Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

August 20, 2011


I have worked with IELTS students for many years and over this time students have told me many things about the IELTS exam that I term ‘myths’.

The reason I consider them to be mythology is because they are mostly not true and secondly they can become a huge distraction to students who are preparing for the exam. At best they are harmless pieces of  ‘folklore’ but sometimes they can actually be detrimental and act against good performance in the exam.

So here are 10 IELTS Myths (there are plenty more) all of which have been said to me by my students quite recently. I want to explain to you why you should ignore these and stick to the real work of preparing successfully for your exam!

In this post I would like to explode some of these myths and explain why IELTS candidates should ignore them.



So here are my top 10 myths:

  • You can get a higher band at X centre

When I was an IELTS examiner in London some years ago,  this belief used to amuse me. I often examined with other examiners who attended various different centers. We would meet each other at different centres and so wherever students went for their IELTS exam the same examiners would be there! There are many more centres nowadays but examiners do still move around.

Secondly, examining the IELTS  is standardised and all examiners do a lot of training to ensure that they are all ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ i.e. all giving a standardised result. Wherever you take the exam you will get the same experience and chance.

  • Some examiners are stricter than others

If you take on board what I’ve said above then this cannot be true. All examiners have to give all candidates the same experience and they train rigorously for this.

All examiners want you to be successful and get a good score but they can only score what you give them on the day!

  • Only x number of candidates will get a high band at each centre

Every IELTS candidate has the same chance and if you perform well enough to achieve a high band then you will get a high band.

The way to make sure that you get the band you want is to prepare well, make sure that your English is at the right level and not waste time worrying about these things.

  • If I pause for more than 10 seconds in the speaking I can’t get a high band

This could be a very dangerous thing to believe because it means that you are counting time instead of thinking about how you perform in the speaking test.

I am quite sure that the examiner is not checking the length of your pauses. If they were doing that they would not be paying attention to what you say and then they would not be able to score you at all! If you think about this it is ridiculous.

It is true that if you hesitate too much then your speaking will not be fluent and that will affect your score. Instead of counting pauses though, make sure that you can answer the questions fluently. Counting the length of your pauses can only interfere with your communication and I am sure that it will end up being stilted.

  • Certain centres will not give high bands to candidates from x country

This is a new one on me. Examiners only check passports to see that you are the person you say you are. Their role is to test your English performance and not to make judgements about your nationality. IELTS examiners have no control or influence over visas – they are simply assessing your English.

  • I have to include these words (usually a list) in my task two or I won’t get a high band

Sadly I have seen essays that are ‘word-packed’ and often the communication is lost. The most important thing about the essay is that you answer the questions in a communicative and convincing way. You are at liberty to use any words and phrases you wish and,of course, if you use a range of good vocabulary that will hep you with your final score but throwing words at the essay just because you think they will impress the examiner is a dangerous thing to do. Using words appropriately and sensibly to give your essay some sophistication will get you marks but throwing words at your essay willy-nilly because you think they will earn you marks won’t help you at all.

It’s better to spend your time broadening your overall vocabulary and perfecting your writing style so that you are able to use new words in the right way.

  •  I have to keep practising the IELTS practice test to get a good band score

This can be a very boring and limiting way of preparing for the test. While it is important to prepare for the IELTS and understand what is expected in each part of the test, you need to remember that this is a test of English and the better your English, the better your chances of doing well. Don’t limit yourself to IELTS tests use the great wealth of English language material on the internet to help you too.

  •  IELTS is the most difficult English exam

IELTS is actually a very straightforward exam – there are no tricks. It tests your ability to use English in certain tasks at a certain level and that is all. There are many tests of English for many different purposes and if you are well prepared and have the right English level (this is very important – you need to be band 7 to get band 7) then IELTS is no more difficult than any other exam.

  • If the examiner doesn’t like my opinion I won’t get a high band

The examiner’s job in the writing and speaking is to see if you are able to present ideas and arguments in good English and to test that those ideas are plausible and backed up so that they are convincing. At no time will the examiner judge your ideas (as long as they are sensible and fit in with the question).

