The day after we had our IELTS Speaking test, it was time to take the IELTS Listening, Reading and Writing tests to complete our language proficiency requirements for Express Entry.
Like our post on the Speaking exam, both N and I will share our experiences with you in hopes of giving you guys more insight into the IELTS test.
I wasn’t as nervous about this part of the IELTS as I was with the speaking exam. I was never good at one-on-one interview type situations, but this, I knew I could handle. In fact, I actually felt pretty confident about it, thanks to 9.0 Niners who prepare their students pretty well. (This is not a sponsored post! :P)
The only thing that bothered me was not knowing what to expect on a bigger scale (literally, as in taking the test in a bigger “classroom”). Concerns like “What if I can’t hear the recording, since the room’s way bigger than where we had our reviews?” or “What if it’s too cold that I can’t concentrate?” kept plaguing my mind the night before the exam. What I did to remedy that was to wear a sweater, and made sure that I cleaned my ears that morning! Heehee.
The 2nd and final day of our IELTS exam was held at the Rizal Ballroom of Makati Shangri-la Hotel (bongga!). The three exams will be conducted from 9 AM to 12 NN, allotting around 40-50 minutes for each part. If I remember correctly, we had little to no breaks in between, so make sure to do your business before the test begins since going to the washroom in the middle of the taking the exam will eat up your time and they will be pretty strict about ending your test, finished or not, when the time is up.
I learned pretty soon that I didn’t have any reason to be worried about the listening exam. The recording was loud and clear on the surround sound system of the hotel ballroom, and the accent of the speaker in the recording was not as bad as the ones we have encountered during our review. For this portion, you can write your answers on the blanks provided on the questionnaire as the recording is playing. However (PEASE DO NOT FORGET THIS), you will have to transfer ALL your answers on the separate answer sheet given. 30 minutes is allotted for the recording and 10 minutes for you to transfer your answers. If your answers are not on the answer sheet, even if they are on the questionnaire, you will get a big fat zero for the listening exam.
The reading exam was much easier for me because we can answer the questions at our own pace, (but still within the confines of the limited time given.) But unlike the listening test, this test provided us with more opportunities to reread passages in order to double check our answers.
My favorite part of the exam was the writing test. I admit that during the review phase, it was my most dreaded out of all the IELTS components. But it turned out that I enjoyed it the most, excluding the fact that my fingers felt like death afterwards from all the speed writing.
There are two parts of this test: Writing Task 1 and Writing Task 2. Task 1 is an easier and more casual essay and can be in the form of letter-writing where you have to write at least 150 words. In our case, we had to write a letter to a friend coming to visit our hometown who we had to arrange accommodations for. Task 2 requires at least 250 words where you will have to discuss a topic and provide substantial arguments supporting your opinion. Writing Task 2 carries more weight than Writing Task 1, so it is suggested to spend the first 30 minutes on this before doing the first essay. Our Writing Task 2 question was something along the lines of “Do you think it’s good to make children do chores at home?” Pretty basic question, but it’s also important that the structure of the essay is correctly written.
Before I knew it, the test was over. The facilitators went around and took all our test papers, gave out a timeline and procedure to know your results and sent us on our merry way.
Here’s my experience
Since our test was scheduled at 9:00 AM, on a weekday and in the middle of Makati, we made sure to not take any chances and be at the venue as early as possible. We got to the area at around 7:00 AM and proceeded to park the car over at the 6750 building. Since we had time to spare, we went over to the nearby Starbucks to kill time and relax get even more nervous.
45 minutes before our test was scheduled to begin, we returned to the car to deposit our stuff and then made our way to the Rizal Ballroom of the Makati Shang. After registering checking our seat assignments, we patiently waited in line amongst all the other test takers for the day. It was at this point that I noticed a pitcher full of ice cold water on a table to the side of the waiting area and immediately filled up a cup and downed it. Take note that I already had a Grande sized Café Latte in me at this point (this will all come into play later). — I believe that he has a really small bladder space, something I’ve come to find especially annoying when we gotta pause every 10 minutes so he can take care of biz. – N
Anyway, we entered the venue and took our seats. There were several rows of long-ish tables with two seats per table. You will technically have a seatmate, but there will be quite a bit of space between you two, so there will be nothing to worry about unless your seatmate is one of those people who uses an eraser like there’s no tomorrow or shakes their leg constantly.
