IELTS Preparation

How to prepare for IELTS

The IELTS test, which stands for International English Language Testing System, has been a requirement of many universities, professions and immigration visas worldwide since the 1990s.

Also, largely due to covid, there have been some innovations such as IELTS on computer, IELTS Indicator, and there are pilot programs that aim to allow the student to do the entire official test online.

A lot of students struggle with IELTS preparation online, especially organising themselves and allowing sufficient preparation time.

We have compiled some useful tips that will help you with your IELTS exam preparation and can be used to improve your English language studies.

How do I start my online IELTS preparation?

Most students start their online preparation with very little time left to actually prepare.

Although not ideal, it's very common!

Here is my strategy:

  • For the reading and listening, take practice tests and discover where you are currently losing points
  • Focus on your weak spots to start with
  • For the writing, get your essay evaluated asap*. Again, you want to focus on the areas hurting your current score.
  • Your speaking preparation should be similar: Get feedback and identify what needs improving.

*Asap because improving your language skills while improving your exam skills can be quite overwhelming for test takers.

Reverse engineer the reading and listening tests

Find official IELTS exams, the Cambridge books are said to be the best because they are slightly harder than the real test.

Just make sure you have the answer key, some places sell the answer key separately (nasty!).

The Cambridge practice tests are also written by the same professionals who write the official exams. You cannot go wrong!

Sit down with an exam and go to the answers first. Deduce and reverse engineer, find the fragments that contain the answers.

Work out how the questions are asked, the styles and the formats.

This style of IELTS prep makes it far easier to find answers when you do mock tests the normal way.

Our IELTS Reading course prepares you for the exam by breaking down the most common questions and sharing strategies to boost your band score.

We have video lessons and a mock exam for you to test your knowledge, along with a full break down explaining the logic.

This is just one of the preparation courses we offer.

Get familiar with the test

Your IELTS prep not only involves improving your English language skills, but also your exam skills.

IELTS test exam skills can be boosted by getting familiar with the IELTS exam.

For the writing IELTS sample essay questions, will help you prepare for the different styles of questions asked.

Also, practice mock speaking exams, and feedback for these can you identify your errors, and again speed up your IELTS prep.

How long does an IELTS course take?

Our IELTS course can be completed in 10 days, if the test taker is working fast and completing the assignments we set quickly.

Most students complete the course in a month, but you have upto three months of access (90 days). This course access can always be extended.

The online course contains over 20 hours of detailed practical tutorials, often with an action step for test takers to do afterwards.

We usually return our students essays within 24 hours. Speed, motivation and momentum are pretty much baked into our prep course!

Our training platform includes two native native English speakers (Ex-IELTS Examiners).

IELTS Writing preparation

This is probably the part of the IELTS exam most students struggle with, even native English speakers struggle with writing academically!

Past practice tests and writing questions are a great place to start, as our sample Band 9 essays.

In our IELTS course we recommend that when you are writing answers remember to first allow yourself plenty of time, and then later build up to answering both questions, part 1 and 2, in one hour.

Some students copy with a pen and paper essays they find online, this is a great inexpensive way to improve your writing, and boost your vocabulary.

Getting your essay evaluated is also and incredibly fast way to improve and speed up your IELTS prep.

IELTS Speaking practice

For speaking practice, try speaking with a friend or family member, on a regular basis. I have heard of students speaking to their grandparents in English even though their grandparents could not understand a single word!

Here is a more detailed online guide for preparing for the exam.

A person who is good at English will be obviously the best choice for an IELTS speaking partner because they can correct your mistakes and also share their experiences in speaking to provide you with insights about common questions on your test.

If no one near you speaks fluent English, there are many online speaking partners available on websites like Italki, or online language exchanges.

Our IELTS Speaking Confidence course has over 15 hours of confidence building techniques and strategies. This course also includes lesson of quick score boosting phrases.

There is even a lesson on how to structure your Part 2 cue card presentation.

IELTS Academic test preparation

The Academic Test Preparation IELTS course is designed for students who are planning to study, work or live in an English-speaking country.

This IELTS preparation course not only includes practice tests for the IELTS exam, but you also get online feedback on your essays.

Most smart students know that feedback and essay evaluation is the fastest way to improve.

