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How to Prepare for the IELTS Exam

Are you preparing to take the IELTS exam and don’t know where to start?

This is how many students feel – overwhelmed by all the information that you need to learn.

In this article we will show you how to prepare for the IELTS exam by giving you five tips:  

Tip 1: Choose the Exam that’s Right for You

There are two types of exams, the General Training and Academic. There are some differences between them so you must ensure that you prepare for the right exam!

If you are intending to apply to study abroad in an English speaking university or school, then take the IELTS Academic exam. If you are intending to work abroad or to emigrate to an English speaking country then General Training is the exam to take.

The two exams are similar but the reading modules and part of the writing module are different.

Tip 2: 
Understand the Format of the Exam

It is useful to get to know the general format of the exam and how the exam is scored.

The exam is based on band scores and you usually need a band 7 or 7.5 to study at an English university but you must check with the university that you are applying for.

How to prepare for the IELTS examThen look at some past exam papers. Do at least one practice test for each of the modules so that you understand what is needed for each part of the test.

The first time that you do this, don’t be concerned about the timing. Instead just try the reading and listening tests so that you get an understanding of what is involved.

Read through some of the speaking tests to check out the format and the type of questions.

Look at some sample writing questions and try writing a Part 2 essay. If you are taking the IELTS General Exam then try writing a Part 1 Letter or, if you are taking the IELTS Academic Exam try a sample graph test.

Tip 3: Formulate Strategies

After going through steps 1 and 2, you will now have an overview of each part of the exam. 

Now it’s time to delve deeper and to look at the different question types that occur and at model answers. This will enable you to formulate strategies for answering the question types for all four parts of the exam.

Tip 4: Study other Materials

IELTS is a test of your English fluency so develop your English skills by reading English books and magazines, watching films and YouTube videos and practising speaking English.

A good way to learn English vocabulary and accent is to go to the BBC Six Minutes website and listen to some of the videos there. Each one lasts for about six minutes and there are a variety of interesting topics.

However, just listening to a video is passive. You will develop faster if you use techniques such as “shadowing” which a speaking coach can explain to you.

Step 5:
Practise Taking a Timed Exam

Now that you understand the format of the exam and the strategies required for a high score, take a practice test and time yourself.

By doing this you will train yourself to finish on time. Running out of time is one of the major problems that students face in the reading and writing modules of the IELTS exam.

So get some reading and writing practice tests and do a lot of practice, keeping strictly to the times, which are one hour for the reading, and one hour for the writing tests.

Students have particular problems finishing the writing in the allotted time so make sure you spend plenty of time practising Task 1 and 2 using a variety of question types.

Also, practise some listening and speaking tests in order to get used to the format of these tests and how to answer them.

Above all get some lessons from a native English speaker who can help you and give you feedback. Good feedback is essential for improvement. Many students take the exam several times and fail each time despite doing lots of practice tests. It is through good feedback that you will improve and achieve a high band score. Check out our online lessons over Skype from a native English speaker who will be able to give you good feedback, help you to develop faster and show you how to prepare for the IELTS exam.


Paul Andreas

Paul Andreas is a Certified Speaking Coach and qualified TEFL Teacher Online English Lessons delivered by Skype for IELTS exam preparation and conversational English. Get a free trial lesson.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Ike

    The thought of this particular exam leaves me worried, but this post has allayed my fears. I now know what to do, how to strategically prepare for outstanding success. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  2. Michelle Dave

    Focusing so much on the timing while preparing for IELTS exams for the first time won’t give you the opportunity to get the details about each question. The experience that I had was to focus more on accuracy rather than on timing.

  3. Danny Scott

    Many people believe that the IELTS General exam is way difficult and more technical than the IELTS academic exams. Could it be that the curriculum and the English test for both differ in terms of format and the exams components?

  4. Paul Andreas

    Danny, the General exam is very similar to the Academic exam. The listening and speaking sections in the Academic and General versions are the same.The difference is that the Writing Task 1 is more technical for the Academic exam than it is for the General Exam. For the General Exam you will be asked to write a letter, whereas for the Academic Exam you will be asked to analyse a graph. Also, the reading exam is more technical for the Academic exam.

    The reason for the difference is in the different purposes of the exam. The academic exam is used to evaluate the English proficiency of those wanting to complete an undergraduate orpost graduate course, whereas the General exam is used to test people who want to immigrate into an English speaking country such as England or Australia.

  5. Danny Scott

    Thanks a lot Paul … It is now clear

  6. Jerrymum

    Wow, this vwas very useful about how to prepare for the IELTS exam. I’m taking it soon so this was useful information. Thanks.

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