A Comprehensive Guide to Writing the IELTS (2020)

Earn high scores on the reading, writing, listening and speaking sections of the IELTS by reading about registration, costs, eligibility, and tips from experts.


Test Duration and Format
Expert Tips From Our Counselors:

The International Language Testing System, which is commonly referred to as the IELTS, is perhaps the most widely accepted English language proficiency test in the world. This test is necessary for students hoping to pursue their higher education in English speaking countries.

The test is recognized and valued by over 10,000 education providers around the world. A few non-English speaking countries are home to universities with programs taught in English. The universities often require prospective international students to submit their IELTS scores with their applications.

Types of IELTS

There are two types of exams that IELTS provides. The IELTS Academic test is aimed at prospective candidates hoping to pursue their higher education at an international institution. It is also ideal for those looking to train at a professional institution in another country.

The IELTS General Training test is best suited for individuals looking to work in an English-speaking country or gain work experience or professional training.


You can either sign up for the IELTS online or register by post. To begin, you have to choose your test center. Once you have done this, you will be directed to a page where you can register and pay for your IELTS test.

If you prefer to apply via post, you will have to download and fill the IELTS application form, before submitting it to the nearest IELTS center.

Once your application has been processed, you will receive a mail confirming the date and time of your written and spoken IELTS test.


To take the IELTS exam (academic and general training), you will have to pay a fee of Rs. 14,000 for the pen and paper-based test as well as the computer-delivered test. If you are writing the IELTS for UK visas and immigration, you will have to pay a fee of Rs. 15,050. There are a variety of options to pay for the test. You can pay via credit card, debit card, net banking, payment wallets, demand drafts or cash.

Please note that some of the Indian centers do not accept cash or credit and debit cards.


The IELTS is open to almost everyone. The main requirement to give the exam is a passport. It is also recommended for people over 16 years of age.

Test Duration and Format

The listening, reading and writing test is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

The listening section is 30 minutes long. Four recordings of native English speakers will be provided, and after listening to each recording, you will have to write down answers to questions about the recording.

The reading section, which is 60 minutes long, requires you to read three passages and answer 40 questions pertaining to the passages. The questions test the reader’s ability to:

  • identify information in the passages
  • identify the writer’s views and opinions
  • match features
  • match information
  • match sentence endings
  • complete sentences
  • complete tables
  • complete flowcharts
  • answer short questions
  • Complete notes
  • Match headings
  • Complete summaries
  • Label diagrams
  • Multiple-choice questions

The writing section comprises two tasks, and you will be allotted 60 minutes to complete both. In the first task, you will be given a chart, diagram, table or graph, which you will be asked to explain, describe or summarize. In the second task, you will be provided with a passage that involves a problem, point of view or argument, and you will have to pen a response to this passage.

The speaking portion of the IELTS takes around 15 minutes and is divided into three parts. In the first part, you will be asked questions on familiar topics as well as yourself. These topics could include your interests, ambition, family, home, work or studies.

In the second part, you will have to speak about a topic on a card provided to you. After a minute to think about it, and two minutes to talk about the topic, you will be asked a question or two about the topic. This is also part 3 of the speaking section, where you will be able to discuss more abstract ideas and your thoughts about the issue.


The four sections of the IELTS are scored on bands of 9, and the average score of these is considered the final result. The score you earn will be between 0 and 9 and includes half bands (.5) as well. Hence, the highest possible score you can earn is 9, while the lowest possible score is 0. There is no negative marking for incorrect answers, so answering every question is advisable.

Each correct answer in the listening and reading section is awarded one point. The total score of each section is then converted to bands. The writing and speaking sections are also assessed in bands.

If you earn a total score of 7.25 bands, it will be rounded up to the upper half-band, so in this case, your final score will be 7.5. If you earn 7.75, your final score will be eight bands.

