IELTS Top Tips

We Love IELTS is full of top tips to help you prepare for your IELTS test!

These tips are taken from our range of Top Tips for IELTS books, as well as our We Love IELTS experts who have an extensive range of experience in teaching, examining and mentoring IELTS test takers. We’ve also collected tips from students like you who’ve taken the test and achieved their goal.

Below you’ll find some of our top tips for each of the four IELTS skills, as well as blogs, videos, activities, books and other resources.

For more top tips, take a look at our Top Tips for IELTS General Training  and Top Tips for IELTS Academic books.

1. Read the instructions carefully, and make sure you follow them, especially regarding the maximum number of words.

2. Make sure you give the text a quick read through so you’re familiar with the topic and how it’s developed in the text, but don’t worry if you don’t understand every word.

3. You can write on the question paper, but you must copy your answers onto the answer sheet within the 60 minutes, so allow time to do that. You could save time by writing your answers directly onto the answer sheet.

4. Where you have to write words, check the spelling carefully (the word or words will always be in the text) and make sure you don’t write more than the maximum word limit.

1. Before you start writing, plan what you’re going to say. Make sure you’re going to answer the question, rather than writing something irrelevant or too general – there isn’t time for this in the test.

2. Make sure you use a range of vocabulary that demonstrates your knowledge of English.

3. Check that you have written enough words. When you practise writing, count the number of words you’ve written so you have a good idea of what 150 or 250 words look like in your handwriting.

4. Check your work for any mistakes you tend to make, e.g. leaving out articles. Know your own typical mistakes and check your work carefully for them.

1. You only hear the recordings once – so write the answers as you listen.

2. Listen carefully to the introduction for each section and try to imagine what the speakers will talk about. This will give you useful information about the situation and the speakers.

3. The questions will always follow the order of the recording. Don’t panic if you miss one question – look ahead and think about the next one.

4. It’s useful to underline key words in the question to help you focus on the words (or similar words) to listen for.

1. Spend time before the test speaking and listening or reading in English rather than in your own language so you’re ‘thinking in English’ when you go into the examination room.

2. Smile and relax – the more you smile the more relaxed you will feel.

3. Don’t speak too fast because it can be difficult to follow. Don’t speak too slowly as you won’t have the chance to say very much.

4. Try to use a wide range of grammar and vocabulary during the test. The examiner can only award you marks for the language you produce.

Top tips for IELTS – what to do in the run up to your test

If you’re wondering what to do in the run up to your test, follow Emma’s advice to ensure you make the most of your time in the precious few days leading up to exam day.

Find the right preparation material for you

We’ll recommend study resources to help you achieve your target band score.

Go to Resource Finder

Our most popular resources on Top Tips

More top tips ...

How to improve your vocabulary around education

One way to improve your vocabulary for IELTS is to learn more words and phrases connected to the common IELTS topic of education. You may have to answer questions in the IELTS Speaking test about your studies, read an article in the IELTS Reading test on different educational approaches or give your opinion in the IELTS Writing test about which subjects should be taught at school. And in the IELTS Listening test, you’ll definitely have to listen to people talking about their studies. So, to get started, complete the following two vocabulary exercises on the topic of education, and then come back again in a few days to see how much you remember. Subjects Can you name the subjects (in English) that children study at school in your country? Can you say (in English) what you studied or are studying at college/university or a subject you’d like to study in the future? If not, then the following exercise is for you. Copy (or print) the table below and add the missing subject names, people and adjectives. For example, you study architecture to become an architect (someone who designs buildings) and offer architectural services.   Download the answers and then add school subjects in your country that aren’t in the table, the subject(s) you studied or are studying at college/university, or a subject you’d like to study in the future. Word-building exercises like this one from Vocabulary for IELTS are one way to improve your vocabulary for IELTS. Study habits Can you talk about how you study best (in English)? Can you describe (in English) what you do when you have difficulty studying? To learn more vocabulary for answering these questions, read the following text about good study habits, decide if you agree with the advice given, and then answer the vocabulary questions below.   Answer the following vocabulary questions: Which word or phrase in the text describes someone who studies a lot? Which word or phrase in the text describes things that stop you from working? Which word or phrase in the text describes a sound you can hear but do not actively listen to? You can find the answers at the end of this post. Learning vocabulary from a text like this is another way to improve your vocabulary for IELTS and can be more effective than learning vocabulary from lists where there isn’t a clear context (a situation in which the words are used). For more vocabulary exercises and tips on learning vocabulary, check out the book Vocabulary for IELTS or Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced , and subscribe to the We Love IELTS newsletter so that you find out when the next post in my vocabulary for IELTS series is published. Don’t forget to do the vocabulary exercises in this post again in a few days to see how much you remember. Pete PS The answers to questions 1, 2 and 3 above are: studious, distractions and background noise.