You are in control of your speaking and writing not the examiner. You should use this position to demonstrate your excellent use of English. If you are waiting for the examiner then you will not perform as well. Take the lead and convince the examiner of your opinions.

  • I have to give the examiner the answer they want in the speaking

This tallies with the above myth. The examiner has a list of questions that they will ask you but it is your job to take those questions and use them to demonstrate your English. The examiner has no idea what your answers will be and they also have no idea in their head of  an answer that they want – that is your job. They will simply listen and mark you according to how you managed to respond.


So my advice is not to listen to these myths they will not help you. You should concentrate on what will help you and that is sustained, regular practice in both your English language and the IELTS exam preparation.


Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my free IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there 🙂






  1. Well done for dispellingthese myths. I have heard some of the same ones and it gets silly when the students are so sure that they have the facts right and the teacher is wrong. I will be happy to show them a copy of this post in future.

    Comment by Sue Annan — August 21, 2011 @ 6:19 pm | Reply

    • Hi Sue, thank you I agree – the problem is that it can distract them from the real work. I think if someone chooses aparticular test centre because they feel more comfortable there or they have had a better experience there that is fine (after all we all have our little talismans) but when students (and I feel that some do) rely on these myths and take them very seriously then it can just be a block.

      Comment by rliberni — August 21, 2011 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

  2. […] IELTS Myths « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language So here are 10 IELTS Myths (there are plenty more) all of which have been said to me by my students quite recently. I want to explain to you why you should ignore these and stick to the real work of preparing successfully for … Source: rliberni.wordpress.com […]

    Pingback by IELTS Myths « Rliberni's Blog – Radical language | The world of IELTS | Scoop.it — August 25, 2011 @ 3:18 pm | Reply

  3. Thank you for saving me many yards of typing! Great summary of everything genuine teachers keep trying to impart: IELTS is a test of language proficiency! Quit looking for tips and shortcuts. Learn authentic English — it will be a lifelong endeavour!

    Comment by Jan — August 26, 2011 @ 1:07 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for your comment Jan. I know wjhat you mean! You sometimes feel as though you are banging your head against a brick wall! There are NO short cuts just get the language level you need. The biggest problems are not with the IELTS but beyond I think, if the language isn’t up to the right level then the study programme or job will be the REAL nightmare.

      Comment by rliberni — August 26, 2011 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

  4. Excellent advice. This has most certainly been my experience.

    Comment by MichaelEdits — August 27, 2011 @ 2:51 am | Reply

  5. It is very useful post having useful features… IELTS is based on testing four components of language, Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Nice post..

    Comment by IELTS — September 2, 2011 @ 3:57 pm | Reply

  6. […] 10 IELTS Myths by Rliberni I have worked with IELTS students for many years and over this time students have told me many things about the IELTS exam that I term 'myths'. The reason I consider them to be mythology is … Source: rliberni.wordpress.com […]

    Pingback by 10 IELTS Myths by Rliberni | IELTS throughout the Net | Scoop.it — October 11, 2011 @ 10:07 am | Reply

  7. hi thanks for sharing the myths but i think i have another one and i will be very pleased if i can get a plausible answer. is it true that the appeal made to revise the score of any module will only be modified (in most cases will increase) if the band score remains unchanged after the increment regardless of the fact. Lets say a candidate has got L-8.5, R-8, W-7.5, S-6.5 with a band score of 7.5 which is calculated like this (8.5+8+7.5+6.5=30.5; 30.5/4=7.625 which is rounded down to 7.5). But now if he appeals to revise his speaking score and the result is 7 then the band changes. 8.5+8+7.5+7=31; 30.5/4=7.75!!!! please explain now what happens. now the band changes from 7.5 to 8 which according to the myth is not possible. so the appeal of the candidate will be unsuccessful. this can be very painful if by achieving very good scores in 3 modules he loses his chance to appeal (knowing the myth to be true)… please assure that band scores can also change..

