How to Prepare for the IELTS

How to Prepare for the IELTS

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Note: This post was submitted to Student Caffé by Chloe H. We would like to thank her for her submission and credit her as the author of this blog post.

So, you’ve decided the next step in your education is to embark on a journey abroad–that’s great!

But there’s a caveat. The universities or schools that have piqued your interest are in English-speaking countries which require proven English language proficiency… and you’re not a native English speaker!

No need to stress though. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS), is an English-language proficiency test that is taken by students who want to pursue higher education in an English-speaking country and need to prove their proficiency in the language. The IELTS is accepted by over 10,000 educational institutions and organizations globally, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of the world’s most popular English proficiency tests.

The idea of taking the IELTS can be daunting, but with the right preparation, you’ll be boarding a flight to your dream university in London or Sydney before you know it.

To help you achieve your desired score and start your journey, we’ve compiled a guide on how you can best prepare for the IELTS.

1. Understand the test’s format.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that there are two types of IELTS: Academic and General Training. The Academic Test is taken by students who want to study abroad, whilst the General Training Test is taken for immigration purposes and helps those who want to work abroad.

Both tests consists of four sections—Listening, Writing, Reading, and Speaking—and take 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete.

While the Listening and Speaking Tests are the same for both the Academic and General Training Tests, the Reading and Writing sections differ.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Listening Test: You will be given 30 minutes to complete this section, which consists of four recordings. The examiner will look for your ability to understand the main ideas, detailed facts and information about the conversation, and the opinions and attitudes of speakers. The four recordings include:
    • A recording of a conversation between two people in an everyday social setting
    • A monologue in an everyday setting
    • A group conversation of up to four people who are speaking in an educational setting
    • A monologue on an academic subject
  • Writing Test: As mentioned, this section differs between the Academic and General Training Tests.
    • In the Academic Writing Test, you are given 60 minutes to complete two tasks. In the first, you’re presented with a graph, table, chart, or diagram. You are then asked to summarize or explain and describe the information. In the second task you will need to write an essay in response to a point of view, argument, or problem. Your responses to both tasks need to be answered in a formal style.
    • In the General Training Writing Test, you’ll also have two tasks to complete. In task one, you are presented with a situation rather than a graph or diagram. You then write a letter requesting information or explaining the situation; this can be written formally or informally. Task two involves writing an essay in response to a point of view and it can also be answered in a fairly personal style.
  • Reading Test:
    • You have 60 minutes to complete the 40 questions that make up the Academic Reading Test. Questions are designed to test a wide range of reading skills. Tasks could be on anything from understanding the main purpose of a passage, to reading main ideas or reading for detail, to understanding arguments and the writer’s opinions and attitude. The test is based on three long texts taken from books or journals, magazines, and newspapers.
    • The General Training Reading Test follows the same format as the Academic Reading Test; the only real difference is that the passages are taken from materials you are likely to read or encounter on an everyday basis in an English-speaking country. For example, you may see passages taken from advertisements, magazines, newspapers, books, or company handbooks and guidelines.
  • Speaking Test: This section offers you a chance to vocally showcase all the hard work you’ve put into learning English! You have between 11 and 14 minutes to complete this part of the test, and it involves speaking face-to-face with the examiner. The Speaking Test is taken either seven days prior to or after the other tests. It is separated into three parts:
    • First, you are asked a range of general questions about yourself, your family, your home, your work or studies, and your interests.
    • Second, the examiner will give you a card asking you to talk about a specific topic. You have a minute or so to prepare before you are asked questions.
    • Finally, part three is an extension of part two. You are asked more questions around the topic you received and have the opportunity to discuss more detailed or abstract ideas and issues.

2. Take IELTS practice tests.

Now that you understand the format of the test, what better way to really familiarize yourself with IELTS than by taking IELTS practice tests? These offer you a great way to run through your use of the English language and to get used to answering questions within the specific time frames. Practice tests really help you get a better idea of the questions you should expect.

Kaplan Test Prep has some great practice materials (including a practice test and a quiz) to help you prepare in addition to offering loads of great tips on how to do well on the IELTS on their blog.

3. Practice your English daily.

While practice tests should be an essential part of your preparation plan, you should also vocally practice English when you get the chance. Speak English with your friends or family, and use any opportunity you get to practice—even if you just speak to yourself in the shower!

You should also try exposing yourself to as much English as possible, which is a really fun way to prepare as it’s essentially a chance to watch a bunch of your favorite TV shows or films or listen to your favorite English-speaking musicians. Hearing English in context and frequently will help you understand and keep up with conversations better when you’re immersed in the language.

4. Don’t pressure yourself.

Learning a new language is hard, and you’re clearly doing a great job if you’re at the point of looking to study or work abroad! Although easier said than done sometimes, the worst thing you can do to is put a lot of pressure on yourself before taking the test.

So, make sure you put as much effort into calming down and relaxing your mind before the test as you put into preparing. Nerves are normal, but remember, it’s only a test!

Now that we’ve taken you through some tips on how to prepare for the IELTS, it’s time to put this plan into action. So, start your prep, book your test, and don’t delay your dream of studying abroad any longer!

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