Registering for the IELTS exam at British Council Singapore - IELTS University (Singapore)
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Registering for the IELTS exam at British Council Singapore

Last Updated: Nov 2022

Jonathan has taught over 1,000 IELTS students in the past 5 to 10 years in Singapore, Australia and various other countries. This article contains information about how to register for the IELTS exam at British Council in Singapore and things you need to know before you register for the exam.

1) Introduction

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2) Two types of IELTS: Academic and General Training

Differences in Test Format

The General Training IELTS test is the easier of the two papers. The only differences in the test format is in Task 1 of the Writing paper and also in the Reading paper. For Writing Task 1, the Academic IELTS paper requires the student to write a report on graphs, tables, maps, etc., and this is much more difficult than the General Training Writing Task 1 of writing a simple letter. For Reading, the Academic IELTS paper contains longer and more difficult texts.

Which type to take?

It is important to know which type of IELTS test the student needs to take! While General Training is normally required for migration and Academic is generally required for further studies, one should not assume this to be the case always.

A lot of students ask me which type of IELTS they should take. The truth is that I wouldn't know. Every student needs to find out which one is required for their situation. They could ask their agent or find out from the website of the organization (university, government website, etc.). Everybody's individual situation is different

In my experience with my IELTS students in Singapore, most migration students need 7.0 in General Training IELTS. However, nurses and accountants usually need 7.0 in Academic IELTS. For students wanting the further their studies with a degree, a 6.5 or 7.0 in Academic IELTS is normally needed. However, as mentioned, one can't assume this is the case for everyone.

Take Note: When organizations indicate that the student needs to get, for example, "7.0", they are referring to the "overall band score", which is calculated as the average score of the 4 individual sub-tests (Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking). However, some organizations may also state a further requirement of a minimum score for each individual sub-test. So, for example, some universities require students to get a minimum overall band score of 6.5 with a minimum 6.0 for each sub-test. Therefore, if you get an overall score of 6.5 but one of your sub-test is 5.5 (which does not meet the 6.0 minimum), your IELTS score will not be accepted.

Here are some questions to ask your agent or the organization that requires your IELTS score:
1) Do I need to take the Academic or General Training IELTS?
2) What is minimum overall score I need?
3) Is there any minimum score I need for the sub-tests (Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking)?

2) Preparing for the IELTS Exam

This tip could save you hundreds of dollars!

It is extremely important to prepare for the IELTS exam - if you want to save a lot of money while achieving your required score! Over the years, I've come across many students who taken the exam a ridiculous number of times. For example, I knew of a student who took the exam more than 10 times before attending my classes. Yes, 10 times! If each exam costs about S$300+, that means this person spent over S$3,000 on exam fees! (This person eventually passed his IELTS exam after attending my classes and understanding what he had been doing wrong!)

I would say that based on my experience, many students take the exam a few times before passing. That's because they don't really prepare the first time round or they don't give themselves enough time to prepare.

Whether you take formal IELTS preparation classes or you prepare by yourself, it's important not to rush into booking your exam - unless you have a strict deadline, of course.

By not preparing for your IELTS exam, you think you'll save a lot of time and money. You couldn't be more wrong. In the end, it could mean that you'll spend even MORE time and money by not preparing for your IELTS exam as you'll probably have to take the exam a few times before you get your desired score!

Why properly preparing for the IELTS exam is important

One could divide the 4 components of the IELTS exam into two main areas: Productive skills (Writing and Speaking) and Receptive (Listening and Reading) skills:

Productive skills: students are involved in producing or creating language - as in when writing and speaking.
Receptive skills: students are involved in understanding the language that they receive - as in when listening and reading.

When preparing for the receptive skills (Listening and Reading), students could do so by going through test papers and doing a lot of them by themselves. After all, for Listening and Reading, there’s only one answer and it’ll be given to you in the answers section. You can find out by yourself whether you’re right and if you didn’t get the correct answer, you can easily find out how to get the correct answer (as there’s only one correct answer). There are of course better ways to prepare for Listening and Reading, but this is an OK strategy for most people.

The problem comes when you’re trying to prepare for the productive skills (Writing and Speaking). With these two areas, you’re actively producing language. Unlike in Reading and Listening, there’s not one correct answer to any question. As a result of this, you wouldn’t know the level of your Writing and Speaking answers unless you get someone trained to evaluate your language. You also wouldn’t know how to improve and which parts of your answers are wrong unless there is someone correcting you. Lastly, because there’s no one correct answer for each question, the examiners actually mark you based on a complex set of criteria. Understanding these criteria is not as simple as students think and understanding the strategies needed to meet these criteria in order to get a good score is even more difficult. Because of all this, you’d stand the best chance of getting a good IELTS result for Writing and Speaking if you prepare with an experienced IELTS teacher.

Testing yourself versus learning and improving

Students fail to understand that there's a great difference between a) testing yourself by doing a lot of practice papers AND b) learning and improving. The truth is that if you only do a lot of practice papers, you'll be more prepared for the exam, but that doesn't mean you'll be learning new things and improving your score!

I know students who took the exam many times. Nobody should be taking the exam too many times. If someone is doing that, it means that he's not really improving in between his tests. If you're not improving and getting better, why take the exam again as you'll only get the same score! And that's exactly what happens to many students. The problem is that students think that by doing a lot of practice papers, they would improve. That's only half true. Doing a lot of practice papers is merely testing yourself. It's not helping you to improve!

In order to improve, you need to do some things better! But doing the same thing (doing more and more practice tests) over and over again isn't going to make you do it better. It's just going to make you more familiar with the test. That's all!

