Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.
IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. It is designed to assess whether candidates have the minimum skill set to cope with everyday situations, such as participating in social or work-related activities of an academic nature. This is not a quick assessment. It requires several hours of preparation and attendance of the test center to which you are applying. The test measures your ability in the four skill areas: reading, writing, listening, and speaking and it focuses on how you use English for academic and professional purposes. These 11 tips will help you prepare for your IELTS test.
11 Ways to Help You Prepare for Your IELTS Test
- Understand the Purpose of the IELTS
- Start Studying Early
- Revise Past Papers
- Learn About Question Types
- Do not Over Cram
- Develop Healthy Study Habits
- Practice Listening Comprehension
- Practice Speaking
- Practice Reading Comprehension
- Practice Writing
- Join an IELTS Preparation Course
1. Understand the Purpose of the IELTS
There are different reasons why students want to study or work in an English-speaking country. This means your reason may be different from that of other students. Whatever your situation might be, you'll find that preparation can help you get more out of your test experience. The first step is understanding exactly what you're preparing for and why it matters. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) has been designed by Cambridge English Language Assessment in collaboration with British Council and IDP: IELTS Australia with a specific goal in mind: making sure that non-native speakers have the language skills needed to succeed in education or work in an English-speaking environment.
The test was designed to assess your ability to listen, read, write and speak English at a level that will allow you to participate effectively in life situations. IELTS is not just one test; it's four separate tests administered over two days. The Speaking test takes place on day one, followed by Reading and Writing on day two. The Reading and Writing components are similar in format; you’ll read or view texts about various topics and then answer questions related to what you’ve read or seen.
2. Start Studying Early
Studying too much too close to your test date can lead to fatigue. It’s important that you give yourself enough time before test day so that you are confident in your knowledge of each section of IELTS. Start studying early, even if it’s just a little bit every day, so that you have time to correct your mistakes and improve your skills. While one study session a week isn’t going to guarantee success on test day, not giving yourself enough time could result in poor performance!
Study as much as you need without overdoing it—once again, consistency is key. Make sure that each of your study sessions has a specific goal or objective. If you’re not feeling like studying after work, study something like practicing vocabulary more entertaining by doing so with friends (with competition) or while watching your favorite show (if reading). Keeping up with your progress on a calendar or planner can help keep track of what you’ve studied and when, which is another great way to stay motivated throughout your preparation process!
Understand What's Covered on Your Exam: Preparation starts before test day! The best way to prepare for IELTS is by understanding exactly what skills are covered on each section of your exam. This will allow you to create an effective study plan that maximizes your chances of success on test day.
3. Revise Past Papers
Studying past papers is one of the best ways to prepare for the IELTS test, so make sure you familiarize yourself with them. There are no official past papers available on Cambridge’s website, but there are free ones online you can download. If you don’t have time for that, familiarizing yourself with different types of questions and topics from your teacher is a good way to get started. Otherwise, note down questions from your practice tests and bring them with you on test day! In any case, you should study as much as possible before your test day—that’s crucial to scoring well on an exam like IELTS.
While you’re revising past papers, it’s a good idea to use those as a way of testing yourself. Go over them repeatedly until you have mastered those questions. When you start writing your answers, try not to change your answers once you have written them—that will help avoid careless mistakes and save time.
Lastly, make sure you’re practicing with a stopwatch. There is no time limit on IELTS, but having an idea of how long you take per question will help you move through your exam quickly and efficiently! On test day, don’t panic if you have run out of time—you can always return later to your incomplete answers.
4. Learn About Question Types
The first thing you need to know is what type of questions you will face on your test. If you’re studying specifically for a test like IELTS, it’s important that you know exactly what you’ll be dealing with. Familiarize yourself with as many question types as possible and create study materials that reflect those formats. There are four main question types: speaking, writing, reading and listening. For each, there are different tasks and formats that could be used on any given exam date, so make sure you understand how it all works and practice accordingly.
During your study time, take a test and see how you do. Try creating practice tests yourself based on what you know, or taking a full-length exam from an actual testing agency. This will help you learn important things like pacing and knowing when it’s time to move on from a question that’s giving you trouble. It will also help you determine if there are any areas in which you need more study, allowing you to create custom study materials that address your specific weaknesses.
5. Do not Over Cram
Studying too much at once is counterproductive. Rather than cramming your brain with information just before a test, it’s better to spread out your study sessions over several days or weeks. This is because of something known as the spacing effect. Instead of cramming, try spacing out your learning by taking short breaks in between studying sessions. For example, take a five-minute break after studying for 20 minutes.
Then give yourself a longer break after an hour of studying. The reason you can study more effectively by breaking up your studying rather than trying to learn everything at once is that new information gets stored in our brains more easily when we are regularly reviewing what we have already learned, not when we are trying to swallow huge quantities all at once.
For example, if you are studying vocabulary, it’s better to study five different words for five minutes each than to study all twenty words in one hour. It may feel like you’re learning less when you divide your time up like that, but research has shown that students learn more over time by spacing out their study sessions than by trying to cram everything in at once.
Another way of thinking about it is that your brain is kind of like a sponge. The more frequently you soak up new information, the easier it will be for you to absorb and retain what you learn. So just like regular watering makes plants grow better than sprinkling water on them all at once, regular review makes new learning stick better than trying to learn everything at once.
