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How to Prepare for IELTS

International English Language Testing System or IELTS is the most widely taken English language proficiency test by people who either wish to study or work in countries where English is the primary language of communication. The IELTS score is recognized by almost 9000 institutes of about 140 countries worldwide.  The IELTS is categorized into two types i.e. Academic and General Training. The Academic exam is taken by individuals who want to pursue higher studies or professional courses in countries where English is the first language. While General Training exam is undertaken by people who wish to migrate to Canada, Australia, or the UK to apply for work, secondary education, or vocational training.


Since qualifying the IELTS can open up a lot of avenues, new candidates may sometimes get overwhelmed with information on how to start IELTS preparation for beginners. If you too have been having jitters as to how to prepare for IELTS and where to look for guidance and mock tests, pause-take a deep breath and relax because you have come to the right place.


Whether you are looking for online courses on how to prepare for IELTS general or academic, the easiest way is to break it down and process each section one-by-one.


Read on to understand the test format and how to prepare for IELTS.


Step 1: Understand the Test Format

It is always the fear of the unknown that makes us anxious. Hence, before you start taking the mock online test, the first logical step is to understand and get comfortable with the format of the exam. The IELTS is designed to test your listening, reading, writing, and speaking proficiency.


As mentioned earlier, IELTS is of two types –academic and general training. Both the tests are divided into four parts – Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. The Listening and Speaking sections are the same for both the types of IELTS exam. However, the content of the reading and writing sections would vary depending on which type of test you have opted for. Therefore, to learn how to prepare for IELTS general or academic chose the correct test format.


The complete IELTS test takes 2 hours 45 minutes to complete. The test can be taken in paper format or on the computer, whichever you are more comfortable with. The listening, reading, and writing sections are to be taken on the same day without any break. However, the speaking part is taken separately up to 1 week before or after taking the other three tests. Continue reading to understand each section and learn how to start IELTS preparation for beginners.


a. The Listening Test

Under the listening test, you will listen to four recordings of native English speakers. The first recording of the listening exam will be of an everyday conversation between two individuals. The second one will again be a generic monologue. The next two recordings would be a dialogue and monologue respectively centered on educational or training context.


Based on the four recordings you will be answering 40 questions. The task types of these questions would include multiple choices, matching, diagram labeling, table/flow chart, summary, and sentence completion.


Each question of the listening test would carry 1 mark and you would be given 30 minutes to complete this section.


b. The Reading Test

The reading section comprises of 40 questions and is divided into three sections. This section would vary for academic and general training since it aims at testing the reading skills for different purposes. To understand the difference and learn how to prepare for IELTS reading test, follow the table below:


IELTS Academic IELTS General Training
Format 3 Reading Passages

Narrative/descriptive text from books, journals, newspapers, etc.

Texts can also contain graphs, diagrams, and illustrations


Section i) Two or three short texts e.g. notices or advertisements

Section ii) One text e.g. job description or training material

Section iii) One long text e.g. newspaper/magazine article or book extract

No. of Questions 40 40
Time 60 minutes 60 minutes
Marks for each answer 1 1


c. The Writing Test

The writing test comprises two formal questions and you will be given 60 minutes to attempt the same. The word limit for the first question of the test will be 150 and for the second 250.


For the academic exam, the first question will have a diagram/graph/table/chart which you will summarize or describe in your own words. In the second question, you will write an essay as your response to an argument/point-of-view/problem.


For the general training candidate, in the first question, you will write a letter seeking/giving information in response to a situation. The second question will be similar to the second question of the academic exam.


However, the second question will carry more weightage in both formats. Your answers would be evaluated based on task response, coherence and cohesion, lexical resource, and grammatical range and accuracy.


d. The Speaking Test

The speaking test is an oral test designed to assess your spoken English. The duration of this test is 11-14 minutes and is divided into three parts. In the first part, the examiner will ask you about your details such as your home, family, general interest, and studies. In the second part, you will be given a topic to speak on for 1-2 minutes. You will be cross-questioned on the same. In the third part of the examiner will quiz you further on the topic given in part 2 and seek more detail. The answers would be scored on your fluency, lexical resource, grammar, and pronunciation.


Now that the cat is out of the bag, the next logical step for you is to plan your preparation systematically. We have created a step-by-step guide that can guide you on how to prepare for IELTS test. Let’s begin!


Step 2: Do a SWOT analysis

To learn how to start IELTS preparation for beginners, take the SWOT test. If you are unaware of the term, SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. While it may sound technical, doing a personal SWOT analysis will give you a clearer picture of where you stand in your preparedness. Analyzing your strengths would give you confidence. Similarly, once you mark your weak areas, you will know which sections you need to work on. E.g. if you are not very comfortable with listening and writing, dedicate more time listening to news channels and make notes of the daily news.


Step 3: Make a Schedule

Preparing for an exam doesn’t imply that you sit with a book 12-16 hours a day. However, you do sit with a book EVERY DAY is what will ensure success. Plan out your day in a way that you can at least dedicate two hours daily to IELTS preparation. Being consistent makes the difference. Take breaks if you find it hard to concentrate. Move to different rooms to study to avoid the monotony.


Step 4: Planning

One of the biggest challenges in how to start IELTS preparation for beginners is to answer the questions in the stipulated time. A lot of candidates get anxious about not being able to finish on time and end up making silly mistakes. Dedicate a particular time to each section while preparing for the exam. Spend more time on the section that you feel less confident about. Bringing time management in practice at an early stage will ensure that you are in control of the timing while attempting the exam.


