What to Expect on IELTS Test Day

May 9, 2016 by Ashlee Hunter Ashlee Hunter

For many of you, you are visiting this blog as a first-time IELTS test taker. You know this day is very important and you want to make sure you are prepared. Here's a look at what a typical IELTS test day looks like along with some key reminders to help you be as ready as you can be.

It's important to note that in most locations across Canada, except in Halifax, your test day will follow a similar pattern: the listening, reading and writing take place in the morning, with your speaking test taking place that afternoon.  That said, each test centre has unique processes so be sure to check your test confirmation email and communications from your test centre to get the correct start time for your test and speaking exam! 

Before the Test

First, you need to wake up nice and early to get mentally and physically prepared for the day.

Do a mental check to make sure you’ve done everything needed including making your payment and sending a copy of your passport as well as reviewing the resources you took advantage of before taking the test.

After having a healthy breakfast, you should feel ready to take on the long day ahead of you since the test is approximately 3 hours long.

Breakfast consisting of fruits, orange juice, coffee, honey, bread and egg. Balanced diet.

The first thing to do is double check the email you received from the IELTS office with the location of the test, your speaking time, and other relevant test information.

Now that you are dressed in your comfy clothes and ready to go, you should go through your checklist, which includes your passport, pencils, eraser, and other comforts like bottled water, before walking out the door.

Please arrive for your test approximately one hour before the start of the test.  You can register at the registration desk. Listen carefully to the invigilator to make sure you are registered accurately and efficiently. You will need to use a finger scan and get your picture taken and doing it right the first time will create less stress on your day.

Also, check to make sure you’ve given everything to the invigilator such as your wallet, cell phone, keys, and watch. Everything except for your passport!

During the Test

You are not able to use the washroom during the Listening Section and the next opportunity will be after the instructions are read in the Reading Section so take this extra time to go before the test!

Once you have quietly waited in line, heard your candidate number, and again, quietly found your assigned seat, sit down and try to relax, taking three deep breaths.

Now that you are calm, listen to ALL the instructions very carefully from the invigilator.

You CAN ask for a tissue, extra paper in the Writing Section, and to go to the washroom during the exam. You CANNOT ask for definitions of words and/or instructions, answers, and spelling during the exam. Also, remember that cheating is not acceptable under any circumstance.

This is absolutely not allowed!

Upon finishing a section, you need to check your work. You should also know that you shouldn’t dwell on a section once it's finished. Take three deep breaths.

Once the test is finished, listen to the invigilator to see when you can leave the test room.

Make sure you have ALL your belongings from coat check before leaving the test.

The invigilator will remind you where the afternoon test will be located before you leave the Speaking Test location. Once you've completed the first part of the test, you will likely have some free time so it should be spent doing whatever makes you most relaxed. You could get psyched up for the next part of the test or go grab a coffee.


You may have some time between your written test and your speaking test... relax and grab a coffee!

As with the first part of the test, you should go to the speaking test at the time the email listed so that you have lots of time to get ready. You may need to return to the coat check. Make sure you have checked your wallet, cell phone, keys, and watch as these items are not allowed in the test room.

During the Speaking Test, try to answer questions to the best of your ability (While you're here, you might want to read our blog on What to Say when you Don't Know What to Say). 

Once you’re finished, take time to reflect on your exam.  

After the Test

Now, you have to wait 13 days to get your results. Don’t dwell on how you did because you cannot change it, you've reflected on the exam and that's enough. Enjoy the next 13 days.

13 Calendar Days for Results

You will be able to preview your test results online, and your results will arrive in your mailbox not long after.  Your test centre will also have sent your results to any Recognizing Organizations you have requested.


  • Do your part to stay calm and have a positive attitude. The administrators, invigilators, and test day staff will do their part to help your day go as smoothly as possible!
  • Make sure your payment and a copy of your passport have been sent and you know the test times and locations based on your payment confirmation emails
  • Have your passport with you as you need it to write the test
  • Be well-rested and have a good breakfast
  • Be prepared - we have many many blogs about this as well as many free resources available to help!
  • Relax
  • Know the rules of the test and what to expect - You don't want to encounter any surprises on test day
  • Do your best - By being prepared, studying before test day, knowing the rules, and being rested, you can focus all your energy on achieving your goals

Ashlee Hunter

Ashlee has been involved in the ESL world for over ten years and has now planted her roots in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Nothing gives her more pleasure than watching students and candidates reach their language and IELTS goals.