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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Developing your English for work after IELTS General Training

One of my former students has become a good friend of mine. Many years ago, he hired me as a private tutor to work with him towards the General Training version of the IELTS test. He needed the test to apply for a visa to Australia in order to start a job as a carpenter. I still remember that in one of the first messages they sent from Australia they talked about how kind and helpful everybody was, but how unprepared he felt for so many elements of life there. How at work he still had to use his hands a lot to communicate with his colleagues, how difficult it was to make real friends, and how simple tasks like making a phone call posed a real problem. A few months after that, I had another email and I was astonished at how much better my friend’s English had become and how much more comfortable he was at expressing himself. He told me that now he really understood how everything he learned had an immediate application, it was much easier to remember language and he was much more motivated to invest time in developing his language skills. When I asked him what he would do differently about preparing for the test he said that he would make it more about himself and that he would look beyond the test itself to understand how everything he studied would help him in real life.  As a non-native speaker of English myself, I couldn’t agree more! As I put it in a recent blog for test-takers preparing for the Academic version of the test: Think of the IELTS test as an airport to your real destination. While it’s important to make sure you have your ticket, passport, vaccinations, visa, and anything else you need to get through the controls, you’ll also want to know what to do at the other end of your journey. Here are some of my top tips: 1. Start by looking at your future life in your own language Find out as much as you can about the place you want to live in, what kind of things people do there, what kind of things you think you might enjoy doing there yourself. Find out what local delicacies the region is famous for, find out what sports people play, a little bit about the history of the place. Start making it real for you, because if you know that you will be living in a ‘mountainous’ region, it will be so much easier to remember the word. 2. For your reading in English, find a text that’s relevant to your future life where a reliable translation exists Read the text first in your own language and then in English. You’ll be surprised how much easier vocabulary and ideas fall into place and because they are relevant to who you are, or who you want to be, things will be much easier to memorise. 3. Prepare specifically for your future job or occupation For example, if you want to work in a restaurant, study everything from the furniture (e.g. barstool) to the names of vegetables (e.g. brussels sprouts). This may not feel immediately relevant for the test, but by thinking about how you would talk about these things, you will increase your fluency and confidence.  4. Study vocabulary that means something to you For example, if you’re a big football fan, make sure you can follow English football commentary on TV, or if you have children, consider how you would talk about them to other parents. (Look up the word ‘tantrum’ you’ll probably need it!) 5. Start researching the kind of communities you will be joining My friend, for example, always wanted to learn to play cricket but it took him quite some time to find a team when he arrived in Australia. Now, he does a lot of socialising with his cricket teammates, something that would’ve been really helpful on arriving in the country. His wife, on the other hand, started volunteering at a local animal shelter straight away because she had already been in touch with them before leaving their home country. And she found it much easier to settle in and make friends. 6. Spend some time considering the kinds of language activities you will need to engage in including business phone conversations or registering your child for childcare.  Looking beyond the test to your future life will make it much easier to understand how the things you study for the IELTS test can be used in real life. This will not only help your motivation, but also your language retention. It’s also important to remember that in language learning nothing is ever wasted. Even if you don’t always get to use everything in the test, you will, sooner or later need it for what really matters. Good luck on your journey! Sophie

