Advice From An IELTS Expert: 10 Things Not To Do

August 8, 2017 by Lyla Hage Lyla Hage

During the IELTS, examiners see a number of things that candidates do that we recommend they try to avoid. Below is a list of things I recommend that candidates not do when taking the IELTS. 

So go ahead, have a read, and take some time to consider advice about what not to do when taking your IELTS test.

1. Don't rush to answer the questions

I recommend candidates take a second (or two) to think about what they want to say before speaking. By doing so you can quickly organize your thoughts and hopefully give a more thorough answer. By rushing to answer, you may not actually answer the question, or the answer may be disorganized and hard to follow. Having said that, don’t take too much time to prepare an answer that you think is just right - there's no such thing as a perfect answer! 

For Part 2 of the speaking test, I recommend you take the time to prepare a few notes on the paper you're given. For the listening test, quickly read the questions before the recording starts, so you can focus on listening for answers to those questions (and not a bunch of other stuff!)

2. Don’t answer a question if you don’t understand it

During the IELTS speaking test, there may be a question you do not understand. If that happens, you can ask the examiner to repeat the question or explain a word. Please note, while it's ok to ask for some clarification or explanation, you cannot ask for it over and over again during the exam. 

3. Don’t be afraid to correct yourself

When speaking, if you realize you've made a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct yourself. This shows the examiner that you know you made an error and that you're able to correct it. Don’t worry about correcting every error, but it's advisable to correct yourself some of the time.

4. Don’t memorize answers

Do not, under any circumstances, memorize answers! Having a scripted answer prepared ahead of time is not helpful. The examiner will be able to tell –almost instantly- that your answer is scripted, and this will affect your score.

5. Don’t use complicated words

Some candidates use “big” words when speaking and writing, thinking this is a good strategy. While you do want to show that you know different and varied words, the words should be used properly and sound natural. If you use words you don’t completely understand, you may use them incorrectly, and this could have an effect on your speaking and writing scores.

6. Don’t use grammar that you’re unsure about

Similar to the point above, do not use grammar that you’re not completely comfortable with. You want to ensure that you know how to use various elements of grammar properly, such as verb tenses, transitions, connectors, and more. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so don’t use anything you're unsure about.

7. Don’t say/write very little (or nothing)

This one’s very straightforward – make sure you speak during the speaking test and writing during the writing test! Remember, your examiner needs you to talk and write in order to evaluate your language skills. Silence instead of speaking, or blank spaces instead of writing, aren't helpful to you or the examiner. This also applies to the reading and listening tests – answers left blank will be marked as incorrect!


8. Don’t forget to get to the main point(s) 

When answering questions for your writing and speaking exam, ensure you get to the point. Don’t repeat or rephrase the question, talk around it, add unnecessary details, and then get to the point. This is a waste time of valuable time and could affect your score.

9. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you

It’s natural to feel nervous when taking any test. To help keep your nerves under control, I recommend trying some breathing exercises, giving yourself some quiet time, eating well before your test, exercising, having a good night’s sleep, and practicing and preparing for your test ahead of time.

10. Don’t be late for your exam

You should be on time (early, if possible) for your exam! Give yourself plenty of time to get to your exam location, register, and sit and wait. Make sure you know ahead of time where your exam is, and how you’re getting there. You do not want to start your exam by arriving late (or with just minutes to spare). For most of us, this is stressful and distracting, and not a good way to start an exam.

I hope you find these tips useful and informative. I recommend you keep these things in mind when preparing for your IELTS test.

Good luck!



Lyla Hage

Lyla is an IELTS speaking and writing examiner and an English language instructor working with international students and immigrants in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Lyla loves everything about her work, especially helping people reach their language and learning goals.

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