This IELTS Academic Test Preparation course includes modules about choosing and selecting the right information, and covers the more rare questions such as maps and flowcharts.

Writing for this part of the exam requires strong English language skills but also an entire set of new exam skills such as:

  • How to organise your Academic IELTS writing
  • How to select the right information
  • How to write at a Band 7 level
  • How to review your writing and improve your score

Write your objectives and debrief your sessions

Plan what you aim to work on at the start. For example will you be copying out IELTS band 9 essays? Or working on improving your vocabulary, using lists and definitions?

After assigning specific tasks to each session, remember that when you have finished, review and write about what the next step is for your IELTS prep.

Here is an example of a student's test prep debrief:

Practiced up to part 3 of the listening, need to review collocations and complete the online course videos, also use free time to check vocab

This ensures that when you next sit down to study you not wasting time figuring out what to do. You are immediately productive.

A lot of students can waste an hour or two just getting started and figuring out what to work on next.

Keep track of your results and improvement

Ask someone to proofread your essay, for example. It’s better if a teacher who is familiar with IELTS and has a good command of English.

This way you won’t waste your time when preparing.

If your IELTS results show that you’ve gained ground in one area, get to work on your next weak point.

Preparing for IELTS online can be a lonely experience for some students, but it doesn't have to be. You can get your writing evaluated online, good tutors should motivate you to continue improving your score.

Everytime you complete a practice test or practice IELTS exam, write down your score. Log it in a spreadsheet. Over the course of your IELTS prep, your score will improve.

After consistently hitting your target band score (Band 7 or 9?), you are ready to take the IELTS test.

Use your time to your advantage

Identify when you’re most productive.

  • Time: Some people work most effectively in the morning, while others prefer to solve problems in the evening. Your aim is to find out what works best for you, in accordance with your own style.

  • Space: It’s also important to define where you can really focus on the work you need to do – preferably a place with no distractions (for example, a library or a coworking space).

  • No distractions: Turn off your phone and give yourself a chance to study properly! Bring all the necessary materials with you, and check that everything you need is close at hand.

Again, your IELTS prep training depends on you.

Establish a routine – and stick with it.

It has been proven that studying too much may not have the best results. SO it is important to establish a routine, to use your time wisely.

Work smarter, not harder. If you suddenly have to go out and can’t postpone the trip, find a logical break point in your work.

Write a note to yourself so you can quickly remember where you need to start again.

I like to set sessions of 50 minutes, starting at exactly 9.a.m each morning. In fact I do exactly the same tasks each day at this time.

Organise your study time

Pay attention to your weak points first. Identify where you need to improve and provide yourself with extensive training.

The thing of paramount importance here is a schedule, be as detailed as possible.

Write down dates and times, and specify exactly what you’re going to practice.

When you sign up to our email list you get access to a study planner excel doc which makes it all a little easier.

Studying online can be more difficult due to all the distractions. I find switching my phone off, and keeping just one tab open at a time, makes it much easier to focus and practice.

Start with small steps, and stay realistic

I find breaking down my entire preparation into smaller bite size sections makes it easier to complete.

For example, one day could be assigned to reviewing the preparation course or making notes of practice questions.

The next day could be dedicated to reading, specifically multiple choice practice questions.

Don’t assign yourself more tasks than you can manage to do within the time you’ve allotted for them.

Test takers often get overwhelmed and overstressed when studying for the IELTS exam.

If you periodically review your progress, follow your online course, you will find your IELTS preparation slowly improving.

Remember to ask people around you how they did on their preparation, and what methods worked well for them in terms of exam preparation and materials.

Our online IELTS course breaks down each exam skill needed and assigns tasks to complete around these skills.

Break up your study time

Take a 5-minute break after each 25 minutes of work. Repeat this for 6 rounds.

This way you won’t feel completely exhausted and will be able to keep working longer.

This method is explained in more detail here: www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

A lot of students, myself included, find Focusmate an amazing tool to get the most from my IELTS training. The price is $5/month, but well worth it.

Video course access

Our video course is a video-led, interactive learning experience that focuses on the four skills of IELTS: reading, writing, listening and speaking.

The video modules are carefully constructed to be both informative and engaging for learners. These lessons are also extremely practical and actionable, especially come exam day.

