Tips for Keeping on Time During the IELTS!

February 5, 2016 by Lyla Hage

The big day has finally arrived – the day to take your IELTS exam. No matter what your reason is for taking the IELTS test, there is one thing for sure – test taking of any kind is nerve-wracking. One significant thing for candidates to be mindful of throughout the IELTS test is timing.

Remember that everything on the IELTS test is timed. The total test time is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. However, keep in mind that this is the test time only, and doesn’t include time spent for registration, possible wait times, or breaks. Depending on the test centre and the test day scheduling, this may result in your test day lasting several hours.

Breakdown of test

The IELTS test itself is broken down into four separate sections as follows:

  • Listening – 30 minutes
  • Reading – 60 minutes
  • Writing – 60 minutes
  • Speaking- 11-14 minutes

Remember that the timing of each of these test sections is standard; that is, the timings are the same for every IELTS test, no matter where the location. You will not be given extra time at the end of any section to finish your thoughts, proofread, review, or add more information, so you must use your time well.

On test day you complete the Listening section first, then the Reading section, followed by the Writing section. You will complete these sections one after the other with no breaks between sections. Depending on the test centre, you may take the Speaking test up to 7 days either before or after the test date. (For test locations, click here).   Be sure to check with your test centre to confirm your scheduled test date and time.

Top tips for keeping on time

There are so many different ways to prepare for the IELTS test. Below are some of the top tips I like to share with candidates about timing and keeping on time.


  • Read the questions carefully before the listening begins. Once the listening starts, you know what you’re looking to answer and can listen for the specific information you need for the questions.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, move on to another one. You don’t want to waste too much time on one question because the questions are in order of the audio, there will be no jumping around.
  • Do your best to answer as many of the questions as possible. Remember: you can’t be given a mark if you haven’t provided an answer to a question!


  • Take time to read the questions carefully before you being so you understand what you are being asked.
  • If you do not know the answer to a question, try it, but do not waste time; move on to the next question.
  • Remember that you are reading to find the answers to the questions, so you do not have to read every word; rather, just find the information you need to answer the question.


  • Pace yourself when you are completing the Writing section. For Task 1, you are required to write at least 150 words; for Task 2, at least 250 words. Task 2 is worth twice as many points as Task 1, so manage your time. You should spend approximately 20 minutes on Task 1 and approximately 40 minutes on Task 2.
  • Save time by carefully reading the questions and underlining key words. This will ensure you know what you have to answer.
  • When you have carefully read the questions, take some time to quickly make some notes so you know what you want to write rather than thinking about it and figuring it out as you write.


  • Unlike the reading and writing section, in the speaking test, you want to make sure you’re using all the time that is allotted for answering questions. Answer the question you’ve been asked and then expand on and develop your answer as much as possible so that you are talking as much as possible.
  • Use the entire time you are given to answer the questions on the Speaking test. How do you know how much time you have? It’s simple - keep talking until the examiner moves on to another question and/or indicates that the time is up.
  • Remember that the examiner is evaluating your speaking skills, so you want to do what you can to show your speaking ability. But don’t be offended or worried if the examiner cuts you off while you are speaking – he/she may do that to ensure the times are adhered to.

Be ready

To help you feel more confident and prepared for the IELTS test, it’s a great idea to sign up for an IELTS preparation session. There are several sessions in test locations across Canada with many options available in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Halifax. To find a seminar near you, visit our Free IELTS Seminars webpage.

Lyla is 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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