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.

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Top tips for describing maps in IELTS Writing Part 1

When I was younger, I used to have a recurring dream: I would show up for an exam and fail terribly because I had studied geography but instead it was a history exam. It was extremely stressful. I would imagine that this is a similar feeling to what some of my students experience when they've been studying hard to discuss developments (increases and decreases) in Part 1 of the Writing test and instead they are faced with something like this on exam day:   As I’ve mentioned in some of my other blogs, each type of writing task steers you in the direction of a certain set of language. If you can demonstrate a good command of that language, you should achieve a satisfactory mark for the task. So today, I want to talk you through the key language to consider if you get a map like the one above in the IELTS test. 1. Establish what tense you should use in your answer. Look at the dates given on the map. In our example above, both dates given are in the past. One is earlier than the other. This shows us that our main tense should be the past simple, potentially with the opportunity to show the examiner that you can also handle the past perfect, but that  is optional for some bonus marks.  e.g. ‘There was a joint car park for staff and members of the public.’ Sometimes, maps are labelled something like ‘current layout’ and ‘planned changes’, which indicates that you should be using the present simple and future tenses.  e.g. ‘The main car park is currently located at the front. The plans indicate that it is going to be moved to the side of the building.’ Very occasionally, you get a comparison between a past year and the current year, in which case the best tense to use would be the present perfect; but as I said that is actually quite unusual. Having said that, we might assume that for example things haven’t changed much since 2010 and we could use the present perfect to show that the changes made in the past still affect the present. This would just be another way to impress the examiner.  e.g. ‘The car park has been moved to the side of the building.’ It’s even rarer to get one map with no date. In this case, you should use the present simple as we assume that the map depicts a permanent situation. Once you have established suitable tenses for describing the map, make sure you remember to proofread for tense accuracy at the end. 2. You will need a good grasp of active and passive forms to describe the changes that were made. e.g. ‘They built a new car park’ would not score you nearly as high as saying ‘a new car park was built’. In fact, I was trying to think of simple examples when I discussed tenses above, but I felt really unnatural and I had to use the passive form several times. 3. You will also need to be able to describe where things are located in relation to each other. e.g. ‘next to’ and ‘behind’ are accurate, but ‘adjacent’ and ‘to the rear of’, would probably score you higher marks. 4. Another type of language you should be able to demonstrate is the language of comparison. e.g. ‘the new car park arrangement provides considerably more parking space for staff and the public’. 5. Finally, whilst you are usually given key vocabulary in the task e.g. ‘roundabout’, you might want to study the vocabulary to do with construction and infrastructure (e.g. facilities, construct, demolish).  When we look back at the list of language items, we realise that, luckily, we don’t have to study a whole new set of language, as they are all vital in several other parts of the test. However, knowing what it is the examiner is looking for will make it much easier to stay in control of your answer and to do well in the test.  If you find this useful, look out for my upcoming blog on describing processes. Sophie 

Sophie Hodgson

27 October, 2020

How to improve your vocabulary around personality

There are many words in English to describe someone's personality – the type of person someone is because of how they behave, think and feel – and choosing the right ones can sometimes be tricky. But, if you get the opportunity in your IELTS Speaking test to talk about someone’s personality, it’s a chance to impress the examiner with how much vocabulary you know! So, complete the following three exercises and then see if you can use any of the vocabulary in the IELTS Speaking Part 2 topic at the end of this post.  Adjectives Look at the following adjectives (words used to describe nouns) and decide if any of them describe your personality:   If you’re not sure what some of these adjectives mean or how to pronounce them, you can use a dictionary to check and then come back and decide if they apply to you. Personalising vocabulary like this (i.e. connecting new words/phrases to your own experiences and opinions) is one way to improve your vocabulary for IELTS, and it can be more effective than trying to memorise a list of vocabulary that you don’t relate to your own life. More adjectives Look at the following adjectives and decide if they usually describe positive qualities or negative qualities:   To check whether you have put the words into the correct category, use a dictionary and download this completed table and compare it to your answers. Putting vocabulary into categories like this based on their meaning requires a deeper level of thought than trying to memorise vocabulary from lists and will help you remember the vocabulary for longer.  Prefixes You may have noticed in the exercises above, or perhaps you knew already, that you can add a prefix to some adjectives to turn a positive quality into a negative one. For example, the prefix ‘im’ (meaning ‘not’) can be added to the word ‘patient’ to create the word ‘impatient’ (meaning ‘not patient’). Which prefix (im, in or un) is the correct one to use with the following adjectives to create words with the opposite meanings? considerate polite reliable You can check your answers at the end of this post. Word-building strategies like this can help you improve your vocabulary more quickly as you learn different ways to use new words! IELTS Speaking Part 2 Now, for a chance to use some of the vocabulary and to help you remember it, try the following: read the following IELTS Speaking Part 2 task from Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced, give yourself one minute to think about what you want to say and make some notes,  and then talk about the topic for one to two minutes.    For more vocabulary exercises and tips on learning vocabulary, check out my IELTS vocabulary posts on the topic of education, technology and energy. If you did all of the vocabulary exercises above and in my other posts, I’d use the adjective ‘diligent’ to describe your vocabulary learning.  Well done! Pete PS The answers to the prefixes question are: inconsiderate, impatient and unreliable.

