The IELTS test evaluates all of your English skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Studying for such a large test can be daunting. You may feel like you cannot pass on your first try.
Without a doubt, it is 100% possible for you to clear IELTS on your first attempt. However, you need to study smart. Make sure you have enough time to prepare and know the structure of the test, question types, and practice daily, so on your test day you have the confidence you need to pass!
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- Test Structure
- Test Expectations
- Question Types
Give Yourself Time to Study
One of the most important things you can do to ensure you pass IELTS on your first try is to give yourself enough time to study.
If this is your first time taking the IELTS test, it simply isn’t possible for you to understand and practice the material in only a week. You need to have enough time to understand what is expected of you when you take the test.
So give yourself enough time to do this by beginning your studies as soon as possible. I would recommend you begin studying at least six months before you take the test. Ideally, you would have as much time as possible.
The reason you want to give yourself so much time is to ensure that you know everything there is to know about the test. At the end of your time studying, you should be bored to death by the IELTS test. You should be able to list each module, the time it takes to complete, the types of questions you’ll see, and have practiced them hundreds of times.
This makes it completely sure that you only have to take the test once and then never again.
Understand the Test Structure
IELTS is a standardized test. This means that the organizers try to give everyone who takes it the exact same experience. You can use this to your advantage while studying by understanding the test’s structure.
The IELTS test has two different flavours: Academic and General Training. They are different in very subtle ways. The Academic IELTS test is for people who want to study abroad in an English speaking university or need to register as a professional in an English speaking country.
The General Training IELTS test is for people who wish to emigrate from their home countries to an English speaking country or for people who wish to study abroad but at a level lower than a post-secondary degree.
The IELTS test has four parts: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Both the Academic and General Training tests have the same amount of questions and take the same amount of time.
|IELTS Test||Sections & Time|
|Listening||4 sections, 40 Questions, 30 minutes|
|Reading||3 sections, 40 questions, 60 minutes|
|Writing||2 tasks, 60 minutes|
|Speaking||3 parts, 10 – 15 minutes|
|Total Time||2 hours 45 minutes|
Click each category of the test for an in-depth look at achieving the band score you need!
There are four sections to the IELTS listening test. Each section has 10 questions you must answer.
- Section 1 is a conversation between 2 speakers.
- Section 2 is a monologue. (one person speaking)
- Section 3 is a group conversation between up to 4 people.
- Section 4 is another monologue.
The first two sections talk about social needs. This covers topics such as asking for information or commenting on a situation. The final two sections deal with educational or training situations. Both Academic and General Training candidates are given the same listening test.
The Academic IELTS reading test has three sections with a total of 40 questions to answer. The test consists of three texts. These texts come from journals, books, magazines, and newspapers. The topics of these articles will be on general interests of an academic nature, such as psychology, biology, transportation, etc. At least one of the texts will include a detailed logical argument.
You have a total of 60 minutes to complete the test.
The General Training IELTS reading test has three sections with a total of 40 questions to answer. The test consists of three texts. These texts come from notices, advertisements, leaflets, newspapers, instruction manuals, books, and magazines. Unlike the Academic test, the General training test is more concerned about your ability to function well in an English environment.
The first section will have texts about basic English situations. Such as reading information on an advertisement or notice. The second section focuses on work, and the third section is a descriptive or instructive text which is the most complex and longest of the three.
You have a total of 60 minutes to complete the test.
There are two tasks for the Academic IELTS writing test. You have 60 minutes to complete both tasks and it is up to you to manage your time effectively for both.
You must write at least 150 words for task one. You will have to examine a diagram, a chart, or a graph. Afterwards, you must organize your ideas and present them in writing to explain what you have seen. It is recommended you spend 20 minutes writing task one.
Task two must be at least 250 words. This task expects you to be able to present your ideas in a structured, logical way. You must read and understand a writer’s point of view and create a response to it. It is recommended you spend 40 minutes writing task two.
There are two tasks for the General Training IELTS writing test. You have 60 minutes to complete both tasks and it is up to you to manage your time effectively for both.
You must write at least 150 words for task one. You will have to write a letter responding to a situation. You will either be asked to explain the situation or ask for more information. It is recommended you spend 20 minutes writing task one.
You must write at least 250 words for task two. This task is similar to the Academic writing task two. You will have to present your ideas in a structured, logical way. It is recommended you spend 40 minutes writing task two.
The speaking test is the same for both the Academic and General Training IELTS tests. You will conduct this test in person with an examiner. This will be on a separate day from the rest (writing, reading, and listening) of the test. It is divided into three parts.
The first part will last between 4 and 5 minutes. This will be an introduction and the examiner will ask you questions about your life, your home, your home country, your family, your interests or hobbies, your job or studies, etc.
The second part will be a monologue. You will have to speak for up to two minutes about a topic. The examiner will give you a card with the topic on it and some questions to answer. You have 1 minute to prepare for the speech. You can make notes or ask questions if you wish.
After, the examiner will ask you one or two questions related to the topic.
Part three is a discussion between you and the examiner. The questions will be related to the topic from part 2. This part lasts between 4 and 5 minutes. The questions you are asked here will be more abstract than the questions from part 2.
Understand the Expectations
During the active portions (speaking and writing) of the test, The examiners will be looking for you to demonstrate specific skills while answering the questions. It’s important to know and understand these expectations. Demonstrating these skills during the test will maximize your band score.
