Blog Students Advice For Students Taking the IELTS Exam in Singapore: Know What To Expect

Taking the IELTS Exam in Singapore: Know What To Expect

If you’ve been researching proficiency English tests in Singapore, you probably know that IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, is no walk in the park.

But, however challenging, it’s still one of the most recognized and widely accepted language tests worldwide, whether we’re talking about employers, universities, or governments.

So, where do you even start? In this article, we did our best to answer the most burning questions on IELTS so that you know what to expect.

Learn which type of test is best suited for your needs, when and where to take your test, and the most important part – how to ace it!

Let’s dig in!

Why Choose IELTS?

This may be an exciting time for you. You may be needing an English test to study or work abroad, immigrate or boost your resume when looking for a new job.

It’s easy to let nerves get the best of you, but let’s look at some positives here:

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5 exciting reasons to take the IELTS exam

1) You’ll become aware of your true English levels. IELTS will objectively and professionally assess your English levels so that you have a good understanding of your skills.

This will come in handy when changing countries, universities, or going through a major life overhaul.

2) You’ll have an IELTS certificate in your pocket. Even if you’re not planning on using your IELTS results for a specific purpose, who knows when you’ll need proof of English mastery?

The IELTS Certificate is an official Educational certification that is accepted worldwide and even required by some employers and institutions.

Use it to boost your resume and make a good impression in any job interview.

3) You’ll improve your English skills. Just going through the IELTS training alone will help you significantly raise your English levels.

The testing process is all-encompassing, which means you’ll be sharpening your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.

4) You don’t have to choose between US and UK English. Once you pass the IELTS exam, you’ll have the opportunity to work or study in any English-speaking country, whether that’s the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia.

The tests are designed in such a way that they take into account all English variations.

Not to mention that the content was created by a mixed international team from a variety of backgrounds. So you don’t have to worry about your accent or vocabulary.

5) You’ll practice real-life conversations and people skills. The IELTS exam is based on practicality. This means that the speaking test will resemble a normal interaction of everyday life.

If you’re reasonably good at English but generally nervous to speak the language, practicing for this part of the exam will force you out of your comfort zone.

If you’re still on the fence, let’s explore even more tangible reasons:

Popular study destinations which require IELTS

A recent survey led by found that Canada ranked as the most popular destination to study abroad for two consecutive years.

And it should come as no surprise thanks to Canada’s breathtaking scenery and friendly culture towards immigrants and international students. 

Australia came in second, followed by Germany, the US, and the UK. It’s no surprise that 4 out of the 5 most popular choices for studying abroad are English-speaking countries.

While not all universities require IELTS as a mandatory language certification, many accept the IELTS exam results as a confirmation of the student’s English levels, and some even require a minimum band score. 

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You can check this section of the British Council’s official website to find out if your preferred university is among the 10,000 organizations worldwide that accept the IELTS test.

If you’re looking to study in Singapore, check the IELTS requirements for the most prestigious universities:

Singapore UniversityIELTS Score
National University of Singapore6.5
Nanyang Technological University6.0 - 6.5
Singapore Management University6.5 - 7.0
Singapore Institute of Management6
Singapore University of Social Sciences6.5

IELTS for work Visas and immigration purposes

If you’re planning to relocate to an English-speaking country, whether that’s to work or to live, you’re probably going to need to test your English levels in order to receive a visa.

All popular countries accept IELTS results, although the required band score varies from country to country. Get ready for taking IELTS if you’re planning to become a citizen in:

  • USA – IELTS is mandatory for visa permits. Band score 6.0 to 7.0;
  • Canada – Band score above 6.0;
  • New Zealand – Band score above 6.5;
  • UK – Band score above 5.5. You don’t need it if you’re an EU citizen;
  • Ireland Band score above 6.5;
  • Australia – Band score above 5.5.

Which IELTS test should I take?

When training for the IELTS exam keep in mind that you need to tailor your learning efforts for one of the two specific test formats: IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

Let’s further discuss similarities and differences and help you figure out which one is right for you.

