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For many people like you, an English skill test like IELTS is the starting point in your journey to support your migration, work, or study goals. Preparing for the IELTS test for the first time could be challenging, and we understand this.

Here are 4 simple steps to help you prepare and achieve your desired results.

Step 1: Select the right IELTS test

Depending on your personal goals, you’ll need to choose between IELTS Academic Test or IELTS General Training.

If you're planning to study in higher education, or seek professional registration in an English-speaking country, the Academic test is most likely your go-to.

However, if your plan is to enrol in secondary education or migrate to countries such as Australia or New Zealand, taking the General Training test may be what you need.

Additionally, if you’re planning to go to the UK, you can take the IELTS for UKVI test (Academic or General Training), or the Life Skills test (A1 or B1).

Tip: Connect with IDP's education counsellor or migration agent for a free consultation if you're unsure about which test you need and want more information.

Step 2: Get familiar with the IELTS test format and question types

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Once you have chosen the right test, the next step is to familiarise yourself with the test format and question types. IELTS Academic and IELTS General training are comprised of the same four sections of the test: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

The Listening and Speaking sections are the same, but the Reading and Writing tests are where they differ. Understanding the format and questions for your chosen test will help you set goals to get the band score you need, and more importantly, ensure a smooth and seamless test day without any last-minute surprises.

IELTS provides an array of official practice materials, many of which are completely free to access and use. Visit IELTS Prepare, from practice tests to short videos and webinars, there’s a learning resource for every type of test taker. You can filter the preparation materials by skill, content type, test type and test format.

Step 3: Plan and stick to your goals

By this point, you should have a good understanding of the IELTS test, and what to expect on your test day. You may wonder: How can I prepare effectively to achieve the score I need? Well, the first tip is to keep practising.

We know you probably know this already, and to help you stay on track, below is a checklist of items you can consider:

✔ Understand the band scores

An important part of your IELTS preparation is understanding how you will be marked and scored. That’s why we share with you how we test and what is important.

There are no secrets with IELTS. For the Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening tests we’ll tell you what examiners look for and how your test is marked. We’ll also show you how your overall band score is calculated and how other tests compare to IELTS.

✔ Set goals to meet the requirements

When you get your IELTS test results you'll be given an overall test score of between 0 and 9 on the IELTS scale. You'll also get a score for each of the four sections of the test – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. The IELTS scale helps organisations understand your level of English. Your IELTS results are reported in whole or half bands, for example, 6.0, 7.5, and each band score represents a certain level of English proficiency. Check with your university, employer, or institution to find out about their IELTS requirements.

Now, be strategic when setting your goals. For example, if you need to score at least 6.5 for Reading, there are certain question types (e.g., multiple choices) that you might be better at than others (e.g., list of options). Try your best to get those questions right. And perhaps spend a bit more time preparing for those questions that you might find more challenging.

This way, you're not only securing the marks to meet your desired band score, but also creating opportunities to score higher

✔ Get expert help to improve

Need personalised coaching? Consider IELTS Assist, an official IELTS mock test for Writing, Reading or Speaking. Practise your IELTS skills and receive personalised feedback and expert coaching to improve your IELTS band score.

There are three IELTS Assist products to choose from:

✔ Create an English learning environment of your own

Language is best learnt in an inclusive environment, where it becomes a habit. You may want to set aside time - even just 15 minutes per day could make a difference - to immerse yourself in English and practise each skill.

Listening: Listen to English language radios, podcasts, audiobooks, or watch YouTube videos. Try to listen to a wide range of English accents including American, Australian, British, and so on.

Reading: Make it a habit to read English books, newspapers and magazines regularly. Playing English language-themed games is also a great way to improve your English skills and prepare for IELTS without sitting at a desk. Whether alone or with friends, try these games to practice your English comprehension while having fun!

Writing: When you read, you can take notes in English and perhaps write a short summary of the articles you have read. Look up any words you don’t know and practise using them before your test. If you find yourself using the same words over and over, think about any other words that you could use instead.

Speaking: Chatting with native English speakers is a fantastic way to improve your speaking skills. Not only will it give you a chance to practice speaking in a natural setting and observe fluent pronunciation, but you’ll be able to get real-time tips from someone who knows the language inside out.

Step 4: Get ready for test day

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Now that you made it to the last step, it’s time to prepare for test day! It can be nerve-wrecking but as long as you know what to expect, you're one step closer to achieving your goals.

Some tips for you to bear in mind:

  • Make sure you rest well the day before.

  • Double check that you have your current passport before you leave for the test centre.

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled test time, to complete the registration process.

  • Follow the lead of the staff on site and ask questions if you are not clear.

Ready to kick start your goals? Book your IELTS test now!

Ready to book your IELTS test?

Achieve your visa, work, and study goals with IELTS. Find your closest test centre and book your test now.

About this Article

Published on March 13, 2024

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