    Comment by ebahase — December 8, 2011 @ 10:08 am | Reply

  8. Dear Berni,

    First of all thanks a lot for busting the myths and now please help me to bust another. The myth is like this: “The band score cannot be changed!!”

    I will give you an example:
    Say a candidate got L-8.5 R-8 W-7.5 S-6.5 and band score of 7.5. The calculation is (8.5+8+7.5+6.5=30.5; 30.5/4=7.625 which is rounded down to 7.5, the band score). Now if he appeals for his speaking score (currently 6.5) and lets assume for the sake of argument that it got revised to 7. So the new band calculation will be ( L-8.5 R-8 W-7.5 S-7 = 31; 31/4=7.75 which should be rounded up to 8, a new band score!). But according to the myth this will not happen because altering the score of any module will eventually change the band score!!! and thus the appeal will be unsuccessful regardless of the quality. As you can see that the candidate had done great in the other 3 modules (with a minimum of 7.5).

    So I would humbly request you to uplift the shroud of mystery, if there is any, and shed some light into this matter. If possible include a case where the band score had been changed.


    Comment by ebahase (@ebahase) — December 9, 2011 @ 5:59 am | Reply

    • Hi Ebahase thank you for raising this rather ‘throny’ issue of appeals. I have no ‘official’ information to share with you so most of what I say will be anecdotal and from the experience of my students. As an examiner I did re-mark papers but most often the mark that was originally given remained (and this was some time ago). I think it unlikely that you would get a different result in reading or listening. There might be a case in speaking and writing. I think it is only worthwhile if you are really very close but then you have to weigh up the cost, the time you will have to wait for the result and the urgency of your need for a satisfactory score. In most cases I advise my students just to take it again – it’s often the quickest and cheapest option and if I am confident that they can get the score they need then this is usually the best option. If your writing or speaking are the problems and you are not working with a teacher (especially if you keep getting 6.5 in writing or speaking) then I would get an IELTS teacher to check your level before you go to appeal as it could be that your skills have fossilised at this level and you will not be successful. In this case you will be better off using the money to work with a teacher to upgrade your skills to a definite 7.

      I know that grades can move down as well as up so there is a risk of this but your question about the calculation of overall grades is not one I can answer as I don’t know how this is worked out. For overall scores then things will be re-calculated for scores in each it won’t make a difference.

      Maybe someone else can help here – if anybody has more information on this please make a comment.

      Comment by rliberni — December 9, 2011 @ 10:29 am | Reply

  9. Respected Riberni,i would like to know the chances of remarks .i wrote ielts 8 times ,and very frustrated with my last score. i got listening :8,reading :8, writing :6.5 and speaking :8.5. i need 7 individual for all modules so what you think whether it worth a try for a remark or better to resit again.please provide your opinion about my chances

    Comment by RATHISH SASI — December 27, 2011 @ 7:37 pm | Reply

    • Hi Ratisg thank you for your comment. It looks like your only current problem is yoru writing. My feeling is that you are maybe doing this without having anybody check it. There is a leap from 6.5 to 7 and in writing I don’t believe that you can easily make this leap without getting someone to look at your writing and give you advice. I will email you with more information

      Comment by rliberni — December 27, 2011 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

  10. Its true that students who are on the verge of giving IELTS test, listen a lot to their friends who already has some experience. They listen to those friends because they know and compare their level of English knowledge by comparing to that certain person. That in certain case work as well to boost some confidence but I definitely agree to Mrs Wall that these myths will harm to the performance of the test taker.

    Thank you for making it much clear and straight forward

    Comment by Sanjaya Acharya — January 9, 2012 @ 7:22 pm | Reply

    • THank you Sanjaya for your comment. It is true that yo should find out what it is exactly that you need to do from the experts at the British Council and Cambridge Esol sites and this is more important than what friends or some websites say.

      Comment by rliberni — January 11, 2012 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  11. will you provide me with..vedios please that should be non youtube vedios….suffered

    Comment by shoukat sheikh — October 20, 2012 @ 5:18 am | Reply

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