In this article, we look at how to prepare for IELTS at home with the best ways to study and get your perfect score.
Find out how our FREE online IELTS essay checker and 9 top tips from the IELTS Podcast are helping students all over the world to achieve IELTS success.
Table of Contents
- The best ways to prepare for IELTS at home – for all four skills
- Extra tips for getting the best possible score on the IELTS test
- FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Millions of students take IELTS every year, and it can be challenging to know the best way to achieve the score you want. We’ll talk you through what you need to do in Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking to achieve IELTS success studying at home, and some extra tools that can help you.
Stay away from expensive fake ‘VIP’ courses and ‘counsellors’, our online IELTS essay checker can give you great feedback for free.
Astrid from Sweden asked for advice to prepare for the IELTS test, and we gave her some skill-specific and general tips.
The best ways to prepare for IELTS at home – for all four skills
IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an international standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. It is accepted by universities, professional bodies, and immigration authorities in countries such as the USA, UK, Canada and Ireland as proof of English language proficiency.
The exam consists of four modules – Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking – to evaluate a test taker’s comprehension of the English language. Depending on the purpose of taking the test, IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training can be taken.
1. Listening – Practice Listening for detail and focus on the rhythm of the test
Practice Listening: Listen to TED talks, podcasts and songs to pay attention to words, intonation, pauses and repetitions used.
Read the listening test scripts to note the pattern and rhythm of the scripts – they are all very similar and you will notice that the answers are never close together.
Enhance Listening Skills: Start by skimming through the questions before the audio begins and practice writing answers down while the audio continues to play.
Top tip – with numbers and dates in particular, the test will try to trick you. Therefore, write down all the numbers you hear that might be the answer, and often you’ll realise that the first or second one is actually correct.
2 Reading – learn as much vocabulary as you can and practice all question types
Practice Reading: Read online newspapers, blogs and short articles to get used to understanding the main ideas in each paragraph.
Work on Vocabulary: Learn new words every day and practice writing them down.
Go through IELTS Podcast articles on reading to find examples and vocabulary lists. Remember, the same vocabulary comes up again and again in the tests.
3. Speaking – Improve Your Grammar, Vocabulary and Pronunciation
Firstly, remember that all four skills work together. For example, reading helps to build a stronger vocabulary and understanding of sentence structures. This will improve your speaking. Additionally, understanding grammar rules can help you to correctly answer questions in the IELTS test.
By focusing on fixed expressions when you are learning vocabulary, you can learn to recognize and use more complex words, which can assist you in expressing yourself more precisely and clearly.
Finally, listening to audio recordings of fluent speakers and watching English news channels or shows can help you improve your pronunciation.
4. Writing – Focus on Task 1 and Task 2 Skills
Knowing the structure of each task and the assessment criteria are also important to succeed in the writing module. Regular practice helps to understand the different essay types and provides a better understanding of the IELTS format.
In addition, practice writing different types of essays such as maps, processes and diagrams in part 1.
Practice agree or disagree, and discuss advantages or disadvantages, problems, solutions, causes, and effects and 2-part questions in part 2.
Furthermore, reading different articles from leading newspapers daily on different subjects such as finance and current affairs provides a better understanding of the English language and puts one in a better position to answer the writing section.
When you have completed a practice writing test, you can use our FREE online IELTS essay checker to get fast feedback on grammar and content.
Extra tips for getting the best possible score on the IELTS test
1. An online IELTS course you can rely on.
It’s possible to study by yourself using our free online resources, but if you feel that you need extra support, our online IELTS courses could be right for you.
Astrid was studying by herself in Sweden as there is no language school close to where she lived. She had tried an ‘Online VIP’ course but had been disappointed. She most wanted writing feedback and to improve her vocabulary and test technique, so in this case, our short online course focusing on band-7 skills was right for her. After that, like all smart online students, instead of wasting hours on Youtube she used the right tools – the FREE online IELTS essay checker – and all the IELTS Podcast free resources.
2. Practice Test Papers
Practice test papers are mock tests that help students prepare for the IELTS at home. Timed practice tests help students develop a better understanding of the amount of time allocated for each section, and learn to skim and scan passages quickly and effectively.
Additionally, it is important to answer all the questions even if you are unsure, as there is no penalty for incorrect answers. Examining the pattern, type of questions and learning along those lines can help in identifying the weak areas and mistakes.
However, as we told Astrid – make sure you’re practising questions from sources you can trust! There are a lot of sites that make up questions and this can confuse students.
3. Learn about the Topics in each section
The more past questions you look at, the more you will recognise common topics. Focus on vocabulary for topics such as:
- the media / social media
- the environment
- population change
- social issues such as healthcare
These topics are more likely to come up than less common ones.
