There are many aspects in IELTS that people find surprising, usually when it hits them hard. It is quite a paradox – the information is right there, available to everyone, yet people are still in the dark. Allow me to draw your attention to several facts you don’t want to be surprised about.
Usually extensive answer is considered a very good one, but not in IELTS. When instructions say “give one answer” or “answer in 3 words”, it means “give us two answers or 4 words and we’ll fail you”. The reason for this limit is quite simple and obvious – there is not enough room for more than 3 words on Answer Sheet. By the way, articles “a” and “the” count as one word, while common assumption is that they don’t.
People tend to forget that they are graded by Answer Sheet and not by what they wrote in IELTS booklet. Any correct answer not copied to Answer Sheet will result in exactly 0 points. There is an option of submitting appeal and requesting to read your answers from the booklet, but it takes time and costs money.
Not many people think about what they are going to write with, pen or pencil. Yet there are rules: the Listening and Reading answers are to be written in pencil and Writing - in pen. This is another example of how small details can be very significant in IELTS.
Writing and Speaking are graded differently from Listening and Reading. There is no half band grade, which means it is impossible to get 6.5 in either Writing or Speaking. The reason is the way examiners are currently trained, but hopefully it will change in the future (according to official IELTS site maybe even in 2007).
In Reading and Listening tests the spelling is important, meaning one can loose points for misspelled words. The best way to overcome the spelling problem is to copy words. In case of Reading, copying words from text is a very easy and natural thing to do. In Listening test, as simple as it may sound, it is best to write what you hear and not to rephrase. It is acceptable to skip words – after all there is 3 words limit, as long as the important words are not substituted by their synonyms.
And at last some good news: starting from May 2006 candidates don’t need to wait 90 days to retake the test. The 90-day waiting period has been canceled to the joy of those who have no time to waste.
Note: Simone Braverman is the author of "ACE The IELTS" e-Book. She once had to take the IELTS test to open a door to a dream. Her curiosity pushed her quite a bit further into extensive research on differnt aspects of IELTS test. More information at www.IELTS-blog.com.