Is IELTS Exam Easy or Hard? Exploring the IELTS Difficulty Level



Updated On 24 August 2023


Read Time 10 minutes


The International English Language Testing System, better known as IELTS, is a standardised English language proficiency test that plays a crucial role in assessing the language abilities of individuals for various purposes, such as studying, working, or immigrating to English-speaking countries. As a widely recognised and accepted test, IELTS is administered to millions of candidates around the world each year.


However, “Is IELTS easy or difficult” - is the most common question for aspiring test takers. Moreover, the answer to this question is not straightforward, as the difficulty level of IELTS can vary from person to person depending on their language skills, preparation and familiarity with the test format.


Nevertheless, here we will provide a general overview of the difficulty level of IELTS exam so that you can have an idea of whether IELTS is easy or difficult.


Now, let’s have a look at IELTS Exam Difficulty Level.


IELTS Difficulty Level

As per the students’ review who have taken IELTS Exam or other English proficiency tests like TOEFL, PTE, and Duolingo, the IELTS test is no more difficult than any other English proficiency exam.


IELTS is designed to evaluate your skills in four main areas: Listening, Speaking, Writing, and Reading, and each of these sections comes with its own set of challenges, making the overall difficulty level of the test a combination of these components.

Hence, let's delve into each section's difficulty in detail.


IELTS Listening Test Difficulty Level

The Listening section of the IELTS exam is designed to test your ability to understand spoken English in various contexts. It can include conversations, monologues, discussions, and lectures.


The primary challenge here is the pace of speech, accents, and the ability to grasp the main ideas while simultaneously noting down specific details. Moreover, this section may pose a difficulty for many test-takers due to the factors mentioned above. However, the Listening section can become more manageable with practice and exposure to different accents.


Difficulty Level of IELTS Exam Speaking

The Speaking section evaluates your ability to communicate effectively in spoken English. It involves participating in a one-on-one conversation with an examiner. Some individuals might find speaking about familiar topics relatively easy while facing issues in maintaining fluency, coherence, and lexical resource. On the other hand, nervousness and hesitation can also affect performance in this section. Moreover, practising speaking regularly and engaging in conversations in English can help alleviate these challenges.


Difficulty Level of IELTS Exam Writing

In the Writing section, test-takers are required to complete two tasks: Task 1 (describing visual information) and Task 2 (writing an essay on a given topic).


These sections can be particularly challenging due to the need for effective time management, organising ideas coherently, using appropriate vocabulary, and demonstrating a good understanding of grammar and punctuation. As for the essay task, it demands critical thinking and the ability to present a well-structured argument. Hence, it might be a little tricky to score well in this section.


IELTS Reading Difficulty Level

The Reading section evaluates your ability to comprehend written text, including academic and general texts.


The challenges include dealing with complex sentence structures, unfamiliar vocabulary, and interpreting information from different sources. Consequently, time pressure can also make this section daunting. However, developing effective skimming and scanning through the text techniques, along with improving overall reading speed, can help tackle the difficulty of this section.


Why Will the IELTS Exam Be Difficult for You?

Several factors can contribute to the perceived difficulty of IELTS exam for individual test-takers. Here are a few common challenges:



Pronunciation plays a crucial role in the Speaking section. Mispronouncing words might affect your overall score because it affects examiners’ understanding of your speech. So, focus on correct pronunciation while practising speaking.


Lack of Transition

In the Writing section, the absence of smooth transitions between sentences and paragraphs can make your writing appear disjointed. It affects coherence and cohesion, which are two important scoring criteria, so pay attention to transition while writing.


Spelling Errors

Accurate spelling is essential in all sections of the test. Spelling errors can lead to misunderstandings in Reading and Listening and affect your Writing score.


Self-Assessment Checklist

To assess your abilities and readiness for the IELTS exam, consider using the following checklist:


Checklist to Assess Your Abilities for the IELTS Listening

  • Can you follow the spoken English in the audio file effectively?

  • Can you take notes effectively while listening?

  • Can you understand both the main ideas and specific details in audio recordings?

  • Can you understand different accents?


Checklist to Assess Your Abilities for the IELTS Speaking

  • Can you engage in conversations on various topics? 

  • Can you express opinions and ideas fluently?

  • Can you provide detailed answers to questions during the interview?

  • Can you answer the questions spontaneously?


Checklist to Assess Your Abilities for the IELTS Writing

  • Can you organise ideas logically in writing?

  • Can you write grammatically correct sentences with a varied vocabulary?

  • Can you write essays with a clear introduction, body, and conclusion?

  • Can you stick to the instructions, provide a concise answer, and present a side optimally?


Checklist to Assess Your Abilities for the IELTS Reading

  • Can you understand complex sentence structures?

  • Can you identify the main ideas and supporting details in written passages?

