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30 Tips to dominate your IELTS test

International student preparing for her IELTS exam

If you want to study in Australia it is possible that the university you are applying to will ask you for an English proficiency test. In Australia, the most popular one is the IELTS test but there are plenty out there, for this reason, you must ask your school which specific test you need to take. 

If you are here it is because you know you need to take the IELTS test and you are researching on the best tips to dominate the matter. We are glad to tell you that you are exactly where you need to be.

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6 What are some tips to dominate the IELTS test?

What is IELTS?

The IELTS is one of the most recognized tests worldwide, and most used by higher education, occupation and labour migration systems throughout the world. 

For example, the IETLS is a requirement when applying for a visa in countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand or Canada. 

What this test does is measure your level of general English, without focusing on British or American English.

Also, it has an international recognition which makes its internationalisation and its importance more than justified taking into account that many international students travel to these countries either with scholarships or by themselves.

What are the types of IELTS?

There exist the IELTS General Training and the Academic IELTS.

The IELTS General Training is the one that you can choose if your goal is to migrate to an English-speaking country for work, training or career development reasons. 

On the other hand, you may choose the Academic IELTS if you want to study in an English-speaking country, especially if you want to enter an undergraduate or graduate program.

Which one to choose?

The right choice has to do not so much with the content and format of the exam, but with the objective, you are pursuing.

Objectives

If we talk about objectives, the academic version, as its name suggests, is aimed at those people who are going to start or continue their undergraduate or graduate studies in an English-speaking country or university.

 It is important to point out that these institutions take into account the grade obtained in the exam, which constitutes one of the main admission criteria.

Also, what is most important is that some universities not only require a certain average grade in the exam, they also want you to obtain a specific score in some parts of the test. 

On the other hand, the general version measures competence in a practical and everyday context and is aimed at those candidates who need to prove general skills that enable them to apply for a certain job under a graduate visa or a residence permit in an English-speaking country.

It is also the version requested in visa processes in Australia either if you want the residency or if you apply for any type of student visa, for example, the regional student visa or a visa for higher education studies.

In this way, your decision has to be based not only on your knowledge of the exam but also on your objectives. Your goal is what will define your final choice. 

Writing practise for the IELTS test

Structure

The IELTS consists of 4 parts: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

The Listening and Speaking sections are indeed identical in both tests, but the Written Expression and Reading Comprehension sections do differ.

The reading comprehension texts and the essays of the written comprehension part, in the IELTS General, are mainly related to day-to-day topics.

On the other hand, on the Academic IELTS, they have to do with developmental questions on a variety of topics like equality, work, technology, environment, among others.

How long is IELTS valid for?

Once you finish the test, if you took it online then the results will be ready within 5 to 7 days, if you took the exam offline then the results will be ready in about 13 days. 

The IELTS score will be valid for 2 years from the date of receiving it. Keep in mind that the validity period is the same for all participants.

For this reason, if you plan to apply to a visa extension while studying in Australia keep in mind that the IELTS test may be one of the requirements, so if your certificate has already expired you will need to retake it. 

What is the structure of the IELTS?

As we mentioned before, the IELTS consists of 4 parts: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. We will explain each one separately.

IELTS listening

It lasts 30 minutes and is divided into 4 parts that become more complicated each time.

First, there will be a conversation between two people, related to some topic of daily life like shopping, transportation or some social service.

In the second part, you will listen to a monologue in which a situation is described which may have a social character.

Finally,  there is a conversation between different people and the context of the conversation is educational and finally, in the fourth part, there will be a monologue, related to an academic topic.

IELTS reading

The reading part has a duration of 60 minutes. There you will find three texts with 40 questions about them.

IELTS speaking

The duration of this test is around 11-14 minutes. Once you enrol you will receive an information and confirmation letter, which will be sent to you approximately two weeks before the exam date. 

You will know the exact time of this exam on the same day. Also, you should know that you cannot ask for a specific time to be interviewed and you cannot change the exam time assigned to you.

You should also know that these exams are designed for international content, so you will notice that they use different accents.