4. Understand the test format
The Listening and Reading sections last for approximately 40 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively. The Writing section is 60 minutes long and includes two tasks. The Speaking section is 11 to 14 minutes long and includes three parts.
There is NO POINT practising writing for 2 hours at a time or taking much longer than 20 minutes per section on the reading test, as you approach the IELTS test.
5. Practice under time pressure
Practising under time pressure is a key factor in getting the best possible score in the IELTS test. It can help you become more aware of how to manage your time effectively, increasing your chances of succeeding in the test.
Timing is a crucial part of the IELTS test, as it allows you to answer all the questions, while also leaving enough time to proofread your answers on the test day. Without adequate time, you may not be able to spot your mistakes or correct them.
Practising timed practice tests is the best way to get a feel for the time you have for each task and helps you to get used to the time constraints. Work out which section of the test is most challenging for you to complete on time, and practice that more.
TOP TIP! Astrid realised she was always spending too long on writing task 1. We suggested that she do task 2 first – it’s worth double marks and she finds it easier. After task 2 in completed in 40 minutes, she is more able to focus on task 1 and with only 20 minutes left, she can finish it in time by focusing on the key ideas instead of trying to cover everything. Her scores have increased significantly.
6. Develop a study plan
Creating a study plan for the IELTS test is essential for achieving the best possible score. A detailed plan involves analyzing progress, identifying weaker areas, setting goals, and devoting time to practice and review.
Here are the steps to develop an effective and successful study plan:
- Assess your current level of English proficiency. Understand your strengths and weaknesses in order to create an effective study plan.
- Set goals. Start with small goals and gradually increase the difficulty. This will help you to stay motivated and achieve your desired result.
- Create a schedule. Allocate time for both practice and preparation. Make sure you devote more time to weaker areas.
- Use practice material. Regular practice is essential for success in the IELTS test. Use online material, lectures, video lessons, books, and audio files to prepare for the IELTS test.
- Take practice tests. Test your knowledge and understanding of the material. Analyze your mistakes and learn from them.
- Revise and recollect. Spend the last day of preparation reviewing and evaluating your knowledge.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice
Follow your study plan, and try to practice every day, even if it is only for a few minutes on busier days.
Overall, practice is the key to success in IELTS preparation. Regular practice can help you create an effective strategy and will help you build your confidence before taking the actual exam.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Some of these questions were already covered in this blog post but I will still list them here (because not everyone carefully reads every paragraph) so here’s the TL;DR version.
How can I best prepare for IELTS at home?
Step 1: Do your research about the four sections of IELTS. These are speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Familiarize yourself with the syllabus and type of questions asked in the exam.
Step 2: Attempt practice tests and record your mock speaking test. This will help you get used to the exam environment and boost your confidence.
Step 3: Create a study schedule and stick to it. Devote time to prepare for all four modules of IELTS as required and assess your weaknesses.
What is the format of the IELTS exam?
The IELTS exam is divided into four parts, namely the listening, speaking, reading, and writing sections. The total duration of the test is approximately 2 hours 40 minutes and it is available in both paper-based and computer-based formats.
The listening and speaking sections are the same in both formats, while the reading and writing sections are slightly different in the paper-based and computer-based tests.
In the paper-based test, the listening section is 30 minutes long (with 10 minutes to write answers on the answer sheet) and consists of 40 questions. The reading section is 1 hour long and consists of 3 reading passages with 40 questions. The writing section is 1 hour long and consists of two tasks, Task 1 (a short report of a chart, graph, map or table) and Task 2 (a formal essay).
The IELTS exam is scored on a 0-9 band scale, with the overall average and each section score given. It is important to be familiar with the test pattern in order to succeed in the IELTS exam.
What are some tips for improving IELTS listening and reading?
- Attempt practice tests to stay prepared.
- Develop your reading skills by spending more time reading books, magazines, and newspapers.
- Improve your vocabulary by learning new words every day and practising writing questions.
- Speak in English and test your skills in day-to-day conversations.
- Watch English movies and documentaries to acquaint yourself with different accents.
- Practice managing your time effectively.
How can I improve my IELTS speaking and writing skills?
- Learn the IELTS format and the structure of every essay type you might encounter. Take a look at several sample questions and answers to help you get an idea of what to expect.
- Expand your vocabulary. Learning new words and phrases can help with your writing and make it easier to communicate your ideas effectively.
- Practice writing in English. Write on any topic that interests you and try to use the new words and phrases you are learning.
- Find sample IELTS questions online and try responding to them. Pay attention to the structure of the essays and make sure you follow the same format when you write.
- Focus on delivering your speech with fluency, coherence, the use of wide and powerful vocabulary, and accuracy in grammar and pronunciation.