IELTS: Common Misconceptions

April 25, 2017 by Ashlee Fisher

There is a considerable amount of information about the IELTS exam available, which can sometimes be misleading. Some sources of information are better than others, so it's important to be well-informed before taking the test. Here are some common misconceptions about the IELTS test:

The IELTS test is easier in my own country. IDP is easier than British Council.

The IELTS test is created by Cambridge University and is distributed by two different companies, British Council and IDP. Regardless of the company or the country, the test is exactly the same. Also, the examiners, markers, and invigilators are trained in the same way to test and mark all four sections of the test.

Completing IELTS practice tests will be enough to ensure a high band score.

Practicing before the IELTS test is the key to success; however, there are a variety of theoretical and practical ways of practicing and a combination of both will ensure the highest rate of success.

In terms of theory, completing IELTS listening and reading practice tests online and from books is a great idea. Completing speaking and writing practice tests with a tutor will help with these sections. With all sections of the test, you should put yourself under test conditions when practicing, with time limits and no cell phones.

For practicality, watching television, movies, and videos will help improve listening and speaking. Reading books, blogs, newspapers, and magazines will help with reading skills. Writing a blog, journal, diary, or an email will help improve your writing skills. Speaking to friends or even hanging out at a café or library will develop your confidence in your speaking abilities. Also, all of these practices will constantly improve your vocabulary and grammar.

Testing conditions will help you get comfortable with test expectations and will help you form strategies. Real world practice will help you develop your natural English and you may also learn faster because you will enjoy yourself more.

It’s easy to cheat on the IELTS test.

The IELTS exam is a high-security test. There are many processes in place to secure the integrity of the test. When registering for the test, candidates must provide their passports to confirm their identity. When registering on the day of the test, candidates will need to provide their passports again, have their photo taken, and provide a scan of their right index finger. The candidate's ID will be checked during the speaking exam as well as the reading and writing sections of the test. Candidates will also need to have their finger scanned in and out of the testing room for washroom breaks. Along with this, invigilators are with test materials at all times and papers are double counted to ensure that all test materials are accounted for. These measures are taken for every test.

Here are some misconceptions about each section of the IELTS test:


My opinion could impact my speaking score.

Your opinion on questions during the speaking section of the IELTS test is not assessed, only your English ability. The examiner takes into account your fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and your pronunciation, not your opinions. Try to answer the questions as openly and honestly as possible.


It’s impossible to complete the reading section of the test.

The academic version of the reading test is suitable for candidates doing an undergraduate, postgraduate, or professional registration. The readings are related to academic topics and are taken from books, journals, newspapers, and magazines.

The general version of the reading test is related to topics about everyday life in an English-speaking country. The readings are taken from notices, advertisements, books, magazines, and newspapers.

If you are an avid reader, you will be able to finish the reading section of the IELTS test. Reading on a regular basis, forming reading strategies, and doing practice reading tests will also help you to finish the reading section within the 60-minute time limit.


Writing more than the word count will result in a higher band score.

You must write at least 150 words for Task 1 and 250 words for Task 2 in order to obtain full marks on the IELTS test.

Make sure that anything over this contributes to your writing. The higher number of mistakes you make or times you go off-topic will hurt your score, regardless of your word count.


Every candidate will have a headset when doing the listening section of the test.

All centres are different. Some centres may use headsets, while others use a sound system with speakers. Please check with your centre before taking the test so you know ahead of time.

Knowing all of this information before you take the IELTS exam can allow you to feel more comfortable and confident on the day of the test.

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.

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