How to Prepare for IELTS Exam

14 Mar 2018

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) has become one of the most popular and widely used exams to assess students who need to use English for either academic or professional reasons. It is quite a challenging exam and requires a considerable amount of preparation.

So what is in the exam and what do you need to do to prepare for it? Read on to find out.

What does the IELTS exam involve?

IELTS makes an assessment of all your language skills – listening, reading, speaking and writing. The exam lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes and consists of the following:

  • Listening – four sections with a total of 40 questions, lasting 30 minutes. You will hear a series of conversations as well as some monologues based on various topics. The speakers have a variety of native English accents, including British, American and Australian. You only hear each recording once.
  • Reading – three sections with a total of 40 questions, lasting one hour. The reading texts include a social context, a workplace
  • Writing – two written tasks lasting one hour. The first task involves writing an email or describing a diagram or chart. This should be approximately 150 words. The second task (worth double the marks) is an essay in which you must develop an argument and give your opinion on a particular issue. This should be approximately 250 words.
  • Speaking – three parts lasting about 15 minutes. The first part involves answering some general questions about your studies, work, family and free time. The second part is called the long turn. In this section you will be given a topic to speak about for 1-2 minutes. The third part is a discussion between the examiner and student on the same topic as part 2. You will need to be able to express and give reasons for your opinions. situation, and one piece of more complex writing taken from a newspaper, book or magazine.

The first three sections – reading, listening and writing, will all take place on the same day, one after the other. The speaking section may take place later on the same day, or a few days later.

All the sections of the exam test your vocabulary and grammar as well as your ability to use either formal, academic language or informal language when appropriate.


How does the IELTS scoring system work?

Your score in IELTS can range from 1 (the lowest) to 9 (the highest) based on the average of the scores you receive for each of the four sections. It’s also possible to get half marks (e.g. 7.5.) If you get a score of 9 you are an expert user (C2). Postgraduate courses often require a minimum of 7 or 7.5 (C1), while many undergraduate courses require a score of 6 (B2).

In order to get a high mark you need to demonstrate your knowledge and ability to apply all the key English grammar structures and a wide vocabulary.


IELTS practice and preparation

The best way to prepare for the IELTS exam is to do a course that helps you practice the different skills that are tested in the exam. Practicing and studying with a teacher is ideal because the teacher can identify the areas where you need to improve and help you. This is especially true of the writing section which is quite challenging in terms of style and structure, and without guidance and feedback from a teacher, it can be hard to practice and improve. At Wall Street English we have a special course available for students who need to take the IELTS exam, led by expert teachers.


How to prepare for IELTS

It is also really useful to do other things to practice in preparation for the IELTS, including:

  • Reading the news (via a website or a newspaper/magazine)
  • Reading a book
  • Watching videos, TV series or films
  • Keeping a diary to practice writing
  • Doing exercises on specific grammar structures
  • Creating word families to help you remember important vocabulary

There are some common themes that often appear in IELTS. These include issues regarding the environment, education, jobs and careers, living in the city/country, technology, health, transport, communication, food, language, society, and sport. Take some time to identify some of the most common vocabulary linked to each of these topics. It will really help you during the exam.

Top tips to pass the IELTS exam

Once you have done all these things to prepare well for IELTS, all that’s left to do is take the exam! Here are a few useful tips to remember on the day:

  • BE ON TIME! Make sure you arrive at the location of the exam with plenty of time to spare so you can take a moment to relax before the exam begins.
  • READ THE QUESTIONS CAREFULLY. Before you listen to the recordings, read the questions so you can start to have an idea of what you will hear. Identify key words in questions before looking for the answers in the reading texts. It will save you valuable time. Check very carefully what you are asked in the written tasks before starting to write. And make sure you speak about all the points mentioned in the second part of the speaking test (the Long Turn).
  • KEEP TRACK OF THE TIME. During the reading and writing tests, you need to pay attention to the clock because the time will go quickly and you don’t want to risk not completing the tasks.
  • TIME TO DOUBLE CHECK. At the end of the listening test, you will have time to transfer your answers to the exam answer sheet. If you have any time left at the end of the reading test, go through your answers again to check your writing is clear. And in the writing test, be sure to leave at least five minutes at the end to re-read your tasks to correct any small mistakes. Correcting spelling and grammar mistakes could mean the difference between getting an extra half point.
  • TIME TO SPEAK. During the speaking test, try to speak as much as possible and avoid giving simple, short answers. If you go over the time limited, the examiner will simply interrupt you which is no problem. The questions are aimed at giving you the chance to show how well you can speak, so try to develop your argument as much as you can.