Is the IELTS test harder in some countries? Is IDP easier than the British Council? Can you predict the next writing topic?
In the years that we have been teaching and preparing candidates for IELTS, these are some of the comments we have heard and our responses to them.
Is it better to take the IELTS test with IDP or the British Council?
There is absolutely no difference. All of the tests are prepared in exactly the same manner, are pre-tested equally and are marked in exactly the same way. Regardless of whether ‘a friend of a friend got a better result with…’, there will be no difference (and in some cases, they will use exactly the same test materials on the same day).
Do some test centres give higher marks?
No. All test scores are checked by Cambridge, the British Council or IDP and must be marked using the same criteria. However, there are some test centres where the facilities are better (comfortable headphones for the speaking test or speaking examiners who are friendly and encouraging, for example). It is worth asking to look at the testing rooms before you apply to a specific test centre, as many cities have more than one test centre and it can sometimes be worth travelling a little further to find one that you think suits you best.
IELTS tests are reused so you can get a test that you have seen before
Before 2007, this was potentially a possibility (although it was unlikely). However, since 2007 all IELTS have become unique – they are used once only then not used again, so it is impossible to predict what will be in the next IELTS test.
I have to speak in a British or American accent or I will lose points
Pronunciation is important in IELTS, but this does not mean you have to sound like you are from the UK or the USA. You are being assessed only on your ability to communicate and you will only lose marks if your accent makes it too difficult for the examiner to understand.
The more I write in the writing test, the better my result
You have to reach the word limits in the writing test, but writing too much beyond that is likely to actually reduce your score as you are risking showing more errors to the examiner and also being penalised on not being sufficient cohesive or coherent in what you write. Ideally, aim for about 10-15% beyond the required word limit.