Prepare for IELTS: 8 Essential Techniques

How to prepare for IELTS

Many people, who are preparing to take the IELTS test, ask how to prepare for IELTS. They often get the answer “practise, practise, practise!” This is bad advice! Doing lots of practice tests is not enough. In this article, I will give you 8 essential ways to prepare for the IELTS test.

how to prepare for IELTS

1. Improve your level of general English

If you are at a pre-intermediate level of English, you should first try to improve your current level of English. To do well in the IELTS test, you need to be at an intermediate level of English. So first improve your everyday reading and listening, your speaking and writing. IELTS is a difficult test. Good exam strategies and lots of learning tips are not enough – you need to have good English too.

So find an English tutor online, join an English class or study at home. You should also learn new words and phrases by reading lots of material in English – but focus on learning new words rather than understanding the texts.

One of the biggest mistakes students make is to focus only on IELTS. They do IELTS practice tests and learn vocabulary related to IELTS topics, but they forget about general English

2. Read and listen to IELTS-style material

Read lots of IELTS-style texts, and listen to lots of IELTS-style audio recordings. These will help you to improve your English. You will also find out about the kinds of topics that come up in the IELTS test. Focus especially on topics related to education, health and the environment as these are topics that frequently come up in the IELTS test.

Some great websites for reading IELTS-style articles:
BBC News Magazine
The Economist
The Economist Technology Quarterly
The Economist Magazine
Popular Science
The New Scientist
National Geographic
BBC Focus Magazine
Science Daily
American Scientist
Australian Geographic

And for listening:
TED Talks
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4: The Interview Archive

You could also listen to podcasts. Try Stitcher or iTunes.

3. Understand the IELTS

You can prepare for the IELTS by finding out everything you can about the test and by getting familiar with the exam format.  Read through some exam preparation materials – you can find these online and in bookshops. Also check out YouTube for videos about the IELTS. Read my introduction to the IELTS test, What is the IELTS exam.

You should study the exam format so you know what the test involves. Get to know the different types of questions in the exam. For writing, read some sample essays.

For speaking and writing, you should also read the IELTS assessment criteria. This will tell you exactly what the IELTS examiners want from you. If you need a band score of 8.0, read the assessment criteria for Band 8, and also Band 7, so you can see what the difference is.

To find out what IELTS score you need to get into a particular academic institution or organization, read my article, What IELTS Score Do I need?

Here are the assessment criteria:

IELTS Speaking Band Score Assessment Criteria

IELTS Writing Task 1 Band Score Assessment Criteria

IELTS Writing Task 2 Band Score Assessment Criteria

4. Practice – the slow way

Buy or download some IELTS practice tests. Then start to practice these tests. At first, do not worry about finishing the test ‘on time’ or doing it under exam conditions. Instead, relax and practise slowly.

Try a reading test or a listening test. Think carefully about the question, think about the answer, and then check your answer in the back of the book. If you get the answer wrong, find out why. Analyse your mistakes. Learn from your mistakes.

In other words, don’t do lots of practice tests; instead, develop the skills and strategies you need to answer the questions. Train yourself, don’t test yourself. Go for quality, not quantity.

5. Find your weak areas

Identify your weak areas and try to improve them. If your weak area is writing, practise writing IELTS-style essays and try to get feedback on them. You can get your writing corrected, along with suggestions for improvements, by using my IELTS Writing Correction Service. If you are weak at speaking, find a speaking partner or an IELTS tutor.

6. Build your IELTS vocabulary

To succeed in the IELTS exam, you need to have a wide vocabulary. This means having a good level of general English, but it also helps to know lots of words and phrases connected to common IELTS topics, such as education, health and the environment.

So make sure you grow your vocabulary for IELTS. Read the websites I suggested in section 2. You can also use reading and listening tests to help you learn IELTS vocabulary – simply learn the words you don’t know that you came across in these tests.

7. Join an IELTS study group on Facebook

How to prepare for IELTS on social media: join an IELTS study  group on Facebook. People will often share ideas and give help to each other on these groups. You can sometimes get your IELTS writing checked by someone in one of these groups.

Some of the best Facebook groups are:
IELTS Writing Club
IELTS Tips and Tricks
IELTS MOOC Study group
The World Speaks IELTS
but there are many more!

8. Practice – the fast way

Once you have practised some IELTS tests slowly (see section 4) and developed an understanding of the question types and strategies for answering, you can start to practise quickly – start to time yourself.

Good time management is essential on the IELTS test – the reason many candidates fail to get the score they need is because they don’t finish the tests in the time given. So practise timed tests – but only when you have tried the other 7 methods as well!

So those are my 8 essential methods for how to prepare for IELTS. As you can see, there is a lot more to IELTS preparation than just “practice, practice, practice!” And it’s a lot more fun too!

If you need more preparation tips, check out my IELTS Preparation Course on Udemy.

What about you? Do you have any great preparation tips for the IELTS test? What do you do to prepare for the IELTS test? Can you suggest any great reading or listening websites? If you have some of your own preparation tips, please add them in the comments section below. Thanks!

About the author

Charlie is a former IELTS Examiner with 25 years' teaching experience all over the world. His courses, for both English language learners and teachers, have been taken by over 100,000 students in over 160 countries around the world.

4 thoughts on “Prepare for IELTS: 8 Essential Techniques”

  1. hi i have subscribed one of your cource ( IELTS VOCABULARY) in udemy can make same yoyr vedios for uploding in youtbe for lerning purpose

  2. Nice advice.clap clap.thank u a lot.🤗

    • You’re Welcome, Biken! Glad you found it useful. 🙂

  3. Thank you so much, i feel like you mentioned everything needed, i will consider all your methods for my preparation.


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