The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is used as a language of communication. It uses a nine-band scale to clearly identify levels of proficiency, from non-user (band score 1) through to expert (band score 9).

IELTS is available in two test versions: Academic - for people applying for higher education or professional registration, and General Training for those migrating to Australia, Canada and the UK, or applying for secondary education, training programmes and work experience in an English-speaking environment. Both versions provide a valid and accurate assessment of the four language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. 

As you prepare for IELTS, you are bound to hear and read about strange things regarding the exam. However, try your level best not to be distracted. Below are 12 myths to dispel as your prepare for your IELTS exam.

1. IELTS band 9 is only for native English speakers

It is not always the case that a native speaker is more proficient in English than a non-native speaker. IELTS draws on skills that have to be taught to native and non-native speakers alike. Hence, native English speakers are subject to the same factors as non-native speakers and with the right preparation non-native speakers can get a perfect overall band score of 9.

2. preparation is not necessary as long as my English is good

Even if you’re proficient in English, it is unwise to attempt the test without being aware of the format and content. There are many tips and techniques that you can learn and proper preparation is vital to securing a high overall band score.

3. big words will get me big scores

Insertion of complex words into your writing with lot of other grammatical mistakes will not impress an IELTS examiner. The words should co-relate and flow along, and you should be able demonstrate ‘range’. If you are not confident about a particular word, do not use it. 

4. sample tests alone can help me get a better overall band score

Practising sample tests will help you improve your English skills and learn what is expected in each part of the test. But in order to further improve your English in all four macro-skills, listening, reading, writing and speaking, you need to use the language in everyday contexts – reading English newspapers and journals, watching English movies/TV shows or simply talking to your friends and family in English.

5. the speaking exam score depends on my knowledge of topic

Examiners are not concerned about your knowledge of the topic. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to content. The examiner only wants you to demonstrate your speaking ability. Focus on giving a fluent answer that responds to the question and is grammatically correct.

6. speaking with a British, American or Australian accent will get me a higher score

Your accent is not an evaluation criterion. The speaking component of the IELTS test aims to assess your English speaking proficiency. You’re advised never to adopt a fake accent as the examiner will take notice. Stay natural – the examiner only wants to see how well you can talk in English. You will be judged on your fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation.

7. I need a certain overall band score to pass the IELTS test

There is no pass or fail in IELTS. You get the band score that reflects your level. You’ll be given a score for each component between 0 and 9 depending on your respective English language proficiency, and the overall band score is the average of all the skills.

8. I might get a lower score if my opinion differs from the examiner

IELTS is not a knowledge test or an opinion test; it is a test of your English language proficiency. The examiner could disagree with every opinion you have and you could still get a band score of 9.

9. test scores may vary depending on my centre of choice

IELTS is a standardised test and is therefore the same in every centre around the world. All testing centres have the same standards and mark you with the same criteria.



10. it is possible to ‘cheat’ the IELTS exam

Some may claim to get you a higher band score by teaching you ways to ‘cheat’ the exam. If you see something like this, be very careful. IELTS is protected by sophisticated and multi-layered security measures to prevent cheating in order to safeguard you and the organisations that accept your results. Cheating will have serious consequences which include results being withheld, and immigration agencies and institutions that accept IELTS scores cancelling your application and excluding you from applying again. Test-takers engaging in malpractice may also be liable to legal action. IELTS registrations and results can be permanently cancelled if fraudulent methods are used for registrations and payments.  Do not risk your future.

11. different test centres offer different IELTS tests; one is easier than the other

There is no difference. The tests are written by language assessment experts at the University of Cambridge and sent to test centres to use around the world. The examiners are trained in the same way and the marking schemes are also the same.



12. test scores vary depending on the examiner.

IELTS examiners worldwide are supported by the IELTS Professional Network; a system of recruitment, training, standardisation and monitoring of examiners. All examiners undergo the same examiner training which is carried out by an examiner trainer. The training helps them to apply the assessment criteria accurately and reliably to ensure consistency of application by examiners across all IELTS centres.