Seven Common IELTS Myths BUSTED

IELTS Myth 1: You can only take the test once. 

Nope! You can take the IELTS as many times as you like; there are no limits.  Each time you take the IELTS, though, you must pay the full exam fee ($634.000 COP in Colombia – 2019).

You can find test dates at the British Council on this page of their website.

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IELTS Myth 2: 
The IELTS is a British exam. 

Wrong! While the IELTS is developed and administered by the British Council and Cambridge English (in addition to Australia’s IDP), the IELTS is an international English exam.

The IELTS recognizes both British and American English in terms of spelling, grammar and word choices on the writing section.  However, you must use one or the other consistently.  That is, if you write “colour” you must always write “colour” and never “color.”

On the listening section you will hear accents from native-speaking Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, people from the UK and the US.  In fact, several recent students of mine have told me they have heard non-native speakers on the listening exam.

The IELTS is not a test of British English; the IELTS is a test of international English!

Are you planning on taking the IELTS?  Don’t forget to prepare!  Check out some of my current course options, including IELTS Preparation.

IELTS Myth 3: The only way to prepare is to review what I’ve learned in English classes and begin taking lots of practice tests. 

Incorrect! The IELTS is not a grammar exam, although grammar and vocabulary do help determine your score.  The best way to prepare for the IELTS is to take a preparation course with a certified instructor.  You should also practice your listening and reading skills using authentic materials ( is a great place for this).

The IELTS is designed to be a difficult exam, it’s designed to test your English.  But as with all standardized tests, there are certain tips and tricks that help you maximize your score and save time during the test.


Myth 4: The Speaking portion is the most important part of the exam.

False! The speaking exam, reading, writing and listening sections equally determine your score.

Some universities have minimum-score requirements for each section.  You can find that information for US universities in this PDF.

Myth 5: A band 9 score is impossible for non-native speakers.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 8.20.54 PMNo! This is one of the most widely-believed IELTS myths.  A band 9 score is described as an ‘expert user’ of English.  An expert user is defined by the IELTS Foundation as someone who has fully operational command on the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.

It’s quite possible for a non-native speaker to achieve this rating; some of my former students have gotten a 9!

Myth 6: I need a 6.0 to pass the IELTS.

myth_debunkedInaccurate! The IELTS is not a pass/fail exam.  The score that you are gives you a score of 0 to 9.  Different scores serve for different purposes.

For example, a non-native speaker who wants to be an entrepreneur in the UK must score a 4.0, while a non-native speaker who wants to be a minister of religion must score a 5.5 or more.   More information on UK visa requirements here.

Moreover, different universities have different score requirements.  UCLA requires a 7.0.  University of Miami requires a 6.5.  MIT score requirements depend on the school and program of study.  For more information on score requirements for US colleges, universities, master programs, language immersion programs, professional organizations and accrediting bodies, see this PDF.

Myth 7: If I don’t understand the examiner on the speaking test, I will get a low

Erroneous! The speaking section examines your speaking abilities. The listening section examines your listening abilities.  If you don’t understand what the examiner says, just ask them to ask you again. This won’t have a negative impact on your score – in fact, it can only help you!

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