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7 Tips For Your IELTS Test Day

Table of Contents

by David Cunningham

by David Cunningham

ILAC IELTS Teacher, IELTS Expert & Pathway Instructor


How to feel confident by planning ahead, understanding what happens on test day and visualizing success.

You’ve studied. You’ve practiced. You’ve registered for your IELTS test and set a date. Now, it’s go time. 

Are you feeling nervous?  That’s alright…some nerves are good.  It shows that you care.  But if you are feeling overly anxious about your IELTS test day, here are a few tips to remember that will help you calm down, face your fears and do your very best! 

Remember to check the address of your test venue and directions to get there - it may be a different address from your IELTS centre's head office!

Tip # 1: Plan Your Route (The Week Before)

Imagine you are a character in Rogue One, Ocean’s Eleven or any other great heist movie*. Would you just wait for the big day without preparing your route? No! You should know where you’re going, how to get there and when to arrive. 

(*a story about robbing a bank or sneaking into someplace secret)

  • Know where you are going: Check your confirmation email from your test centre to find the exact address of your test venue. Look up directions on Google Maps in advance. If possible, you can travel to the test venue before your test day to become familiar with it (but be aware that you might not be able to enter before your test day). Email the test centre office to ask what time you’ll need to arrive and which entrance to use on your IELTS test day.
  • Know how to get there: How long does it take to arrive at the test venue on your test day? Are you driving or taking transit? Remember that traffic or transit may run differently on a test day (especially on weekends) so check the schedules and times carefully. 
  • Know when you should arrive: plan to arrive 45 minutes before your test starts.  This will allow you to register, show your ID, turn off your phone, store your personal belongings and get ready to take the test. 

Tip # 2: Eliminate Distractions

Be sure to put your IELTS test day into your calendar. Make arrangements with work, family and friends and let people around you know that you will be taking an important test. 

  • Why it’s important: By clearing your schedule, you can reduce any unexpected problems that come up and you can feel more in control. 
As the test day approaches, you may be tempted to study harder and stay up later.

Tip # 3: Stay healthy (A Few Days Before)

There’s nothing worse than taking a trip when you are feeling sick. The same holds true of IELTS. As the test day approaches, you may be tempted to study harder and stay up later. However, it’s far better to study for a few hours in the day and get to bed early. So, take care of your health by eating well and getting plenty of rest. 

  • Why it’s important: Not only will you reduce the chances of missing the test because of illness, but you will also improve your mental focus by having a healthy body! 

Tip # 4: Visualize Success!

It’s also a good idea to imagine or ‘visualize’ your success. Numerous studies have shown that people who take time to ‘create a mental picture’ imagining their success have had much better results than people who do not. The weeks before your test will be a busy time. Whenever you have a spare moment, do the same mental rehearsal: close your eyes and imagine yourself arriving at the test centre, and see yourself sitting at your desk and working through each of the sections while feeling calm and confident

To help you with this process, familiarize yourself with the test day schedule (if taking a test at an ILAC IELTS venue) or visit the website of your test centre. (Schedules will vary slightly by the centre.) As you read through the test day schedule, really visualize yourself there.     

  • Why it’s important: Feeling calm knowing that you have done all that you can do will give you the best chance to focus on what matters: your IELTS test day. 
After arriving at the test centre, be as relaxed as possible. Greet the exam centre staff and listen to their instructions.

Tip # 5: The Night Before

Pack your bag the night before. This means having your ID ready (in Canada, this means an internationally recognized passport or your Canadian Permanent Resident Card). It’s also a good idea to pack a water bottle and get your alarm set for the morning. Furthermore, go to bed at a reasonable hour and plan to wake up a little early and have a decent breakfast. Pack a snack for the journey to your test. 

  • Why it’s important: You don’t want to rush around on the morning of the test looking for your ID! Having everything ready to go at a moment’s notice will allow you wake up, feel calm and confident and then head out the door with plenty of time! 

Tip # 6: The Day

When to arrive

Remember to leave with enough time so that you arrive at the exam centre early.  This will allow you to take into account traffic or other delays.  Check your confirmation email, or contact your test centre, to confirm what time you need to arrive. Keep in mind that the doors may close earlier than the stated test start time (usually at least 15 minutes before). For example, if your test starts at 1:00 pm, you may need to arrive between 12:30 – 12:45 pm. If you arrive at 12:50 pm, the doors may have closed and you won’t be allowed to enter the test.

What to do after arrival

After arriving at the test centre, be open and as relaxed as possible. Greet the exam centre staff in a friendly way and listen to their instructions. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if there is something you don’t understand. As mentioned earlier, become familiar with the schedule and really imagine what will be coming next to help you mentally prepare for your test. 

Other things to note

A large part of feeling confident about your test is eliminating the unknown.  Remember the test is in 4 parts. You should understand the parts of the test – and make it a habit to reread the instructions. You can find more detailed information about preparing for each section of the test here. 

A final note is to get into the habit of keeping an eye on the time: practice taking tests at home with a timer. Look at the clock and set time limits (for example, set 20-minute limits for each reading.  If you have three readings and your reading test starts at 9:50 am, you should plan to move on to the second reading by 10:10 and the third by 10:30). 

Tip # 7: Keep Your Eye On The Prize

Studying for the IELTS is a bit like preparing a meal: you need to get good ingredients (good books and study materials) and take the time to cook them properly (do the exercises and practice). Taking the test is a bit like enjoying the meal: it’s the result of your effort and practice. There are many things that are out of your control, but all you need to do now is show up, be present and do your best! 

If you feel stressed during the exam, take one minute to breathe through your nose and out through your mouth. Remember the words of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher: do not expect perfection, but feel joy at all the small things that go well.   

Just by showing up to your test, just by daring greatly, you have already succeeded in taking another step toward your dream.  

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