How to Prepare for the IELTS

Getting a good score on the International English Language Testing System, or the IELTS, can open doors for you to go anywhere in the world. But if you don’t know how to prepare for the IETLS, you risk getting a lower score.

The IELTS is the most popular English language proficiency test in the world. More than 3 million people took the test last year. If you want to join those who successfully get good scores, you’ll have to spend a lot of time preparing. Take the following steps and you’ll be well on your way to acing the test.

Ask Yourself Why You Are Taking the IELTS

People take the IETLS for dozens of reasons. Some want to go to college and study at an English speaking university. Others want to immigrate to a new country for better living conditions. Whatever your reason, ask yourself why you need to take the IELTS.

Check to See if You Are Ready

How comfortable are you speaking English? Do you feel like you can communicate well, or do you find you still stumble a lot?

If you can read and understand most of what is in this article, you already have enough skills to get a decent score on the reading section of the IELTS. Some test takers do well in one section, but not in another. You want to make sure you can succeed in all four sections before you sign up for a test date.

Decide on Which Test to Take

The IELTS has two versions of the test–academic and general. Both have very similar test formats. However, each one uses different texts for the type of test you are taking. The IELTS Academic has reading passages that are like what you would read in your studies at college. You’re also required to write more academic based essays since that is a large part of what you’ll do when you go to a university.

The IELTS General is good for almost any other situation. If you aren’t trying to apply to a university, you will probably take the IELTS General. If you’re trying to get a work visa for an English speaking country, you’ll have to prove that you understand enough English to live in the country and get work.

Prepare Yourself For the IELTS’ Test Format

If you don’t know what to expect for the test format, you won’t know how to prepare for IELTS. Here’s what you can expect in each type of test.

Both Tests

Both tests use the same listening and speaking sections.

The listening section has four recordings that you have to listen to and then answer some questions about what was said. Each section has ten questions and has recordings in several accents. You will have 30 minutes to complete this section.

The speaking section is usually done at a separate time from the rest of the test. Since a test proctor carries out the speaking section, you have to schedule a time where you can go in and deliver your speaking part of the test. In this section, you’ll have a little more than 10 minutes to speak about a topic and then answer questions about what you’ve said.

IELTS Academic

Where the tests differ is in their reading and writing sections. Because the types of things you will be reading and writing are different in and out of school, the tests use different material to help you prepare for it.

The Academic Reading section has 40 questions that test your ability to read for gist, main ideas, writers’ opinions, and more. You have 60 minutes to read texts from books, journals, and magazines similar to what you’ll read at a university or professional education program.

The Academic Writing section also gives you 60 minutes to write two essays. The first gives you data in a visual form and asks you to explain it in your own words. The second asks you to write a response to a stated opinion or argument. Both tasks are done in an academic or semi-formal format.

IELTS General

The IELTS General Reading section is similar to the Academic Reading section. However, the texts you’ll have to answer questions about come from materials you’re more likely to find on a day to day basis in an English-speaking country.

The IELTS General Writing section also asks you to complete two writing tasks in an hour. However, instead of writing in academic or formal style, you’re more likely to write in a personal or semi-formal style.

How to Prepare for the IELTS by Yourself

There are thousands of resources available online to help you prepare for the IELTS. You could find channels on YouTube to help you practice listening and speaking.

There are also practice tests available online. Once you feel like you’ve studied enough to do well on the test, take a practice test to make sure you will do as well as you think.

If you’re looking to attend a college in an English speaking country, many of them require a minimum IELTS score. Check to see what score you need, and start taking practice tests until you get that score at least once.

How to Prepare for the IELTS with Help

If you need support studying for the IELTS, you have other options. Many countries offer English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. See if there are any courses available near you.

If there are no ESL courses where you can access them, there are hundreds of online tutors that can help you prepare for the IELTS. Look for someone who has English teaching background and someone who has taught students who have gone on to take the test.

Create a Study Plan and Stick to it

Without a study plan, you won’t know what to work on when it comes time to get ready for the test. This can lead to wasted time.

In your study plan, you need to create a study schedule. In this schedule, you’ll need to set aside regular time to study every day.

Write down places you can go that are free from distractions. You need a good studying environment that will make it hard for you to procrastinate.  

Make sure you make time for study breaks. Most brains can only focus for 50 minutes at a time. Give yourself at least five minutes every hour to take a break from your studying, get up and walk around, get a drink, and anything else you need before getting back to the books.

Do Everything in English

Many people who are learning another language will often only use it when they are studying it and then go back to their native language. This isn’t going to help you prepare for the test.

When you’re done studying, put on TV in English. Use the internet in English. If you can, talk to your roommates and family in English.

Apply for a Test Date

Once you feel like you’re ready, look for a testing center near you. The IELTS website has a testing location finder that will help you figure out what is closest to you. After you’ve found the right testing center, contact them and figure out when they are offering the test.

Clear Your Schedule the Week of the Test

Once you have a test date, make sure your schedule is cleared for that week. You might need to make travel plans depending on how far away your testing location is. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before the test. You’ll be better able to concentrate when you’re well rested, which will improve your test score overall.

If you’re unable to clear your schedule for a week, at least make sure that you arrive on time, well rested, and with a clear mind.

It takes time to prepare for IELTS. This is a process that will take you several months. Trying to rush the process will most likely end in you getting a lower score. But if you plan ahead, you’re more likely to succeed.



Test Prep Advisor Staff

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The Test Prep Advisor staff is made up some of the world's foremost experts on standardized tests. Some of them have developed their own copyrighted techniques for preparation and others have published books that revolutionized the way people study. They all have years of experience as tutors and share a passion for helping people achieve (or exceed) their target scores.