A graphic image of a podcast album cover next to the words Interview with an IELTS IDP Test Centre Administrator

Secrets from inside an IELTS IDP Test Centre!

Yes! Today, I enter the “enemy camp” to talk to Katerina Polianskaya, the administrator at LT Pro, my old IELTS IDP test centre here in St Petersburg, Russia, to find out what happens behind the scenes at an IELTS test centre.  Honestly, I really didn’t think that Kate would be able to answer many of the questions that I had for her because I assumed that much of the information would be “sensitive”. However, in the  end she gave me a clear answer to EVERY question, including classics like:

  • A photograph of the test administrators' bib at an IELTS IDP test centreWhat happens if you write T and F instead of True and False on your reading answer sheet?
  • How are the scores for writing Task 1 and Task 2 combined?
  • Can I change my identification after I have lodged my application?

Honestly, this is just a very small selection of what Kate and I discussed. In fact, even I learned lots of new information about the administration of the test. I think that this episode is a fantastic one for any student who is preparing for the IELTS exam. Not only is it jammed packed with useful tips and facts, but it should also help you see that the test centre staff are on your side! This is really important as it should help you to relax on your test day.

Below, you can find a summary of the episode, which includes links to useful materials and the times of each part of the discussion (so you can go directly to the part you want to listen to) 🚀

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Podcast Summary: Interview with an IELTS IDP Test Centre Administrator

00:00 – 04:22 Introduction (Shelly gets stuck on a bus, forgets a lap-top charger, and breaks her microphone!)

04:23 – 16:46 The IELTS Application Process Kate and I start with some “simple” questions about how  the application process works for the exam. These questions may not help you to get a high score in the test, but they will certainly make sure that you apply correctly and know the official rules surrounding the test. Here we discuss the following questions:

  • What is the latest time that I can apply for a test date?
  • Why does the application form ask why we are going to take the test? Does this affect our scores?
  • Can I cancel my exam before test day and get a refund?
  • Can I change my passport number or nationality after I apply?
  • Can we choose the time of our speaking test?

I think that the answer to all of these questions can be nicely summarised with the phrase “Just call your test centre”!

16:47 – 23:33 What happens on Test Day Until this interview, what happens in the main part of the test for listening, reading, and writing had always been a “black box” for me. Many students have tried to explain to me exactly what happens on exam day in the past, but now I finally know the answers to these questions:

  • Can you enter the exam room if you arrive late?
  • Can you complain if the clock in our exam room didn’t work?
  • Does every test centre supply stationery?
  • I wrote my letter / report on the paper for the essay – does this matter?!
  • Should a student ask for extra paper in the writing test?

37:23 – 43:07 Marking! I told you that Kate answered questions on EVERYTHING! Once and for all, she reveals the “secrets” behind how your IELTS test papers are marked at any IELTS British Council or IELTS IDP test centre, answering questions like:

  • Can we write T/F/NG instead of True / False / Not Given in the reading exam?
  • Can I write in all capitals in the listening and reading exams? (In fact, are capitals important at all?)
  • Who marks the writing papers now that they are scanned?
  • How is the final writing score calculated? (i.e. Task 1 – 6.5 + Task 2 – 7.0 = ?)

(Apologies for the audio in this section – my computer died and when I managed to get it working again, I accidentally recorded through the computer speakers rather than the microphone! You can still hear everything clearly though, which is the main thing!)

A photo of Shelly Cornick outside the LT Pro, the IELTS IDP Test Centre in St Petersburg43:08 – END Applying for an Evaluation of Results / Top Tips from a test administrator! In this final section, Kate and I discuss the process of Evaluation of Results. Is it worthwhile applying for your reading and listening scores to be reviewed? And is it possible for test centres to lower your scores to make extra money? (I will tell you directly that the answer is a definite no)!

Plus, having spent 6 years watching students take the test every week, Kate gives her top tips for test day! Once again, thank you so much to Kate for giving us her time to explain so clearly how a test centre runs. It is not easy giving an interview in a second language or answering such difficult questions, and I think that she did a fantastic job!


You can find all of our video lessons on our main website www.myieltsclassroom.com, which is where you can also sign up for our IELTS essay correction service or book a personal speaking lesson with Nick or Shelly. 🚀

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