To better understand how many questions you will have to get right to get a certain number of bands, refer to the following table:

Band score Raw score out of 40

5 16
6 23
7 30
8 35

Band score Raw score out of 40

5 15
6 23
7 30
8 35

As you cannot fail in the IELTS, the score you require depends on the university and country’s requirements. Each university will have its own IELTS requirement, and you will have to check their website to find out the minimum score they will accept. Most countries require a minimum score of 6.5 for postgraduate courses and 6.0 for undergraduate courses. These countries include Canada, Australia, USA, and New Zealand. The UK also accepts 5.5 as the minimum IELTS score.


The IELTS scores will be delivered within 13 days of giving the test. The results will be available to view for 28 days.

You can check the results online or opt for an SMS update from the center, as most centers will provide you with this option. You can even ask the center to post the results to you or pick up the results in person.

You will need your ID number or passport as well as your candidate number to get your results.

Your IELTS results will be sent to 5 nominated universities or organizations, which you can select when you sign up for your IELTS. While your scores will be sent to these five organizations for free, you will have to pay a small administration fee to send your scores to additional organizations.

Validity and Retakes

Your IELTS scores are valid for three years. You can opt to retake the IELTS at any point in time without any restrictions based on when you took it last. However, you will have to check in advance and apply for an available date and time slot that you find favorable. As the IELTS is conducted 2-3 times a month, you can even take the exam twice in a month.

Transfer, Cancellation, And Refund

If you wish to postpone or cancel your IELTS test, you will have to do so at least five weeks before your scheduled test date. You can do this in person or via email. If you do not do this within five weeks, you will not receive a refund.

There are exceptions, however, and in these cases, you will receive a refund if you provide proof of your inability to sit for the test. The exceptions include serious illnesses or injuries, loss or bereavement of a close family member, and hardship or trauma caused by a crime committed against you or a result of an accident.

Also worth noting, is that you cannot cancel or postpone different parts of your test. For instance, your speaking test is still part of the IELTS test, so you cannot postpone just this part of your test.

Test Day

As your IELTS test location may be different from the test center where you booked your test, you should check the location, date and time and ensure you reach before the exam commences. You may not be allowed to take the exam if you arrive after it begins.

Electronic devices, including your mobile phone, will not be allowed inside the test room, so you will have to leave these items outside along with your other personal belongings.

Once you begin your test, which will take 2 hours and 40 minutes, you will have no break between each of the three parts of the test – listening, reading and writing. As you are only allowed to carry liquids in a transparent bottle, you may want to ensure you’ve had something to eat before your test.

You should carry proof of identification as well. The staff will confirm your identity, so make sure you carry the relevant ID mentioned in the documents you receive after registering for the exam.

In addition to checking your ID, the IELTS staff will also click your photograph before the exam commences and this photo will be placed on your Test Report form. Centers in certain countries also require your biometrics.

You will also be allowed to make special arrangements if you suffer from a disability or condition, which will help you on the day of your test.

Your ID, a pencil or pen, and an eraser are the only items that you can keep on your desk for the course of the test.

In case you have questions or need to use the restroom, you can raise your hand to alert the invigilator. If your headset does not work during your listening exam, let the invigilator know as soon as possible.

Once you have completed your test, you will have to stay in your seat until the invigilator gives you permission to leave the room.

Additionally, if you experienced any problems during your test that may have hindered your performance on the test, you will have to raise a complaint within a week of the test date. You can fill a Test Day Incident Form.

Expert Tips From Our Counselors:

  1. Do your research on the test center before you book your IELTS test accordingly as students have complained about faulty headsets and computers.
  2. If you make a mistake during your spoken exam, pointing it out will not draw more attention to the mistake. The chances of the examiner noticing the error are high. Correcting the mistake will show the examiner that you are aware of it and can correct it yourself.
  3. While you can use a pen or pencil for your IELTS writing, using a pencil is always recommended for your IELTS writing, listening and reading sections, as you can always erase in case of a mistake. Don’t forget to carry an eraser.
  4. Do not wear a wristwatch to the exam.

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