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How to prepare for the IELTS exam: top tips

IELTS (or International English Language Testing System) is one of the most popular exams for higher education, migration and work in the world. This widely-recognised and respected English Language proficiency test is run by the British Council in partnership with IDP Education and Cambridge Assessment English.

Each year it's taken by around 3.5 million students, including those who want to enter undergraduate or postgraduate programmes in UK universities. It consists of several sections testing one's listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. Preparation for such an exam, even when you have plenty of time on your hands, can be stressful. And, of course, the higher the score (you can receive a score from 1 to 9 in each part of the test), the more challenging it gets. The requirements depend on the university or degree level, and an IELTS score of 6.0 to 7 is generally accepted by most UK universities, but one can always aim higher. Keep scrolling to find out some tips on how to ace the IELTS and raise your chances of getting a high IELTS score when studying on your own.

Read as much as you can

Developing stronger reading habits is a great way to expand your vocabulary, increase your reading speed and improve your grammar skills. Yes, you heard it right: grammar skills as well. When you read, especially out loud, you can reinforce accurate grammar in your mind. Moreover, by not limiting yourself solely to textbooks, IELTS preparation books, and study guides you can find inspiration for the speaking and writing parts of the test. Regularly reading newspapers and magazines can be especially helpful in this regard.

Learn about the questions and the structure of the test

Knowing the format of the test, the types of questions that are usually asked, and how to manage your time effectively and plan your speaking and writing answers is essential to be successful at this exam. For example, when answering questions of the listening section of IELTS, you need to pay attention to the key words before you listen to the recording in order to discern them better later. You can find out about other available strategies and techniques from your teacher or use online resources.

Do timed practice exams and review them carefully

It's important not only to practice the skill of writing exam papers (for example, you can do it online), but also analyze what went wrong and what went right during these practice tests. Reviewing your results (without concentrating too much on the score you got) will prevent you from making the same mistakes again and will allow you to improve and do better in the future.

Build your listening skills

The most helpful resources to improve your listening skills overall are news podcasts, YouTube news channels and documentaries.

Study different types of writing

Each type of essays in the writing section can have its own specific structure. For example, you can be asked whether you agree or disagree with a particular statement, to express your personal opinion, or discuss a specific problem and possible solutions. Although each question is different and there are no wrong or right answers (so there's no template to follow), it's essential to learn how to organise your ideas, practice a lot and get feedback to figure out how to answer questions properly and improve your grammar going forward. The same applies to developing your speaking skills as well.

Want to learn more about IELTS test preparation? LEO International Online School's IELTS test preparation online course is tailored to your schedule, your language focus, and how many online private or group classes you need to maximise your IELTS score. Learn more about this course and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at

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