IELTS Academic test

As the name suggests, the IELTS Academic test is best suited for you if you’re an undergraduate or postgraduate student applying for universities or a professional looking to gain access to an organization or institution.

For example, suppose you’re a medical professional looking to emigrate to one of the English-speaking countries above.

In that case, you’ll need an IELTS certificate to get accepted for that job and receive a visa. 

Similar to the IELTS General Training Test, IELTS Academic consists of four sections: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing.

The Academic version of IELTS is generally more difficult and academic-based, although the listening and speaking sections are the same on both exams.  

IELTS General Training test

IELTS General Training is a good test to have if you’re looking to apply for an English-speaking school or college in Singapore. You may also need it when applying for certain jobs as part of your training and experience.

Probably the most common reason why people take the IELTS General Training test is migration.

If you’re looking to relocate to one of these destinations – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, and the UK – you must pass the required band score to get accepted.

The General Training version of IELTS focuses on informal text and everyday English. Its purpose is to evaluate how well you’d handle social or work environments.

So if you hate taking academic exams and your situation doesn’t require complex testing, then IELTS General training is for you.

Differences between Academic and General training

On both exam formats, you get the same sections – listening, speaking, reading, and writing – and you’re given the same amount of time to sit the test.

What varies dramatically is the difficulty of the reading and writing sections. 

During the Academic exam, expect to read texts from literary books, scientific journals, newspapers, and magazines.

You’ll be asked to break down the information inside a table, graph, or diagram, and the essay part will focus on more or less challenging arguments.

The General Training test won’t pose much of a problem, and the text might be work-related or describe everyday life situations.

You might be asked to write a letter, and the standards for essay writing won’t nearly be as high.

Probably the most notable difference between IELTS Academic and General Training is the way candidates are scored.

In all sections, candidates receive a raw score based on how many questions they’ve correctly answered. This raw score (0 to 40) is then turned into a band score (0 to 9).

The interesting thing with the Academic version is that you have to get more questions right to receive the same band score compared to the General Training test.

What band score do I need to score?

The purpose of IELTS isn’t to qualify you as “passed” or “failed,” but rather to objectively evaluate your English levels.

It is then for your university/institution to decide the minimum band score they want to set if you intend to study, work or relocate with them.

The IELTS band score consists of 9 bands, and the score can be further broken down in .5 increments.

Each of the four sections of the test is graded, and the average is rounded off to the nearest .0 or .5 band. 

IELTS grading starts from 0 and evaluates 10 levels of English proficiency. So instead of receiving a classic 1-10 grade, the band score ranges from 0 to 9.

Once you’ve taken the test, you can check your results online. It takes about 13 days for the paper test results to be released and 3 to 5 days if you’ve taken a computer-delivered test. 

Along with your band score, you’ll receive a document called Test Report Form, or TRF.

This form will show the average band score as well as the individual band scores for each of the four sections: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

The TRF will have your printed picture as well as some security elements to prevent forging.

Unfortunately, both the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training test results expire after 2 years.

You’re probably wondering why that is – it’s not like someone can take your knowledge away. But it makes sense because language skills can improve or deteriorate over the span of 2 years—even more reason to keep practicing.

So what band score is unofficially considered best? While it’s different for everyone and depends entirely on the reason why you need your English skills tested, a good band score on the IELTS test is 6 and above.

Scoring above 7 on IELTS Academic is already something to be very proud of.

IELTS test for UK visas and immigration (UKVI)

If you’re looking to work, study or live in the UK, you’ll need an “IELTS for UKVI.” This type of IELTS is exactly the same as the normal IELTS – the only difference is that this test version is approved by the UK government for the purpose of granting you a UK visa.

IELTS for UKVI consists of three formats: Academic, General Training, and Life Skills.

IELTS Academic for UKVI is designed for undergraduate or postgraduate students, as well as professionals looking to register and work in the UK.

IELTS General Training serves workers below degree level.

The novelty is IELTS Life Skills. It only assesses the speaking and listening skills of those applying for a “family of a settled person” visa.

If you’re a member of the extended family, a spouse, partner, or parent, you’ll need to take the IELTS Life Skills A1, A2, or B1 test depending on what you want to achieve: extend your stay or apply for citizenship.

