As an IELTS teacher, I’ve accumulated many resources that help my students study for the exam. These tips will help you get at least Band 7.
Get the best free resources online to help you earn a high band score on IELTS.
The Best Resources To Prepare For IELTS
As an IELTS teacher in Thailand, as well as online with Cambly, I’ve accumulated many resources that help my students study for the exam. There is a lot of IELTS prep information online, the challenge is knowing what’s good and what’s bad, therefore I’ve written this article.
This is a collection of links and mostly free resources that I’ve decided are the best I’ve found online. Bookmark this article because I’ll keep adding to it as I find more high-quality IELTS prep resources for students.
The IELTS exam is a collaboration between the British Council, Cambridge University, and an Australian company call IDP. They all provide very good free resources to help students prepare. Find them all at…
- British Council = https://www.britishcouncil.or.th/en/exam/ielts/prepare
- Cambridge University = https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/exams-and-tests/ielts/preparation/
- Get IDP’s free trainings here. Also see their free IELTS practice tests here.
THE BEST IELTS TRAINING WEBSITES
I believe Magoosh has the most comprehensive and best value paid course because of their quality video lessons and practice tests. You can take a free trial here and learn some helpful tips whether you decide to pay for it or not.
The Magoosh blog is also an outstanding free resource. Start here with their excellent, free guide to IELTS prep.
Many IELTS teachers have great websites and YouTube channels. My favorite is IELTS Liz because she clearly breaks down the strategies you need to succeed in each part. Check out her free IELTS prep resources at https://ieltsliz.com/.
I think IELTS Advantage is the next best site to go to for free IELTS prep materials, as well as a comprehensive, free video training. Check them out at https://www.ieltsadvantage.com/.
Another website with quality training articles, plus free IELTS practice tests is IELTS Buddy.
In order to practice reading in English, and at the same time becoming familiar with a variety of current events & topics that might appear as Writing Task 2 or Speaking Parts 2–3 questions, I suggest you make it a habit to read daily from https://breakingnewsenglish.com/ and https://engoo.com/app/daily-news. Another way to practice your listening skills in English while getting familiar with all the different topics you might see in IELTS is to watch TED.com.
It’s relatively easy to find materials to practice IELTS Reading & Listening by yourself, and all the sites mentioned above have plenty of information about these receptive skills. Speaking and Writing, also known as the productive skills, are the sections that make most students stressed out. But, fear not.
Cambly is the most affordable place to find an experienced native English-speaking teacher to help you one on one with speaking. You can even take a free trial here. Then, make an appointment for a lesson with me here.
Click https://content.cambly.com/category/test-prep/ielts/ to get some sample speaking questions for parts 1, 2, and 3 with sample answers too.
There are other good places to find a big variety of speaking questions, such as https://www.ielts-mentor.com/cue-card-sample. Find up to date, recent IELTS speaking questions here and on this site too.
You can find other useful IELTS speaking strategies at this link.
Many students psyche themselves out before the speaking test and do badly because they get nervous. A positive, relaxed mentality is vital to success in IELTS speaking. I tell students to look at it as a conversation with a nice person you’ve never met, and just tell them a story when they ask you the questions.
The PPF (Past, Present, Future) Method is another useful speaking strategy to help you speak more like a native speaker while boosting your grammar score. Learn more about it from British Council at this link. We can work on it in detail when we meet on Cambly.
Students stress out about grammar in the speaking and writing sections, but you can learn what you need to know now below. Grammar is fundamental to communicating in English well, and yet don’t stress about trying to remember complicated rules as you’re speaking. In order to score at least a Band 6.5+, the examiners need to hear you using correctly: subordinate clauses, some more advanced grammar structures when appropriate, and compound/complex sentences. Learn more at:
IELTS Writing also poses problems for many students. With practice and assistance, though, students can improve their writing skills, and thus their IELTS Writing score. Having a native English-speaking IELTS teacher to edit your writing and explain why & how to make improvements will be a big advantage for you.
The New York Times also has an interesting collection of all kinds of different graphs. You can use them to practice writing Task 1.
Understanding the structure and form of an essay in English is key to getting band 6+ because all essays in English must adhere to clear rules of organization. Knowing how to do this is essential. For example, it’s important that you write a strong topic sentence and have examples and supporting points to explain your ideas. I’ve created templates for my students to help with this.
This template is a basic essay writing template to help you emulate the proper structure for writing non-fiction in English. And this template is to help you understand the correct structure for an IELTS Writing Task 2 “Extent of Agreement” question.
Follow the structure for each type of Task 2 question explained here. This webpage also provides outstanding tips for structuring your essay, brainstorming ideas, and gives sample essays with detailed explanations of how to write a winning IELTS essay.
