While I was surfing the internet recently looking for resources to upload to our IELTS resources hub, I came across this video from Academic English Help on the subject of using the answer sheets correctly in the exam. ‘That’s a strange topic to make a video about’ you might think, as I did, but actually, it seems that there are some important do’s and don’ts when it comes to using the answer sheets and the possibility of losing a significant amount of marks if you make errors!
The answer sheets for the Reading and Listening papers are opposite sides of the same sheet and they look like this.
As you can see, they look very much alike. Both the Listening and Reading papers have 40 questions requiring 40 answers.
Tip one: DO NOT MIX THEM UP!
If at any stage during the exam you write the correct answers in the wrong place, they will be considered wrong. So, if you write the reading answers on the listening answer sheet, you will lose marks.
Tip two: Complete the section for your personal information before the test begins.
You will be given time to do this before the exam starts so don’t waste this time.
There is an important difference between the two papers when it comes to the answer sheet. This difference is not obvious from looking at the answer sheets. In the Listening paper, you are given 10 minutes at the end of the exam specifically for transferring your answers from the question booklet to the answer sheet. This is not the case in the Reading test, where you need to have transferred your answers to the answer sheet by the end of the 1 hour exam. You will not be given extra time at the end.
Tip three: Always match the number on the question sheet with the number on the answer sheet.
As mentioned before, correct answers in the wrong space are wrong. If this has a knock-on effect for the following 5 questions, all 5 will be marked wrong.
Tip four: Make sure you only write in the numbered spaces for answers. Except for the section for your personal information, do not write anywhere else on the question sheet, for example the Marker Use Only columns (the check boxes) or the bottom part which is to be filled in by the examiner. The space for answers is small and it’s a good idea to practise writing answers clearly in small spaces prior to the exam day.
Tip five: The examiner must be able to read your handwriting. Print in capitals, if necessary. Capitals and lower case are both acceptable but don’t mix the two. Be consistent. Use a sharp pencil. Although you can choose between a pen and pencil in the Writing exam, in both the Reading and Listening papers you must use a pencil. Remember to take an eraser into the exam with you so that you can erase an answer and start again if necessary. You do not get a 2nd answer sheet.
Tip six: You should never leave a blank space on the answer sheet. If you don’t know the answer, guess. You will not lose marks for guessing incorrectly and in the case of a multiple choice question with four possible answers, you have a 25% chance of guessing correctly.
Tip seven: Cross out wrong answers clearly so there is no confusion which answer you are giving. If the examiner is unsure, he/she will not guess on your behalf. Two answers or an unclear answer will be marked wrong.
Tip eight: Spelling is very important and you will lose marks for wrong spelling. Both British and American spelling is acceptable and you can use either, or both. For True/false/not given question types, you can write T F NG but make sure you produce the letters clearly. It is quite common for candidates to write a capital T so that it looks like a capital F and vice versa. If you have a recognised learning difficulty such as dyslexia, if you let your centre know when you register, you will be allowed an extra 15 mins in your Reading exam, in order to read and understand the questions and for double-checking your answers. However, you will be marked in the same way as everyone else.
Good advice for your exam preparation:
- Familiarise yourself with the official answer sheet
- Practise writing answers in it with a sharp pencil
- Reading: Do all your timed practice exams using the answer sheets so that you decide in advance of the real exam whether you will write your answers straight onto the answer paper, or leave yourself time at the end (after 50 mins) to transfer your answers
- Listening: Do all your timed practice exams in half an hour and leave a further 10 mins to transfer your answers onto the answer sheet, so that you are confident you can do this in the real exam