This test is divided into 3 parts.

The first part, in which the examiner will ask you general questions about yourself which will last from 4 to 5 minutes.

The second part, where you will be evaluated on a specific topic. You will have a minute to prepare about a specific topic they tell you.

The final part will be related to the previous one, but in this part, they will ask you about your reasoning, thoughts and conclusions in a more abstract way. This part will last for 4 to 5 minutes.

Speaking part of the IELTS test

IELTS writing

The duration of this part is approximately 60 minutes and you will have to do two essays.

The first one will be an informal and personal letter. In general, the situations described in the letter have to do with everyday life: family, work, studies or your free time. The duration is 20 minutes and your answer must contain at least 150 words. 

Keep in mind that you must be able to organize your writing coherently. If you write more words than the ones they ask you, you will not have any type of penalty, but keep in mind that it will be taking time from the second part.

However, they will penalize you if you write less than 150 words, if the answer is irrelevant or if it does not focus on the topic requested. 

The second essay consists of a general text on a current topic. The essay needs to have 250 words in a semi-formal style and it is about exposing a problem and arguing. From the information given, you should write a text that includes facts, solutions, justifications or evaluations of the central idea. 

The topics, in general, are usually related to education, family, environment, economy or culture. This test will rate you according to your ability to express abstract ideas and your use of language.

You will have 40 minutes to develop your writing. It cannot be less than 250 words, since they would penalize you, just as if there were plagiarism or the answer has nothing to do with the topic they ask you to develop.

In the same way, the correction of the test will be penalised if you present the ideas in an incoherent and disorganised way.

What are some IELTS preparation courses?

There are plenty of resources out there that will help you prepare for your IELTS test. We will name just a few of the most popular, free and high-rated ones.

Course to prepare for the IELTS exam from the University of Queensland

The University of Queensland course is one of the most requested IELTS preparation courses in the world.

It is a free course where you will learn about the procedure and format of the IELTS test, strategies and useful skills to pass the exam as well as exercises to develop your reading, writing and listening skills and oral expression in English.

This IELTS course will prepare you to take the academic IELTS exams and succeed. In this course, you will have access to more than 80 hours of interactive practise materials that cover each of the four skills.

In the official website, you will find more information about the University of Queensland course to prepare for the IELTS.

Student preparing himself with a course

Free course to prepare for the IELTS – British Council

This free course to prepare for the IELTS test is offered by the British Council and it includes the practice of the four skills: Listening, Writing, Reading or Speaking. In each stage, you will have the advice of a tutor as well as the IELTS team.

In the official website, you will find more information about the free course to prepare for the IELTS exam from the British Council.

Free course to prepare the IELTS from the University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge also offers a free course to prepare for the IELTS English exam.

A five-week course where you will work to improve your IELTS score through different content such as finding the answers, understanding how to study for the exam or developing your academic English skills.

In the official website, you will find more information about the free course to prepare the IELTS of the University of Cambridge.

Free IELTS Advantage Course

IELTSAdvantage.com was a blog that today has become one of the main resources for students around the world to prepare for the IELTS exam.

In the official website, you will find more information about the free IELTS Advantage course.

What are some tips to dominate the IELTS test?

IELTS listening tips before the exam

1. Get to know the structure of the listening  part

You will have 30 minutes to answer the questions in this section  and this questions will be structured in the following form: 

  • Recording 1 – a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 2 – a monologue set in an everyday social context.
  • Recording 3 – a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context.
  • Recording 4 – a monologue on an academic subject.
2. Music and movies are your best allies

Practice different types of listening situations, this will make you get used to different accents and you will be able to practice your listening while enjoying the method.

Student watching movies as a listening practise
3. Audio Scripts

When choosing or searching for practice tests, try and find ones with scripts. Scripts are the word-for-word written texts of the audio you listen to. There are many activities you can do with scripts. 

For example, you can take notes without scripts and after that compare your notes to the script. You will be checking for accuracy, spelling, and misunderstanding.