Find more details on this topic at

IELTS Test dates, fees, and locations

When taking IELTS in Singapore, you have two official test centers to choose from – British Council and IDP Singapore. These centers differ in location and test date availability.

The British Council is the most generous in terms of available test dates. You can choose from multiple locations and check online for a date, test format, and testing method (paper or computer-delivered) best suited for your needs.

British Council IELTS test centers in Singapore:

  • Napier – British Council Singapore Limited, British Council Singapore Napier, 30 Napier Rd, Singapore 258509
  • Orchard – British Council Singapore Limited, Hilton Singapore, 581 Orchard Road Singapore, 238883
  • Paya Lebar – British Council Singapore Limited, Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI), 11 Eunos Road 8 (Paya Lebar Central), Singapore 408601

You can also take the IELTS exam within 4 of the IDP centers. IDP offers both paper and computer-based formats, and while it offers a range of locations, only one of them – THE CATHAY – Dhoby Gaut MRT – holds IELTS tests on a daily basis. 

IDP IELTS test centers in Singapore:

Steps to registering and paying for the IELTS exam

Whether you decide to take the IELTS test with the British Council or IDP Singapore, the fees are similar:

IELTS Test FormatIDPBritish Council
Computer-delivered IELTS AcademicS$ 365S$ 365
Computer-delivered IELTS General TrainingS$ 365S$ 365
IELTS Academic (Paper-based)S$ 365S$ 365
IELTS General Training (Paper-based)S$ 365S$ 365
IELTS Academic (UKVI)S$ 352S$ 385
IELTS General Training (UKVI)S$ 352S$ 385
IELTS Life Skills A1S$ 264S$ 264
IELTS Life Skills B1S$ 264S$ 264

You can register for your preferred date, location, and test format in just a few easy steps.

Once you choose these details, you will be asked to create an account with your full identification details, address, etc. Payment is done via card, although some official centers accept PayPal. Note that PayPal charges a fee for its payment transaction. You can calculate its fee using a PayPal Fee Calculator.

You must have an identification that is valid on the test date and provide a scanned copy.

The following are the accepted IDs for standard IELTS: Coloured Passport or pink IC for Singaporeans, Coloured Passport ONLY for foreigners (PRs, Work Pass holders, Dependants).

Which is better for IELTS in Singapore: British Council or IDP?

The IELTS exam is exactly the same whether you’re taking it at BC or IDP. Questions, examiners, and marking standards are similar in both locations.

However, since examiners are only human and susceptible to error and subjectivity, you could come across some strict examiners and others who are more relaxed in their marking.

Both with BC or IDP, there have been a few unofficial complaints, like malfunctioning headphones for the listening section, mixed-up dates, or less helpful staff.

But generally, they are very professional, and these are merely exceptions to be found in any institution.

When choosing your location, keep in mind that the exam takes 2 hours and 40 minutes. You’ll want to arrive refreshed and rested, so it’s best to choose a location that’s close to your home or book a hotel close to the premises.

Another criteria for choosing the British Council or IDP are the available dates. Both have increased availability in several locations.

Should I take IELTS on paper or computer?

Depending on how skilled you are in using a computer, you can choose to take a paper or computer-based method of IELTS. 

If you’re unsure what to choose, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you type faster than you handwrite?
  • Are you comfortable with using technology?
  • Are you used to proofreading your documents online rather than on paper?
  • Do you have knowledge of shortcut buttons, using Tab, Copy Paste, etc.?
  • Are you comfortable working among other noisy typists?

If all of the answers to the questions above are yes, computer-delivered IELTS is the right choice for you!

A few more advantages include – automatic word count, a timer onscreen, the possibility to highlight and delete large paragraphs, drag&drop words.

You’ll still have to take the test at a center and not in the comfort of your own home.

Computer-delivered tests are generally less crowded and have more availability dates than paper ones. You’ll also receive your results much faster: within 3 to 5 calendar days.

It’s easy to feel intimidated by computer testing if you’ve never tried it before. In this case, you can choose to go with the classic pen and paper version.

Don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time to complete your questions and write your essay.

