IELTS is the world’s most popular high stakes English language test.
Many take IELTS to realize their academic and professional ambitions. There are some key areas of IELTS that you should cover in the time leading up to the test to ensure you get the best IELTS band score possible. In this article we will look at the most important points you need to know to build your confidence and familiarity with IELTS to maximize your scores on your test day. Understanding what is required and how the test is marked while ensuring practice of relevant skills and strategies can make a big difference.
Making sure you know what is expected of you in the IELTS test is absolutely vital to allow yourself to take your best shot at IELTS. To begin with, you need to be clear about which IELTS you need, Academic or General Training, and by when you need your results. IELTS scores are set by the receiving organizations such as universities and immigration authorities, and are usually listed on university and government websites under language requirements.
You can choose whether to take IELTS on paper or IELTS on computer, where both are available. This is a personal choice – the content of the tests and the value of the scores are identical. If choosing IELTS on computer, you need to have done some IELTS on computer practice tests and be familiar with the system functionality and keyboard shortcuts (e.g., CTRL+ C). IELTS has several videos you can review to familiarize yourself with the computer test.
You should also know where you are starting from (your current language level) and be realistic about the study time needed to improve your language skills to get the score you need.
Being familiar with the format of IELTS is an essential first step, including knowing the timing, the number of parts and the types of questions and task types, as it builds your confidence. Ensure you have done some IELTS practice tests before your actual test. These are available on IELTS.org. Remember to use the resources there. Doing practice tests allows you to identify the skills you need to improve to get the score you need.
In the IELTS Listening test, time is given to preview the questions before the audio starts. You need to use this time wisely to look for clues to work out who the speakers are and the context. This will help you know what to expect and give you time to use your knowledge of the world to predict the type of information you will hear. It’s also useful to underline key words in the questions and look at the gaps to predict the type of information or the type of words needed. This keeps you focused and can help reduce exam nerves.
You need relevant listening practice. Useful sources include radio and television discussion programmes, podcasts, and Ted Talks. As IELTS is a test of international English, you need to be familiar with a variety of accents including British, American, Australian and Canadian.
In the IELTS Reading test you need to deal with around 2,700 words and answer 40 questions in one hour. You should adhere to the timing, 20 minutes for each passage. It is important that you only read the parts of the texts you need to answer the questions, so reading skills, like skimming and scanning, which allow you to quickly locate the parts of the texts you actually need to read, are essential. You need to learn different strategies for different question types, and build your vocabulary.
For IELTS Academic writing, you will need to know the format for your responses and the specific language to describe changes in graphs. A standard essay format will include a clear introduction, body paragraphs with topic sentences and a short conclusion.
For IELTS Speaking, ensure familiarity with the format and types of tasks. You need practice of all 3 parts of the Speaking test, particularly in building up gradually to the 2 minutes monologue in part 2, and working on increasing fluency and confidence. Make sure you also download the sample Speaking tasks on the site and record yourself and listen back, identifying where you need to improve.
Make sure you get lots of relevant practice and use our free resources to get the scores you need to realise your ambitions.