Each lesson in the video courses covers one topic, you watch the tutorial then implement what you have learnt in the next essay you write. We have found our learning platform is a great way for non-native English speakers around the world to prepare for the IELTS.

Another advantage is that it's immediate access, so in less than a few minutes you can start our online IELTS score, and watching the classes.

Brief overview of the IELTS test

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test is a tough exam, administered by IELTS IDP Australia, British Council, and Cambridge Assessment, a division of Cambridge University.

It has sections on reading, writing, speaking and listening. Most students struggle with writing and speaking. I believe this is largely because these are productive skills, whereas listening and reading are receptive and can be improved autonomously.

Previous practice tests are one of the best ways, but remember to only use the tests you have the answer key to, otherwise it's not as productive.

Preparations courses are available to help you pass the ielts exam and achieve your target band score.

Your university or immigration advisor will be able to tell you what ielts band score you need.

Video lessons are great for students on the go and who are possibly more visual learners.

Not only will your English skills be tested, you will most likely need to learn or improve your exam skills.

Although physical classes are useful, nowadays online courses are a more cost effective way to improve your score.

Online or offline prep course?

Offline IELTS prep courses often have a high price, and in my opinion are a little antiquated.

Although the IELTS test currently has a face to face component in the Speaking section, with Covid a modern day hazzard, the speaking test will most likely be moving online.

Online preparation courses enable you to study depending on your schedule, not the local academy.

British Council classes are an option, but are often more expensive, and with Covid ever present, access could be unpredictable, making practice difficult.

Also, if you prepare online you have access to world class tutors that might not be available in your city, town or village.

Preparing online (your entire life?)

Most online IELTS preparation courses are offered in three, six or twelve-month durations. The prices vary depending on the course provider and which country you live in.

From what previous students have said the free courses can end up costing more money. For example, if you did not pass the exam and have to take it again, then in the end you have spent more money.

Also, remember what we say in the UK "You pay peanuts, you get monkeys!". This basically means that if you don't pay much for something, you cannot expect much either. Basically, it doesn't hurt being a little sceptical of free ielts courses.

Other courses to wary of are the ones offering "monthly access" here there is an obvious conflict of interest. Basically, the longer you stay without your IELTS exam the more money they make - so what incentive do they have to get you to pass the exam?

Likewise, who wants a course offering lifetime access? Do you want to pass the exam and move on to university, working abroad etc? Or be preparing for IELTS your entire life?

Courses serious about your preparation will also offer feedback on practice questions, especially for the writing, as this is the fastest way to improve in the exam.

Online courses that guarantee you increase your IELTS score or refund you the cost are a great way to avoid this problem.

Online learning resources for IELTS preparation

Although Youtube is free just be careful about information overload.

A lot of students get confused by different tutors saying different things.

Each tutor usually has their own way of teaching so going to different IELTS preparation courses is a fast way to get confused.

I recommend students find a tutor they trust and stick with their online course. Mixing and matching prep courses usually ends in confusion.

Also be careful on deciding what online course to take. It's common for test takers to become obsessed with IELTS, so much so they forget their English skills and just focus on IELTS skills.

This is definitely not the best IELTS preparation strategy.

IELTS writing task 2 preparation

Below you will find links to help you prepare for your task 2

Sample questions and answers

Below you will find sample task 2 questions and a list of band 9 samples answers. Use these to compare and assess your writing.

IELTS writing academic task 1

Sample academic task 1 questions and essays

IELTS general writing task 1 preparation

Here you will find tutorials to help you prepare for GT 1

Sample academic task 1 questions and letter writing samples

Preparation for the IELTS speaking

Speaking part 1

In this section of the speaking test you will be asked questions on familiar topics.

Speaking part 2

Here you will be asked to give a short talk using a cue card. You will have one minute to prepare what you’re going to say and then you’re expected to speak for 1-2 minutes.

Speaking part 3

Part 3 of the IELTS speaking exam involves a discussion where you will have the opportunity to really develop your answers. You will be asked open-ended questions relating to part 2 of your exam.

Here are some more useful tutorials to help you prepare for your IELTS speaking

More useful tutorial for your IELTS Preparation