For the past few months, the world has been struggling through the Covid-19 crisis and everyday life has been seriously altered. Universities are closing their lectures and libraries, and even IELTS tests are being cancelled now.

Thankfully, the people who make the IELTS exam have come up with a sort of solution. While we wait for the test centres to re-open, they have offered IELTS candidates a new product: IELTS Indicator.

This article is going to guide you through the whole process, explaining everything that you need to know about the new online test.


Understanding the New IELTS Indicator Test [2020]
What is IELTS Indicator?
Why Did IELTS Create This Test?
So… Is it for Academic or General IELTS?
Similarities to the Real IELTS Test
Differences from the Real IELTS Test
The Benefits of IELTS Indicator
Problems with IELTS Indicator
The Issue of Internet Connection
How to Prepare for IELTS Indicator
The Speaking Test
What you Need for the Indicator Test

What is IELTS Indicator?

indicating car

The word “indicate” means to show something. For example, the orange lights on the side of your car or motorbike are called “indicators” because they show other drivers where you intend to go. The IELTS Indicator Test shows people what your IELTS results would probably be.

That last part is important: “would probably be.”

This new test is an official IELTS product but it is not the full IELTS exam and the certificate that you receive is, sadly, not the same as the real IELTS exam certificate. This is an indicator of what your real results would most likely be. If you get a 6.5 in this test, you would probably get a 6.5 in the real test – but there is no guarantee.

Why Did IELTS Create This Test?

covid-19 economic impact

This test was created as a response to the Covid-19 crisis. Obviously, businesses all around the world are now suffering quite badly because people are in lockdown and unable to go outside to do normal things. IELTS lost all of its business, so they had to invent this new product to fill the gap.

There is also the fact that people’s lives were severely disrupted due to the closure of schools, universities, and testing centres. Young people who want to go to university this autumn were facing a big challenge. If they could not take the IELTS test, they could not prove their English scorers and thus could not be offered a place at university.

That is the function of IELTS Indicator: It allows people to show prospective schools their approximate English level.

Here is a basic overview from IELTS:

So… Is it for Academic or General IELTS?

As you might have guessed from my explanation there, IELTS Indicator is only for Academic IELTS. This is because it is intended to show universities whether or not you can speak English very well. This is not designed for immigration purposes and you should not spend money on this test unless you really need to go abroad to study.

If you were training for General IELTS, then you should continue to prepare during the Covid-19 crisis and then book a new test date once it is over. Until then, there is not much you can do. You will see that I have given plenty of suggestions for pandemic preparation in this article.

Similarities to the Real IELTS Test

First of all, let’s start this discussion of IELTS indicator by looking at how similar it is to the real IELTS test.

Basically, it is very similar. A few years ago, IELTS began conduct their tests using computers instead of pencil and paper. While you can still do the paper exam, many IELTS centres now offer the computer-based test as well.

ielts indicator test

(For a discussion of computer vs paper IELTS exams, you can take a look at this article. It should tell you everything that you need to know.)

The IELTS Indicator is pretty much just the computer-based exam but conducted over the internet instead of at home. As for the speaking section, that will be done face-to-face over a video feed, using Zoom.

All of the marking will be conducted by the same people, to the same standards, in the same way as before. In other words, your English level should be judged just the same in the full IELTS test as the IELTS Indicator test.

Differences from the Real IELTS Test

The most important thing to know about IELTS Indicator is that this test will not actually give you a true IELTS certificate. The one that you receive will be just an indication of your probable English abilities rather than a guarantee. In some cases, a university may accept your Indicator score but later require you to take the real test to prove that you really deserved that score. This may be a problem if you scored higher than normal. If, for example, you scored 7/7/7/7 and could not replicate that on the real IELTS test, you might be in a difficult situation with your new school.

As for the test itself, well it is basically the same. However, for the speaking section you will need to talk to an IELTS examiner over Zoom. This will replace the actual speaking test and it will be conducted in much the same way.

The Benefits of IELTS Indicator

There are a couple of really obvious benefits to this new IELTS test. First and foremost, it allows you to at least partly do the IELTS exam from the comfort of your own home. This is a huge boost for people right now because otherwise their life is put on hold. If you are currently aged 18-23, you probably feel that this situation is really unfair and that you have a harder life than others before you. It is that sort of reason that inspired this new test. It helps you to continue with your life in spite of the major obstacles.

Another great thing about the IELTS Indicator test is that you can receive your results in just seven days. That is a huge boost, particularly in these difficult times when it seems as though everything has slowed to a standstill.