First up, was the listening test. As N wrote above, this was pretty straight forward and dare I say… pretty easy. Your biggest opponent here will really be yourself since it’s possible for you to let your mind drift and you end up missing a question and getting lost as to where you are in the test. But, the most important thing to remember with the listening test is to make sure that you transfer your answers to the answer sheet. Due to the nature of the test, you will be advised that you may initially write your answers on the questionnaire because it will make it easier for you to follow the recording that way. Whatever you do though, never forget to transfer your answers to the answer sheet provided since they will only count answers on that piece of paper.
Next, came the reading test. This part of the IELTS consists of a short (easy) and long (harder) passage/article with accompanying questions. The easy part of the test shouldn’t give you any problems, but be sure to give yourself extra time to re-read and think about the passage and the questions for the harder part of the test, since some of them will seem simple at first, but are actually trick questions. While answering the hard part of the reading test, I suddenly realized that my bladder was suddenly feeling very uncomfortable. The grande latte and the cup of water I downed before the test suddenly came rushing down all at the same time.
At this point, I only had a few questions to go with maybe around 15 minutes left, so I finished the test and with all the discipline I could muster, started reviewing all my answers. With around five minutes left in the test, I was satisfied enough with what I did and stood up and made my way to the bathroom. Thankfully, the IELTS exam does allow bathroom breaks, but they will send somebody to accompany you inside the bathroom (he did keep a respectable distance from me). Weird, but understandable, I guess in the interest of preventing cheating. Anyway, I got back just in time for the end of the test, taking my seat and feeling like a million bucks.
The last part of the test would be the writing exam. Like the reading exam, it would be split into two parts, one simpler than the other. I forget how much time we were given to complete the test, but time management will be very, very crucial in this part of the test. Admittedly, I dodged a bullet while taking this part of the test, since I lost track of time and got a little OC accomplishing the first part (which is worth considerably fewer points vs. the second part). I remember panicking when I realized that I spent almost half of the time answering the easier question. How could I be so careless? Panic time. Panic time. Left with no other choice, I just decided to power through the final essay, writing at a pace that I have never written with before.
Thankfully, I was able to finish just as the time run out. With absolutely no time to proofread my work though, it’s safe to say that I ended my IELTS testing experience with a heart full of anxiety and my confidence a bit shook. Nevertheless, we were now at the hardest part of the IELTS process… waiting for the results.
Tips and Reminders
Arrive Early: The doors of the venue will be closed 10 minutes before the test begins, so give yourself time to register and find your seat. You will not be able to reschedule the test if you miss it because you were late.
Don’t Forget Your ID: Bring the ID you used to register with IDP to the venue. In our case, we used our passports for everything so that we won’t have to bring multiple IDs.
Bring Extra Mongol No. 2 Pencils: You will be provided with a pen and an eraser, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Dress Warm: Bring a light jacket just in case the venue gets chilly.
Penmanship Matters: Write legibly. For multiple choice questions, write your answers clearly and in capital letters. Make sure that a “B” doesn’t look like a “D” etc.
It Still Has to Make Sense: Make sure that your answer makes the question understandable and still follow subject verb agreement. You shouldn’t answer “The dog” if the question is “The ___ ran out of the house”. The answer here should be “dog” only.
Keep Track of Time: Make sure you budget your time well and give yourself ample time to not only finish the test, but review your answers as well.
Transfer Your Answers (Listening Test): Again, this is the 3rd time this has been mentioned in this post, but it could spell the difference between a 0 and a 9.0 score. Just make sure that all parts of your answer sheet have answers.
Hope you guys enjoyed and/or got something our our our IELTS Listening, Reading and Writing Test experience. Do check out our previous post for our experience with the Speaking Test. Moving to Canada will be a daunting task for anyone and If there’s anything you want to ask, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!