6. Develop Healthy Study Habits
Healthy study habits are vital when you're preparing for an exam like IELTS. It's better to organize your time, keep track of where you need to spend your energy and find ways to motivate yourself, then it will be easier for you to get ready. We have put together some tips on how to develop healthy study habits in order to give yourself a better chance at succeeding in your test. Read through them below.
1. When you study, don’t just learn facts—understand concepts. 2. Set aside specific times and places to study so you can focus on your studies without distractions. 3. Learn how your memory works so you can develop effective learning strategies. 4. Take breaks when studying; give yourself time to refresh and renew your energy levels so you don’t burn out too quickly or get distracted easily while studying. 5. Make sure that what you are studying is at an appropriate level for your skillset; if not, look into brushing up on some of your skills before continuing with the course material you are using 6. Work in short sessions (not more than 90 minutes) followed by a brief break; longer sessions can cause fatigue, especially if you aren’t focused 7. If possible, use active recall techniques like mnemonics 8. Encourage everyone around you (from friends and family to classmates) to support your efforts 9. Avoid cramming in preparation for test day 10. Maintain healthy eating habits throughout your exam period
7. Practice Listening Comprehension
One of the parts of your test will be a Listening Comprehension section. The listening exam will play two recorded conversations and you’ll need to choose whether certain information was true or false. It’s important that you practice answering these types of questions in advance so that you don’t get stuck on questions during your real test. Pay special attention when people are talking about vocabulary words, particularly ones that you haven’t yet learned. For example, if someone mentions trash, pizza delivery guy, or pancakes during a conversation, make sure you note it down.
Another thing you should do is practice answering questions about speakers. The purpose of these questions is to determine whether you’re able to tell who was speaking, so your response will be based on their voice or how they refer to others, rather than what they say. Before taking your exam, listen to various recordings and see if you can answer who is speaking based on how they sound.
When listening, pay special attention to background noise and people talking over each other. Sometimes, you’ll hear one person interrupt another or try to speak at the same time. During your test, you might need to pay close attention when two people are speaking at once in order to distinguish who is saying what. When practicing, focus on getting used to these types of difficult conversations.
8. Practice Speaking
The Speaking test is divided into three parts: Part 1 requires you to talk about yourself and your background; Part 2 asks you general opinion questions on topics like politics, social issues, and technology; and Part 3 gives you a conversation between two people and then asks you questions about what was said.
One of the best ways to prepare for these speaking tasks is by practicing conversation with other people. Make sure that your practice partners are native English speakers who know how IELTS works! Not only will they be able to help train you, but they can also help give you ideas of things that might come up on test day. For example, we'll ask you about past relationships or current events – so talk with your partner(s) about their experience(s) in those areas.
One of your best resources is your friends and family – some of whom may be native English speakers! Ask them about their past or recent experiences, and discuss with them what they thought was most difficult or challenging about those situations. This will help you get comfortable talking in a similar way as you'll do on test day.
9. Practice Reading Comprehension
This is probably one of the most overlooked elements of preparing for IELTS. By now, you should know that speaking is worth more than half of your final score. To practice what you’ll say in real-time, it’s important that you speak with someone about everyday topics related to travel and tourism—ideally over coffee or lunch! The next time you see your professor, ask if he or she would be willing to offer some suggestions on where and when you can do so.
Be open-minded: When speaking with others, try not to set too many expectations about exactly how it should turn out; don't worry if it doesn't go perfectly according to plan. The more time you spend practicing, the more natural it will feel when it comes time to take your exam. Practice makes perfect!
10. Practice Writing
You can't improve if you don't practice, but practice can be a drag. Writing essays is a skill that requires lots and lots of practice, but writing tests — particularly high-stakes exams like the IELTS writing test — can be especially frustrating.
Your task is to write an argument, supported by reasons and examples, in response to a particular question. Other parts of the test, like the reading, listening and speaking tests, ask you to answer questions or to speak in a language you don't usually use. By contrast, the IELTS writing test can be grueling. You have to write carefully and legibly, and — most challenging of all — you have to produce your very best writing within a limited amount of time.
But there's good news: It's possible to do well on the IELTS writing test, and anyone can master it with the right approach.
Here are three ways to get ready for the IELTS writing test:
1. Read widely. Content is undoubtedly the most important part of any writing test, but good writing takes time, and the test is designed to be fast. Studying only a few hours each week won't prepare you to write well.
Much better practice is to read widely, practice writing, and then write some more.
2. Write every day. Writing almost every day is the best thing you can do to improve your writing. It might sound impossible, but it's easier than it sounds. For example, if you can set aside 10 minutes at the end of the work day, you can practice writing. Or if you're reading a news article online, you can take notes about the article and write a short article-length summary the next day.
3. Take practice tests. The best way to practice the IELTS writing test is to take the practice tests themselves — free, official practice tests are available online.
11. Join an IELTS Preparation Course
Studying alone isn’t going to help you do well on your test. The best way to prepare is by taking an accredited preparation course with a reputable provider, such as University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (CELTA). These courses will help you brush up on skills and improve your ability in all four areas. While expensive, they will make sure that you’re adequately prepared for what’s coming. Having said that, don’t feel like if you haven’t taken a course yet that it means you won’t do well: many candidates take their tests without any prep and still perform very well. Just keep in mind that it never hurts to be prepared!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Muhammad Rafiq