Understanding the test structure and how it is scored is the first step in preparing for the IELTS, followed by creating a strategy to get the result you want. To do this, you must enhance your English, practise taking tests, and efficiently prepare for the exam. Since getting ready for your test might be intimidating and leave you feeling completely overwhelmed about where to start, we have put together a list of practical steps to help you get going.
Understand the IELTS test structure and scoring
The IELTS test is broken up into two separate modules, each with its own sectional marks, and a final mark out of 9 bands. The Academic IELTS test is designed for university and academic purposes and is more detailed and nuanced than the General Training IELTS test, which is for work experience or general training.
The IELTS test is comprised of four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Each is scored out of 9 bands and an aggregate is calculated for an overall score also out of 9 bands.
Set realistic goals and create a study plan
First, you should set a goal of what you want to achieve and how you want to perform in your test. If you have already taken the test, then you can use the results as a benchmark for what you need to improve upon for your next test. Setting clear and realistic goals will give you something to aim for during your study plan and will provide you with a clear understanding of what you need to do to achieve them. To set a realistic goal, you must first consider your current English level. You can do this by looking at your score from your last test, asking a teacher or an English tutor for an assessment, or studying the level descriptions to get an idea of your current level. With this information, you can set a goal that is challenging but realistic so you are aiming for the best score possible.
Focus on time management
The IELTS test is a timed exam, which means you have a certain amount of time to complete the test and each section. Keeping track of time is crucial, especially if you are aiming for a higher banded score or if you are a slow reader. There are a few different ways that you can keep track of time, such as using a stopwatch or a timer. Using a stopwatch is the most accurate method of keeping track of time. You can either have a stopwatch that has a second hand, or you can use the timer on your phone.
Take practice tests
Taking simulated tests is a good way to get a feeling for what it will be like to take the real IELTS test. Taking practice tests will give you a better idea of how long each section will take and help you understand what your strengths and areas for improvement are. It will also give you an idea of what score you want to accomplish so you know how many practice tests you need to take. There are a few different ways you can take practice tests: IELTS preparation books, online tests, or with a tutor. IELTS preparation books are books that have a wide range of practice questions that are similar to the real test. You can also find these books online. You can also take tests online on websites like the British Council or the IELTS website. You can also schedule a few sessions with an IELTS tutor, which is a great way to make sure you're prepared for the test and have the support of another person.
Familiarise yourself with the question types
Asking yourself what type of questions you will be asked once you start reading through practice tests can help you be better prepared for them during the test. Knowing the types of questions you will be asked in the Reading and Listening section is also helpful when you're setting your time. Additionally, practising the speaking section by having someone like a friend, family member or tutor interview you is a great way of familiarising yourself with question types.
Identify the areas that require more focus
Knowing what areas of your English skills need improvement is the first step in improving them. Once you have taken a few practice tests and scored them, you will realise what areas you need to improve upon. This will help you focus on those areas better than the parts you might already be good at.
Consider taking an IELTS preparation course
While there are various ways you can prepare for your test, taking an IELTS preparation course can be extremely helpful. These courses provide you with the structure and guidance you need to efficiently and effectively prepare for the test. Taking an IELTS preparation course will allow you to dedicate more time to reviewing your English and will help you to avoid the common pitfalls many test-takers make when preparing for their test.
Utilise online resources
There are many online resources that can help you prepare and improve your English for your test. You can find study guides, YouTube tutorials, IELTS practice tests and question banks, as well as tips and strategies for improving your English. You can also find information about which test centre you will be going to, whether or not you need to arrive early, and other useful information to help get you prepared for the test.
Get comfortable with the exam environment
Studying in a similar environment in which you will be taking your test will help you to get comfortable with the environment and will help you avoid any unnecessary stress. Taking practice tests in a similar environment that you will be taking the test in will help you become familiar with the environment and will help you avoid being too nervous or anxious. You can do this by creating a mock test centre in your room by ensuring there is complete silence or taking a test online.
Get enough sleep before the test
Getting enough sleep before your test is important. It will help you feel rested and energised so you can make the most of your test day. The test is usually scheduled for the morning, which can be a difficult time for most people to wake up. If your test is in the afternoon and you are extremely nervous, taking a quick nap before your test can help you to wake up refreshed and energised. However, don't overdo it and fall into a deep sleep because you will then be groggy and drowsy when you need to be alert before the test. For timing, aim for about 10 to 20 minutes for a nap. A short nap will help you to get a quick energy boost without disrupting your sleep cycle too much.
If you have plenty of time before your test and aren't very confident in your English skills, consider taking one of our several Home Tuition courses to learn the language in a natural and authentic setting. Learning English in the UK with native speakers is a great way to pick up on vocabulary and learn grammatical nuances.
All the best!