It takes time, practice and patience. It also depends on where you’re starting from – things like your mother tongue, motivation, previous language learning experience, background knowledge, learning styles, time available to study etc. Click here to find my detailed advice on how to improve each skill.
As I mentioned above, that depends on so many factors – your first language, your language learning background and ability, your motivation, your time availability, your study skills, the the quality and relevance of the materials you’re using to prepare and the level of expertise of your tutor. Your score can also vary depending on the test itself and whether you get questions that you are familiar with.
There is no specific time frame for increasing your score, but as a general rule, it can take up to 3 months of studying 6 hours a day and living in an English-speaking environment to increase by 0.5. Of course some people do it in less time, some people take longer.
Please read my blog for more details: How long will it take to increase my IELTS score?
Can you prepare for a marathon in 2 days/weeks/months? Possibly, if you are already very fit, but it would hurt a lot, your pace would be slow, and you’d probably have to walk most of the way.
There are 2 main skills you need to develop for the IELTS test:
- Language skills
- Test day strategies
As you know, it takes a long time, hard work and effort to develop your language skills, but you can improve your test strategies quite quickly.
You need to cover strategies for all 4 parts of the test, so you know what to expect in terms of:
- time management (e.g. 20 minutes for each Reading section, spending about 1.5 minutes on each question)
- planning your writing (e.g. Task 2 – how to write an introduction/conclusion and organise your response logically into 4/5 paragraphs)
- types of question (e.g. Academic Task 1 – how to describe charts/graphs and Reading question types like True/False/Not Given)
- answer sheets (how to gain at least 5 points in the Listening test when you learn how to complete it accurately)
- topic preparation (there are key IELTS topics that you can learn the essential vocabulary for so that you can confidently answer questions in the Speaking Test e.g. the environment)
In my free downloadable 28-Day Planner you will get everything you need to know about IELTS if you don’t have much time to prepare for the test.
It also includes links to essential practice, so you don’t need to buy any books or spend time looking around on the internet.
My online courses follow the planner and will take you step by step through everything you need for the test.
To improve your English grammar, get a good grammar book like English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy.
To improve your Vocabulary in general get a good vocabulary book like Oxford Word Skills.
To practice real tests, use the Cambridge Test Books.
My favourite coursebook to use in class is Complete IELTS though it is not designed for self-study.
To improve your writing by yourself, Sam McCarter’s Writing Skills is excellent (the whole Sam McCarter Skills for IELTS series is excellent – in fact anything by him).
And of course get my planner to take you through everything else you need to know!
To get explanations of how the test works, go through the lessons on my website and podcast.
If you’re studying alone but would still like a teacher and a virtual classroom for support and motivation, I would recommend my Members Academy (of course!).
They are both exactly the same. You will get the same test at IDP and British Council Test Centres. The examiners are trained in the same way, and follow the same criteria.
Choose your test centre according to the location of the test centre and the date that suits you best.
This depends on your individual circumstances. Contact the organisation or institution to which you are applying to find out what it requires. You can find official guidance here.
I’ve gota quick blog/video that takes you through the pros and cons of the Computer Delivered Test to help you see the difference and make a decision.
The Speaking and Listening sections are exactly the same.
The Reading paper is different. Both have 3 sections and 40 questions, which you must complete and transfer to an Answer Sheet in 60 minutes.
However the GT Sections 1 and 2 are further divided into 2 different texts. Find lots of GT tests here.
Task 2 in both tests is an essay.
I found the best explanation of this on this TOEFL prep website!
A student recently asked me if it would be ok to memorise and re-use this sentence from a magazine: “Fast food is addictive. A number of studies have shown that eating junk food stimulates the reward response in our brain that makes us feel compelled to overeat. When we eat junk food, a spontaneous feeling of excitement results and blood sugar rockets.”
First of all, you will not be accused of plagiarism as examiners do not have time to check. But they are trained to recognise language that has been memorised. If you are lucky enough to get an exact question where you can use this memorised sentence, then you won’t lose points, but the rest of your essay will have to be of an equally high standard.
So my advice is to memorise ‘chunks’ of language that you can apply to any topic e.g. ‘A number of studies have shown that…’ and collocations e.g. ‘fast food is addictive’ but don’t try to memorize whole paragraphs like the one you showed above.
IELTS Writing Information (FAQs)
I’ve outlined 14 ways you can improve your writing score here.
The best thing you can do is practise a lot, read a lot, learn useful vocabulary and look at model answers and try to copy their style.
In IELTS Writing Task 2, you could be asked to write on any of these topics.
So you need to have a good vocabulary and plenty of ideas related to all of these topics.
In general, no. However, there are ways of referring to research – I explain in more detail here.
No – avoid proverbs, as they are not ‘academic’ language. Do not say ‘every coin has two sides‘ – find a better way of saying this e.g. ‘there are two sides to every argument‘.
A process is not as difficult as it looks. Here’s a good place to start the basics of writing a process.
The most important thing is that you are consistent – that you use the same tone throughout the letter.
Read more about writing to a colleague here.
It’s ok to make spelling mistakes in the Writing, as long as they don’t cause misunderstanding.
The examiner will decide how serious and frequent your spelling mistakes are, and give you a score (for Lexical Resource):
Band 9 – rare minor errors occur only as ‘slips’
Band 8 – produces rare errors in spelling
Band 7 – may produce occasional errors in spelling
Band 6 – makes some errors in spelling, but they do not impede communication
Band 5 – may make noticeable errors in spelling and/or word formation that may cause some difficulty for the reader
Band 4 – has limited control of spelling; errors may cause strain for the reader
In the Reading and Listening tests, if you spell a word incorrectly, you will LOSE a point for that word, even if the meaning is correct.
IELTS Reading Information (FAQs)
There are about 25 different question types that you need to practise and at least 28 different topics that you need to know about. I cover all the different types in all my posts, podcasts and YouTube videos. You need to go through them gradually, using my explanations to help you find the answers in the real test.
Yes you can. In fact I recommend it to save time. If you write Yes No Not Given (or Y N NG) this is also acceptable and you will not lose points.
Please ignore other (wrong) advice that you find about this on unreliable sites.
Yes absolutely. I would recommend it if your handwriting is not very clear! It’s also ok to use short versions of Days and Months e.g. FEB (February) WED (Wednesday) or 10/2 (or 2/10 or 10 Feb or Feb 10) instead of 10th of February.
IELTS Speaking Information (FAQs)
Here are some of my tips for practising by yourself.
Get a list of questions and record yourself daily.
Don’t try to change your accent – your accent is absolutely fine. There are many ways you can improve your pronunciation though – here are some ways you can do it quickly before the test.