So you have finalized to take the IELTS exam but feeling a bit unsure how to prepare, rest assured you have come to the right place. This article will help you demystify the exam and systematically prepare for IELTS, to achieve that target band score you want.
Lets first start with understanding the exam and its format:
- What’s your cup of tea?
IELTS is conducted in two test formats one is academic, and the other is general.
If you are going for higher studies most likely, you will take the academic IELTS, and if your purpose is to immigrate to an English speaking country, you may go for a general IELTS exam.
- Test format
IELTS tests you for your proficiency in the English language. It makes an all-round assessment by checking your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills. You guessed it right you have to take four different test of which speaking test is conducted separately from the remaining tests.
Generally, the speaking test is organized within five days from your selected test date and the venue may be different from your LRW (listening-reading-writing) tests.
- Preparation time
Well, it strictly depends on your present understanding of the English language. If the language of commerce in your country is English (e.g., India, South Africa or Uganda), it will be comparatively easier for you to prepare.
Typically a time frame of three months is considered optimum for a band score of 7.5. However, if you have less time left for your exam date don’t worry, we will also discuss some shortcuts that will help you cut down preparation time.
- Where to start?
Good question!!! You may like to arrange some study material first.
I would suggest using IELTS preparation books by Cambridge University Press. I started my preparation with “The Official Cambridge guide to IELTS.” It starts with IELTS summary and then step by step explains each test in detail. It also includes eight full-length practice tests with lots of tips spread throughout the book. However, I do not recommend that you solely depend on this book for your IELTS preparation, as the practice tests are a bit elementary compared to the real test.
Fortunately, if you book your IELTS exam with the British Council (IELTS is also conducted by IDP Australia), you get a complementary preparation book which has four tough practice tests which may give you the real feel of the exam if you follow the test conditions. As this book does not contain enough preparation material, it’s a nice strategy to pick this book when you are fully prepared to take on the test.
- What else can I do?
As you have to prepare for different tests of English, it is a good strategy to practice all sections regularly without ignoring any part of the test. However, I recommend practicing speaking and writing on a daily basis at least a few minutes without fail. Everyday practice will ensure that you are confident on the test day.
Moreover, the listening and reading parts are the passive parts of the test in which you receive input and respond whereas speaking and writing are the active parts where you have to provide input against a one-liner. As a result, many test takers find these two sections fairly tough.
- What about the tips and tricks you promised?
Anyway, I was coming to this. Here I would like to recommend some mobile apps, books, and videos which helped me immensely in my preparation. Also, there is a wonderful course on IELTS academic test preparation on the edX platform (www.edx.org). There are some courses on Udemy (www.udemy.com) as well, but I found them subpar to the other preparation material I utilized. I will provide links to everything below:
- IELTS Prep App – takeielts.org
This is an official app by British Council for IELTS preparation, it has some brilliant tips on various topics and also provides free practice tests on listening and speaking. Make sure to check the menu on the top left and the section named IELTS blog: Opportunities Abroad in the ‘prepare’ category to get some awesome tips.
- Speaklar – Speaking practice: English Talk IELTS
If you do not have a partner to practice English speaking, this app comes to rescue. You can anonymously talk to strangers across the world with this app at your own convenient time. As different people across the globe have a different accent you will get a little bit of listening practice too.
- Official Cambridge Guide IELTS
This is a companion app to the book. It includes the audio and video required for preparation along with the book. It’s especially useful when you don’t want to start your computer every time you practice, to access the media files in the CD that comes along with the book.
- Learn English Podcasts- Free English Learning
Listening to English podcasts will help you train your ears for English hearing which will help you in your listening test. However, practicing with real IELTS content is necessary to get a good score on the real test.
- IELTS Academic Test Preparation
The course from the University of Queensland, Australia has been superb in helping my IELTS preparation. The course has ample explanatory videos with a lot of practice material. Target yourself to complete this course in a week to start working on practice tests as early as possible. This course is free for auditing, but I recommend upgrading to a verified certificate if you can afford, to support edX platform.
- Anyone can score in IELTS writing – General Training
This is a nicely organized book that will guide you on how to tackle the writing section. Although the book is targeted for General IELTS exam, it is equally useful for the Academic exam too as the task 2 is similar in both formats.
- 100+ IELTS Mistakes You Are Going To Make: and how to avoid them
A cursory look at this book will suffice to avoid some deadly IELTS mistakes. It has a nice overview of pitfalls for the test takers. Only recommended if you have spare time from the other resources I have mentioned.
- IELTS- The 5 step study plan
The approximately 20-minute video covers most aspects of IELTS. Again watch if you can spare time otherwise you may avoid investing your time.
*Some of the links may not work over the time, in that case, please search respective sites and if you are still clueless contact us.
- What to do on the test day?
First of all, do not forget to take your passport with you to the test center, as the examiner will not allow you to take the test without your original passport. You can carry a pen, a pencil, an eraser and a sharpener with you inside the testing center. Do some breathing exercises to calm your nerves, visualize that you are performing your best in the exam and most importantly believe in yourself.
I hope this article will help you in getting your highest score in your IELTS exam. I had to explore a lot of material before taking the test and realized the need for targeted preparation, hence this article. In the upcoming articles, we will discuss strategies for individual tests. Share your views in the comment section below, and if you think someone in your network may benefit, please forward this article.