Test Day - What To Expect

Unsure what to expect on exam day or what to do the night before?
Here's a rundown of everything you should know.

Hi there!

Hope you’re doing well!

I wanted to give you an overview of what to expect on test day, along with some tips and advice.

If you’ve already taken the test, you’ll know about the process. However, I urge you to read on because there may be some things I cover which will give you an advantage in the exam. 


The Night Before

  • Finish Your Preparation

The night before the exam is when you should stop revising for the IELTS. All of the hard work has been done (hopefully) over several weeks, using good quality preparation material. It is never sensible to continue trying to ‘cram’ more information on the morning of your test, because this will make you even more stressed. Trust me, it isn’t a good idea.

  • Relax

The best thing you can do for yourself the night before you sit the IELTS is relax. Treat yourself to something you enjoy – read your favourite book, listen to your favourite music or have your favourite meal.

  • Prepare Your Body

It’s important that your body and mind is in tip-top condition for exam day, as you will need to be fully focussed.

Some of the things we recommend (other than relaxing), are staying hydrated, eating a wholesome, healthy evening meal and making sure that your bedroom is dark and quiet (consider wearing an eye mask and ear plugs if necessary). You really do need a good nights sleep if you want to be in optimal condition the following day.

  • Set TWO Alarms!

This is ESSENTIAL! You don’t want to oversleep and then rush in the morning. Make sure you set 2 alarms just in case one fails for whatever reason. Maybe even ask a friend to give you a call at a specific time. It’s also sensible to charge your phone (so the alarm will actually go off!) 

Exam Day – In The Morning

  • Wake Up Early

The last thing you want to do is be late for the exam – because you won’t be allowed in and the whole thing will be pointless.

Make sure you wake up with plenty of time to spare. You must consider how long it will take to get to the test centre, the transport you will use and your morning routine (shower, breakfast, brush teeth etc). 

I would recommend arriving at the test centre at least 30 minutes before you are due, because you never know what might happen – your car may get a puncture, for example.

  • Have a good breakfast

You will have a long, mentally-draining day ahead of you, so you need to make sure you have a good breakfast. Something that will give you enough energy during the exam. For example, oats with fruit, eggs, pancakes etc.

  • Wear Comfortable Clothes

You don’t want to feel restricted during the exam, so you should wear something comfortable. Equally, you don’t want to overheat or feel too cold, so make sure you dress appropriately.

  • Remove Your Watch

You aren’t allowed to wear a watch in the exam, so make sure you remove this before you leave (but make sure you are still there in plenty of time).

  • Relax

Being nervous is a natural emotion to something that you care about. Your future counts on you attaining a good score in the IELTS, so you will naturally feel anxious on test day.

I advise that you practice relaxation techniques after you have eaten breakfast. Anything from meditation (this is a great way to calm your nerves), reading a book (something unrelated to the IELTS) or chatting to a friend about something trivial.

  • Prepare Your Bag

It’s sensible to take a small bag with you to the test centre.However, this will have to be left outside of the test room, in a dedicated locker.

Things to include:
    • Your ID (the one you used to book the test)
    • Test Documents (the ones you receive when you book your exam)
    • 2x Pens (in case one stops working)
    • 2x Sharp Pencils  (in case one breaks)
    • Eraser
    • Coloured pens (if you use these to highlight key words etc)
    • Bottle of Water (in a clear bottle, no label)
    • A Small Snack (for before or after the test)
    • Mobile Phone (you’re not allowed to take this into the test room)

Exam Day – At The Test Centre

  • Sign In

The test centre staff will want to check your ID (make sure this is the correct one – the one used when booking the test) and test documents. 

You will also have your photograph taken, which is used on your IELTS certificate.

  • Store Belongings & Prepare Stationary

Make sure you store your belongings in a secure locker – most test centres have these available. Remember, you aren’t allowed a mobile phone into the exam, so make sure you switch this off and place it in your bag along with everything else you want to store (e.g. jacket, test documents, snack).

The only things you should take into the exam room with you are: your ID, pens, pencils, eraser, water bottle (transparent bottle). Nothing else.

  • Go To The Toilet

If you think you will need the toilet within the next 3 hours, we advise you to go BEFORE the exam starts. Although you can go to the toilet during the exam, you are wasting valuable exam time – the clock won’t stop!

  • Go To Your Desk

Take a seat when the staff ask you to go in, get comfortable, put your personal items on the table in front of you and locate the clock – this is the only way you are able to time yourself as you work through the tasks.

If you have any questions before or during your exam (or if you need to use the toilet), make sure you put your hand up and wait for a staff member to come over. But remember, the clock will not stop and you will lose valuable time if you do this.

  • Start The Exam

When you have been told you can begin, read the instructions carefully before answering any questions. This is very important! Read the instructions carefully!

The order of the sections are as follows: Listening -> Reading -> Writing. These are completed straight after each other, without a break. In total, this will take 2 hours 40 minutes.

The speaking section will either be on the same day or 7 days before or after this day, depending on the test centre requirements.

When you start the listening section, make sure you check your headphones/speakers are working correctly. If you can’t hear anything, raise your hand and tell a staff member.

  • Tips For The Exam

    • Follow all instructions and task requirements.
    • Keep an eye on the clock!
    • Don’t waste too much time on one question if you don’t know the answer. Simply move on to the next one and come back to it after.
    • Most questions aren’t negatively marked, so if you don’t know the answer, you should guess (rather than not writing anything).

After The Exam 

Once the exam has finished, you must stay seated at your desk until you’re told you can leave. Once you have been given the go-ahead, you will exit the exam room, pick up your personal belongings and leave the test centre.

If you think your performance was affected by anything related to the test centre (for example it was too noisy), you must tell a member of staff as soon as the test finishes. If you would like to complain about your experience, you must do so in writing within 1 week of taking the test by filling in a complaint form.

I hope this article has been useful for you. I know it can be quite daunting not knowing what to expect in the exam. It will give you an advantage if you take on board the information on this page.

Here’s to your success!

Sam & Sarah  🙂