Preparing for IELTS usually starts when you find out that you need a certain IELTS score for your visa or university application. Many students then spend months of stress and preparation. But if you think about it carefully, your preparation for IELTS started many years ago when you started learning English. It’s nice to feel that you are already on the right track.
IELTS aims to test your English level accurately, so in an ideal world, preparing for IELTS would only mean improving your English. Click here for more. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. Here is my 4 step plan to help you prepare for the IELTS test:
Know where you are
If you don’t know your current level of English in terms of the IELTS scale, you don’t know what you need to do to reach your goal. The first step in your preparation for IELTS should therefore be to test your current level. There are many tests on the market, but the easiest way to check your IELTS score is to take the EFSET Plus test. This is a 2 hour test, which will give you an EFSET score as well as an equivalent IELTS score for reading and listening comprehension. Unless your oral skills are completely different from your written level, you will know where you stand.
Improve your English
You knew this was going to be part of the plan, didn’t you? Improve your English by using online tools, books, or taking classes. You need to work on all aspects of your English: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. You can use special tools for IELTS, but you are not obliged to do so at this stage of preparation. Any English language learning techniques that you find interesting can be effective in preparing for IELTS. For example:
Reading in English on topics that interest you, forcing you to look at the meaning of each word you don’t understand. Newspapers and magazines are good ways to expand your vocabulary.
Reading will help you write better, but practice writing as well. Don’t limit yourself to one style of writing. Keeping a diary in English, writing short stories and practicing essay writing are all good practices. Correct your own work or find someone to proofread it with you.
Watch movies or listen to the radio in English. Replay sequences that you missed until you understand them.
Practicing speaking can be complicated, but if you look hard enough you can find a language exchange partner, either on the internet or in your city. Force yourself to talk about more advanced topics than a simple “Hello, how are you?” conversation.
There are also good IELTS preparation courses online or abroad, as well as at schools near you. If you have the budget to invest in an IELTS preparation course, it can boost your efforts and take you straight to Step 3.
Learn all about the IELTS test format
Improving your English is not enough to get a high IELTS score. A native English speaker who takes the IELTS will not get a perfect score if he or she does not study the test itself. You need to know how the test scoring works, how much text is required for each answer, and when points are removed or added. There may be small essential things like:
- If I’m not sure, should I try to guess the answer or pass the question?
- In the listening comprehension section, how many times will I hear the recording?
- What happens if the examiner cannot read my writing?
While Step 2 is totally focused on improving your English skills, this step is about using the skills you have to get the best possible score on the day of the test. There are IELTS preparation websites and books available to help you understand the structure of the IELTS test. Start by looking carefully at the official website. The aim of this step is to go to the test session knowing very well what type of questions you will be asked, how they will be scored, and what strategy to adopt to optimise your score.
Once you feel that you have improved your English and become familiar with the IELTS test, there is one more step before you register for the test. Test yourself again. If you took the EFSET Plus at Step 1, take it a second time to see how much you have improved. If you can take an IELTS speaking or writing test, do so as well. It doesn’t matter what you choose, but don’t skip this step. It is the only way to know if you are willing to spend your money to take the official test. There’s no point in registering for IELTS if you’re not ready to get the score you want…
With this 4 step IELTS preparation plan you can go to your test session confidently. Although the challenge is difficult, you will be ready to get the score you want. When you get your IELTS score you will see that your IELTS preparation has paid off.