As a certified IELTS examiner, I have spent a lot of time examining people from around the world who are taking the IELTS test. In this time, I have come up with some tips and recommendations that I think those taking the IELTS test should consider before sitting down for their test.
Here is a list of my suggestions:
- To prepare, find a prep class
- Understand the test format and timing
- Go online for practice tests and useful information
- Get familiar with the writing and speaking descriptors
- Practice as much as possible
- Time yourself
To prepare, find a prep class
If you do some research, you will quickly discover that there are a variety of IELTS prep courses out there. These courses are often available online and/or face-to-face, depending on the location. Please keep in mind that some courses are free, while others charge a fee. Be sure to do your research to see what options best suit you. There is no doubt that these prep classes are helpful in terms of sharing information, giving tips and suggestions, and answering questions. I suggest taking some time before you take your IELTS test to discover what is available to you and to sign yourself up! I think you will be thankful that you did.
Understand the test format and timing
The IELTS is a standardized English language test. It has the same format, the same types of questions, the same timing, and so on. If you take your IELTS test in Australia, for example, it will be the same format as IELTS test elsewhere around the world. For your own comfort and ease of mind, I suggest getting to know the format and structure of the test, the amount of time you have for each section of the test, the kinds of questions you could be asked, and how long you have to answer the questions.
Go online for practice tests and useful information
There is a great deal of information available online about IELTS, including practice tests, sample questions, sample answers, and much more. I suggest taking some time to use these practice tests, which I believe are very valuable in helping you get ready for your test.
Get familiar with the writing and speaking descriptors
Another important thing I suggest doing before taking the IELTS is to have a good look at a public version of the writing and speaking descriptors which can easily be found online. These are very helpful in gaining an understanding of what your IELTS examiner will be considering when assessing your speaking and writing skills.
Practice as much as possible
We all know the saying that practice makes perfect, and with the IELTS it is no different! I suggest practicing all of your language skills before taking the test, including answering sample speaking questions, writing responses, and so on. It also does not hurt to brush up on your listening and reading skills, including listening for details and main ideas, as well as skimming and scanning reading samples.
One last tip I have is about the timing of your answers. I suggest when practicing for the Speaking and Writing sections of the IELTS test, that you time yourself to see if you can give well-organized, well-thought-out responses. Remember that for the Writing section of the IELTS test you will have two tasks: Task 1 (for IELTS Academic test) which is a description of a graph, table, chart or diagram, or a letter (for IELTS General Training test). Task 2 for both tests of the test is an essay. You have a limited amount of time to write your answers, so I suggest timing yourself to see how quickly and effectively you can give your answers. The same goes for the Speaking test. You have a limited time (1-2 minutes for most answers), so you want to ensure you practice speaking clearly and concisely.
I hope you find these tips and recommendations for before taking your IELTS to be useful.