Prepare for IELTS: Tips to help you get ready

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If you are planning to take the IELTS exam, you have a goal for your future and a good IELTS score is very important for achieving it.  You might also be wondering: “How much do I need to prepare for the IELTS exam exactly?”

Of course, we always recommend being prepared.  However, first you’ll need to find out which test is for you.,

General or Academic: Find out which IELTS test you need

Before you book your test, find out if you need the Academic IELTS or the General Training IELTS test.  Although they are similar, there are some key differences that you should know about.   

If you are applying to a university or college, make sure you know which test the institution wants you to take.  In most cases, this will be the Academic IELTS test.  However, if you are studying below degree level, your college might ask for General Training IELTS.  Always double check with your institution’s admissions team, as your test centre can’t tell you which test will be accepted for your application.

If you are taking the test for immigration & citizenship, you will need the General Training IELTS test.

Understanding the format

If this is your first time taking the IELTS test, start by getting familiar with the format so that you know what the test consists of.  There are 4 parts to every IELTS exam: 

  • Speaking (11-14m)
  • Listening (30m)
  • Reading (1 hour)
  • and Writing (1 hour).

Visit our FAQ page to get more information on these sections.


Prepare for the IELTS Speaking test

For the Speaking test, your examiner will ask you about a variety of general topics.  To get ready, you can practice with friends and family (or just in the mirror!) and talk for 2 minutes about a subject.

REMEMBER!  You are NOT being tested on how well you know this subject, but what kind of language you can use when talking about it.  Speaking on the spot about a topic that you don’t often discuss can be challenging, so try and practice subjects that are different from your usual interests.

The Speaking test is the same for both General Training and Academic candidates.

Prepare for the IELTS Writing test

The Writing test for General Training IELTS is a little different from Academic IELTS.


  • For the Academic test, you will be asked to compare and contrast information presented in graph or chart form.
  • For the General Training test, you will be asked to write either a formal or informal letter to someone, like a landlord or employer.

To prepare, look at some sample questions and practice your writing skills.  Memorizing language is NOT necessary.  Instead, concentrate more on your grammatical structures (for example, verb tenses and word endings). When looking at sample questions, think about the kind of vocabulary you can use and make a list of the different words you know for that topic.


For Part 2 of both the Academic and General Training, you will be asked to write about a general topic or issue (like video games or the environment).  Again, memorizing sentences is NOT going to get you higher marks.  Instead, use a varied and accurate range of grammar and vocabulary which actually answers the question, to get you closer to the score that you need.

Prepare for the IELTS Reading & Listening tests

For both Reading and Listening, a great tip is to read a LOT of different materials, including sources like news articles or online journals.  When preparing for the Listening test, try to absorb the English around you from conversations you hear in real life or funny dialogue in your favourite Netflix sitcom.   

The LISTENING test is the same for both General Training and Academic, but the READING tests contain different questions.  Click here for more on this.

Using free online resources to prepare

Of course, but be aware that some sources can be unreliable.  Searching for IELTS Preparation in your search engine or YouTube finds you thousands of websites and videos offering advice on how to prepare for your test.   

The bad news: not everything is good advice.  If you are in doubt about what information is correct, it is always best to look at information from official IELTS guides.  We recommend using this online resource to find out more about IELTS and find practice test questions.  You can also contact us and our friendly team will provide the most up to date information.

Studying in an IELTS Preparation class

While it’s possible for anyone to self-study at home for the IELTS exam, some people choose to study with the help of a private or group class, or online course.  Teachers help their students reach the scores they need, so these are particularly popular for test takers who need to achieve a certain score. 

There are many online and in-person preparation programs you can join to help you get the best possible score. Click here to learn more about IELTS at ILAC.

Remember... it’s still an English exam!

It is important to remember that the IELTS exam is a test of your English skills only and NOT your general knowledge about topics.  Don’t worry if you don’t know much about, say, public transport around the world.  The examiner only wants to test your ability to recognize and to use the English language. 

Happy preparing!

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