Pete Jones

23 October, 2020

What is IELTS?

If you are new to the world of IELTS it can all be a bit confusing. Today we will try to answer some of your questions.     Listening Practice: Listen to Emma read What is IELTS?     What is IELTS? IELTS is the International English Language Testing System. It measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is used as a language of communication. It may be required by immigration authorities as part of the application process.   Which IELTS test should I take? Academic or General Training? IELTS is available in two versions; Academic and General Training. Always check which IELTS test the organisation you are applying to requires so that you don’t waste time and money preparing for/taking the wrong test. Here is a quick overview of the different tests. IELTS Academic is for those applying for higher education. It reflects some of the features of academic language and assesses whether you are ready to begin studying or training. Thousands of education and training providers all over the world use IELTS results to select their students. You can find out which institutions accept IELTS scores on the IELTS website. IELTS Academic may also be a requirement for those applying for professional registration. Many professional registration bodies and employers rely on IELTS as evidence of English language proficiency. IELTS General Training is for those applying for secondary education, training programmes and work experience in an English-speaking environment. It is also a requirement for migration to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The test focuses on basic survival skills in a wide variety of social and workplace contexts.  What does IELTS assess? Both versions of IELTS assess the four language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. All candidates take the same Speaking and Listening tests but the Reading and Writing sections are different.  Double-check which IELTS test you need to take, the Reading and Writing sections are different! How long is the IELTS Test? The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes. You will take the first three parts on the same day, in the following order: Listening, Reading and Writing (there are no breaks between these tests). Your Speaking test will be held on either the same day or seven days before or two days after, depending on your local test centre arrangements. The IELTS Speaking test is a face-to-face test with an official IELTS examiner, you take the test by yourself.  How can I prepare for IELTS? We Love IELTS has preparation resources to help you achieve IELTS success, whether you are a first-time test taker or resitting the test. You may want to take a practice test to get an understanding of your current level and your strengths and weaknesses. This will also give you more information on the format of the test. You can find practice tests and materials on our website. If you are not sure which book or resource is best for you then let our Resource Finder guide you. Remember that everyone is different, learns differently and learns at a different pace so don’t put pressure on yourself to prepare in a short period of time. How long will it take me to prepare for IELTS? The length of time it takes to prepare for IELTS depends upon your level of English language proficiency and your target band score. If your English level is already at the standard needed, then you may simply need to learn about the IELTS test format and ensure that you have the exam skills needed. On the other hand, you may find that you need to work on improving your general English before you start working on IELTS specific exam skills, this can take longer.   How is IELTS marked? IELTS is not a pass/fail exam. It is a test to check the level of your English, IELTS is marked using a 9-band scoring system. A score of 1 shows a non-user all the way to a 9 which shows an expert user.  You can also get .5 scores for example 7.5.  You will receive individual band scores for Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking, and an overall band score which is the average score of all the skills. You can find out more about how IELTS is scored on  Qualified examiners mark your work using a fixed set of criteria. Examiners must go through extensive training to become qualified to mark test papers. Your work will be marked by more than one examiner to ensure that marks are consistent and fair no matter where you sit your IELTS test.  What’s the difference between the paper or computer IELTS? The paper-based test requires test takers to sit at a desk with the question and answer sheets for the Reading, Listening and Writing tests in an official IELTS test centre. Test takers will write their answers in either pen or HB-pencil. The Speaking test is carried out face-to-face with a trained IELTS examiner. The computer-delivered test requires test takers to sit the Reading, Listening and Writing tests in front of a computer with the questions presented on the screen in an official IELTS test centre. The test takers then submit their answers through the computer. The Speaking test is not on computer and is carried out face-to-face with a trained IELTS examiner. You can find out where computer- delivered IELTS is currently available at:  Get lots of writing practice before the test - you need to build your stamina and ensure your handwriting can be read. If you are taking computer-delivered IELTS make sure you can type quickly and accurately, there is no spell check and typos will be considered spelling errors. I hope i’ve answered some of your questions today. There’s lots of information on the IELTS test on the rest of the website. Good luck with your preparation and remember, we are here to help.  Subscribe to our newsletter to get IELTS activities in your inbox and follow us on social. If you have questions that we haven’t answered here, why not try our FAQs page or send us a message on Facebook or Instagram.  Good luck with your IELTS preparation.  Emma 

Emma Cosgrave

13 October, 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.

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Episode 4: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 3

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

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Episode 3: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 2

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

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