By Alina Promska

01 April 2021 - 12:22

Close up of a man preparing for IELTS.

Recognised by more than 11,000 institutions globally, IELTS is the go-to English proficiency test for thousands of people wanting to study, work or live abroad. And now you’re ready to join them!

But how can you have the best chance of succeeding on the IELTS test day? Our global IELTS expert, Alina Promska, is here to help you know what to expect, and to share her top tips for reducing the stress and performing at your best.

Things to know before IELTS test day

Your prep begins from the very moment you decide to take the test, from choosing the test type and format, to creating a study plan. 

1. Choose the right test type

First, check with the institution you are applying for to see which type of IELTS test you need. There are two types: the IELTS Academic test and the IELTS General training test

If you’re planning to enter a university where English is the language of instruction, you’ll most likely need to take the IELTS Academic test. Some professionals (e.g., doctors, nurses, lawyers) may also be required to take this test. The IELTS General Training test covers more general topics and is suitable for those wanting to live or work abroad. 

2. Check the band descriptors

Next, take a look at the band descriptors from our Take IELTS website and learn the descriptors for your target band. Putting yourself in the examiner’s shoes will give you a clearer picture of what they expect from you in the test. 

3. Choose the IELTS test format

Now, select the format. You can choose either a computer-delivered or paper-based test. They are the same in terms of content, but have two key differences:

  • First, for the paper-based test, you’ll write the answers for the listening, reading and writing sections by hand, while for the computer-delivered test, you’ll type the answers. The speaking section is the same for both: a face-to-face interview with a certified IELTS examiner. 
  • Second, you will receive the results of your paper-based test 13 days after completing the test, while for the computer-based test, you’ll receive your results in three to five days.  

4. Make a study plan

It’s good to make a detailed study plan, highlighting your strengths and areas for improvement. I recommend putting in as much practice as possible – that way, you will feel confident with all tasks.

5. Register for the test

Choose a test venue and register for the test. Check the info in your registration email to ensure everythingis correct, in particular:

  • the test date and time
  • your payment information and your contact information.

This email will also contain a list of British Council resources to help you prepare for the test. These resources are invaluable, so I recommend making full use of them. 

Performing at your best on test day

After months of practice, it’s finally test day. The following tips will help you reduce your anxiety and maximise your performance.

1. Sleep well the night before

Getting enough sleep is crucial. Lack of sleep can affect your concentration and increase your anxiety, so get enough rest before the big day.

2. Eat a substantial breakfast

The IELTS test is a long day: three to three and a half hours, with no breaks. A good breakfast will give you enough energy to last. 

3. Think about your outfit

While there is no specific dress code, I always recommend smart, but comfortable clothes. Avoid clothing that displays English text.

4. Arrive on time

Double-check how long it takes to get to the test centre. Arrive in good time; if you’re late, you won’t be allowed to enter.

5. Don’t forget your ID

When checking in, you’ll need to show the same ID you used when registering for the test (either a national ID or passport). Driving licences and other forms of ID are not accepted. If you don’t have your ID, you won’t be able to sit the test that day.

6. Be prepared to have your photo and fingerprint taken

This will be used on your test report, for identification purposes. 

7. Don’t take food or drinks into the test room

They are not allowed. The exception is water, which should be in a transparent bottle without any labels.

8. Leave your phone and electronic devices outside

They are not allowed in the test room. Turn off your phone and leave it with your personal belongings in the designated area.

9. Go to the toilet before starting

There are no breaks, so go to the toilet before your test starts. If you really need to go during the test, raise your hand and the invigilator will instruct you. But, you may lose precious time! 

10. Got a pen? 

If you’re taking the paper-based IELTS test, you’ll be given a pen or pencil and an eraser, but you can also bring your own. 

11. Mind the clock

For the paper-based test, there will be a large clock visible to everyone in the room. The invigilator will announce when there are 40, 20, ten and five minutes to go. For the computer-delivered test,there will be a clock on the computer screen. It will flash red when there are ten and five minutes to go.

12. Finished? 

Stay in your seat until an invigilator gives you permission to leave the test room.

13. Managing anxiety

No one knows how they will feel on test day. But it’s imperative not to let your nerves or a bad mood take over. One way to overcome anxiety is to try different breathing techniques, such as closing your eyes, taking a slow, deep breath to the count of seven, and exhaling to the count of seven. Continue this until you feel calm and relaxed.

Positive thinking is another way to fight anxiety. I always go back to a piece of advice my tutor gave me: ‘think positive, think lucky; everything is possible, nothing is impossible.’ It’s important not to think about the test as something difficult or stressful, but as an opportunity to unlock your next level of achievement.

I hope you’ve found this advice helpful, and I wish you success on your IELTS journey.

If you'd like to see the upcoming IELTS test dates or check the pricing of the exam, please visit the IELTS booking page.