Pete Jones

27 July, 2020

How to be an independent learner

It's every teacher’s dream – a class full of highly motivated and independent learners. Perhaps you are one of these students. Almost certainly though, you've met one and have shared a class with them. You've probably wondered how they became like that and maybe how you could become one of these types of learners. Of course, it's not just teachers who benefit from students who are proactive, learn from their experiences and improve quickly. In this blog, I'm going to talk about how you can become more of an independent learner when studying for IELTS.   Focus on the process, not just the end result If you’re taking the IELTS exam, the most important thing for you is probably the score you receive – to get you to your learning destination or your dream job. That’s totally understandable, but I want us to take a step back and think about what makes us receive high scores – perhaps let’s call it your learning journey. Consider the actions you need to take to get the scores you’re hoping for. Develop a growth mindset It’s important that you have something which is often called a growth mindset – that is the idea that with time, you can develop your skills to reach your goals. Rather than just focussing on the final result, think about the steps and processes you need to go through to get there. These can be things like recognising good strategies that you occasionally follow and using them more, as well as reducing how much you use less effective strategies. To help you do this, think about what you did in IELTS practice activities and previous tests and consider the following questions:  What did you do well?  What did you not do so well?  What do your teachers say you should do?  How much of that advice did you follow?  I strongly recommend that you keep a record – a reflective journal perhaps – of this. This will help you identify what you should do next time to do even better. A good independent learner knows where they are on their learning journey, where they need to go and how they can get there. This means that they know what they do now and what they need to do more of or differently. Let me give you some examples: Speaking and Writing Think about all the good advice you’ve read about for the Speaking test. Let’s think about Part 2. Do you always use the full one minute to prepare? Do you always try to use a variety of grammar structures and a wide range of vocabulary? There are many other pieces of good advice here too. Write a list of all the recommended tips you’ve heard and think will work. Do the same for the Writing test– consider what is essential to do in Task 1, for example writing a summary statement and focusing only on the key parts of the data, etc. After every practice, ask yourself three important questions: How many of these tips did you follow? How many did you not follow?  What worked well? What didn’t? What will you do differently next time and why?  Use a checklist to help you and keep a diary – a reflective journal – and over time, watch how you use more of the strategies that work and fewer of the ones that don’t. If possible, write down the scores and comments you get and think about how you can improve further.  Listening and Reading For Listening, think again about all the positive strategy tips you’ve discovered like reading the questions carefully before the test starts and underlining the keywords.  For Reading, think about good tips to stay on top of time management – there’s a lot to get through in this exam. Make a list of all of these effective steps you should take to do well. Again, a checklist works well here. After you do each of the practice activities and tests when preparing for IELTS, note down what you did in your reflective diary and answer the same questions as before. Watch as you use more and more of these good strategies and fewer of the less effective ones. Better processes mean better results It would be understandable to think that some people are just better at language learning or exam-taking than others. Perhaps you feel some people just have a natural gift for these things. While there may be a small element of truth here, this shouldn’t discourage you if you feel you’re not lucky enough to be one of these talented people. It’s more likely that these people are using highly effective strategies and are just more aware of what they’re doing and why. The key is to always think of your learning journey – where you’re at and where you need to go. This will help you understand what you need to do more of and what you need to less of. Focus on the process here - use a checklist and regularly update your reflective diary. Reward yourself for using more and more of the recommended strategies and watch as you hopefully get to your desired destination quicker.  Good luck!  Jishan

Jishan Uddin

15 July, 2020

How to get a better score for grammar

Do you want to go from a good band score to a better band score? Of course you do! This blog will look at a few ways you can improve your band score in grammar. Examiners will be looking for a good 'grammatical range and accuracy'. This means using a wide variety of grammar structures and using them correctly. Are you ready to begin?  Here are the instructions: First, I’ll start by giving you a good sentence.  Then I’ll give you a word in bold.  You must use the word in bold in the second sentence.  The second sentence must have exactly the same meaning as the first.  Here is an example to get you started: (Click to enlarge) Both sentences have exactly the same meaning but the second sentence has used a wider range of grammar – not as good as / spoken English / written English (these last two are both grammar and vocabulary). Here are some more for you to practise with. I’ve also given you the first words in the second sentence to give you a bit more help.  Grammar points for each sentence: 1. the passive voice, 2. changing verb to nouns / adjective + noun, 3. not only … but also, 4. prefer + to / + ing, 5. modals in the past. (Click to enlarge) You can find the answers to these exercises below. Answer sheet download I hope this blog has helped you to see how you can make a good sentence even better by using a wider range of grammar structures. This will help you improve your band score for grammar not only in the Speaking test, but also in the Writing test.   I hope you have found this useful, we’ll be covering more grammar in later blogs so please come back for more.  Liz

Liz Marqueiro

7 July, 2020

Episode 5: Top tips for IELTS Writing

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz give some top tips on the IELTS Writing Test.

Download Transcript

Episode 4: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 3

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz discuss part 3 of the IELTS Speaking test.

Download Transcript

Episode 3: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 2

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz discuss part 2 of the IELTS Speaking test.

Download Transcript