  • Can you manage your time effectively while reading and answering questions?

  • Can you figure out the most suitable answer to a question?


Common Misconceptions about the IELTS Exam

Some prominent misconceptions that surround the IELTS exam are as follows:

  • Only Native Speakers Can Excel - IELTS assesses language skills, not nationality. Thus, non-native speakers can achieve high scores through diligent preparation.

  • One Study Method Fits All - Effective preparation varies from person to person as some might benefit from self-study, while others might need structured classes.

  • Only Grammar Matters - While grammar is essential, other factors like coherence, vocabulary, and task response play significant roles in Writing and Speaking.



General Tips to Ace the IELTS Exam

Acing the IELTS exam requires language skills, preparation, and test-taking strategies. Here are some general tips to help you excel in the IELTS exam.


Understand the Test Format - Familiarise yourself with the different sections of the IELTS exam - Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Understand the types of questions and tasks you will encounter in each area.


Practice Regularly - Consistent practice is key to improving your skills. Use official IELTS practice materials and sample tests to simulate the test environment. This will help you become comfortable with the format and timing.


Improve Time Management - Each section of the exam has a time limit. Therefore, work on pacing yourself during practice to ensure you can complete all tasks within the given time. You can practice with a timer to build your time management skills.


Enhance Listening Skills - To do well in the Listening section, practice listening to various English accents by watching movies, TV shows, news broadcasts, and podcasts as they expose you to different speaking styles.


Develop Reading Skills - Read a wide range of materials in English, including newspapers, magazines, academic articles, and online content. This will help you improve your reading comprehension and vocabulary.


Improve Writing Skills - Practice writing essays, reports, and letters regularly. In addition, pay attention to structure, coherence, and grammar. Further, seek feedback from teachers or proficient English speakers to identify areas for improvement.


Enhance Speaking Skills - Engage in regular spoken English practice with friends, family, or language partners. Focus on fluency, pronunciation, and the ability to express your ideas clearly. Along with this, you can record yourself speaking and analyse your performance through the recording.


Expand Vocabulary - Work on expanding your vocabulary by learning new words and phrases daily. Make use of flashcards, vocabulary apps, and context-rich reading materials.


Review Grammar and Language Rules - A firm grasp of grammar and language rules is essential for all exam sections. Brush up on grammar rules, verb tenses, sentence structure, and punctuation.


Take Care of Your Health - During the exam, ensure you get enough sleep, eat well, and stay hydrated; physical well-being significantly affects your cognitive performance.


Simulate Test Conditions - When practising, try to recreate the test environment as closely as possible. Sit in a quiet place with minimal distractions and use a timer to adhere to the official time limits.


Stay Calm and Confident - On exam day, stay calm and composed, as confidence plays a crucial role in your performance.


Focus on Specific Strategies - Each section of the IELTS exam has specific strategies to help you perform better. For example, scan and skim the text in the Reading section before diving into the questions.


Familiarise Yourself with the Speaking Section - Understand the structure of the Speaking section, which includes three parts - introduction, long turn, and discussion. Practice speaking on a variety of topics and record yourself for self-assessment.


Remember that success on the IELTS exam comes with consistent effort, practice, and a positive attitude. Thus, tailor your preparation to your strengths and weaknesses, and do not hesitate to seek guidance from teachers, tutors, or online resources.



Q1. Is IELTS harder than other English tests?

Ans. As per the students' review, the IELTS Exam is simpler than other English proficiency tests. Although the difficulty level completely depends on person to person, preparation level, etc.


Q2. Can I prepare for IELTS on my own?

Ans. Yes, many individuals successfully prepare on their own, but structured classes or tutoring can provide more explicit guidance.


Q3. Are higher band scores harder to achieve?

Ans. Achieving a higher band score requires more excellent proficiency and preparation, making it relatively more challenging.



In conclusion, the IELTS exam's difficulty level can vary from person to person; whether IELTS Exam is easy or hard depends on your individual language skills, preparation, and exposure to English. Each section presents its set of challenges, but with the right approach and consistent practice, as suggested in this blog, you can overcome these difficulties and perform well on the exam.


In addition, you should remember that the IELTS score reflects your current proficiency level and does not determine your potential for improvement. By addressing areas of weakness and focusing on progress, you can increase your chances of achieving your desired band score and reaching your academic or professional goals.


We hope you now understand the IELTS Difficulty Level of each section and how to prepare for the exam.


If you want a more profound understanding or have any questions, we encourage you to speak with our team of expert counsellors at Meridean Overseas Education Consultants (MOEC). Our counsellors will provide you with guidance throughout your study abroad journey. Get help with the application process, SOPs, and filing for a visa. Visit us and get one-to-one counselling or avail yourself of free video counselling via our website. We will be happy to help you, so please do not hesitate to contact us at or 1800-1230-00011.

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