IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is a popular test that assesses your ability to use English in different contexts. It is widely accepted by universities, employers and immigration authorities around the world. If you are planning to take the IELTS exam, you might be wondering how to prepare for it effectively and achieve your desired score. In this article, we will provide you with some tips and resources to help you get ready for the test.
Understand the test format
The first step to prepare for the IELTS exam is to familiarise yourself with the test format and the types of questions you will encounter in each section. The IELTS test consists of four parts: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Each part has a different duration, number of questions and scoring criteria. You can choose between two versions of the test: IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training, depending on your purpose and goals. You can find more details about the test format on the official IELTS website or in the Official IELTS Practice Materials book.
Know how the test is marked
Another important aspect of preparing for the IELTS exam is to understand how your performance is assessed and what band score you need to achieve. The IELTS test uses a 9-band scale to measure your overall proficiency level, as well as individual band scores for each section. The band scores range from 1 (non-user) to 9 (expert user). The score you need depends on the requirements of the institution or organisation you are applying to. You can find more information about the scoring criteria and the band descriptors on the official IELTS website.
Surround yourself with English
One of the best ways to improve your English skills and prepare for the IELTS exam is to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. This means exposing yourself to different sources of authentic English input, such as books, newspapers, magazines, podcasts, radio, TV shows, movies, online videos, etc. You should also practice your output skills by speaking and writing in English regularly. You can do this by joining a conversation club, finding a language partner, keeping a journal, writing emails or letters, etc. The more you use English in different situations and contexts, the more confident and fluent you will become.
Make a plan of action
Another essential step to prepare for the IELTS exam is to make a plan of action that suits your needs and goals. This means setting a realistic target score, identifying your strengths and weaknesses, allocating enough time for preparation and practice, choosing the right materials and resources, and monitoring your progress. You should also consider taking a preparation course or hiring a tutor if you need guidance and feedback from an expert. A good plan of action will help you stay focused, motivated and organised throughout your preparation journey.
Improve your grammar
Another important way to prepare for the IELTS exam is to improve your grammar and avoid making common errors that can lower your band score. Grammar is an essential component of your language skills that affects your accuracy and clarity in all four sections of the test. To improve your grammar for IELTS, you can:
- Review the basic grammar rules and structures that are commonly tested in the exam, such as tenses, articles, prepositions, modals, conditionals, etc.
- Identify your common grammar mistakes and learn how to correct them by using grammar books, websites or apps that provide explanations and exercises.
- Write a little English every day and check your grammar using online tools or ask for feedback from a teacher or a friend.
- Speak English as much as possible and pay attention to your grammar when forming sentences and questions.
- Read English texts that are well-written and grammatically correct, such as newspapers, magazines, books, etc. and notice how they use grammar in different contexts.
- Listen to audios and watch videos that use standard English and clear pronunciation, such as news reports, interviews, documentaries, etc. and observe how they use grammar in different situations.
- Learn with fun by playing grammar games, puzzles, quizzes, etc. that test your grammar knowledge and skills.
- Practice is the key! Review the grammar rules you have learned and then use them in writing and speaking practice.
Join a preparation course
One of the most effective ways to prepare for the IELTS exam is to join a preparation course that covers all four skills and provides you with tips and strategies to tackle the test. A preparation course will also give you access to experienced teachers who can help you improve your language skills, correct your mistakes, answer your questions and give you feedback on your performance. There are different types of preparation courses available, such as online courses, face-to-face courses, group courses or individual coaching. You can choose the one that suits your preferences, budget and schedule.
Expand your vocabulary
Another essential way to prepare for the IELTS exam is to expand your vocabulary and learn new words and phrases that are relevant for the test. Vocabulary is an important factor that affects your band score in all four sections of the test, especially in Writing and Speaking. To expand your vocabulary for IELTS, you can:
- Read English newspapers, magazines and books that cover a variety of topics and genres.
- Record vocabulary on flashcards or a notebook and review them regularly.
- Watch English movies and TV shows with English subtitles and note down any unfamiliar words or expressions.
- Write a little English every day using the new words you have learned in different contexts.
- Speak English as much as possible with a friend, a tutor, or even yourself, and try to use the new words in natural conversations.
- Keep a small pocket-sized dictionary with you and look up any words you don’t know or are unsure about.
- Listen to audios and watch videos that focus on academic topics and language, such as lectures, podcasts, documentaries, etc.
- Learn with fun by playing word games, puzzles, quizzes, etc. that challenge your vocabulary skills.
- Learn idioms and connectives that can make your speech and writing more natural and coherent.
- Practice is the key! Memorize the words you need and then use them in dialogues and speaking practice.
Practice with sample questions
Another crucial way to prepare for the IELTS exam is to practice with sample questions that simulate the real test conditions. This will help you familiarise yourself with the question types, formats and topics that you will encounter in each section of the test. It will also help you improve your time management, accuracy and speed skills. You can find plenty of sample questions on the official IELTS website, in the Official IELTS Practice Materials book, or in other books and websites that offer quality practice tests. You should also try taking an official online practice test called IELTS Progress Check, which will give you an indicative band score and feedback report.