Need to take the IELTS to prove your English proficiency to an employer or school? Then you've got to know how to register for this exam. In this guide, we cover everything there is to know about IELTS registration, giving you a step-by-step walkthrough and essential tips so that the process can go smoothly for you.
What Is the IELTS? Overview
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a language proficiency exam designed to measure the English comprehension of people who wish to work or study in an English-speaking country. It is jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia, and Cambridge English Assessment.
The IELTS is similar to the TOEFL, another English proficiency exam. Note that though the TOEFL is far more commonly administered and accepted in the US, the IELTS is more often administered and accepted abroad, specifically in the UK, Canada, and Australia.
The IELTS tests your English proficiency in the following four areas (each a distinct test section):
Each section is scored on a 9-band scale, with 0 being the lowest possible score and 9 being the highest. Your final IELTS score is the average of your four band scores. IELTS scores are valid for two years from the date of administration.
There are two versions of the IELTS you can take:
- IELTS Academic: For those who are applying to an institution of higher education, such as a college or university, in an English-speaking country
- IELTS General Training: For those who are either migrating to the UK, Australia, or Canada, or applying for further education, training programs, or work in an English-speaking country
The total length of both versions of the IELTS is two hours and 45 minutes.
Content-wise, only the Reading and Writing sections differ on the two IELTS versions (the Speaking and Listening sections are identical). Note that the Speaking section can be taken separately, up to a week before or after the other test sections; however, most just do Speaking on the same day as their other sections.
Now then, how do you register for the IELTS?
IELTS Registration: Easy 7-Step Guide
How does IELTS registration work? How do you look for an IELTS test center near you or see all the available IELTS test dates for a particular month?
Let's walk through the entire IELTS registration process one step at a time.
Step 1: Find Your Nearest IELTS Test Center
There are more than 50 IELTS test centers in the US and hundreds more abroad.
To find your nearest test center, use the official IELTS search engine tool. Scroll through the list of countries to find yours and then click the button to the right that reads "Find a test location":
You should now be on a page that lists all the available IELTS test centers in your country/territory. Here's what I get when I search for test centers in the United States, for example:
You can narrow your search even further by inputting your city or state. Once you've found the closest IELTS test center to you, click the "Book Now" button to the right of that location.
Step 2: Select a Type of IELTS (Paper or Computer)This next page will give you all the information you need about your IELTS test center, including its address, contact information, and testing fees. You might also get the option to choose between a paper and a computer version of the IELTS:
Choose the version that is required (if applicable) for your college, job, training program, etc.
Note that the computer version of the IELTS is not yet available in the US or the UK, though it is available in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The official IELTS site maintains a list of all the cities and countries where you can take the computer-delivered IELTS.
Click the "Register" button for the version of the IELTS you will be taking. This will take you to your selected country's IELTS website.
For the rest of these steps, we'll be using screenshots from the US IELTS website. Other sites might look a bit different, but they'll all include the same basic steps.
Step 3: Choose Your Test Date
On this page, you can confirm your IELTS test center/location and select the version of the test (Academic or General Training) you wish to take. You can also request accommodations for a disability:
Scroll down to see a map of your IELTS test center and test date options:
Available IELTS test dates are in gray (you'll get a lot more test dates if your location offers the computer IELTS). Scroll through the calendar until you find a test date that works well for you.
If multiple test times are available for that day, you'll get to choose a specific time (assuming it says "Seats Available").
Clicking a test date will bring up a "test session summary," which includes information on where it is offered and whether it's a paper or computer IELTS. Confirm this information before clicking the "Continue" button to proceed.
Step 4: Create an Account (If You Haven't Already)
After clicking "Continue," you'll be prompted to either log in or create an account (you might also be prompted to choose a Speaking section time slot at this point):
If you don't have an account, click the "Create New User" button. This will take you to a page where you'll input all your personal information, including your name, contact information, nationality, first language, and passport number.
If you have an account, simply type in your username and password to log in.
Step 5: Fill in Your Application Details
The "Application Details" page comes next. Here, you must answer some questions about what (English-speaking) country you're planning to go to, why you're taking the IELTS, and where you're currently studying English.
You'll also be required to type in your passport number and expiration date, and upload a clear, legible photograph of your passport face page.
Once you've done all that, click "Continue."
Step 6: Choose Where to Send Your IELTS Scores
This next step is optional but good to do if you know ahead of time where you'll be sending your IELTS scores (such as a specific university you're applying for admission to).
Click the "Add" button beside "Recognising Organisation" to find your organization(s):
When you're finished adding schools and/or organizations, click "Continue."
Step 7: Review Your Details and Pay
The next page is a booking summary that lets you review all your details, including your IELTS test center, test dates, and personal information. Click "Continue" if everything looks correct.
The final page tells you how much you owe and gives you a link to pay by credit or debit card:
Pay the fee, and you're all set with your IELTS registration!
Signing Up for the IELTS: 3 Essential Tips
Here are three tips to help make the IELTS registration process go smoothly for you.
#1: Check Whether You Need the Paper or Computer IELTS
Before you sign up for the IELTS online, be sure to confirm which version of the IELTS—paper or computer—your school, job, or organization asks for (if it has a preference). Most places shouldn't have a strict preference, but it's a smart idea to check before you choose one or the other!
#2: Gather all the Materials and Information You'll Need
The IELTS registration process will be a lot easier for you if you already have out all the information and materials you'll need. This includes a valid ID (usually a passport or permanent residence card) and a credit or debit card to pay the test fee.
You should also have ready a clear, scanned file of the photo page of your passport.
Finally, you might want to get out a calendar or planner to consult as you look for IELTS test dates and times that could potentially work well with your schedule.
#3: Choose the Best Location and Date for You
Before you select an IELTS test center, make sure to pick the most convenient location for you based on where you live and/or where you plan to be that day. If there are multiple locations near you, consider opting for the one that'll likely have fewer people, less traffic on the way there, and/or more parking available.
Remember, it's ultimately your responsibility to get to your IELTS test center on time, so you will need to choose a date and time that fit into your schedule without issue.
For example, if you're not a morning person and will definitely struggle with getting up in time for an early test, it'll probably be better for you to choose a test time in the afternoon.
Want to learn more about the IELTS? Our in-depth IELTS guide goes over what this test is, what to expect when taking it, and what kind of content it covers.
If you took the IELTS, you're probably wondering when you're going to get your scores. Our comprehensive guide tells you when and how to get your IELTS results and what to do with them once you have them.
How does the IELTS compare with the TOEFL? Check out our breakdown of these two popular English proficiency exams. In addition, use our IELTS-TOEFL score conversion tool if you've taken one of the two tests and want to know how that score translates to the other exam.
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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.