Earlier this month, Magoosh blogger David Recine told us a little about the IELTS examiners. He considered some interesting questions about the varieties of English spoken by the examiners and what benefits there might be for test takers who get interviewed by native speakers of the same language. To add to this insight, I’ve found some English experts who have experience as real-life IELTS examiners.
Let’s see what we can learn from them about what it’s like to be an IELTS examiner, and more importantly, what kind of advice they can give you as you prepare for the IELTS exam.
Real-Life IELTS Examiners
You may know that IELTS examiners are educated, trained, and certified English experts who are highly qualified to assess your English skills. You may not know, however, that they are very, very human! They are passionate about their jobs, get tired from interviewing, and guess what? They get nervous about your exams too!
Meg, a previous IELTS examiner in Texas describes the IELTS training and examining processes as strictly structured in order to benefit test takers all over the world. In their first year of work with the IELTS, every IELTS examiner is constantly being examined while they examine! Just as you are assessed for your English, they are assessed for their use of the interview scripts and their ability to score test takers’ English objectively.
Interestingly, Meg reveals that even IELTS examiners may struggle with English while giving you your exam. She is a speaker of American English, but must use British variants for some words in order to be sure that all test takers are giving the same interviews.
IELTS Italia has given us more interesting facts through an interview with another expert who tells us a bit about “A Day in the Life of an IELTS Examiner.”
His words remind us, yet again, of the fearsome examiner’s human qualities: They care about you! Meg talked about being nervous as an examiner, and now we hear about test-taker nervousness from the examiner’s perspective. His empathy is evident:
Q: Do you think another skill as an IELTS Examiner is being able to put people at ease, as they must be very nervous?
A: Well in fact I’ve had quite a few who come in very nervous and at the end of it they say: ‘Oh it’s finished? That was actually quite pleasant!’ It’s because they feel as if they’ve just had a chat with you. You need to put the candidates at their ease as best as you can by your demeanour certainly. Where I examine, the candidates are in a waiting area and you have to go and collect them and take them to your room. So even there I try to have a friendly manner and smile but not engage them in conversation at that point, because if you ask them a question and they trip over it they might think: ‘Oh my goodness, what am I going to do when I get in that room!’ But on the other hand, you don’t want them to feel that you’re cold and unfriendly. Sometimes you look at a candidate and you can almost imagine their heart beating so you can say to them: ‘Just take a minute to relax, take a deep breathe, and tell me when you are ready’. Then you start the recorder and start the interview!
So, what does all this mean for me?
Considering the IELTS examiners as humans can destroy your fear of the unknown. You can’t meet your examiner ahead of time, so they’ll still be strangers, but it helps to remember they are lovers of the English language, teachers at heart, and they understand nervousness. Perhaps you can find some peace in this. If you’re still lacking in confidence, read this article on dealing with nervousness in the IELTS, some advice for coping, and reasons to get excited for your IELTS interview!