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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TopTips
How to stay motivated during your IELTS preparation

To be as prepared as possible for your IELTS test, it’s important to stay motivated and focused during your preparation. But how can you do this when you find IELTS difficult, when you experience setbacks along the way or when you’re busy with work or family commitments? There’ll almost certainly be times when you don’t feel like doing what you need to do, make excuses or find ways to avoid doing any preparation. For those times, it helps if you understand why you’re taking IELTS and have some strategies in place to keep your motivation levels up. What’s your main motivation for taking IELTS? There are many different reasons for taking IELTS. You may be taking IELTS - so you can go to university or move to another country, or it may be less about the reward and more about how you feel when you’re preparing for IELTS. (Click image to enlarge) From my personal and teaching experience, I know how difficult it is to stay motivated over a long period of time, especially if your main motivation is about a reward (or punishment) and you experience challenges or setbacks. When things get difficult, you can lose sight of your goal as you start to doubt whether you’ll ever reach it. It’s much easier to stay motivated if your main motivation is related to how you feel. So, to find your motivation when you lose it, or to supercharge the motivation you already have, here are 5 strategies you can use. 5 motivation strategies to keep you focused on your IELTS preparation If your reason for taking IELTS is related to getting a reward (e.g. going to university) or avoiding a punishment (e.g. a low-paid job), try using some or all of the following strategies to stay motivated. If you’re taking IELTS for enjoyment or for the challenge, the third, fourth and fifth strategies will probably be the most useful. Keep sight of your goal by having inspiring pictures around you that help you visualise your future and why you want it, e.g. pictures of the country you want to live, work or study in. Break up your goal into small steps and reward yourself when you achieve them. A small step could be anything from starting a vocabulary notebook to creating a motivational goals board. A reward could be a break, a treat or doing something you enjoy. Check your progress often by comparing what you can do now with what you could do before. You may, for example, be able to get more answers correct when you do some IELTS Listening practice or understand more when you listen to the news. Make yourself accountable by sharing your goal, and progress towards your goal, with other people. It’s often easier and more motivating to do your IELTS preparation if the alternative is having to explain to someone else why you didn’t do it. Use motivating materials at the right level for you by answering the five questions on the We Love IELTS Resource Finder  How to avoid distractions while studying Of course, even if you’re motivated, it’s still easy to get distracted while you’re preparing, so try this exercise to help you stay focused for longer. Keep a notepad or piece of paper beside you the next time you do some IELTS preparation, e.g. doing some IELTS Reading practice. Each time you have a distracting thought, write it down and continue your preparation. Distracting thoughts can be: remembering something you need to buy or someone you need to call, worrying about something happening in the future, panicking about not having enough time to do everything you need to. ​​​​When you’ve finished your preparation, read your distractions list and schedule a time to do anything that requires action – e.g. call John at 5pm. To reduce the number of distracting thoughts you have, repeat the exercise each time you do some IELTS preparation until you’re able to maintain your focus for longer. How are you going to stay motivated and focused during your IELTS preparation? Pete

Pete Jones

8 September, 2021

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TopTips
How to improve your vocabulary around sports

One of my passions, in addition to the English language, is sports. Sports vocabulary is useful in all four parts of the test as well as being an important factor in socialising with people outside of the test context. So, I thought I'd share with you my top booster tips for improving your vocabulary around sports, so you can – like me – talk about the topic for hours with your English-speaking friends, or just feel a little more prepared for the IELTS test if sport isn't really your thing ☺.   In sports, there are four main areas you might want to consider: people, places, objects and actions, and you might want to create a little study grid, a mind map or an excel glossary where you can organise the vocabulary and keep adding new words and expressions as you go along. Check out my blog on animal vocabulary to see examples of a study grid and a mind map. If you want to study an area of vocabulary in more depth, an Excel glossary file is probably your best option. Here’s an example of how you can use Excel to organise your sports vocabulary (or any other vocabulary for that matter).   (Click to download) (Click to enlarge) Perhaps more than any other vocabulary area in the test, sports lends itself to playing a couple of fun vocabulary games. Charades: Sport is a great area to work on because you can have a lot of fun doing it. If you have a friend who is also preparing for the IELTS test, write down a lot of words to do with sports on separate pieces of paper. Then, without looking, pick a word and take turns to mime (or draw) the word. The other person has to guess what the word is. Bonus points if they can spell it! Famous athletes: Another game you can play is the famous sports people game. Write down the name of a very famous sportsperson. Then take turns to ask each other questions like What equipment do they use? Where do they play their sports? What competitions have they won? … If you don’t know the answer in English, use a dictionary to find out and make a note of the new word. Keep going until one of you has guessed the right answer. Sports is also a really popular topic in the writing part of the exam, especially the benefits of sport and the connection between health and sport. To prepare, you could write down all of the benefits of sports that you can think of in your own language. Then imagine that you are asked to discuss this in English. Underline any words where you get stuck because you don’t know the English word. Spend some time with a dictionary to find out what these words are in English. Don’t forget to check the pronunciation, so that you recognise the words in the Listening test. And, finally, a super quick vocabulary lesson: Learners of English often get confused about when to use ‘go’, ‘play’ or ‘do’ when talking about different sports. So here is my super quick explanation of the rules: If the sport ends in -ing, we say ‘go’. For example: ‘go swimming’. The exceptions are weightlifting, body-building, fencing and boxing. Probably because you don’t need a lot of space for these. We can say ‘do’ in these cases or simply use the sport as a verb: e.g. ‘I box’. Got it? Ok, next rule: If the sport is a game, we say ‘play’. For example: ‘play tennis’. 2 down, 1 to go: If it’s not ‘go’ and it’s not ‘play’ we say ‘do’. In other words, we use ‘do’ for everything else. For example: ‘do yoga’.   LANGUAGE ACTIVITY Find a list of sports on the internet and decide whether you would say ‘go’, ‘play’ or ‘do’ for each one of them. Try to do this as quickly as you can. That way it’s really good practice for the speaking exam when you don’t really have much time to think about this. Sophie PS. Pete Jones has a couple of really great blogs on improving your vocabulary around a particular topic area. If you want to find out how to improve your vocabulary around technology, energy and education, I highly recommend you check them out.

