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How to Prepare for IELTS?

Through this blog we will help you with tips and tricks for IELTS preparation.

How to Prepare for IELTS?

When you decide to go abroad for attaining a degree or to find a job, IELTS is a common factor amongst all applicants applying for academic and/or migration purposes. Today, IELTS is considered one of the most widely accepted tests around the globe. Especially, English speaking countries like UK, USA, Australia, Canada, etc. where you are required to prove your English language abilities to support your visa and immigration application. 

There are two IELTS test available – IELTS Academic Test is more suitable for people who are planning to go abroad for higher education or seeking professional registration, and IELTS General Training is more suitable for the ones seeking vocational training or want to migrate or applying to study below degree level. Although there is no difference in the format and scoring of both these tests. Both these tests comprise of 4 parts – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. 

When it comes to exam preparation, IELTS requires a lot of commitment and focus, which can occasionally be a little overwhelming, especially for first-timers. It is therefore advised that you get a head start on your preparation to increase your chances of success.

Wondering where to begin? – Don’t think too hard! We have gathered and listed a few useful tips to get you started – 

Familiarize yourself with the IELTS format

As mentioned earlier, the test is divided into 4 sections, (i) listening, (ii) reading, (iii) writing and (iv) speaking. Each section requires its own preparation. 

1. Listening

You will have to listen to 4 recordings which would include both conversations and monologues. The recordings will be from native English speakers and some of them will be using different accents to test your listening skills. Keep in mind that you get to hear each recording only once.

IELTS Listening test is divided into 4 parts – 

  • Recording 1 – a conversation between 2 people on topics based on social context or everyday life.
  • Recording 2 – a monologue or a speech given by one person with topics based on daily life. 
  • Recording 3 – a conversation between 2 or more people based on educational or training context.
  • Recording 4 – a monologue or speech given by one person on any academic subject.

You will need to answer 40 questions based on the above four recordings as a part of your listening test. 

2. Speaking

The speaking test is a face-to-face test with a certified IELTS examiner (even if you take the test on computer, this section will remain face to face). The speaking test has 3 parts – 

  • Part 1 –Introduction. The examiner will ask you to introduce yourself and ask generic questions related to your study, work, family, interests, etc. 
  • Part 2 –Your monologue. The examiner will hand you a card with a topic written on it and a few points which you need to cover in your speech/monologue. You will be given a minute or two to prepare on the topic and when you are done, you will need to speak about it for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Part 3 –Two-way conversation/discussion. The examiner may ask you questions based on the topic given to you in Part 2. 

3. Writing

The Writing test of Academic writing test is different than General Training writing test. The Academic writing test includes topics based on university study or subjects best suited for under-graduate/post-graduate students whereas the General Training writing test has topics based on general interest such newspapers, magazines, notices, etc. 

Academic writing test

  • Task 1 – Visual representation of information. You will be given a chart, graph or any diagram and you need to summarize it and make a report of it in your words based on your understanding.
  • Task 2 – Essay writing. You will be presented with an argument or a point of view based on which you will have to write an essay. 

General Training writing test

  • Task 1 – Writing letter. You will be asked to write a letter explaining a situation or requesting information about a certain situation from someone. The format of the letter can be personal or formal or a mix of both depending on the topic.
  • Task 2 – Essay writing. This is similar to the Task 2 of the Academic writing test except the style of the essay could be personal or semi-formal. 

4. Reading

The Academic reading test consists of 3 long texts from books, magazines, or newspapers on the topics most related to the studies of under-graduate or post-graduate level. You will have to answer 40 questions in reading test.

The General Training reading test has 3 parts – 

  • Part 1 – two or three short texts which are based on topics most relevant to daily life in an English-speaking country.
  • Part 2 – two texts on work related issues.
  • Part 3 – one slightly long text on any general topic.

Start preparing early

After understanding the test format, it is wise to start preparing at least 2-3 months before the date of the test. Make a plan and schedule your studies properly. Since each section requires separate practice, you can plan out a strategy based on your strengths and weaknesses; for instance, come up with a strategy that focuses more on the essay writing skill you feel needs improvement than the sections you are competent in.

Section specific studying

For each section, create a list of tasks that you can do to improve that skill. Take a look at these suggestions – 

Listening(i) Watch YouTube videos, Movies/TV series, documentaries, etc. in English, 
(ii) Listen to English songs, etc.
ReadingNewspapers, Blogs, Magazines, Short stories, etc.
WritingPractice writing emails, essays, social media posts, etc.
Speaking(i) Converse in English with family, friends, etc.
(ii) Use an English-speaking app
(iii) Stand in front of a mirror and practice a monologue.
Table 1 – Suggestions for practicing each section

Take practice tests

Remember to include a practice test every week or every 15 days while you are planning your study schedule for the exam. The practice exams or sample tests have a question format that is similar to an IELTS exam. It helps you identify your strengths and weaknesses and your chances of scoring higher on the exam increase as you practice more on sample tests.

There are several guide books for IELTS preparation that include practice exam sections, and there are a few websites that let you practice online as well. You can also check out the IELTS question papers curated by us or sample tests available on the official website of IELTS.

Keep in mind the time constraints

Listening30 minutes404
Reading60 minutes403
Writing60 minutes2
Speaking11 – 14 minutes3
Table 2 – IELTS Time Limit Table

The IELTS test has a time limit which is mentioned in Table 2. When you take the sample tests, try to complete the test within the allocated time for each section. It’s a great way to determine how much time it actually takes you to finish a section. The total time for IELTS is 2 hours and 45 minutes so set a timer and begin the test to see if you can finish in time.