Here are some tips that you should keep in mind to prepare for IELTS by yourself.
Have realistic goals
You need to have a fixed aim for IELTS – what band score are you aiming for?
For overseas studies, you would be fine with a IELTS score of 6.5+ in all the tests. Universities use IELTS score as a sanity factor to ensure that you have a minimum level of communication in English to succeed in the program that you are planning to pursue. Beyond that it doesn’t matter if you have a band score of 7 or 8.
Once you’ve decided in your target band score, have your level of English checked. If your level of English is much lower than the appropriate level for that band score – refer to the assessment criteria mentioned below – you will have difficulties in achieving your target IELTS band score. In that case you better improve on your English first before you prepare for IELTS skills. Improving English will require more commitment and time from your side than preparing for IELTS skills.
Time required to prepare for IELTS and achieve your target band score depends on your level of English. Some students can take IELTS in 2 weeks to achieve a band score of 7+ and other can take months to reach at that score.
Know Assessment Criteria for your target IELTS band
Listening and Reading is simple as those are based on points system. For speaking and writing, it’s little different as the examiner is looking for specific things in your language. You need to know exactly what the examiner is looking for the band that you want to score.
Hence, after you have identified your target IELTS band score, you should get a good sense of the assessment criteria for that particular band score. Click here to download Speaking Criteria and Writing Criteria and look carefully through these criteria to understand what skills you need to demonstrate to score IELTS score in that band.
These assessment criteria are simple, easy to understand and follow. Let me take some examples:
Example1: To score 7 in Speaking Skill, you should be able to meet following criteria:
- Speak full sentences without making too many mistakes
- Speak with confidence without noticeable efforts or loss of coherence
- Use a wide variety of words to discuss a number of topics
- Able to paraphrase effectively
Example 2: To score 7 in Writing Task 1, you should be able to meet following criteria:
- Covers the requirements of the task
- Clearly presents and highlight key features
- Logically organizes information and ideas
- Use a wide range of vocabulary
Once you start understanding and applying these criteria in your language, you would start improving to achieve your target IELTS band score.
Focus on your weakest skill
Be clear on what you need to improve the most. Is it Speaking, Listening, Reading or Writing? Or a combination of two or more skills? Once you’ve identified a skill to be improved, work on specific areas within that skill.
Keep in mind that you might only need to improve few specific areas to life your score by 1 to 2 points. It could be answering all components of the questions, improving your spellings or pronunciation, or increase your vocabulary of words that you use.
Learn about question types
For Listening and Reading in IELTS, there are over 10 different question types. In the exam, you would not have enough time to look at a question and try to understand what you need to do. It’s much better if you know the type of questions beforehand.
Understand tips and techniques for each question types
IELTS have specific question types for Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking. It’s important that you practice only those types. By learning non-IELTS question types you would just waste time without any improvement in your IELTS score.
Build speed and time management for Reading and Writing
Reading and writing have fixed time limit. You may have difficulties in finishing all 40 questions in one hour for Reading. Or, you may not be able to write Test 1 and Test 2 in one hour. So building speed and learning to manage your time is very important.