Preparing for the IELTS Exam

While you can definitely take the IELTS test with no practice at all (which would genuinely assess your current English skills), why not do a stellar job with some extra preparation?

Nowadays, you have plenty of resources to choose from – whether that’s practicing on official platforms, downloading apps, or hiring tutors. 

What are the components of the IELTS Exam?

Both the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training exams have similar sections, with identical Listening and Speaking tests. You are given the same time to complete the test, whether it’s on paper or computer-delivered.

The IELTS exam is relatively fast-paced, so you’ll need to be in good mental shape and choose a time of day that suits you best.

Keep in mind that there’s no break between the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections and that you may have to take the Speaking test at a later time or even day in the week.

Here are the exact durations of all test sections:

SectionQuestions / TasksTime
Listening40 questions30 minutes (plus 10 minutes transfer time)
Reading40 questions60 minutes
Writing2 tasks60 minutes
Speaking3 parts11–14 minutes

Understanding the IELTS exam test format

You can find a plethora of information on each of the IELTS test sections online, so we’ll summarize them for you.

This way, you’ll get a better idea of what each test is about before you dig any deeper.

IELTS Listening:

  • You will listen to four recordings of native speakers from various parts of the world. These can be either conversations or monologues, casual or academic.
  • You will need to answer 40 questions, each scoring one point. Your score will then be transformed into a band score.
  • The questions are multiple-choice, matching, filling gaps, completing sentences, and giving short answers to questions.
  • You’ll have 10 minutes to transfer your answers once you’ve listened to the recordings.

PRO TIP: One important thing to note here is that one of the conversations may describe a physical place – building, town, etc. – which you will then have to map.

I lost points in this section, not because of my lack of English skills but because of my lack of orientation.

Some of these descriptions can move at a high pace, so do your best to stay focused! The good news is that you can improve your listening skills with just a little bit of practice.

IELTS Reading:

  • You will be given 60 minutes to read texts from books, scientific journals, magazines, or newspapers, selected for a non-professional audience. You will have to move quickly through the test, so you have time to answer the questions.
  • Like Listening, there will be 40 questions, which will then turn into the final band score.
  • The questions are multiple-choice, filling gaps, matching words or headings, completing sentences, or answering short questions. 

PRO TIP: Reading tests your comprehension of the text, and many will score higher in this section than in Listening because they don’t have to deal with accents, poor audio, or nerves.

However, if you have trouble focusing and following ideas inside large texts, this section could be your weakness. But don’t worry, we have more reading tips in store for you.

 IELTS Writing:

  • You will have to write formally for the Academic version and use a more personable style for the General Training version. The time limit is 60 minutes.
  • You will be given two tasks. Task 1 will consist of 150 words, and on Task 2 you will need to write 250 words.
  • Task 2 will count twice as much for grading, so focus on it more.

PRO TIP: Don’t worry about being creative with your essay – you’re not graded on your ideas.

What matters most is your choice of words, vocabulary mastery, paragraph styling, and how you generally get your message across. 

IELTS Speaking:

  • This section usually lasts 10-15 minutes and often takes place on a different day or time from the rest of the IELTS test. 
  • The examiner will ask you to introduce yourself. He or she will inquire about your family, school, place of birth and mostly try to get you ready and relaxed. 
  • You will receive a card with a topic on it, and you will be given 1-2 minutes to prepare. You will then speak for 1-2 uninterrupted minutes.
  • The examiner will then ask you additional questions and dig deeper into more abstract concepts to test your understanding and skills.

PRO TIP: Don’t EVER memorize a section for speaking. Not even a predictable one like introducing yourself and talking about your family. The examiner will know, and the band score will reflect this.

Also, don’t worry about making tiny pauses here and there – the examiner can tell the difference whether you’re pausing to find a word or you’re actually thinking about the topic.

How long do I need to prepare for the IELTS exam?

IELTS specialists recommend that you prepare for at least 6 to 8 weeks before your IELTS exam.

There’s a lot of material to go through, and you’ll need to practice your listening and speaking skills as well. You can do this best by immersing yourself in an English-speaking environment – watching movies, listening to podcasts, and making English-speaking friends.

