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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How to choose the right IELTS course or tutor

Getting help with your IELTS preparation may be the best decision you can make. But, with hundreds of IELTS courses and tutors to choose from, how can you choose the right one for you? Well, it starts by being clear on exactly what kind of help you need. What kind of help do you need? Not all IELTS courses and tutors offer the same kind of help so it’s important to know exactly what help you need before making any decisions. You may, for example, need help with… all parts of the IELTS test because you don’t know where to start or how to prepare improving one skill (e.g. Writing) because you need to improve your band score in this area and  don’t know how to improve it on your own improving your English in general before you start preparing for the IELTS test You may also need the encouragement, motivation and/ or support that you can get from working with other people. So, take some time now and write down what it is that you need help with. An IELTS course or tutor? When you know what help you need, it’s easier to decide  whether a course or a tutor is going to be better for you. To help you make the decision, here are some general characteristics of IELTS courses and the help that tutors can provide. IELTS courses generally provide ...  a structured way for you to learn about the IELTS test and some opportunities to practise some guidance on how to answer different types of IELTS questions some feedback on your performance  opportunities to work with, and learn from, other people preparing for IELTS  encouragement and support from a teacher and others Some courses may not provide all of these while others may also provide more. An online self-study course, for example, may not provide opportunities to work with other people or may be focused on one skill. A classroom-based course may also provide some guidance on how to learn more effectively. IELTS tutors generally provide … an individual programme based on exactly what you need guidance on how to overcome the specific difficulties you are experiencing more detailed feedback on your performance than you get on a course personal encouragement and support  So which is going to give you the help you need: an IELTS course or tutor? Choosing an IELTS course or tutor Once you’ve made the decision to take an IELTS course or to work with an IELTS tutor, it’s time to find the right one for you. When choosing an online or classroom-based course, it’s important to check… if the school/ website has a good reputation and can be trusted what the course includes how much teacher support is provided and who the teachers are what kind of feedback you’ll receive how many other people will be on the course, where they are from and what their level of English is This online IELTS Academic course is from Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Assessment English and Kaplan, covers all four skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking) and has a teacher-led or self-study option. When choosing an IELTS tutor, it’s important to check (or ask) … if they are a qualified English language teacher, e.g. do they have the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) or equivalent how experienced they are in helping people prepare for IELTS how familiar they are with the IELTS Writing and Speaking criteria what kind of feedback they give A good way to check what kind of feedback a tutor gives is to ask for an example of feedback they have given to someone else. It’s also very important that you like the tutor! How much do courses/tutors cost? The cost of an IELTS course or tutor ranges from very little to a lot. So, if the option you want is too expensive, keep looking because you may be able to find a more affordable option that is still useful. When considering the cost, don’t forget to think about the cost in time and money if you don’t get help and don’t get the IELTS band score you need! I hope this post has helped you make a decision about the kind of course or tutor you need. Pete

Pete Jones

11 November, 2020

8 websites to help you prepare for IELTS

In this blog I want to share some of my favourite websites and apps with you to help your IELTS preparation. These links are not all IELTS focussed, some of them are just for fun, and yes, I know that you're preparing for IELTS and that you're focussed on the test, but it's equally important to work on your general English. Remember, learning exam skills will only help you to improve your band score a bit, if your English level is not good enough then no amount of practice tests will get you the 7.5 or 8 you need for that MBA you want to take!   1. LEARNING ENGLISH This resource from the BBC is available online or you can download the app. You can find activities to practise grammar, vocabulary, listening, reading and more. If you’re fond of audiobooks there are some radio plays that you can listen to.  They also have 1-minute and 6-minute English videos. These are fantastic for developing vocabulary and opinions of a wide range of topics. You can start by doing the ‘Test Your Level’ activity which will then guide you to resources that are the right level for you. The content is constantly added to so you will always find something new to do! 2. CAMBRIDGE ENGLISH This resource from Cambridge English, is not specifically IELTS focussed but does have some good, short (5-10 minute max) activities, great for developing vocabulary and grammar.  Choose your level and the kind of activity you want to do or see all the activities and choose anything that interests you. I would recommend that you go for the intermediate and advanced level activities although the beginner activities could also serve as useful review.  3. WORDSHAKE Wordshake is a fun word game! You get given a grid of letters and you need to find as many words using those letters as possible in the time given. It is a fun way to practise spelling and challenge yourself to remember English words that you have learnt.  4. FREERICE This is a brilliant website and app. Not only is it a fun way to test your English, but by playing the game you are helping the UN World Food Program raise funds (through advertising) to provide food to people in need.  You can choose different levels of difficulty and different categories from English grammar to famous paintings to test yourself on. The questions get harder as you play longer. It is truly addictive! 5. CAMBRIDGE DICTIONARY Sign up for an account with Cambridge Dictionary Plus and start making your very own wordlists. You can then turn your lists into quizzes that you can use to test yourself. Alternatively, there are plenty of image quizzes and wordlist quizzes created by the team at Cambridge Dictionary that you can do too.  6. ENGLISH CLUB We all need to work on grammar, it’s just the way it is. This site has lots of games you can play to go over different tenses and structures… in fun and interesting ways. Not IELTS focussed but I’m certain that you’ll be able to find plenty to keep you busy and help you improve your grammatical accuracy on this website.  7. CAMBRIDGE DICTIONARY BLOG “About Words” is run by Cambridge Dictionary. The articles are written for people learning English using a high level language. They introduce and explain a lot of vocabulary in context.  I especially recommend looking at the ‘Word of the Day’; you could get into the habit of checking each day at a certain time. You could set yourself the goal of reading one blog post a week and making a note of the new words that you learn in your vocabulary notebook.  8. WE LOVE IELTS Last but not least, we’re here to help you prepare for IELTS success. We are working hard to make sure that the content we provide is updated and added to on a regular basis. Check back regularly for new podcasts, blog posts and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Don’t forget to subscribe to our Newsletter to receive updates direct to your inbox.  So, there you have it, a list of websites that you can access from your phone, tablet or computer when you have some time to spare. Thanks for reading and feel free to share this post with any of your friends who might find it interesting. Emma

Emma Cosgrave

6 November, 2020

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

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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