Apart from managing time, make sure you are thorough with the instructions beforehand.  Each candidate is provided with a booklet upon registering for the exam. The booklet gives information about how to answer questions of different sections. Keep a track of all correspondence emails sent by IELTS as they may contain important information.


While planning for IELTS preparation familiarize yourself with the band scores and what each level of the band score means.


Step 5: Study in a Comfortable Environment

Make sure you sit and study in a comfortable environment with no distraction. Try to avoid lazying around in your bed and studying. It is best if you study and practice on your study table with minimum or no intervention in a timed manner.


Step 6: Multitasking

Allow yourself to get comfortable with multitasking. As on the actual day of test specially in the listening section, you’d have to pay attention to the audio clips, answer the questions, and also make no mistakes.


Step 7: Practice Tips for Each Section

Each section of the IELTS tests a different skill set and your preparation should also be focused around it. However, one thing to maintain throughout is your focus and concentration. Do not get baffled with the questions if you are unaware of the topic. The test aims at measuring your English proficiency and not your knowledge of the topics used in the tests.

  1. Practice listening skills in different accents: Try to do the listening practice in different English accents. The best way to do so is by watching movies. As a habit watch English news channels every day and summarize the news in your own words. This will improve both your listening and writing skills.
  2. Do not rush through: While doing the listening practice answer the questions in the same order as in the question paper. Do not rush to answer the next sections or you may miss details. Remember that the questions will usually follow the same order as the information in the recording.
  3. Browse the questions before attempting the reading section: If you are wondering how to prepare for IELTS reading test, we would suggest that you go through the questions first. This will help you locate the section where the answers are given. Read newspapers, magazines, and books every day as a part of your training. While reading books start with a topic of your interest to get into the habit and then diversify.
  4. Do not exceed the word limit: Candidates scouring the internet on how to prepare for IELTS writing test, the first rule is to be aware of the word limit. If the word limit for the task is 250 words, do not finish in less than 250. While there is no penalty for crossing the word limit, falling short will lead to a deduction in marks. Spend some time planning before you start writing. Since the second task has more weightage, make sure you give it more time. Your writing should be concise, accurate, and should deliver the message. Always practice with a stopwatch. This will help you keep a track of time and improve your speed.
  5. Don’t get stuck: In case you do not understand the meaning of certain words or a certain passage, do not get stuck on it. Continue reading as you might not even need to use it as a part of the answer. Keep a check on your spellings. Wrong spellings will be penalized. If a task requires you to answer in only 2-3 words or digits, strictly follow the instructions given.
  6. Practice mock interviews: If you are not confident about face-to-face interviews and are anxious about how to prepare for IELTS speaking test, try to do mock interviews with your family and friends. Read aloud in front of the mirror. Record your readings and listen to them to check your pronunciation. Try to be clear in your articulation and avoid repetitions. To crack the speaking test remember to Keep it Simple Silly!


Step 8: Practice with Mock Tests and Official IELTS Practice Materials

If you want to be thoroughly prepared for the IELTS, there is only one mantra we can vouch for and that is Practice, Practice, and Practice. The more you practice the more confident you will be to answer the questions. Take as many mock online tests as possible for this.


The official website of the IELTS has sample questions along with audio files and transcripts that you can download to do the listening practice. Having said that, make sure that you practice for the test you will be opting i.e. general training or academic.


If you wish to take more sample tests, the official website of IELTS offers excellent practice materials (Vol. 1 and 2). They are the only practice material endorsed by the IELTS partners. Both the sets contain samples of the listening, reading, writing, and speaking tests along with answer sheets and examiner comments. The same can be purchased from the official Cambridge University Press website or a recognized IELTS test center. You can also take the IELTS indicator which is an online test to check your preparedness.


Step 9: Consider a preparation course

Many of you may have taken numerous online tests already to practice and still need more guidance for the exam. There are several online courses offered by language schools, universities, and online learning portals. These affordable courses can run on multiple platforms and contain video lessons, mock tests, and email support from the mentors. If you wish to explore further, check out our website for the Best IELTS preparation course online.

We cannot stress more, that taking multiple online tests to practice is the only way to ensure a good band. If you have any doubts or questions, please feel free to reach out to us. Our entire team at Trump Learning wishes you all the best for your IELTS.


Step 10: Things to Remember on the Exam Day

A few tips can come in handy to avoid any kind of stress on the day of the exam.

  • Reach the exam center well in advance (at least 30 minutes early). Also, make sure to locate the exam center one day before the test. Check the weather forecast for the day and keep buffer time for traffic and other contingencies.
  • Wear comfortable clothes. You do not want to be distracted because of any physical discomfort.
  • Carry a bottle of water along with you. Also, since there are no breaks given during the exam, make sure you attend to nature’s call before entering the examination hall.
  • Do not carry any digital or electronic device, not even your watch. There will be a clock in the room to keep track of time.
  • Before leaving your home recheck that you have all the required documents with you. Your ID proof, stationary, etc.
  • In case there is any fault in the audio device, do not wait. Ask the staff for help.
  • Relax your mind. Take deep breathes to calm yourself down before you begin with the exam.

TrumpLearning wishes you all the very best for your IELTS preparation!