I think that it’s great that IELTS put out this new test that allows people to keep training and to continue their education. However, there are also some issues.

Problems with IELTS Indicator

The IELTS Indicator exam is useful but not as important as the full IELTS test. As I have mentioned, it is accepted by some universities as partial proof of your English skills, but it is not accepted by all universities and many of those that do accept it will also require you to take the full exam in future. This means that you will need to spend much more money in total just to prove your English skills.

where to take ielts indicator test

(By the way, you can find a full list of institutions that accept IELTS Indicator here.)

If you looked at that above list, you probably noticed that not all countries are able to participate. For example, places like China are not. There are probably a number of reasons for this, but one is that China does not allow its citizens access to the full internet. With sub-par internet access, this test could become a serious problem. In fact, I will give this problem a full sub-section:

The Issue of Internet Connection

Currently, I am living in Cambodia. (You can read about my life here.) For the past four days, I have had unreliable internet because there was some problem with the local internet connection. This was not a big deal for me because I had few commitments and could rely upon my data (4G). However, if I was an IELTS student with an Indicator test booked, I would have been in real trouble.

The IELTS Indicator test costs $149, which is much cheaper than the real exam. However, if you suffer any sort of problem when doing the test, you will be disconnected, your exam is over, and you will have wasted your money.

For me, this is a huge drawback of IELTS Indicator. There are billions of people in this world who live in areas with poor internet connections. Many of these people cannot afford to lose $149 because their internet went down for 2 seconds. It just does not seem fair.


Another issue to be considered is that of cheating. The reason that exams are held in a large exam hall with various people around to monitor them is that people often try to cheat on tests. If you hold these exams from home, of course there will be many attempts at beating the system. For example, it could be possible to read from a script during the speaking test, to copy an essay from memory in the writing one, or to have a friend help you with listening or reading.

These are all serious issues and no doubt some people will attempt to do these things. This is ultimately the reason why the IELTS Indicator will not have the same prestige as the full IELTS test and why, even if you are accepted by a good university, they will probably insist that you go and do the test again later.

How to Prepare for IELTS Indicator

First of all, you need to ask yourself one important question:

Is this the right test for me?

is ielts indicator right for me

If you can honestly say that you need these results for educational purposes and that you can afford the fee, then maybe you should book a test.

Once you have booked your Indicator test, you should set about preparing. I would honestly suggest that you prepare 99% the same as you did for the full IELTS exam. That means you should work on:

  • Listening skills
  • Reading skills
  • Writing skills
  • Speaking skills

You also need to think about:

  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Question analysis
  • Idea generation

Because this will be conducted over the internet, you need a computer and so you should definitely spend a little time transferring your regular IELTS and English skills into computer-specific ones. That means maybe you should:

  • Improve your typing speed and accuracy
  • Get used to reading from a computer screen
  • Ensure your speakers are clear and loud enough
  • Talk with others over Zoom/Skype for fluency

The Speaking Test

When you do your IELTS exam, you will need to download something called the Safe Education Browser (SEB). You can read about it here. For the reading, listening, and writing tests, you will do all of the questions in one long session. However, the speaking test will be conducted separately.

For this part of the test, you should speak via Zoom to an IELTS examiner. This may feel strange, so I highly recommend that you familiarise yourself with this by doing some practice speaking sessions. Go to the IELTS Speaking Partners group on Facebook and join in 5-10 practice sessions before you sign up for the IELTS Indicator. Once you have down these practices, you will feel much more confident talking to someone over the internet in English.

What you Need for the Indicator Test

Finally, let’s bring the focus to what is actually needed for the exam. You can find a list of this information at the official website. Here it is:

  • A good internet connection.
  • A laptop or PC (mobile is not acceptable).
  • Peaceful and quiet surroundings.
  • A webcam, microphone, and headphones.
  • SEB and Zoom installed on your computer.

You will also need a valid credit or debit card to pay for the test, just as you would with a normal IELTS exam.

There are instructions on the official IELTS Indicator website that can help you to set up your computer prior to the test. They also offer some very useful FAQs (frequently asked questions).


The IELTS Indicator test is an interesting new product from IELTS that will really help some people but there are definitely issues to consider. If you live in a noisy place or you do not have reliable internet, I would suggest that you wait until your local IELTS centre is open again. However, if you have good internet, all the right equipment, and enough money to pay for the test, you might consider it. Doing the Indicator test now may help you to get into a good school despite the current pandemic.