There have been unofficial talk on online platforms that examiners like to switch and recycle the questions on the IELTS test every 4 months.

This is usually done in January, May, and September.

This means that if you start studying and plan your exam during those 4 months, you have high chances of answering the very questions you’ve prepared for.

Of course, these may be only rumors, and you shouldn’t rely on this strategy as the entire purpose of IELTS is to test your English knowledge and versatility in any new situation.

How to actually prepare for the IELTS exam

Depending on how confident you feel about preparing for the IELTS exam, you can do it on your own or you can hire a tutor.

Getting help will help you progress faster and give you confirmation that you’re moving in the right direction. 

A tutor will guide you through the practice tests, assess your skills and focus on your weaknesses because let’s face it – it’s much more fun to practice things that we’re already good at than power through tasks we hate.

If tutoring is not an option for you, or you’re already pretty good at English and only want to sharpen your skills, here are a few resources you could look into

  • Sign up for free IELTS preparation webinars;
  • Take the British Council’s free “Road to IELTS” course. IDP also offers similar free courses;
  • Take paid online courses with the British Council;
  • Purchase IELTS books and practice tests;
  • Download IELTS preparation apps.

Start by assessing your English capabilities and see where you struggle the most. Focus on improving that area, whether it’s speaking or writing, while also taking as many practice tests as you can to stay on top of good grammar and vocabulary.

IELTS is more than just answering questions – it’s a serious exam where you’ll be racing against a timer.

This is why you might want to replicate the same conditions and give yourself a limited amount of time to focus on as many tasks as possible.

Lastly, get serious about your exam day. Don’t exert yourself on the day before, and don’t drink too much caffeine on the morning of the test if it makes you jittery.

Nerves can greatly affect your band score results, so if something goes wrong during the test, signal it to the staff and then try to regain focus as quickly as possible. 

Common FAQs for IELTS Singapore

  • Do Singaporean students need IELTS?
    No, you don’t need to take IELTS as a Singaporean student for most universities. However, if you don’t meet the required level of English proficiency, you may be asked for an IELTS certificate.
  • Are IELTS scores only useful for studying in the UK?
    No, many other English-speaking countries, as well as English-speaking schools and universities, may require your IELTS band score. You will need IELTS if you want to emigrate to the US, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia. An IELTS TRF will also come in handy for job interviews and obtaining work visas.
  • Should I take TOEFL instead?
    Both TOEFL and IELTS are serious English Proficiency tests. Some would argue that TOEFL is even more challenging than IELTS. I’d suggest you go for the IELTS since it’s widely recognized by schools, institutions, and governments worldwide. TOEFL is mostly used if you’re looking to live in the US, but most American universities accept IELTS results as well.
  • Is Singlish accepted for the speaking exam?
    While you may be using unofficial Singlish slangs in everyday life, IELTS will only evaluate official English variants, whether that’s British, American, Australian, etc. Practice using correct sentence structures and avoid accidentally using Singlish slang or mispronouncing words in your speaking section.
  • Is a request for remarking advisable?
    If you got a shockingly low band score on a section you thought you aced, you can absolutely ask for a remarking. Mistakes can happen, and if your professional or personal life depends on that band score, why not fight it?
    You have the right to request a remarking within 6 weeks of the date shown on your TRF. If your band score is beyond saving, practice some more and try again – maybe do it in a different center with different examiners next time.


Now that you’ve learned mostly everything there is to know about taking the IELTS exam in Singapore, all that’s left for you to do is get started. You’re now ready because:

  • You’re already confident about what goes on inside each of the IELTS sections;
  • You have the locations and exact fees at your disposal – all you have to do is book a date;
  • You’ve learned tips and tricks for getting ready and improving your English skills;

And lastly, you have our full support to conquer your IELTS goals. At SmileTutor, we provide English tutors (to brush up on your English skills) and also IELTS tutors to prepare you for your exams. 

Far beyond preparing you for an English Proficiency exam, we’re here to help you better communicate in everyday life, regardless of where you’ll choose to study, work, and live. 

Good luck!

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.