People who are looking to take an IELTS exam might be asking themselves this question: which exam should I take? How can I decide and what are the differences? Here you have all the information you need to make a decision.
IELTS exams are becoming more and more popular by each passing day. The reason behind that is the credibility of the exam and the certificate which will be received. This helps people all around the world to move forward in their lives by being able to apply to their dream university or dream job in a different country. These places could be Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the USA, the Republic of Ireland, as well as Canada. The certificate can also be used for applying to University programs held in English, in any other country.
British council and IDP: what are they?
The British Council is an organization that offers students the opportunity of moving abroad where they would be able to make their dreams come true by enrolling at a respected university, finding a good and stable job and eventually living in that country permanently.
IDP is a similar institution to the British Council which provides candidates with assistance to fulfill their goals of moving forward in life by studying and living in any place they want. They help connect applicants to their desired courses or to pursue education in the most suitable university or institution located in the right country. The destination could be any English-speaking country.
Differences between IDP and British Council: common misconceptions and the reality
Both IDP and the British Council are in fact part of the same bigger institution and are co-owners of IELTS, but still many candidates have their doubts and misunderstandings about the test and the two organizations. The truth is that, there is no major difference between these two or the exams they take. Let’s compare them both in detail, using the main points of concern for applicants.
Probably the most common misconception about the IELTS exam held by IDP and the British Council is the difficulty level. Many believe that exams held by IDP are much easier than the ones held by the British Council. The truth is quite different since both exams are compiled by Cambridge English Language Assessment which is also a joint owner of IELTS. This means both tests have the same difficulty level and neither of them is more difficult or easier.
IELTS examiners and the grading system
Similar to the previous point, a common belief that is also incorrect is that the British Council and its examiners are softer and more lenient in their grading. This is also not true as examiners at both IDP and the British Council are trained in the same way and follow the exact same evaluation method. Both IDP and BC examiners have completed the same course and training so their evaluation criteria for the speaking and writing are the same as well. Moreover, both groups of examiners are regularly checked on their evaluations.
It is also important to note that the Reading and Listening tasks are based on correct/incorrect answers which leave no room for the examiner’s personal judgment.
Validity of the certificate
Another misbelief is that applicants who have received their certificates from IDP cannot move to countries like the UK or USA if they have taken the exam with the IDP (which is based in Australia). This is of course a false belief. IELTS certificates granted by IDP and the British Council have the same credibility and are both valid similarly. Neither one of them is superior as they are in fact both issued by the same organization.
Fees and format
As mentioned previously, both exams are designed and produced by the Cambridge English Language Assessment and have the exact same format. This means that the fee for both exams is exactly the same. It does not matter if the exam is conducted by IDP or the British Council, if it is the General or Academic version, or if it is computer-delivered or pen-and-paper.
Accents and dialects
Even though IDP is Australian-based and the British Council is UK-based, the accents are not different when it comes to the IELTS exam. This is due to the fact that the examiners may not be locals and actually can be from any country and have any kind of accent. Don’t worry though: all examiners have either native or native-like English pronunciations and accents. In the listening test, there could be a wide range of accents such as British, American, Canadian, or Australian regardless of the location or the organization where the test is held.
It should be clear by now that the exams held by IDP and the British Council basically have the same format and method of grading, so it does not matter which you choose. You still need to study and get prepared for the test in the same way.
IDP or British Council: Which is the one for you?
You are probably still wondering if both organizations are similar and take the same type of IELTS exam, then how can I decide on which exam to take.
What you really need to be looking at is the other aspects of the exam, such as the ones listed below:
Availability of test dates
This really depends on you and your personal needs. You should be taking the exam when you are feeling well-prepared and take into consideration when you need the certificate for. Based on these two aspects, you should be choosing an exam center which offers the exam at the date and time which meets your needs.
Location and proximity
The IELTS exam takes 2 hours and 45 minutes which can feel quite long. You need to arrive at the exam center on time, feeling fresh, relaxed, and focused. To reduce the stress of this matter, it is best to choose an exam center which is closest to you so you can get there fast avoiding potential hassles. You should pay attention to your transportation options. If you are planning on using public transportation, it is advised to find the fastest connection in advance. This helps you save your time, energy, and sense of focus for the actual test instead of wasting it on the commute to the center.
Availability of the equipment
It is definitely worth checking with the exam centers what kind of equipment they offer. For example, some candidates prefer to use headphones for the listening tasks while it is possible that some exam centers do not make headphones available and play the listening parts on loudspeakers. The provided stationary items and available refreshments might differ at various centers as well. If this is something that is important to you and your concentration level, you need to be adding it to your checklist.
Contact and support
Another important point to keep in mind is finding the center that provides the kind of customer support that meets your expectations. You will be spending almost 3 hours at the exam center and you will also need to contact the center multiple times throughout the process so it is important to choose the one that has given you a better and more professional impression. You need to pay attention to the support system both online and offline, working hours and the hours through which candidate support operators take phone calls.
Physical features of the exam center
Your comfort during the test is very important as it directly impacts your performance and your test results. You should be paying attention to the quality of the seats and the furniture; you will be seated there for quite a long time and need to feel comfortable. Make sure to check if there are enough windows to have natural light and air ventilation with a room big enough to feel comfortable sitting in. There could be loud noise in the area due to traffic or construction. Finding a test venue in a quiet and peaceful area is another important point to take into consideration.
IELTS examination requires a lot of hard work and practice for the candidates to get their desirable score. This can be a quite stressful process and even confusing if candidates are not sure which organization they should be taking their exam at. To help you make the decision-making process easier, you need to remember that there is basically no major difference between IELTS exams held by IDP or the British Council, neither is easier or more difficult and they both follow the exact same framework and grading system.
What should really matter in order for you to make that decision is to understand your own needs and expectations. When do you need the IELTS certificate for? If you need it as soon as possible then you should choose the earliest possible exam date regardless of the organization. You should also be looking at the physical distance and avoid choosing an exam center that is far away to avoid wasting time and energy.
Irrespective of the organization, you need to choose the exam center which can make the process easier and more pleasant for you.