The International English language Testing System (IELTS) is the most popular English exam in the world. Developed and administered by some of the field’s most renowned experts, the test is designed to reflect how you will cope with the communicative demands of living, working, or studying in an English-speaking country.
Depending on your objectives, you can take the General Training test or the Academic version, both of which are accepted by thousands of organisations, institutions, and employers in 140 countries. If you want to pursue a graduate or post-graduate university course, you can take an IELTS Academic version. On the other hand, if you want to migrate to an English-speaking country to get a better job, IELTS General Training is your best choice!
“Okay, but how can I prepare for IELTS if I don’t have much time?”
This is precisely the question we came to answer today. If you want to know how to prepare for IELTS without disregarding your work or studies, keep reading.
Get Familiar With the Test Format
First of all, it’s crucial that you know what you are preparing for.
As we said before, there are two types of IELTS: Academic and General.Both versions have the same Listening and Speaking tasks but differ in Reading and Writing assignments, which are more scholarly for those taking the Academic version.
No matter which type you are taking, it’s crucial that you familiarise yourself with the format of the test before you attempt to download IELTS preparation materials. That way, you will know exactly what skills you are expected to show and how they will be tested.
Test format – Listening (30 minutes)
You will write your answers to a series of questions based on four recordings of native speakers of English:
- Recording 1 – an exchange between two speakers about everyday topics
- Recording 2 – a speech set in a familiar social context, e.g. a person speaking about their hometown
- Recording 3 – a dialogue between two or more people set in a school or educational institution, e.g. a student and a professor discussing a grade.
- Recording 4 – a monologue on an academic subject, often a university lecture.
The listening test includes a wide range of question types such as matching, multiple-choice, and sentence completion.
Test format – Reading (60 minutes) (60 minutes)
Reading skills include getting the main idea from a text, finding a specific detail, understanding logical connections, and identifying the tone and intent of the author.
The Reading paper consists of three sections:
- Section 1, known as ‘social survival’, contains short texts such as board notices and timetables.
- Section 2, known as ‘workplace survival’, focuses on texts you’re likely to find at the workplace, e.g. contracts, job descriptions, and training booklets.
- Section 3, known as ‘general reading’, introduces a longer text with more complex language, such as extracts from novels, essays, and newspapers.
IELTS General Training Writing description (60 minutes)
The Writing paper consists of two tasks that are individually assessed.
- In Task 1, test-takers have to respond to a situation. For instance, the room of the hotel where you were staying was dirty and uncomfortable, so you write an e-mail asking for a refund. This task is assessed on overall task achievement, as well as grammatical resources and knowledge of English punctuation.
- In Task 2, candidates are asked to write an essay in response to a problem, an argument, or a point of view. For example, you may have to say whether you agree with a statement about what governments should do to alleviate stop climate change. Task 2 is assessed on overall task response, coherence and cohesion, grammatical range and accuracy, and lexical resources.
Test format – Speaking (11–14 minutes)
The speaking section of IELTS tests that candidates are able to use spoken English in social situations without significant strain. It is divided into three parts:
- Part 1 (5 minutes) — the examiner asks you to introduce yourself and asks you questions about a range of familiar topics, such as family, hobbies, work, and studies. This part lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.
- Part 2 (3 minutes)— the examiners gives you a card with a topic on it. From the moment you are given the card, you have one minute to prepare a two-minute answer. Once you finish responding, the examiner usually asks one or two spontaneous follow-up questions. Common topics include “a place you would like to visit one day” or “a person you admire”.
- Part 3 (5 minutes)— Known as the “long turn”, this is the part where you can expand on your thoughts from 2. Since it is much longer than the other two, you can (and are expected to) deal with more complex and abstract ideas.
The three Speaking parts are assessed on fluency, coherence, pronunciation, and grammatical and lexical resources.
Practise With Mock Tests
Now that you are familiar with the format of the test, we are ready to answer your most burning questions about how to prepare for IELTS. Though there are many things you can do to get ready, the best place to start is to check your current level by practising with mock tests, i.e., practice tests that you can take before the actual exam.
Mock tests form an essential part of your IELTS preparation process because
- They reveal your current level of preparation and, more importantly
- They tell you whether you will be able to finish your paper in time
- They allow you to think of strategies to overcome your weak areas
- They help you reduce pre-exam stress and nervousness
Immerse Yourself in the Language
Mock exams, language-learning podcasts, even specific IELTS preparation materials will amount to nothing if you don’t make a real effort to immerse yourself in the English language.
But what does this “immersion” involve?
- Taking advantage of your commute time
Do you ever complain about the time you waste on your way to work? What if you used this time to listen to an audiobook, tune in the news, or listen to English music?
By the end of the month, instead of saying you’ve lost 20 hours on the road, you could tell your friends that you gained 20 hours of English exposure.
- Set your technological devices in English
Do you spend hours scrolling down on your phone? Do you use a computer for work every day? Are you constantly swiping right and left on Tinder? By just changing the language setting on your phone, laptop, or tablet, you can turn your guilty pleasures into language-learning opportunities.
- Rewatch your favourite movies and TV shows in English
When people ask me how to prepare for IELTS, they are always surprised to hear that most of the things they can do are as pleasurable as a free Saturday afternoon.
But, what are the benefits of rewatching old films and TV series?
Shows like Friends or The Simpsons are so important in our culture that we all remember at least two or three jokes from every season. The great thing about rewatching them, besides the fact that they help us connect with other people, is that we know exactly what is going to happen next. This means that we can change the language setting to English and not have to worry about the plot. You can just sit back, relax, and learn how to say your favourite quotes in their original language.
- Find an English-speaking friend
By changing your location to an English-speaking country on your dating apps, you can practise your conversational skills while you get in the mood for romance. So, even if you never make it to the first date, you will at least have got free English practice with a native speaker!
(You didn’t expect an article titled “How to Prepare for IELTS” to include a section about Tinder, did you?)
Get the Help of a Professional
While all the strategies above might be of great help during your IELTS preparation process, we have left the ultimate tip for last.
Do you really want to know how to prepare for IELTS success? Then what you need is a personalised course with a native English teacher.
Here are a few advantages of learning with a native tutor:
- They are the only ones who can teach you the language as it is spoken in their homeland in 2022. Textbooks, on the other hand, often present a dated or stiff version of English.
- They can teach you all about informal expressions such as idioms, abbreviations and slang that will come in very handy for the Speaking test.
- Listening to a native teacher on a weekly basis will help you get used to genuine English pronunciation, thus reducing pre-exam stress. If you are used to listening to your English-speaking tutor, you’re very likely to understand the IELTS examiner’s questions and instructions.
- A native teacher will be able to provide insight on different English varieties so that no English accent will sound completely unfamiliar on the day of the exam.
- At Listen & Learn, we offer both in-person and online courses, which means you can study from home during your lunch break. Even the busiest of you will have no excuses!
Now that we’ve told you everything you can do to get a great band score, it is your turn: how will you prepare for IELTS?
If you agree that the best way to crack the exam is to get intensive practice with a qualified native teacher, contact us now and we’ll pair you up with one of our best English tutors for a completely personalized course. Do you want to know what the best part is? The first lesson is completely free, with no strings attached! What are you waiting for? Send a quick message to us and get started!