5 tips for IELTS preparation

Female student studying with headphones

Are you planning to study at an English-speaking university? Great. Chances are you need to take the IELTS if English isn’t your first language.

Just to make sure we are all on the same page, IELTS, or the ‘International English Language Testing System’ is a test which measures the English Language proficiency. Especially of those who would like to work or study where English is used as a language of communication. In other words, it’s a test of your English language ability in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Before you think, ‘I don’t need to study if I speak English all the time, right?’

The truth is, preparation is key. Studying in the run-up to your test will not only allow you to reach your full potential and get the score you need, but it will help you feel confident and relaxed on the day of your test. Being prepared isn’t just spending hours and hours in front of your textbook, but it’s also about how you spend the time you have.

Here are 5 tips for your IELTS preparation…

1. Make a schedule

Plan. Plan. Plan.
Plan as much as you can. Look at your schedule for the weeks leading up to test day and assign yourself some proper study sessions. If possible, try and get into a routine. Practising your English reading and writing on a regular basis will help you retain the information you need to do well in the test. Preparing gradually and in advance will also allow you to get ready with less stress so that when test day comes, you’re as relaxed as possible.

2. Get to know the exam

It’s so important to familiarise yourself with every section of the test and with how you will be scored. It’s always good to know what to expect, right? Knowing all about the format will allow you to strategize and use your time efficiently. Understanding how the test is scored will help you set goals and stick to your plan in order to achieve them.

3. Become a practice test pro

In reality, there’s no better way to get to know the IELTS than by taking it yourself. Our advice is to take an untimed practice test before you do anything else. This way, you will get to see what kinds of questions are asked and the sort of tasks you’ll have to complete. A few days later, take a timed test. A timed test will show you first-hand what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you can do under strict time pressure. Once you have marked your timed test, focus on the areas you struggled with the most. You can use this information to help you focus your preparation time in the following weeks.

4. Gather materials

Head to a bookstore, a library, or look online for some resources that you can use to prepare for the test. It is ideal to collect the ones that appeal to you most. Add a selection of English-speaking TV shows, podcasts, books, or magazines that you enjoy. If you put together your own collection of materials, you can spend your study time using them instead of looking for them. Also, choosing reading and watching materials you are personally interested in will make the whole process more enjoyable and less stressful. Hopefully this should make the process more effective in the long-run!

5. Find your dictionary pal

Although rather convenient, try to avoid using translation apps or bilingual dictionaries. An English to English dictionary will help you learn more about the words you’re looking up than just the direct translation. Information like sample sentences and parts of speech provide you with a deeper understanding of the words and phrases you will need for your IELTS test. A monolingual dictionary is one of the most useful tools for exam preparation. Even just finding an online one that is easy to use can be invaluable.

When it comes to studying for your IELTS test, using your time wisely is so important! Whether you’re planning to prepare on your own at home or take a preparation course, make the most of the time you have by figuring out a routine and methods which work best for you.

Kaplan is the world leader in test preparation and we have helped millions of students since our founding over 80 years ago. Globally, we offer preparation for many standardised tests for college and graduate school admissions, English‐language proficiency, and a variety of professional licensing exams.

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