The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

IELTS Indicator under the microscope

There's a new English test on offer and you may not know that much about the IELTS Indicator. We've taken a close look at all aspects of the test from how it's structured to how it's marked.

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If you’ve been readying your application to a university abroad you will be aware of the need to provide evidence of your English language proficiency. The primary way in which you can do so is by submitting the results and scores you have achieved in an English language test. You may be familiar with some of the tests that are accepted by institutions, such as IELTS and TOEFL.


However, the advent of coronavirus and the closure of a number of testing centres has meant that many students have been unable to sit for these exams. Test providers have subsequently looked at alternate ways of evaluating English language ability and adjustments to entry criteria have been made by universities. One of the new tests that has been made available, with which you may not be familiar, is the IELTS Indicator test. We take a look at all of the details of the new test, what you can expect and how to prepare.



What is the IELTS indicator test?


The IELTS Indicator test is based on the IELTS academic test, with the major difference being that it can be taken from home and that the scoring is indicative. It is critical to bear in mind that it is not a replacement or substitute for an IELTS test. You’ll be tested on the four key components of language comprehension namely reading, writing, listening and speaking. These are all evaluated by a certified IELTS examiner and a score from 0-9 awarded for each section.


The primary purpose of the test is to give universities an indication of your English language ability and suitability for academic study. Your result will give them an idea of whether you would benefit from additional language tuition, such as a pre-sessional English course.  As the IELTS Indicator test is fairly new, it’s not accepted by all institutions. It’s very important that you check with the university of your choice whether they accept the test for admission. A further important point is that the IELTS Indicator test is an academic test and cannot be used for immigration purposes or visa applications.


IELTS Indicator test

What will I need to take it?


In order to take the IELTS Indicator test there are a few things that you will need to ensure you have in place. These are:


  • A laptop or desktop computer, as the test cannot be taken on a tablet or mobile phone.
  • The test uses the Safe Exam Browser programme. Your device will need to meet the minimum technical requirements:
    • 64 bit Windows 7 (minimum)
    • MacOS 10.12 (minimum)
    • 64 bit Windows 10 (recommended)
    • MacOS Catalina
  • Your device will need to have free disk space available to run the test:
    • 500 MB for a Windows machine
    • 500 MB for a Mac machine
  • In some cases, you can use a web browser to complete the test, however it must be the latest version. Compatible browsers include:
    • Google Chrome
    • Safari
    • Mozilla Firefox
  • A stable and reliable internet connection
  • You will need speakers and a microphone
  • You will need a webcam, which should be on and uncovered for the duration of the test.
  • The identification document that you used to book the test.
  • Don’t forget a paper and pen for the speaking component.


If you have checked off all the items needed to undertake the test, you’re good to book a slot.


How is the test structured and how long does it take?


The IELTS Indicator test takes its cue from the IELTS academic test and is comprised of four sections namely listening, reading, writing and speaking.  You’ll need to allocate 30 minutes for the listening section and complete 40 questions. The reading section is slightly longer at an hour, but also sees you answering 40 questions.


The writing component of the test is an hour long and you’ll have two tasks to complete. The final component of the test is the speaking section and this takes place over video call and you can expect it to last between ten and 15 minutes. You’ll be given three tasks to complete.  


The listening, reading and writing components are all taken on the same day, lasting approximately two hours and 45 minutes. You can take the speaking component of the test before or after the other three sections. This is done by booking and reserving a spot, with a link being sent to you in order to access the test.




How can I prepare for the IELTS Indicator?


One of the best ways to prepare for the test is to familiarise yourself with what types of questions are asked, what tasks you’ll need to complete and what examiners are looking for.



This section aims to evaluate how well you understand key concepts, ideas and detailed information. You need to be able to demonstrate that you can follow the flow and logic of a conversation and understand how ideas are articulated. You’ll be given four recordings to listen to:


  • A social conversation between two people.
  • A single person speaking in the context of daily activities.
  • A conversation involving four people in the context of a university or educational environment.
  • A single person speaking about an academic subject.




The reading section aims to gauge and test your reading ability and skills. You’ll need to be able to understand arguments, identify opinions, find details, extract the central ideas and the reason why the piece has been written. You’ll be given three texts to read which could be, but are not limited to, pieces from:


  • Books
  • Journals
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers




This section is designed to gain a sense of your ability to write formally, present an argument, an opinion and interpret information which you can then write on. You’ll have two tasks in this section, the first of which sees you analyse a diagram/chart and explain the information therein. Next up you’ll have to write an essay responding to an argument and point of view that you’ll be presented with.




This section assesses your command of spoken English, with factors like vocabulary, syntax, fluency and grammar important parts. There are three parts to the speaking section:


  • First, you’ll be asked questions on everyday topics like work and family.
  • Second, you’ll be given a card with a topic and you will need to speak about that topic. You’re given a minute to prepare.
  • Lastly, you will have a discussion with the examiner and will be asked questions about the topic from part two.



How is the test marked?


Like the IELTS Academic test the IELTS Indicator is marked by certified IELTS examiners and follows the IELTS marking criteria. Each IELTS examiner requires an undergraduate degree in an appropriate field, a TEFOL or TESOL qualification and English language teaching experience.


The marking of the test is done using a banded scoring system structured between 0 and 9. The listening section is marked out of 40 as is the reading portion of the test, and then converted to the banded score. For example, if you get 18 to 22 questions correct you will receive a banded score of 5.5. You’ll receive an indicative score for each section and then an overall indicative score for the test, which is the mean average of your sections scores. The results for your test will usually arrive seven days after you have completed all sections. These are sent you digitally.


Why should I take the IELTS Indicator test?


There are a number of reasons why considering taking the IELTS Indicator is a good thing. It has the potential to aid your application to a university and is a reliable way in which to demonstrate your English language ability. Secondly, you can complete the test from home, which is very convenient.  IELTS also has a proven track record in administering and examining English language tests. Given the circumstances that many of us find ourselves in, it’s an opportunity to keep your study ambitions on track in spite of the restrictions imposed by coronavirus.


If you’re looking for more information on where the IELTS Indicator test is accepted you can consult the dedicated page on the IELTS Indicator website. You can also get more insight into how English language tests are marked and get some clear practice question examples and model answers.

IELTS Indicator results


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