Taking IELTS in Jakarta

This morning I sat for my IELTS test. I had sat for iBT TOEFL twice, in 2011 & 2013, so I thought the experience would be somehow similar. Beyond my expectation, it was physically very exhausting. Here’s my story.

Unlike iBT TOEFL that is centrally organised, an IELTS test seems to be organised by each test centre. When I browsed the Internet to find how to take an IELTS test in Jakarta, I found not one, but several websites administred by various test centres. Each had different interface and fees. Some centres charged in US$ and some in rupiah. Among all the centres I found, British Council provided one of the most accessible web interface and the most affordable fee of Rp2,460,000. Payment had to be made by bank transfer since British Council didn’t accept payment by credit card.

On the test date, I only have to bring my ID card. Nothing else would be allowed to be brought inside the test room, including writing instruments, with the exception of unmarked bottled water. For a bottled water to be “unmarked”, you have to peel off the plastic wrap that contains the brand and make sure there’s no writing on the cap as well. One candidate who brought Pocari Sweat bottle was asked to leave the bottle outside since the cap is marked. Inside the room, each participant is provided with 2 pencils, 1 ballpoint & a bottle of drinking water.

The published schedule states “Arrival Time: 7.45 AM. No candidates will be allowed to enter the exam room after 08.50 AM.” When I arrived at about 7.20 this morning, the venue was already packed from the lobby all the way to the 2nd floor where the test is to be held. Identity confirmation etc. started at 7.50 am and lasted until 9.15 pm. There was more then 1 room used – I’m not sure how many. In my room, there were 72 participants. So the day began with 1.5 hours of preliminary processes and queueing and waiting.

Officially, once you have your ID confirmed and your photo taken, you must go directly into the test room and are not allowed to go to toilet anymore. Nevertheless with such an extended waiting time in the end the invigilators allowed participants to go to toilet.

The test was administered manually. Instructions were read by invigilator – who intriguingly used broken English and made me grateful that I have taken this test in Indonesia instead of in China as I first planned – and between each section we had to wait for question papers and answer sheets to be distributed, collected and counted. The first three sections of listening, reading and writing were started at 9.15 am and finished by about 1.00 pm.

I was scheduled for speaking test at 2.50 pm. I thought it was really late until I found out the guy who sat next to me scheduled after 6.00 pm and I overheard some participants telling their parents that their test was after 7.00 pm. Some other participants must return tomorrow for their speaking test since not everyone can be accommodated on one day. Each participant is asked to be present 30 minutes before the scheduled test. With enough time for lunch, I headed out to find a restaurant.

By 2.20 pm I was already at the waiting lounge but wasn’t called until 3.30 pm. I was then asked to leave all my belongings at the luggage room – just like in the morning and wait for my turn. That must have been another 15 minutes of waiting. I don’t know for sure since I wasn’t allowed to wear my watch by then. When I finished the speaking test, it was already 4.00 pm. A very long and tiring day. Not so mentally, but more physically.

Judged by the efficiency of the test, I like iBT TOEFL more – even though iBT TOEFL’s speaking test is annoying due to the noises and constant distractions for the latter half of the test. Anyway, the test result will be published 13 days from now. I’m hoping to get perfect scores on some or even all bands.

If you’re planning to sit for IELTS, I hope this helps enlighten you about what may happen on the test day.


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