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Three essential tips to start preparing the IELTS

After analyzing the different official exams available to prove your level of English, and concluding that the IELTS is the one for you, the most important question arises: how do I prepare for the IELTS?

The first step is not to panic. Many factors come into play when finding the optimal way to study for this test. However, as an introduction to the IELTS and to simplify this question, we are going to give you three keys that you should keep in mind to prepare the IELTS well.

1. Become familiar with the IELTS exam

 Become familiar with the IELTS exam

First of all, it is essential that you know intimately how IELTS works. As it is a standardized exam, the IELTS, or International English Language Testing System follows strict requirements regarding its structure. That is why, unlike other English tests that you have previously given, for IELTS you must study the evaluation format and methodology beforehand. Here are three guide questions to get you started on the topic.

Are you going to take the Academic IELTS or General IELTS?

There are two versions of the IELTS: Academic and General Training. The first thing you have to decide is which one is best suited for your needs. The academic IELTS, as the name implies, is mainly aimed at entering Anglophone universities, while the general IELTS is the most chosen option for labor and immigration purposes. It is always recommended that you consult the version required by the institution, the company or the corresponding country.

What does each section of the IELTS consist of?

The IELTS is divided into four parts: listening ( Listening ), reading ( Reading ), writing ( Writing ) and speaking ( Speaking ). They surrender in this order, in a total evaluation time of approximately two hours and 45 minutes. Keep in mind that Listening and Speaking are the same for both versions of the IELTS, while the Reading and Writing sections vary between general and academic. You can read in detail how long each part lasts and what you will have to perform on them on this IELTS page.

How do you rate the IELTS, and what score do you expect to get?

To prepare properly, you must establish from the beginning of the qualification to which you aim according to your needs. The IELTS is not the type of test that is “passed” or “disapproved” but a score is obtained in “bands” ranging from 0 to 9. Each section is assigned an individual band score, and then these results are averaged to define your final grade.

Since IELTS is used for so many different purposes, your goal score will depend on what you need to take the test for. In all cases, find out as soon as possible the requirements of the relevant entity and point to a result a little higher than the minimum required. It is convenient to have a margin in your favor, in case the nerves affect your performance on the day of the exam.

2. Get practice tests for IELTS

You already know what version of the IELTS you are going to perform, how is the structure of the test and what score you need to get. The next step is to start practicing for the test with the help of the best available preparation resource, that is, a complete training exam.

This is one of the most important parts of IELTS preparation, and one of the steps that many students overlook. To obtain a good result in this standardized test, it is necessary to practice with drills or complete training exams as similar as possible to the real IELTS. In addition, taking a complete practice test is the best tool to diagnose your level, know your strengths and weaknesses for IELTS, and plan your study accordingly.

Now, where do you get good practice exams? A quick internet search returns a multitude of options: paid and free, official and unofficial, quality tests and not so much. The picture can be overwhelming. To answer all your questions about these practice resources for the IELTS, we recommend that you take a look at the article prepared by the Magoosh experts, who will guide you to find the best complete training exams for the IELTS.

3. Don’t forget to practice your English in general

If you are a beginner or an intermediate student and aim for a competitive result in the IELTS, you will want to improve your overall English proficiency before taking the exam. Remember that a score higher than 6.5, like the one normally required by universities, corresponds to an advanced level of English. So what resources will help you improve your English before the test?

Resources to improve your vocabulary

Having an extensive vocabulary in English gives you a huge advantage in IELTS. We recommend you read well-written articles in English and keep a paper or digital record of all the new vocabulary you find. Some useful journalistic sources for the IELTS are BBC.comNew York Times, The Washington PostCBC News, and The Australian.

Resources to improve your listening comprehension

In the Listening section you will listen to speakers with different accents (British, American, Australian, etc.). Therefore, it is good to train the ear with varied materials, such as those found on www.ted.comBBC Radio or ABC News, among many others.

Resources to improve your reading comprehension

Reading daily in English is an infallible strategy. Check the sources listed above in the resources for your vocabulary, and read as much as you can.

Resources to improve your writing

In addition to completing specific training tasks for IELTS Writing , if you want to improve your writing in general, you can choose a topic every day and write about it non-stop for 10-15 minutes. Practice writing as many texts as you can (on paper, if you want to imitate the IELTS format), strictly timing yourself and, whenever possible, showing your writings to a native English speaker who can correct you.

Resources to improve your oral expression

To develop your oral production skills, it is necessary to speak English regularly, preferably with native speakers. You can use www.meetup.org to find native English speakers in your area, and take every opportunity you have to interact in English. Another good option is to sign up for conversation classes, organize  English courses in your company or find a private English teacher.

To get a high score on the IELTS you need a very good command of English. After all, what IELTS evaluates is your proficiency in the language. Yielding the IELTS is not an easy task, but with enough practice, and following the three tips we have just reviewed, you will undoubtedly be on track to successfully address this challenge.

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