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Using capital letters in IELTS tests

In the IELTS Listening test, you can write your answers in lower case or upper case or a combination of both. In other words, you are not marked on your use of capitalisation so you can choose whichever works best for you. Some students prefer to ‘print’ their answers in capital letters, and this is a good idea if your handwriting is not very easy to read. Writing in capital letters usually requires more time, but in the listening test this is not really a problem as you have an additional 10 minutes at the end of the final recording to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

For the IELTS Reading test, the same rules about capital letters apply. You can write all your answers in upper or lower case or a combination of both (using capitals at the beginning of proper nouns). Punctuation is not taken into account when marking reading papers so your score will not be affected by your use of capital letters. Remember, however, that in the reading test you do NOT get an additional 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers so if you write more slowly when using CAPITAL LETTERS it might be better for you to write in lower case.

In Part 2 of the IELTS speaking test, you are given one minute in which to prepare your ‘long-turn’ answer and during that time you are given a pencil and paper on which to make notes. The notes that you make are not assessed in any way, so once again it doesn’t matter if you write in lower and upper case, as long as YOU can read what you’ve written!

In the IELTS writing test, we wouldn’t advise you to write all your answer in capital letters as it usually takes a lot longer and you only have 60 minutes to answer both tasks. In addition, it is not usually appropriate to write letters, reports or essays completely in CAPITALS. Instead you need to demonstrate that you can use capital letters correctly because punctuation IS assessed in the writing test as part of the criteria for grammatical accuracy. So, if you are copying any names of people or places from the question in Task 1, make sure you use the capitalise the initial letters in the same way. Also, ensure that each new sentence you write begins with a capital letter. Try to leave a few minutes spare when you finish writing so that you can read through your answer and check that you have used correct spelling and punctuation.

If you’re not sure about when to use capital letters, check out the iPass IELTS toolbox exercise on correct punctuation

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