Coherence and Cohesion
While writing you must make sure that you are writing clearly. I’ve written to help you write clearer English. You can check it out here. The examiners will be evaluating you on your coherence. This means that your writing should make sense, and your ideas should be logically structured. You should link ideas and organize information in a clear and easy to understand way.
Cohesion is your use of words which connect sentences together in meaningful ways. This means proper use of pronouns and conjunctions to show the reader the relationship between and among the ideas you present.
This is a fancy way of saying that the examiner will be marking your vocabulary. You should make sure you are using a wide range of words throughout your writing. Keep in mind things like synonyms (words that mean the same thing) to keep your writing fresh and show off the words you know.
However, be careful not to over extend your vocabulary. This means only use words that you know. Don’t use a word if you aren’t sure of the proper way to use it. The examiner is not only looking at the types of words you are using but also if you are using them accurately.
Make sure that you are using appropriate style when you are writing. This means that Academic test-takers should be using Academic English. General Training test-takers can get away with using more simple words, however you should still be trying to show off your vocabulary!
Check out my tips on the best way to learn English vocabulary!
Grammatical Range and Accuracy
Of course, the examiners will be evaluating you on your grammar. They will be looking to see what kind of grammatical structure you use and how well you use it. Grammar is an important skill to understand. If you want to learn more about why that is, you can check out my article on why English grammar is important here.
Knowing about grammar lets you know about the tools you can use to increase your range. You should be using past, present, and future tenses where appropriate in your writing. Use conjunctions to connect your ideas together and avoid using too many simple sentences in a row.
Academic Task 1 Expectations
The examiners will assess your ability to accurately and logically organize the data from the task in writing. You must present the information clearly using skills such as: comparing data, describing the stages of a process/object/event, or explaining how something works.
Academic Task 2 Expectations
You are expected to be able to present your opinion and ideas in a clear, logical way. Examiners will be looking to see if you used an appropriate style while writing. This means writing in a way that is appropriate for academic English, such as your word choice and grammar (do not use contractions).
General Training Task 1 Expectations
Candidates must demonstrate their ability to write letters or emails. You must show you are able to ask for and present information, and express your needs, wants, preferences, opinions, or complaints.
General Training Task 2 Expectations
The expectations for task two are a little deeper. Examiners expect you to be able to outline a problem and present its solution, logically express your opinion, and evaluate ideas/evidence/arguments.
The expectations for the speaking test are the same for both Academic and General Training candidates. They are the same across all parts of the speaking test too.
Fluency and Coherence
Examiners will be listening for both your fluency and your coherence. Fluency is your ability to effectively communicate in English without significant pauses and without making significant grammatical mistakes. Coherence is your ability to clearly present your ideas. Basically, do you make sense when you’re speaking?
Grammatical Range and Accuracy
Your grammatical range is the types of grammatical constructions you can use as well as your ability to use them correctly.
The examiner is looking for you to be able to use a range of English grammar. This means speaking in the past, present, and future tenses. You also should be able to combine your ideas into complex sentences using conjunctions. Want to learn more about conjunctions? You’re in luck! I’ve written all about how to use conjunctions. You can check it out here.
The examiner will also take your pronunciation into account. However, this does not mean that you must speak English perfectly with no accent. What it does mean is that your native accent must not interfere with the listener understanding what you are saying.
With practice you can minimize the impact of your accent on your speaking.
If you want more information on how the IELTS speaking test is scored, check it out here.
Know the Question Types
Knowing the types of questions on the test can be the difference between a successful, confident test day and a nerve wracking surprise. If you know all of the types of questions on the test, you can prepare to answer all of them.
This allows you to approach test day confidently. When you arrive at the test center and sit down to do your test, nothing you see on your testing sheet will be able to surprise you. You will know all of the strategies to successfully answer them because you have already practiced doing them many times in the past!
Listening Question Types
- Multiple Choice
- Diagram/map labeling
- Form/table/note completion
- Flow-chart completion
- Summary/sentence completion
Reading Question Types
- Multiple Choice
- True/False/Not Given
- Writer’s views (Yes/No/Not Given)
- Matching information/headings
- Matching sentence endings & sentence completion
- Table/diagram/summary/note completion
Speaking and Writing are covered in-depth above, give them a read!
Practice, Practice, Practice
Without a doubt, the greatest thing you can do to help your chances of passing the IELTS exam is to practice. You should be practicing as much as you possibly can. This includes practicing all of the question types for all sections of the test.
You can now see why I recommended you spend as much time as you can preparing for the test. There is a lot to cover! You should identify your strengths and weaknesses and focus on what you need to improve. Is speaking your worst skill? Then you should spend the majority of your time practicing for the speaking test.
Does your writing need improvement? Then spend a lot of your time preparing for writing tasks 1 and 2. It can be difficult to prepare for such a large test alone. You need to juggle all of the test preparation, identify your weak points, and stay motivated all at the same time and all by yourself!
That is why I recommend you find a good tutor. Someone who is familiar with the IELTS exam and the best ways to prepare for it. If you have someone who has helped other people through their test prep, you can receive experienced instruction and maximize your chances for success!
I offer affordable one-on-one IELTS coaching sessions personalized just for you! Click here to learn more.
Why waste the money you spent booking the IELTS exam by failing and having to take it once more? Investing in help can ensure that you leave the IELTS test behind you and are ready to start your life without any IELTS worry.