What is the best way to prepare for IELTS? It’s a classic question with no definite answer. The best way I would say depends on your current level, your goals, your circumstances and others. However, there are general recommendations from experts which are proven effective by a lot of test takers. I have read a lot of IELTS preparation books and I have summarized their suggestions on how to succeed with the IELTS exam.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the IELTS exam format.
    • Get online and read about the test information in the British Council’s official website, IDP and Cambridge University Press. These organizations jointly own IELTS and they are the authorities on giving you accurate information.
    • When you book a test, you should be given free access to IELTS exam information including the exam format, free practice tests and other essentials of the test. Make the most out of it.
    • Buy or download the official guide to IELTS test. They should be given free by your IELTS test center or you can access them at the British Council’s official website.
    • Read guides and tips from test takers, examiners and experts in the test using books, e-guides and reputable IELTS blogs and websites.
    • Find people like friends who have experience taking the test. There are also forums and blogs which can help you find information about the test. The IELTS section of this blog provides guides, tips and free practice materials.
  2. Have a fair and honest evaluation of your current English level. Identify your strengths and weaknesses so you have a clear idea on where to start and where to put more attention to.
    • There are free IELTS test samples you can take online. Use them to practice and evaluate yourself.
    • Once you have identified your weak points, start drafting a study and practice plan for yourself. For example, if you have an hour a day to prepare for the exam, you might want to spend 3 days out of your 7 days on your weak spot, say on Writing.
    • Your test center should provide you with an opportunity to get a free level test/level assessment and should be able to provide you tips on how to go about your test preparation.
  3. Set clear targets/goals for yourself and create a concrete study plan.
    • You should have a clear idea of what band score you want or you need to get for each skill. This will help you focus on your preparation. Because by now, you have a clear idea of your current level and your weak and strong points, you will have a clear idea of how much time you need to dedicate for your test preparation.
    • Work on a study plan, follow it and be consistent. Check your progress periodically by taking practice tests or have someone (a tutor, coach) evaluate your progress.
    • Start working on your weak points, but do not overestimate your ability on your strong points. Make sure you still work on it.
  4. If you have not been reading a lot in English, it is time to start doing more of it. Newspapers, magazines, online news articles and books are good to start with. Read everything, even those which you are not interested in. Start with a list of common IELTS topics. Home, Work/Jobs, Holidays and Festivities, Music and Arts, Health, the Environment, Education and Family are just few of the common topics of IELTS questions. Reading is a great way to develop your vocabulary skills for IELTS.
  5. Watching English news on BBC or CNN and other English news websites is a great way to develop your listening comprehension skills. Get yourself well informed with the current local and global issues so you will have enough ideas to write and speak about during the test. Watching TV shows or TV serials and movies in English will help you a lot in getting used to different accents of English speakers.
  6. Practice every day. Spend more time on your weak points. Do a test simulation with a friend, a tutor, a coach or with a group. Speak in English as much as possible (I even talked to myself in English during my exam preparation). Set the timer when you are doing the Speaking Part 2 practice, writing and reading practice. This will help you get used to the actual IELTS test environment.
  7. Buy or get yourself a copy of the recent IELTS exam papers. Cambridge University Press publishes IELTS Examination Papers series on a regular basis so try to grab a copy for you to practice with.
  8. Have plenty of rest before the examination day. If you have done your best to prepare for the test, then there is no reason to cram. In fact, cramming doesn’t help at all, it will just make you feel more nervous during the big day.