How long does it take to prepare for IELTS??

Is one month enough time to prepare for IELTS?

This is a question many IELTS candidates ask and the answer is: "Possibly. It all depends". In fact, of course, there is no one answer, just more questions about:
  • your current English level
  • how many hours of study per day
  • if you study alone or not

Language skills and IELTS preparation

The international standard Common European Framework of Reference ( CEFR) language levels and their corresponding IELTS band scores show that a B2 CEFR English language user would score somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 in IELTS, whereas a C1 user would get an overall band score of 6.5 to 8.0. A C2 would practically be guaranteed 8.0 to 9.0 but if your level is judged to be B1, then you'll get a final IELTS band score of 4.0 to 5.5. For more on this, go to : https://www.ielts.org/ielts-for-organisations/common-european-framework. This should make it very clear that before we start talking about how much time it might take to prepare for IELTS, one of the first steps you must take is:
  • Know your level
How? Without worrying too much about bands and CEFR levels, it is likely that you have a very good idea of how good your English language skills are but there are many short online tests that will give you some idea. For example: https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/test-your-english/

Exam skills and IELTS preparation

IELTS study means knowing the IELTS exam. It's a matter of exam skills, not just language skills. You need to know: The best way to find out is by:

Can I prepare for the IELTS test by myself?

Yes. If you have IELTS practice materials and you feel comfortable studying alone, no problem. But most IELTS candidates, including those whose English language skills place them at a good C1 or even C2 level, seek and benefit from professional help. The IELTS exam expert can help you to prepare for the IELTS by:
  • identifying your strengths
  • identifying your weaknesses
  • working on skills and strategies to best use your strengths
  • working on skills and strategies that will eradicate your weaknesses
In terms of time, between you and the expert, it would mean:
  • establishing a study plan (hours daily/weekly; content)
  • exchanging information (detailed feedback and continuous assessment of progress)

Study tips

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
  • With your study plan, work out a routine and always stick to it.
  • This means organising your time to best suit you. Do you study better in the morning or at night, for example.
  • Your plan should be as detailed as possible with a daily and hourly breakdown of your schedule. For example: Speaking practice: record myself on phone speaking for 2 minutes on IELTS Part 2 Speaking topic. Give 60 seconds for preparation. Then check and note down to identify errors. Compare with model answers provided by an IELTS expert. Repeat task and re-check.
  • Start off by working on your weak points. Consciously try to improve and keep a record of your results. For example, if it's Writing (Tasks 1 or 2), get detailed feedback on your progress over time.
  • Do not leave the more complicated tasks until last. If, say, listening to several speakers discussing a topic is difficult for you, then work on that area first,
  • Take it step-by-step. Through self-assessment and feedback from professionals, check your progress. If you are told to re-.write an essay incorporating elements to improve it, do it. That is more satisfying than simply going on to do a new essay. Quantity is important but quality is even more important.
  • Take every chance you get to read, write, listen to and speak English in the time leading up to the exam date. Immerse yourself in the language as much as possible.
  • Yes, keep checking your progress by taking mock IELTS tests under exam conditions.

Hours of practice and band scores

You will find all kinds of advice and information on how much time is takes to reach a certain desired IELTS level. Some reduce it to a simple looking formula :-
  • if on the Practice Test, your Band Score is 1 point below what you need
  • it will take one month to reach the required level
In other words, one month = one band level. I want a 7.0 and my practice test gave me 6.0. One month study. But how many hours a day, a week? And do I split my time evenly between Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking? I have read advice suggesting that 20 or more a week is better than 10 or 15. Now, that is a surprise! Let's be honest. The number of hours you put into studying for IELTS is important. But what is more important is how you turn those hours into quality time by:
  • working on language skills and exam skills
  • following the tips the experts give you
In other words, it's not a matter of "if" but "how". Your score can go up a point overall at least if you give enough time to preparation but that can only happen through careful planning, receiving expert help and hard work.

Audio Tutorial

Direct Download | Stitcher | iTunes | Spotify | Soundcloud | Transcript |Podcast: Play in new window | Subscribe: Android | RSS