I will lose marks if I don’t speak with an Australian, American or British accent...


You are not expected to change your accent for the IELTS test. Instead, focus on speaking clearly and at a natural pace so that the examiner can understand you. Practising your English every day and listening to different native speaker accents will help you to pronounce difficult words more clearly.


4. If the opinions I express in my Writing or Speaking test are different to the examiner, I might lose marks...


In your Writing and Speaking test, there are no right or wrong opinions. The examiner is assessing how well you can use your English to report information and express ideas. 


5. If I keep practising sample questions I will get a better bandscore...


Practising sample tests will help you learn what is expected in each part of the test. This is good test preparation in order to maximise the English skills you have. However, remember that to improve your English you need to use English in everyday contexts – speak it with your friends, write notes and email in English, read English newspapers, listen to English radio. If you feel you need help with your English, you should also consider taking an English course.


6. If I sit the test in my home country, I might get a better result...


This is a common myth! However the IELTS test will be the same level of difficulty wherever you sit the test. IELTS examiners in each country receive the same high level of training and are closely monitored to ensure they rate your responses consistently wherever you sit the test.


7. If I smile and make the examiner laugh in my Speaking test, I may get a better mark...


Smiling can help you feel relaxed which in turn might help you perform better. Every examiner is trained and monitored closely to be fair to every candidate and assess your level of English only. The examiners will not give you more or fewer marks if you are smiling and laughing.


8. I’ve heard it is easy to cheat at IELTS...


IELTS is protected by sophisticated and multi-layered security measures to prevent cheating in order to protect you and the organisations that accept your results. These measures include:

  • Your photograph is taken and your finger is scanned when you register or arrive for the test. This photograph and finger scan is used to ensure that the same person sits every part of the test.
  • Identity checks are also undertaken during the Reading and Writing test and again on check-in for the Speaking test.  
  • All test materials are collected, checked against registration and seat details and double-counted before test takers are released from their test session.
  • All test centres are regularly monitored and audited.
  • Test papers are printed on high-security paper and distributed automatically to test centers without human intervention.
  • Every test paper includes a unique combination of questions – no two tests are the same.
  • Systems are in place to automatically and routinely scrutinize test results. In the event that any anomaly is identified, the candidate, Test Centre and any organisation that has been sent the
  • result are notified and appropriate action is taken which may include cancellation of an individual’s result.
  • IELTS make it easy for universities, employers and government to check the validity of results at any time, using a secure verification system.
  • Any malpractice, which includes getting somebody else to sit the test on your behalf, will result in being disqualified from the test. Details of the malpractice will also be passed to any organisations to which you have applied, including relevant visa processing authorities.
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