In order to improve, you need to learn new things and do things differently and better. You may need to improve your vocabulary or your grammar. You may need to learn different strategies. You first need to know what you're doing wrong. Then you need to do it better. If you don't know what you're doing wrong, practicing over and over again is not going to make you score better, it's only going to make you better at getting the same score!

For example, I know students who got 6.5 for their Writing. And they took it a few times and they still got 6.5. This is a very common situation. They told me they practiced a lot and yet got the same result many times and it was frustrating. When I asked them what they meant by "practicing a lot", they told me they wrote answers to many Writing questions. I explained to these students that writing out a lot of answers doesn't guarantee you'll score higher the next time. You see, one way your Writing is evaluated is by the grammar you use. Therefore, if you don't improve your grammar (practicing your writing will NOT improve your grammar unless you intentionally work on your grammar!), you're not going to improve in that area. It's irrational to think you'd improve in your Writing score if you don't understand how your Writing is evaluated and if you don't improve in the areas you're weak in. Practicing alone will NOT automatically improve your grammar or other areas you need to improve in! If anything, if you don't know how to improve your grammar and yet you keep writing out a lot of Writing answers, practice is going to make your grammar mistakes permanent! It's going to make your grammar mistakes habitual. You won't improve this way - you'll just get the same score over and over again!

Practice doesn't make Perfect. Practice makes PERMANENT! And if you keep practicing your Writing with the same grammar mistakes, you'll make your grammar mistakes more habitual and permanent and you'll make your Writing score permanent!

3) Registering for the IELTS Exam

Attention: before you register!

Before you register for the exam, there are few things you need to ask yourself:

a) Am I prepared?

This is the most important question! I've mentioned about the importance of preparation above so I won't repeat myself. But just take note that each IELTS exam costs slightly more than S$300 so if you take the exam without being prepared, you may not get the score you desire and you'll have to take it again and spend another S$300+!

Unless you need your results very soon, please don't just rush in and register without thinking it through first. You probably won't be able to postpone your exam date or get a refund.

b) Academic or General Training?

I've also mentioned this above. Before you register, you need to know whether you're taking the Academic or General Training version of the exam. The best way to find out is ask your agent or the organization that requires the IELTS result. They will be able to tell you.

c) Normal IELTS or "IELTS for UKVI"?

If you're taking the IELTS to get a visa to move to or stay in the UK, you may need to take a special type of IELTS called "IELTS for UKVI". The test format is exactly the same as the normal IELTS test but the registration procedure is different. There's also "Academic" or "General Training" for "IELTS for UKVI". The cost is slightly more expensive at S$380. Again, if you want to know whether you need to take the normal IELTS or the "IELTS for UKVI", just check with your agent or the organization that requires the IELTS result. But please make sure that if you need the "IELTS for UKVI", you register for the correct one!

d) Which dates?

You'd need to decide which date(s) you want to take your IELTS test. The main papers (Listening, Reading and Writing papers) are taken together (around 2 hours and 45 minutes in total) on either a Thursday or Saturday morning while the Speaking paper (around 15-20 minutes) will either be held in the afternoon of the same day or on a different day.

In Singapore, the IELTS exam is held up to 3 or 4 times every month. Most of the time the main papers will be on a Saturday morning but occasionally it will be on a Thursday morning. However, because there are 4 different kinds of IELTS (IELTS Academic, IELTS General Training, "IELTS for UKVI" Academic and "IELTS for UKVI" General Training), it's important to actually find out the dates available for the type of IELTS you're taking.

The IELTS type with the most timings is "IELTS Academic" (around 3-4 times every month). The other 3 types of IELTS are available only 1 to 2 times a month.

e) When to register?

Bringing all the above together, here are my suggestions. If you're taking either IELTS General Training, "IELTS for UKVI" Academic or "IELTS for UKVI" General Training, it's important to book maybe a few weeks to 2 months in advance as there are not many dates available for these types of IELTS. If you're taking IELTS Academic, it's not necessary to book so far in advance - maybe 2-4 weeks before you want to take your exam.

Why not just book as far in advance as possible? I would caution against this because you may not be prepared and you may end up taking the exam when you're not ready and then wasting S$300+. Trust me, many students do this and they regret booking their exam too early as they realize they are not prepared and they can't postpone their dates.

You also need to consider that the IELTS results will be given out 13 days from the day of the main papers. Therefore, if the organization that needs your IELTS has deadline for your results, you need to take this into account.

One more thing I want to address: when should you book your speaking test? Many students want to take their Speaking exam on the same day/afternoon of their main papers. Their rationale is that they can do everything in one day! This is something I'd advise against because you'll be very exhausted after the main papers in the morning and that would most likely affect your Speaking performance. In addition, you want to actually "prepare" for your Speaking test. Therefore, my suggestion would be sitting for your Speaking test on another day when you can prepare for it better.

How to register?

For both British Council and IDP, you can register for the IELTS exam online or at the organization itself. The most convenient way is to register online. Here's how to do so:

IELTS Registration: Step 1

Prepare the following materials before you start your registration process:
- A soft copy (gif or jpeg) of an image of your ID document or passport (for foreign nationalities in Singapore, you need the soft copy of your passport - you would also need to bring this on the test day).
- A valid VISA or MASTERCARD for online payment.
[Normal IELTS: S$330 (IDP), S$340 (British Council). "IELTS for UKVI": S$380 (IDP or British Council)]

IELTS Registration: Step 2

Go to the following websites to register:
British Council Singapore: Normal IELTS (click here) or "IELTS for UKVI" (click here)
IDP Singapore: Normal or "IELTS for UKVI" (click here)

IELTS Registration: Step 3

You'll receive all the information about your IELTS exam (location, timing, etc.) in your email. If you have any questions, just call the organization you registered with.