A Guide to Preparing for the IELTS Test
What You Need to Know
- The IELTS is recognised by 6,000 organisations in locations all over the world.
- The academic IELTS is designed to give those looking to enrol in a course of higher education in a English speaking county a way of proving their proficiency in the language.
- The test is graded in bands, with band one being a non-user and band nine being an expert.
- The exam tests a user’s ability in four key areas: speaking, listening, reading and writing.
- Those taking the test should use mock exams to asses their current level and give greater focus to their weakest areas.
- With hard work and daily support from a reputable learning centre, students should be able to improve by one band for each month they spend preparing.
- Having a realistic target in mind for the IELTS should help you focus your preparations and give you an idea of what university courses you’ll have a good chance of getting in to.
- The Pearson Test of English is equivalent to the IELTS and can be taken with just one day’s pre-notice. Results are given back within five days, making it useful for those on a tight schedule.
Recognised by over 6,000 organisations the world over, the International English Language Testing System provides an invaluable way to prove you proficiency in English. Whether you’re looking to immigrate, enrol in an academic institution, or find a job, scoring highly in the IELTS can be a massive step toward achieving your goal.
Of course, performing well requires a great deal of hard work and preparation. Even if you have a natural aptitude for English, if you don’t place adequate focus on the test itself you’re unlikely to come out with the score you deserve. Given that taking the test is also a financial commitment, it’s very much worth you while to make diligent preparations. But how should you go about it?
What Do I Need to Do?
This question can be split into four separate parts:
Gauge Your Current Level
The IELTS test assesses all the skills you’d need to attain a practical fluency in English. Your prowess in reading, listening, writing and speaking are all individually tested.
To ensure that no one area is dragging down the band you could otherwise achieve, you should identify which area is your weakest so you can give it the extra attention it needs.
The best way to go about this is to complete an IELTS practice test, either from a book or online (they should be available from you test centre’s website, but you should be able to find them through a simple Google search).
You can find free listening and reading papers that come with the answers provided, making it easy for you to judge how well you’re doing. It’s a little harder to asses the quality or your verbal and written work as you’ll need the feedback from somebody else (preferably a language teacher) to gauge your level.
Set Yourself a Target
Most students take the IELTS exam in order to access higher education in the UK. First you need to select a course that you want to take and find out from the course page on the university’s website what the IELTS requirement is.
You should be realistic about the band you’ll be able to achieve to get on to your desired course. Top universities like Oxford and Cambridge demand higher band scores, whereas others may have lower requirements. By having an achievable goal to work towards you are far more likely to succeed.
Give Yourself Enough Time
Once you know your current level and the band score that you are aiming for, you can estimate the amount of study time required. If, for example you are currently at IELTS level 4 and you require a band score of 7 for your selected university course, then even two months of once-a-week group English lessons is not going to be sufficient to make that amount of progress in such a short time.
Generally, an average student working with a private teacher in a one-to-one IELTS class everyday should be able to improve by one band score for each month of sustained study. Bear in mind that this would also require around two hours of daily self-study outside of scheduled lessons. On that basis, you should work out a revision schedule to allocate enough time to bring your English up to the required level.
Choose a Learning Centre
To give yourself the best possible chance of attaining the highest band possible you need to be doing practice tests from genuine past papers with the guidance of a professional, experienced teacher in a reputable school.
When choosing where to study, don’t fall into the trap of making your decision based on price alone. Remember, as with all things in life, you get what you pay for. Established schools such as St George International (SGI) in Central London have a team of IELTS expert teachers who have taught thousands of successful students. Every Thursday, all IELTS learners complete a mock exam, so that the whole class can objectively understand the progress being made.
SGI is also a test centre for the PTE Academic test and runs a PTE intensive course. The Pearson Test of English is equivalent to IELTS and accepted by over 95% of UK universities. The advantage of the PTE over IELTS is that it can be booked with just 24 hours pre-notice and your results are returned within 5 working days. Consequently, this course is extremely useful for people who need to know their results quickly or those who may need to retake their exam in a limited time frame.
- This PDF contains a wealth of information for IELTS prospective students.
- If you’re taking the IELTS in order to get on to a degree course, you should read our guide to choosing a university.
- There’s a range of advice for students available from these specialist sites.