Blogs > IELTS/OET - English Language Requirements / GMC Registration

Overview of IELTS

  • July 30, 2018

Overview of IELTS

As part of GMC registration, the GMC require all Doctors to demonstrate their knowledge of the English language to receive a licence to practise.

All methods of communication need to be demonstrated to the GMC so you will need to prove your ability to listen, read, write and speak. There are various routes for Doctors to evidence their knowledge of the English language. Admittedly, BDI Resourcing find that OET is usually the easiest and most popular way to this for International Medical Graduates. However, some do choose to take IELTS due to it's lower fee and higher availability. 

In this blog article we are going to explore the IELTS exam, provide helpful tips for taking the exam and provide the services of an IELTS expert who can also aid you.

There are various IELTS test options, including Academic, General Training and Academic UK Visa and Immigration (VI). For an IMG who wants to become GMC registered we advise that you take the Academic UK VI exam, as this will satisfy both GMC and Visa requirements.

The listening, reading and writing components of all IELTS tests are completed within the same day, with no breaks in between them. The speaking element of the exam can be completed up to a week before or after the other three tests. Your IELTS test centre will advise you on this.

In addition, each part of the IELTS exam content can be formatted in any way – this includes graphs, multiple choice questions, matching lists and phrases to identification of information.



There are four elements to the IELTS listening exam. Each section will have ten questions and a total of forty questions. There is no specialist subject knowledge needed for the listening exam as all the answers will be given in the played recordings. You will have forty minutes to complete the listening exam; you will listen for thirty minutes and then for the last ten minutes you will have to transfer your answers onto the answer sheet.

Task 1 Social Needs: In the first task you will listen to a conversation between two people. The subject is social needs and so the topic of conversation can range from travel arrangements to decisions on which restaurant to attend.

Task 2 Social Needs: The second task will be a monologue (a speech from an individual). The subject is social needs so the topic of conversation can range from providing a speech on thoughts on a university to an individual’s experience at a work conference.

Task 3 Educational or Training: The third task will provide you with a recording between up to four people. One example of the type of conversation could include a conversation between a teacher and a group of students.

Task 4 Academic Subject: The last part of listening exam is another monologue. The topic is academic subject. One example of this task could include a lecture from a university teacher.

As mentioned above, once you have listened to the recordings you must ensure that you transfer your answers over to your answer sheet.

When transferring your answers over we advise you to follow the subsequent tips. First, be aware of your handwriting. Although you may be rushed for time towards the end of the exam you need to ensure your handwriting is eligible because if the marker cannot read your writing then they cannot award you with marks. The same rule applies to spelling, if you have incorrect spelling then again, the examiner will have to mark it as incorrect.

Second, you will be given some time to read the question before the recording is played – so prepare yourself for the topic and what key information to look out for.

Third, when you are taking your listening exam if you do not hear everything on the recording do not panic, just try and listen for the keywords and then focus on what you need to be listening for.



The reading part of the IELTS exam will provide you with three (sometimes four) reading passages which will increase in difficulty. The text provided will be genuine and are often taken from magazines, books and newspapers, the audience will be the public and the topic will be on general interest.

The test will be sixty minutes long, there will be a total of forty questions and each question will be worth one mark.

Part 1: The first part of the reading exam will provide you with a short factual passage and the topic will be relevant to your everyday life when you move to the UK and work in British environment. To exemplify, the question could ask you about a magazine advertisement.

Part 2: Similar to the first part, the exam will provide you with a short factual passage however the focus will relate to employment. To exemplify, paying income tax.

Part 3: The last part of the exam will be a longer passage and the most difficult. The topic in this section will be of general interest.

When taking the reading part of your IELTS exam, our first and foremost piece of advice is to make sure you understand what the question is asking and follow the question instructions carefully. Second, do not try and read every word within the passage, the exam is testing your ability to skim and scan the passages to try and retrieve the most important pieces of information. Last, we advise you to keep an eye on the time – do not spend too long on one passage!



