There are many ways to approach IETLS preparation, and each student’s situation is different. Depending on your current skills and what IELTS results you are aiming for, you can pick your study methods to get the right kinds of IELTS practice without wasting time.
Many IELTS practice strategies are the same as those you’d use to prepare for any English test. Anything you do to improve your English, if you make concrete improvements, will also prepare you for the IELTS. Because the IELTS tests reading, speaking, listening, and writing, you need to identify which skills to focus on first. If you have trouble reading academic texts in English, then you need to improve your vocabulary and practice understanding those types of texts. If you have trouble speaking English, then you’ll need to find a speaking partner. Whichever skills you decide to focus on, regular practice is the only way to make a real improvement to your IELTS result.
Taking an IELTS practice test will give you your current IELTS score overall but also a score in each of the four skills tested. The score breakdown will give you an idea which skills you need to work on and your overall score will tell you how much work you have left to do.
Many students start by taking an IELTS practice test first, without any preparation, then when they have their results, they can decide what preparation they need to do. You can buy officially-scored IELTS practice tests from Cambridge English. These give you a feeling for the IELTS question types and the test structure. If you do that, make sure you buy the IELTS practice test that corresponds to the type of IELTS you will take, either Academic or General Training.
You can also take the EF SET English Certificate for free, which is structured differently than the IELTS, but which will give you an idea of your IELTS score in the listening and reading sections. Finally, you can buy a test preparation book which has IELTS practice tests inside with the answers to the test questions. These are useful mainly for listening and reading practice, although you may also be able to score your own writing prompts somewhat.
Whichever IELTS practice tests you choose, it’s important to take the test in the best possible conditions. Set aside enough time to complete everything in one sitting, sit somewhere you won’t be distracted, and don’t cheat by using a dictionary or other tools. Keep in mind that IELTS practice tests aren’t as stressful as the real IELTS you’ll meet on test day. Ideally, you want to go in to the real IELTS with a bit of margin in your results, since you probably won’t score as well as you did when practicing.
There are also IELTS preparation courses if you need a specific score for your visa or university application. These are more expensive than studying on your own (or not studying at all), but they are also much more effective in raising your IELTS score. Many students start off preparing for the IELTS on their own, maybe with a book or researching online, then they take the real IELTS and find out how hard it is. An IELTS preparation course can make a big difference in your test readiness.
A good IELTS preparation course will include detailed test-specific advice about how to approach the different question types, how to pace yourself to not waste time, how to structure your essays, and how to take notes during the listening segments. Preparation courses usually also include one or more timed IELTS practice tests with real scoring. Teachers on IELTS preparation courses have lots of experience with the test and can help each student maximize his or her score.
There are lots of IELTS preparation course types available. The three main types are IELTS preparation courses online, IELTS preparation courses in a school near your home, and IELTS preparation courses abroad. Keep in mind that most IELTS preparation courses last 2 or 3 months. A much shorter course will not be effective in raising your IELTS score. If you need a specific IELTS score for your visa or university application, schedule accordingly.
EF has intensive IELTS preparation courses in several locations starting at different times throughout the year. An IELTS preparation course will give you lots of IELTS practice, as well as solid general English training. Find out more about our IELTS preparation courses abroad.