IELTS listening tips during the exam

4. Remember that you will only listen once

You don’t have the chance to listen again. It’s like real life so you only will have one chance to listen even when many of us would love the chance to listen again, but IELTS won’t give you that opportunity, so practise like if you were taking the real test. 

5. Make sure you have your air phones

With airphones, you won’t be distracted from external noises and you will be more focused on your tasks. 

6. Do not leave it blank

If you weren’t able to complete the task because you didn’t understand what people said don’t panic. Remember the parts that you understood and try to complete the question the best you can. Do not leave it blank, it is better to try. 

 IELTS reading tips before the exam

7. Get to know the structure of the reading part

Knowing how the reading part is structured is key to nail it. This part will require 60 minutes of your time and consist of 40 questions to prove your reading skills.

This includes reading for main ideas, for details, skimming, understanding arguments and recognising the writer’s opinion. 

You will have three reading passages with a variety of questions.

8. Know all the possible task types

There are 11 task types for the reading part and you could get any of these on your exam. For this reason, it is important that you know exactly what consists of all of them. 

Multiple choice 

You have to choose the best answer from a variety of alternatives. Depending on the question you will have to choose one best answer out of 4 alternatives, 2 answers out of 5 alternatives or 3 answers out of 7 alternatives.

You will have to write the letter of the answer/answers on the answer sheet. The questions may involve complete questions or for you to complete a sentence. 

Identifying information

In this question, you will have to write true, false or not given in the boxes of the answer sheets after they give you a number of statements. What you have to do is to say if the information in the text agrees with the given statements. 

Remember that extra information outside of the passage does not play any part when deciding on your answers, everything has to do with the text. 

Identifying writer’s views

You will be given some statements and will be asked if the statements agree with the view of the writer. You will be required to write yes, not or not given in the answer sheet. 

Keep in mind that “no” means that the writer does not agree with the statement, while “not given” means that there is not enough information in the text to confirm or contradict this. 

Student practising IELTS reading part
Matching information

In these types of questions, you are required to locate specific information within the paragraphs of a text like an example, specific details, a reason, a description, a comparison, an explanation or a summary. 

Matching features

You will be required to match a set of statements to a list of options. The options are a group of features of the text divided into letters. 

Matching headings

You will be given a header that refers to the main idea of the paragraph and you will be required to match the heading with the correct paragraph or section. Remember that always will be more headers than paragraphs.

Matching sentence endings

In this type of question, you will have the first half of a sentence based on the text and asked to choose the best way to complete it from a list of options. You will have more options than questions and you will have to write the letter you chose on the answer sheet.

Sentence

You will have to complete sentences with a given number of words taken from the text. How many words you should write will be very clear on the exam, if you write more or less than that your answer won’t be valid. 

Summary

You will have a summary of a section of the text and then you will have to complete it with information from the text. 

Diagram label completion

You will be required to complete labels on a diagram which relates to a description of the text. Then again the number of words you should use will be specified in the exam.

Short-answer questions

This question will be given if the text contains a lot of factual information. To answer you will have to be straightforward.

9. Practice with books

A very good way of practising could be reading some books in English and asking yourself questions about what you just read. Also this is a good way to learn how to scam, read fast but try to get the majority of information as possible 

IELTS reading tips during the exam

10. Scan the text

Scanning the text will help you find the correct answer. Read the questions, underline the keywords, and then scan the text to find the information you need. 

The words that you have underlined will be of great help to find the answer, but keep in mind that the vocabulary that appears in the questions does not have to be identical to that of the text.

11. Read quickly

For this part of the IELTS test, you have to develop your reading habits, since you have to read a lot of texts in a short. For this reason, it is better for you to practise before taking the exam. Also skimming and scanning will help you a lot in this part of the test.

Remember that if there is something you do not understand, it is better to move on to the next question rather than wasting time.

International student practising his reading
12. Read the questions well

It is very important to understand the questions and follow the instructions correctly. As well as respecting the limit of words and time. 

If for example, they tell you to answer with a maximum of 10 words, make sure not to exceed the limit or your answer will be marked as incorrect.

13. Don’t try to understand the full text

Remember that you will only be asked to choose the answers in the text, so you don’t need to understand everything. 