The writing element of the IELTS exam will test your ability to write English clearly and with coherence. The exam will last for sixty minutes and has two parts to it.

Task 1: The test will present you with a graph, chart, table or diagram and you will be asked to summarise the informational data in your own words.

Task 2: The test will then ask you to write an essay as a response to an argument or problem stated in the paper.

The second task is worth more than the first task so we advise you to spend more time on the second. Typically, forty minutes on the essay and twenty minutes on the graph description should be an adequate way to divide your time.

Our second piece of advice when taking the IELTS writing exam is to practice. The best way for an individual to improve their written language skills is to frequently practice and to correct any grammar or spelling mistakes.

Third, it would be useful for IELTS candidates to practice essay structures as the structure of your exam will contribute to your overall writing mark. If you would like advice on how to structure a short essay then visit this website.

Fourth, before you begin writing your answer we suggest that you analyse each task closely, make notes and then write an essay plan.

Other tips include to write in paragraphs (this makes it clear when you are moving onto a new point), do not repeat points (you will not receive extra marks and), keep each of your points relevant to the question and check your work for any mistakes.

Following the above tips will help your answer appear well formulated and will fill the marker with confidence from the outset.



The format of the speaking test is a structured discussion with a certified examiner. Although the discussion will cover certain topics, IELTS try to ensure that the conversation between you and the examiner is organic, interactive and as close to a real-life situation as a test can get. The speaking test will be between eleven to fourteen minutes and will be split into three parts.

Part 1: The examiner will ask you questions with regards to yourself, your family, your work and your hobbies and interests.

Part 2: The examiner will present you with a task card and ask you to speak about that specific subject. The card will include subject points that you can include. The examiner will give you one minute to formulate your talk and you will then be expected to speak for one-two minutes.

Part 3: In the last part you will then be expected to have a conversation with your examiner about the random topic you discussed in Part 2. The examiner will ask you questions on your subject talk and you will have to converse in conversation.

To study for your IELTS speaking exam we provide three pieces of advice. First, practice speaking English with a friend or family member. Speak about the topics that the examiner will test you on, this includes personal information, details about your family work and hobbies. Second, record yourself talking about a particular topic and then listen back to it. By hearing your own voice, you will be able to assess whether your English is spoken effortlessly and accurately. Third, we advise that you should have a practice of the entire speaking test without interruption. The advantage of this is that it will make your practice as close to the real thing as possible! And so, when you come to take the exam you will feel more at ease as you have already experienced the process.


How do I prepare for IELTS?

  1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – The amount of IELTS preparation differs for everyone, as everyone has a different level of English skills. Therefore, we advise to prepare for the exam as far in advance as you need. But remember, that just because you know someone who passed IELTS with flying colours, it is not the same for everyone.
  2. Assess your abilities – Before you book your IELTS exam for a date we advise you to find out what level your English is. Often people are stronger in one communication area, whether it is speaking, writing, reading or listening. Therefore, once you find out your level of ability you can set realistic goals and a revision timeline.
  3. Do practice papers – One of the best ways to prepare for an exam is to do practice questions. This is the best way to prepare because when you enter the exam you will already be aware of the papers format, you have practiced paper timings and you are learning at the same time.


IELTS Expert

BDI Resourcing work with an expert in IELTS preparation, named IELTS Advantage, who will be available to provide you with the help and support needed to allow you to pass the exam. The materials on IELTS Advantage website offers free materials that are regularly updated. The available materials include IELTS exam tips and tricks, lesson plans and sample answers.

In addition, IELTS Advantage offer a premium essay correction service and online courses for those that would prefer tailored advice and guidance.

So if you are an IMG who is in the process of taking IELTS and are considering moving to the UK and working for the NHS then take a look at our jobs board to find see current NHS vacancies.


If you are an international doctor who wants to relocate to the UK and work within the NHS send your CV to [email protected] – and we will be happy to help you. In addition, if you would like support form an online forum of other IMG’s join our Facebook Group IMG Advisor: IMG Advisor

Originally Posted: 30/07/2018
Updated: 13/10/2020


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