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If you want to get the result you deserve, you’ll need to prepare for the test in advance. You should study as much English as possible, but also make sure you know what to expect on the test day. We’ve put together some tips to help you succeed:

Tips for success

  • Make sure you are familiar with the test format so that you avoid any surprises on test day.
  • Practise sample questions and check the assessment criteria used for IELTS.
  • Record yourself speaking English or doing practice IELTS speaking tests. Then listen back to check when you hesitate, when you repeat words, when you make grammatical errors and when you might be speaking too quickly – these are the four key aspects of the speaking test.
  • Underline the key words in the questions during the Listening, Reading and Writing tests: be sure you know exactly what needs to be included in your answer. Make a plan for your Writing answers before you start as well. 
  • Learn and identify synonyms (different words with the same meaning). In the Listening and Reading tests you will often notice a key word in the question, then see/hear a different word with the same meaning in the text – you need to make these connections. Using synonyms is also useful in the Speaking and Writing tests to show the variety of your vocabulary.
  • Check your answers carefully in the Listening and Reading sections. Ensure you have followed the instructions, otherwise you may lose marks.
  • Get a good night’s rest before the test, and make sure you arrive at the test venue in plenty of time. Arriving late will not help you perform to your best.

For more advice and information, you can read our IELTS test day advice and download the IELTS Information for Candidates brochure (PDF 564kb). 


Listening tips

  1. Read instructions carefully, don’t just glance at them. They are not always the same as in practise or previous tests.
  2. Often the speaker will give you an answer and then correct themselves-watch out for this. It’s a common trick.
  3. Try and anticipate what the speaker will say. This requires concentration-easy in your own language, but more difficult in English.
  4. Remember if you want a high score you should aim to get all questions in parts one and two correct. Don’t make any careless mistakes in the easier sections.
  5. Although there are not that many IELTS books on the market other Cambridge exam preparation materials can provide valuable practise such as FCE and CAE preparation books.
  6. Small errors can lead to low score such as spelling, omitting 's' or incomplete times.
  7. Don’t  panic if you think the topic is too difficult or the speaker is too fast. Relax and tune in.
  8. Read, write and listen at the same time. Tricky but practise!
  9. Don’t leave blanks, you might as well guess you won’t be penalised.

Reading tips

  1. Leave a question if you can’t answer. To spend a long time on one answer is disastrous. Go back later if you have time and guess if you have too.
  2. Don’t panic if you don’t know anything about the passage. All the answers are in the passage and you don’t need any specialist knowledge.
  3. Remember you have no extra time to transfer your answers, many candidates think because they have extra time in listening they are able to do this in reading too. You can’t.
  4. Before the exam read as widely as possible e.g. Newspapers, magazines, journals. Don’t limit yourself to one type of text and read articles with an academic style where possible.
  5. Look at ways paragraphs are organised.
  6. Try and predict content of paragraph from the opening sentence.
  7. Give a paragraph you read an imaginary heading.
  8. Don’t concentrate on words you don’t know. It is fatal and wastes valuable time.
  9. Careless mistakes cost many marks. Copy the answer correctly if it is in the passage.
  10. Check spelling.
  11. Only give one answer if that is all that’s needed.
  12. Be careful with singular/plural.

Writing tips

  1. Highlight/circle key words.
  2. Clearly divide paragraphs.
  3. Don’t repeat ideas in a different way.
  4. Stick to the topic.
  5. Careful with timing-don’t rush Task 2, it’s longer and carries more weight.
  6. Paragraph simply with one idea in each paragraph.
  7. Avoid informal language.
  8. Learn to recognise how long 150 words is in your handwriting. You don’t really have time to count.
  9. Get used to always spending several minutes re-reading and correcting your essays.
  10. Don’t memorise model answers, they won’t fit the question and you will make more careless mistakes.

Speaking tips

  1. It tests your ability to communicate effectively not just your grammatical accuracy.
  2. Don’t learn chunks of answers. The examiner is trained to spot this and will change the question.
  3. Develop your answers as much as possible.
  4. Speak more than the examiner.
  5. Ask for clarification if necessary.
  6. Remember it is not a test of knowledge and there is no single answer, but ensure that you give your opinion. Don’t worry if you feel it is not sophisticated enough.
  7. The areas covered are fairly predictable and not infinite so practise at home recording ideas onto a voice recorder.

See also

External links