Preparation for the IELTS Exam: 10 Tips for Success

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Achieving a high score on the globally acknowledged English language proficiency test, the IELTS is possible with proper preparation. The IELTS exam is known to be tough due to its requirement of not only effective communication in English but also various strategic test-taking techniques. With this in mind, here are 10 tips to help you prepare and excel on this internationally recognized examination. Many organizations worldwide, including universities and government institutions, require applicants to take IELTS as evidence of their English language abilities.

Make sure you know what you’re getting into

No matter how many people you know who have taken the IELTS, signing up is still a substantial commitment. You should thus make sure to do your research before committing to this test. Two types of IELTS tests are available – Academic and General Training – with each having a similar format but different text types; the former being more academic while the latter focusing on everyday language use. There is also a third type called UKVI IELTS which is needed for immigration to the United Kingdom.

1. How long will it take me to earn a high IELTS score?

Organizations usually demand a mark of 6-7 on the IELTS, which is equal to B2-C1 in the CEFR rating. To figure out how much time it would take to upgrade your IELTS score, IELTS Advantage offers this advice: “In general, English schools suggest that a student spends at least half a year to one year to raise their English level by 0.5 – 1 band score.” Therefore, unless you are already confident when conversing in English, you should work on basic language skills before commencing the test preparation process.

2. Understand the evaluation standards in depth.

Any test can be quite a challenge, but being aware of what is expected of you by IELTS in particular will give you the best odds for success. To do so, familiarize yourself with the assessment criteria and make sure your answers reflect them well. This is especially true for speaking and writing, which rely on more subjective elements to grade accurately. Should you need examples to guide your answers, find those from reliable sources such as that official IELTS exam boards or textbooks. It’s important to note however that this particular examination allows for wrong answers; everyone aiming for either band 4 or 8 has access to the same kind of questions.

3. Maximize the use of resources

Studying for the IELTS exam can be daunting, especially when deciding which resources are credible. Fortunately, the official IELTS practice materials from the exam board provide an ideal starting point. Compiled by those with intimate knowledge of the test, these materials give reliable insight into what you can anticipate on test day.

4. Explore some specialist blogs and YouTube channels

Test-takers aiming for a higher IELTS band have many resources available to help them prepare. From bloggers such as IELTS Liz who make predictions about topics that may come up in the exam to Asiya’s Fastrack IELTS YouTube channel, where she reveals detailed tips that led her to an 8.5 score and relocation to London, these are great sources of advice. Also worth checking out is the active IELTS Reddit thread where you can discuss your experiences with other takers or ask questions, and lastly, the free YouTube course ‘IELTS Full Course 2020’ which covers all aspects of the test.

5. You can find a tutor who can help you

As one prepares for the IELTS examination, it is essential to factor in every element. A great way to cut down on time and effort is to get online tutorials from a certified IELTS tutor. Preply is an ideal place to search for friendly experts who can provide tailored advice instead of learning hints from multiple blogs and Reddit threads. With a professional teacher who has successfully coached many students in passing the IELTS, you will be able to focus on areas that need improvement with someone supporting you along the way. Although there may be misconceptions about the high cost, enlisting a specialist tutor for IELTS could save money over time by preventing the need to retake the exam.

6. Practice more than you think necessary

To maximize your success on IELTS, it is essential to build a study routine with regular practice tests. Such testing allows for the improvement of particular skills that are difficult to master otherwise. According to Asiya from Fasttrack IELTS, “One of the biggest hurdles in this exam is managing time.” With only 2½ hours available, you must learn how to work quickly while staying strategically focused. For instance, an allotted 20 minutes should produce 150 words on Writing Task 1. Frequent mock exams can help you become accustomed to the pacing and format of IELTS as well as being able to switch between sections without issue. Thus, dedicating one hour per week to each component is recommended in order to give yourself a chance at success.

7. Plan your study schedule

Preparing for the TOEFL adequately should be done far in advance. This means coming up with an effective study plan that considers how much time one can commit to studying each day. Taking the advice of some tutors, individuals should expect to allocate four or five hours a day, whereas others recommend at least five hours per week.

In order to make sure that one is fully ready for the test, it would be worthwhile to book a session with an experienced tutor in order to work out how much preparation is necessary – this could eventually save money and energy. When figuring out study times, it’s important to divide them evenly across all four sections, since all carry the same importance. The British Council has put together a comprehensive one-month schedule that has been designed specifically for those who wish to cover each skill on a weekly basis.

8. Immerse yourself in English as much as possible

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone and interacting with English-speaking people whether as friends or family, multiple times a week is one way to improve informal conversation. Other activities that contribute to fluency include engaging in gaming sessions with a headset, watching movies and TV shows in the language, reading books, doing language exchanges, listening to podcasts, discovering YouTubers who speak the language, scanning news articles, and downloading suitable apps. To truly master the language requires regular exposure until it feels natural.

9. Enhance the strength of your vocabulary

Achieving a good IELTS score requires having an expansive vocabulary since it factors into 25% of the total marks for both speaking and writing. Furthermore, it is beneficial for the reading and listening sections as well. Enhancing your language skills can be difficult but luckily there are ways to do this effectively! Our article on improving overall vocabulary provides helpful tips that any learner could benefit from. While many students will make attempts to predict what words may come up in the exam, this is not suggested due to its high uncertainty. IELTS Advantage states that around ten common topics generally appear on the test more often than other themes.

10. Plan your test day ahead

For optimal performance on test day, it is essential to be mentally prepared. Here are some tips that should help you get ready for your IELTS exam. Ensure that you have already planned out your transportation and done a trial run to ensure that you will arrive in plenty of time. Do not forget to bring valid identification which matches the name provided on your application form. Additionally, bringing snacks and a water bottle may be beneficial, as watches are not allowed into the examination center.

With these logistics taken care of, it’s important to make sure you’re comfortable with the material for the test as well. Think about how best to revise and decide ahead of time whether it’s more useful for you to look at notes quickly or take a few moments to calm down before beginning the exam.

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