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Visual difficulties

What do I need to do?

It may take 3 months for some special arrangements to be made for you, so you should make your application as soon as possible through your IELTS test center.
 
What will the IELTS test center do?

Your center will:

  • confirm the application deadline (this depends on the arrangements you need and is typically from two weeks up to three months before your test) ask for full details of your visual difficulty
  • make the arrangements you need to take the test.
  • If your center does not have the equipment or space you need (e.g. a separate room), they will do their best to help you to find a center that does.

 
Your center may also ask you to provide a medical certificate.
 
What special arrangements can I ask for?

There are lots of different options – choose what you need from the list below:
 
1. Extra time

If you have visual difficulties, you will almost certainly need extra time to complete a paper. You can ask for an extra 25% of the normal time for the paper. You can ask for more than this if, for example, it takes you a long time to read the questions or write your answers. Remember, however, that too much extra time could make you very tired. You can also ask for breaks while taking a paper. Your center will tell you what you can have.
 
2. Help with reading the question papers

If you cannot see or partially sighted, you may be permitted to use your own equipment to assist you in reading. You can ask to use the following types of equipment:

  • handheld magnifiers
  • screen magnification software
  • screen reader software
  • refreshable Braille displays.

Please contact your test center for further information.
 
You can also ask for a ‘reader’. This is a person who will read and reread the questions to you. Please note, however, that in the Reading paper, the reader cannot read out texts to you and you are not allowed to use screen-reading software. Please also see section 8: Having someone read to you or write down your answers, below.

3. Help with writing your answers

If you cannot see or partially sighted, you may be permitted to use your own equipment to write your answers in the following ways:
 
a. Using any of the following machines:
  • mechanical Braille keyboard
  • electronic Braille keyboard, linked to a printer
  • computer or word processor (though you will not be allowed to use the spellcheck, grammar check, thesaurus or similar functions
  • Braille note taker.

b. Speaking your answers to a person who writes them down for you. Please also see section 8: Having someone read to you or write down your answers, below.
 
c. Writing your answers on a separate sheet of paper instead of using the computer-read answer sheet.
 
4. Braille question papers

Exam papers are available as:
  • contracted (Grade 2) Braille
  • uncontracted (Grade 1) Braille
  • and from January 2016 in UEB (Unified English Braille)

5. Enlarged print question papers

IELTS question papers are available in an enlarged font. We also take out any ‘visual’ material which is not needed for answering the question. We then make large-print versions of the papers in A4 size. The print size looks like this:

18 point bold image

6. Special versions of the Listening test

Many of the questions in the Listening test ask you to make notes while you listen to a recording on CD. If you cannot see or partially sighted, you may not be able to do this. We can adapt the Listening test for you. The supervisor (the person who will give you your Listening test) will:
  • stop the CD before each part of the test to give you enough time to read the questions
  • stop the CD at certain points during each part to give you enough time to write one or more answers
  • stop the CD after each part to give you enough time to check your answers.

7. Special versions of the Speaking test

If you have visual difficulties, you can ask to:
  • have extra time if it takes you longer than usual to read any test material or decide what you want to say
  • have enlarged print or Speaking task cards in Braille

8. Having someone read to you or write down your answers

A ‘reader’ is a person who will read the questions out to you. Please note, however, that they will not explain the questions to you or give you any advice. They can also read back your answers to you. You can also use screen-reading software to read back your answers to you. However, you must not use the spellcheck, grammar check or thesaurus functions.

In Reading papers, a reader is not normally allowed to read out texts to you and you are not normally allowed to use screen-reading software to do this.
 
If you want someone to write down your answers, you should note that:
  • you will be asked to spell certain words
  • you must also give the punctuation.

If you are having someone to help you with reading or writing down your answers, you should practice before your test. For example, make sure you can spell out the letters of the alphabet.
 
If you would like to know more about having a reader or someone to write down your answers, contact your center.