Sophie Hodgson

9 October, 2020

How to improve your vocabulary around energy

How electricity is produced may not be something you think about every day, but it's definitely a topic you should learn more vocabulary on for your IELTS test. I can think of many examples where it would help you get a higher band score if you know and use words connected to the topic of energy. This IELTS Writing Task 2 question from Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced is just one example: (Click to enlarge) So, to get started, complete the following two vocabulary exercises on the topic of energy, and then practise using some of the words/phrases by answering the Writing Task 2 question above. Types of power Which of the following types of power are used in your country to produce electricity? Which do you think are a good idea? nuclear, wave, wind, solar, hydroelectric If you’re not sure what some of the types of power are or how to pronounce them, you can use a dictionary to check and then come back to think about your answers to these two questions. 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. And remember, when you learn new words, it’s important to learn how these words are used with other words, and you’ll see one way to do this in the next exercise. Alternative energy There are different definitions of alternative energy. All of them include renewable resources such as the sun and the wind, while some also include nuclear power because it’s an alternative to fossils fuels (gas, coal and oil). Learn how to use this vocabulary by listening to the following conversation between two students, noting which types of power they think are a good idea, and then completing the vocabulary exercise below.     To check how much you understood before completing the vocabulary exercise, download the recording script and compare it to your notes. (I’ve included the two types of power the students think are a good idea at the end of this post). Now, listen to (or read and listen to) the conversation again, and notice which of the types of power from the previous section are used with the following words:    ______ / ______ farms ______ dams ______ turbines ______ power a ______ power plant   And for another useful combination of words, notice which word meaning ‘to produce’ is used with the word ‘electricity’:   _______ electricity   You can check the answers at the end of this post. Noticing which words are used together in texts and audio recordings is one way to improve your vocabulary, and it can also help you use words more fluently when speaking and writing and process words more quickly when reading or listening. 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 practise using this vocabulary by answering the Writing Task 2 question at the beginning of this post. Pete PS The two types of power the students think are a good idea are solar power and wave power. PPS The answers to the vocabulary exercise are: solar farms, wind farms, hydroelectric dams, wind turbines, solar power, a nuclear power plant, generate electricity.

Pete Jones

11 September, 2020

How to improve your vocabulary around technology

If there's one topic you should learn more vocabulary for in the IELTS test, it's probably technology. Because technology is such a big part of our everyday lives, there’s a very good chance that you’ll have to talk, write or read about some kind of technology (or listen to someone talking about technology) in your IELTS test too. You may think of technology as computers and mobile devices (e.g. tablets and smartphones), and these are certainly examples, but technology also includes other kinds of equipment and machinery used in industry, transport, hospitals and even our homes (e.g. ovens and washing machines). So, read on for two vocabulary exercises that will help you learn how to use more vocabulary connected to the topic of technology. Technological advances  A technological advance is an improvement or development in technology, and you’re holding one right now if you’re reading this on a smartphone or tablet! Learn other ways to use the word ‘technology’ by reading the following text, noting the advantages and disadvantages of technological advances mentioned, and then completing the vocabulary exercise below. (Click to enlarge) Check how much you understood below: (Click to enlarge) Now, find every time the word ‘technology’ (or ‘technological’ or ‘tech’) is used in the text and note down the words used with it, e.g. ‘advances in technology’, ‘wireless technology’ and ‘communication technology’. If you’re not sure what some of the vocabulary means, guess what it could mean in the text and then use a dictionary to check if you’re right. Noticing how vocabulary is used in a text like this from Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced is one way to improve your vocabulary for IELTS, and it can be more effective than learning vocabulary from lists where you can’t see how the vocabulary is used. Pronunciation When you learn new words or phrases that you want to use in your speaking or understand when you hear, it’s important to learn how they are pronounced. Listen to how the words below are pronounced and in each case identify which syllable is stressed (sounds louder than the other syllables), e.g. ‘ca’ in the word ‘communication and ‘nol’ in the word ‘technology’.     communication technology wireless technology information technology technological advances  computer access entertainment industry sophisticated technology Now listen and record yourself repeating these phrases with the same syllables stressed so that you feel more confident using them and so that people will be more likely to understand you when you do. (I’ve included the list of phrases with the stress marked at the end of this post so you can check if you’re stressing the right syllables). For more vocabulary exercises and tips on learning vocabulary, check out the book Vocabulary for IELTS or Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced, and subscribe to our We Love IELTS newsletter so that you find out when the next post in my vocabulary for IELTS series is published. Remember, learning vocabulary is not only about learning more words, it’s also about learning how different words and phrases are used together. Pete PS The underlined syllables in the following words are stressed: communication technology, wireless technology, information technology, technological advances, computer access, entertainment industry and sophisticated technology.

Pete Jones

9 September, 2020

Episode 2: Prepare for IELTS Speaking Part 1

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz discuss part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test.

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Episode 1: Top 5 IELTS questions answered

In this episode, IELTS teachers Emma and Liz answer five questions they are frequently asked by their IELTS students.

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How to work on your English at home

Emma Cosgrave shares her top tips on how to learn English at home.

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