If you have decided that you need to take the IELTS exam, then you are in the right place to start. You are going to read a step-by-step guide on how to start preparing for the exam. Eszett can help you with face-to-face language lessons and online courses.
The IELTS Test Format
The IELTS test has four sections: listening, reading, writing and speaking. You will get a different score from each section, and the maximum score you can get for each section is 9. In the end, you will get an overall score which will be calculated depending on your performance on each section. Again, the maximum overall score you can get is 9.
Decide your purpose
Before beginning preparations, you need to know what your purpose is for taking the IELTS exam so that you can prepare in the most efficient way. For example, if you need IELTS for immigration purposes, often the general exam will be enough. However, if you need an IELTS score for further study or work, then you might consider taking the academic exam. Note that these two exams have different reading and writing tests, so preparation might slightly differ for each of them. Listening and speaking sections are the same for both exams.
It is also essential to know what score you need so that you know what you have to aim for and if you need to retake the exam in case of an insufficient score.
Test the current level of your English knowledge
Make sure to test the level of your English language before you start preparing for the test. Remember that the purpose of the IELTS exam is to test your knowledge of English. Knowing your current level of English will help you understand the amount of preparation you will need to reach your goal score. The effort you need to put in will depend mainly on the difference of the score you are aiming for and the level of English you are currently at.
The best way to test your knowledge is to take mock IELTS tests: one during which you set a time limit on yourself and another one without a time limit. You will get an idea of what you would score without any preparation. Also, you will know what you need to study in more detail. For instance, if your score is low on both the timed and untimed tests, then you can understand that your overall level of English is weak. If your score is low on the timed test, but you do well on the untimed one, then you need to practice test-taking strategies instead to score higher on the exam.
Write a plan of action
If you have an overall low level of English, then you need to improve it at first. Depending on how you did on your mock exams, you will need to work on different aspects. If you score low on the untimed exam, then your overall knowledge of English is low, and you will need to sketch a plan to improve your comprehension of the language. You should practice reading, writing, listening and speaking in English. You should also find ways to become more fluent in English.
As stated above, if you score high on the untimed mock exam but low on the timed one, then you will need to learn test-taking strategies as opposed to better your English. Once you master some tips on how to take a timed test without letting the time limit affect your ability to show your knowledge, you will score better on the actual IELTS exam.
The most important thing to understand is that you need to realize your weaknesses so you can create an action plan accordingly. You should tackle your weak spots. Then you can be sure that you will have no reason not to succeed.
Set daily goals
To execute your plan of action more successfully, you should set daily study goals for yourself. For example, you can study for the reading section on Monday, the writing part on Tuesday, listening on Wednesday, speaking on Thursday, then reading again on Friday and so on.
Another option is to divide the allotted time for studying each day into the four sections, but not equally. From the mock exam you took, you may already know your weak spots and your strengths. Allocate more time studying for the sections you are not so proficient in and less time on the parts that you are better at.
Practice, practice, practice
They say practice makes us perfect. Of course, it is crucial to take as many practice tests as you can because they will get you into the mindset of taking the actual IELTS exam. Try to take practice tests at least once a week so that you can measure your progress. Cambridge has released 14 official preparation books with mock tests, so make sure to take advantage of this.
Ask for help
Of course, you may be able to study on your own and achieve a high score, although it will be a much easier process if you get some outside help. This can be in the form of writing correction services, joining Facebook groups related to IELTS preparation, signing up for memberships on websites that offer preparation guidance, live online English classes, and reading free helpful articles on blogs related to the IELTS test.
Good luck with your preparations. Follow the above steps, and you will be on your way to a high score on the exam in no time!