In addition, American universities usually have excellent resources to help students improve their writing. The same sites are beneficial for ESL students too. I like these two and have used them in my classes to help Thai high school students and others: https://writingcenter.unc.edu/ & https://owl.purdue.edu/.
Building your vocabulary is also essential for success in all four sections of IELTS. IELTS Advantage offers this useful resource for learning how to build your vocabulary.
Here is a great list of collocations, or prepositions that always follow certain verbs. You just have to memorize and practice using the most common collocations.
Phrasal verbs are similar to collocations, but their usage is more idiomatic. Everyone struggles with phrasal verbs, but learning some common ones and practicing with them so you can use them correctly in IELTS Speaking & Writing can help boost your vocabulary score. Click here to get several lists of phrasal verbs and exercises to build your vocabulary.
Synonyms are vitally important for success in IELTS too. In the Reading & Listening parts, synonyms will appear in the questions and multiple choice. In IELTS Speaking & Writing you can lift your vocabulary score by using them throughout when appropriate. For example, words to use instead of ‘VERY’ are easy synonyms to start with.
Find synonyms for vocabulary you use often, especially words like good, interesting, exciting. Go to https://www.thesaurus.com/ to find synonyms for commonly used adjectives. Be sure to focus on the common options in bold not the ones at the bottom of the list. Also, look up different words on Google and get in the habit of playing with Google Word Coach on your mobile phone.
Using idioms correctly is also a good way to increase your vocabulary score, and sound more like a native speaker. See this article for some idioms that native speakers use often. Engoo has several good articles about idioms, like this one. In addition, Google…”English idiom for…” various words you use often and you’ll learn new phrases to help you sound more like a native speaker.
In The Loop is a reference guide to American English idioms that will help you understand many of them. I recommend learning a few by category and then asking a native speaker how exactly to use it, or if it’s still widely used. Unfortunately, I hear too many students using old-fashioned idioms, such as “over the moon”, when “so excited!” sounds more natural and up to date.
Listening is an all-important skill for succeeding at IELTS, and in learning to communicate well in English. Practice the basics here https://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/ and listen to some real life situations, then quiz yourself here https://www.esl-lab.com/difficult/.
Proper pronunciation is another foundational skill, and it can take years to reduce your accent and sound like a native speaker. But, you can shorten the learning curve.
Believe it or not, there are word stress rules in English. You can learn them here, and then practice them.
Connected speech, aka “chunking”, is the way native speakers combine words and stress the important parts of a sentence. Understanding how we do it will quickly improve your listening skills and your pronunciation. Read about common ways we connect words here. Listen to how it’s done here. I love this video demonstrating connected speech on The Simpsons. And, these free courses will teach you everything you need to know about connected speech, as well as helping you rapidly improve your pronunciation in general.
Intonation is another important component in reducing your accent and raising your score by using a “wide range of pronunciation features”. Learn all about it here.
The rhythm of English is vitally important, and “chunking” helps us keep the rhythm and intonation as it should be. Native speakers do this unconsciously, but people learning English can improve their pronunciation by doing it too. Follow this playlist because I’ll keep adding to it. All of these videos will help you learn to pronounce English sentences more like a native speaker. They will help you feel more confident when speaking English, speak more fluently, and be understood better by others. In addition to reducing your accent, speaking in this way will raise your IELTS band score for pronunciation.
This YouTube channel from an American speech therapist will show you how to pronounce all the most difficult sounds and consonant clusters in English. Listen and do the exercises at https://www.youtube.com/c/SoundsAmerican/playlists.
Many English learners, and especially Brazilians, struggle with pronouncing past tense “-ed” words. There are rules for this, though. Learn how to pronounce “-ed” correctly here. See Rachel’s English for 3 videos to help you pronounce -ed endings correctly, as well.
After you’ve gone through all the previous materials, try this advanced method to reduce your accent in English from Rachel’s English. All of Rachels’s other pronunciation videos are outstanding!
KNOW WHAT IT TAKES TO SUCCEED
Finally, to succeed in IELTS Speaking & Writing you need to know what the examiners are looking for, and how your performance correlates to a Band Score. This zip file contains detailed explanations of how they score you so that you know before you go.
This one is a checklist for yourself so you know what you need to work on.
This one is a general overview of the Band scores 1–9.
KEEP STUDYING & IMPROVING…
These resources will keep you busy for a long time, and if you go through them all diligently, practice speaking and writing, and get help from a native-speaking IELTS teacher to correct your writing & speaking — you can get the score you need as long as you already have a strong foundation in English grammar and sentence structure.