IELTS exam preparation advice from an English teacher
A few people have asked us about how to improve their vocabulary, writing and other skills for the IELTS exam. So, I’ve decided to share some advice I give all my IELTS students. I hope it helps you as much as it does them.
BTW, make sure you mouse over the images below!
1) Find out which band you need.
If you want to do a BA or MA then look at the university’s website to see which IELTS band you need. Be realistic! The top universities demand higher scores than the others. Choose a course with an IELTS grade which you think you can achieve.
2) Assess your current IELTS band score.
Do an IELTS practice test in a book or online. You can easily find free reading and listening papers but it’s harder to get speaking and writing ones that are marked. For this, I would ask your English teacher or a friend with good English to assess you. Remember that you need to rate all your skills so you know your band in reading, listening, speaking and writing.
3) Ask yourself “how long do I need to reach my target band?”.
If you are an overall band 4 and you need band 7, you can’t improve that much in a week or even month. However, if you have 7766, then you just need to push 2 skills up a band each so a month may be enough, with the right amount of lessons and homework.
I know students who’ve gone up from a 5 to a 6 in less than a month but they had regular classes almost every day and studied hard at home. I’ve also had private students who’ve improved from a 4 to a 5 in a week due to daily intensive lessons.
So, it all depends on how you are going to prepare. You will improve faster with regular private classes but also quite fast with daily group lessons. Think about this when you choose your exam date. The IELTS costs a lot of money and it’s very depressing to fail it. So, make sure you have enough time to reach the band you need before you do the test.
4) Work out a study schedule.
I know students who study IELTS at school for 2 or 3 hours a day and then go home to revise and do practice tests for another 3 or 4 hours BUT they have time as they really have to pass the test and aren’t doing anything else. Not everyone is this lucky.
It’s a good idea to get a calendar and schedule study time every day, if you can. Start off revising what you learned in class, then work on some of your weaknesses and do some practice test sections or a full paper like a reading test. Don’t forget to time yourself though!! Time management is a very important IELTS skill.
You can give yourself days off as a reward but you have to stay motivated and keep studying. It’s easy to think you’re not improving though so keep a record of your practice test scores. I know quite a few teachers who give their students a full listening, speaking or writing test every week either in class or for homework. They correct them together and the teacher adds their scores to a chart on the wall. This way, everyone can see how they are progressing and where they still have problems.
5) Think about how you learn best.
Do you prefer listening to lessons, playing games, using apps, reading blog posts, doing book exercises or just doing tests and correcting them? Figure out what works for you best and use it to help you get better at IELTS.
A perfect IELTS student has the right English level, knows all the sections of the test, has done practice tests, has great time management skills and is confident: not afraid of the exam, but ready to prove how great their English is!
I hope this advice helps you get the band you need.
Here are some useful sites to help you: