Hearing or speaking difficulties

If you have hearing or speaking difficulties, we may be able to help you take your IELTS.

It may take six weeks for some special arrangements to be made for you, so you should make your application as soon as possible through an IELTS test centre.

What will the IELTS test centre do?

Your centre will:

  • confirm the application deadline (this depends on the arrangements you need and is typically up to six weeks before your test)
  • ask for full details of your difficulty
  • make the arrangements you need to take the test.

If your centre does not have the equipment or space you need (e.g. a separate room), they will do their best to help you to find another centre that does.
Your centre may also ask you to provide a medical certificate.

Please note, all requests for special requirements are subject to approval.
What special arrangements can I ask for?

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

1. Hearing aids, headphones and other equipment

In the IELTS Listening test, test takers:

  • read some questions which are printed on a question paper
  • listen to a recording
  • write answers to the questions on a separate answer sheet.

If you have hearing difficulties, here are some ways we can help you:

  • If you normally use a hearing aid, you may use it in the test, but remember to tell your centre before the test.
  • If you normally use devices such as wireless systems or personal FM systems, you may ask the centre for permission to use this type of equipment. You need to ask your centre at least six weeks prior to your test date.
  • If you can hear with the help of headphones or special amplification equipment, you may ask the centre for permission to use this type of equipment to hear the recording. You need to ask your centre at least two weeks prior to your test date.
  • If you are using headphones, the supervisor (the person who will give you your Listening test) must be able to hear and control the recording. This means they will listen to an external loudspeaker or use a second pair of headphones. You are not allowed to use a personal CD player, MP3 player or other similar device to listen to the recording.
  • If you are using special equipment, such as special amplification equipment, you will normally sit the test in a separate room. Notify your test centre at least six weeks prior to your test date.

2. Hearing-impaired (lip-reading) versions of the Listening test

You can ask for a hearing-impaired (lip-reading) version of the Listening test. Instead of playing a recording, the supervisor (the person who will give you your Listening test) will read out the material to you. They will read out each text twice. The supervisor will stop reading from time to time during the second reading. This will give you time to write your answers.
Make sure you:

  • can lip-read a person who is speaking English
  • practise with sample papers before the test.

It may be possible for you to practise lip-reading with the person who will give you your Listening test before you take the test. Ask your test centre.
3. Special arrangements for the Speaking test

If it takes you longer than usual to say things or to understand what people say to you, you can ask for extra time to complete the test. You are not allowed to use signing in a Speaking test.
4. Exemptions and endorsed certificates

If you have severe hearing and/or speaking difficulties, and the special arrangements listed above are not sufficient (for example, if you cannot lip-read), you can ask for exemption from taking the Listening test and/or the Speaking test. This means you do not have to take the test(s).
You must apply for exemption before taking your testAsk your test centre for further information.
For IELTS, you can ask for exemption from one or two components. You will be given a score for the missing component(s) based on your performance on the other components of the test. This score will be used to calculate your Overall IELTS Band Score.
Your Test Report Form will have the following statement printed on it:
‘Due to extreme speaking/hearing (etc.) difficulties, this candidate was exempt from the Speaking/Listening (etc.) test(s). The Speaking/Listening (etc.) test Band Score(s) has/have been notionalised on the basis of the average of the other two/three Band Scores.’