Sophie Hodgson

2 June, 2021

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TopTips
How to improve your vocabulary around animals

There's a myriad of animals in the world, and the topic happens to be a very popular one in the IELTS test. Especially in IELTS Reading, where an extraordinary number of texts and sections seem to be about obscure beetles in South America that nobody has ever heard of. It can be really difficult to decide what vocabulary around animals you should study in preparation for the exam. Here's a little surprise when it comes to preparing for the reading and listening part: you should probably not focus on animals at all. Instead, focus on the things animals do, the way they look, and the groups they belong to. That is because when you get a text or a section about a specific animal, the animal is usually introduced with a short explanation. So, there is no need to study the word ‘pangolin’, if the text tells you that “the ‘pangolin’ is a mammal, covered in scales which serves as protection from predators and that when a predator approaches, the pangolin curls up and uses its sharp tail to protect itself.” In this sentence, for example, the words ‘mammal’, ‘scales’, ‘predators’, ‘curls up’ and ‘tail’, are much more important than the word pangolin itself. Here is my example of what your animal vocabulary study sheet could look like: (Click to enlarge) It is easy to see that this list is by no means complete and that you will have to keep adding to it through the course of your studies. If you simply follow a table like the one above, it might become difficult at some point and you might prefer to re-organise the vocabulary items into a mind map. Here’s an example of what that might look like (just keep adding more words and definitions in English and/or translations into your language to the map): (Click to enlarge) The important thing with mind maps is that the way you organise the information has to make sense to you. Nobody else. So, if you think it’s logical to compare similar ideas across animals – for example baby animals: puppies, kittens, cubs, chicks – then you should arrange information that way on your mind map. If it makes sense to you to categorise the animal kingdom into separate groups first – e.g. birds, mammals, fish – then that is how you should divide your mind map. For some people, mind maps don’t work at all and they are confusing rather than helpful. If you are among them, ignore this method, and move on to something that works for you. A lot of people really like having pictures of animals around and you could incorporate that in your vocabulary studies by copying and pasting images of the relevant vocabulary into a word document and annotating them. Annotating here means to add your own text to the pictures. (Click to enlarge) Another great way to prepare for the exam is to read texts about animals or watch television programmes about exploration and conservation. You could do this in English and make a note of key vocabulary that is used frequently. Alternatively, you could engage with the topic in your own language, identify key vocabulary and research the words in English. This technique is useful for the Reading and Listening test, but even more so for Writing Part 2 as you might be asked about the importance of protecting nature or a similar issue. In the Speaking test, you are likely to use animal vocabulary that you can personally relate to. This might be to answer questions about your pets or your favourite animals, animals you are afraid of or about animals that your country might be famous for. So, make a mental note of the way animals play a part in your everyday life. If you’ve enjoyed this blog, check out more advice on learning vocabulary here, or for more practice I recommend Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS. Sophie  

Sophie Hodgson

11 May, 2021

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Episode 9: How to manage IELTS test anxiety

In this first episode of our second series, IELTS expert Pete Jones shares some tips on how to reduce any anxiety you might have regarding the IELTS test to help you make the most of your preparation time and perform better in the test.


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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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