Keep in mind that the questions try to determine your ability to find certain information in the text and decide which sentences contain that information. 

There are only two types of questions that require a deeper understanding of the content: matching headlines with text fragments and assigning a headline to the text, nothing else.

IELTS speaking tips before the exam

14. Get to know the structure of the speaking part

The speaking structure consists of three parts. 

The first one will take you 4 to 5 minutes and is the introduction and interview. In this part, the examiner will greet you and introduce himself. Then he or she will ask you questions about topics that are familiar to you. 

The second part will take 3 to 4 minutes and it consists of the individual interview. The examiner will give you a card with a topic and some prompts to help you build your answer. You have one minute to prepare your answer, take into account that a pencil and piece of paper will be given to you if you need it. 

Then you will have to speak about the topic for one or two minutes. After this, the examiner will ask you some follow up questions. Also, do not be afraid to speak more than the stated time, the examiner will stop you if you speak longer than this. 

Finally, for the third part, the examiner will ask you some questions about the previous topic to involve you in the discussion and you will have to talk for 4 minutes. 

15. Prepare the structure

Provide relevant answers and avoid rambling on about everything you can think of, for this reason, is important that you have a structure in mind of how to reply to the most simple questions to the most complicated one. 

  • Opening: This is optional but you can start with an “It’s hard to say but, I think that” It’s a tricky question but I think that.
  • Answer: Reply to the question.
  • Reason/example: State why you gave that answer and support it with an example.
  • Close: Reinforce what you just said. 
16. Fill in your lexical gaps

It is important for you to learn new vocabulary, but do not force it in the test. Use the words that you naturally need because if you force words that you do not dominate it will sound bad and this may lead to a low score.

The best that you can do is learn new words, yes, but implement them in your daily practice so at the end of the day they appear naturally in your vocabulary.

Another good thing to do while practising is to write down all the words that you are missing in your own language to express yourself clearly. Look for them in the dictionary and try to add them to your vocabulary.

17. Work on intonation

Work on your sentence stress. Sometimes when you speak you may put the same stress on every word or speak too fast without intonation. Remember that native speakers put pauses between words to emphasise the most important ideas. You should try to do this to sound more natural. 

To achieve this you can rely on TV series, movies or podcasts to listen carefully to how natives speak and then try to imitate the intonation.

IELTS speaking tips during the exam

18. Be fluent and liberated

You will gain more points if you speak more fluently and spontaneously. Don’t worry too much about using clever vocabulary, it’s more important to be fluent, but also don’t speak too quickly and be aware of your grammar. Find a balance and you will succeed.

19. Be emotional

Express your feelings like you would do using your native language, this will give you more credibility of what you are saying.

Student expressing herself when speaking
20. Extend your speech

Try to speak at least more than the examiner. For example, if you are asked a question using one sentence, respond with two or more. Never give short answers.

21. Listen carefully to the instructions

You may be more nervous for the speaking part than in any other parts of the IELTS exam, however, is where you need to be more focused to understand what the task is. If for some reason you didn’t understand the question ask the examiner to repeat.

IELTS writing tips before the exam

You need to know that in the writing part there will be two parts. The first part consists of describing a graph, diagram or chart and then answers to an argument, and the second part where you will get an essay question. 

22. Get to know all the possible IELTS task types

On test day you don’t want to get a surprise when you see your exam or when you open the screen. It is important for you to practice all the possible questions that could be in the exam, mainly how they are structured and what kind of answer they expect from you.

23. Practice your writing skills for task 1

In this part, you need to write 3 to 4 paragraphs and 150 words. You can start your first paragraph paraphrasing the question. You can start with:

  • The graph shows…
  • The table illustrates…
  • The chart shows how…

Decide if your group is describing a comparison, a progression or both and use the appropriate language for them. You can use “the same as” or “a slight increase or decrease” depending on the situation. 

In the second paragraph describe the most general trends and include the most important characteristics and don’t forget to include linkers to help with the coherence of the writing. 

In the third paragraph, you need to give a more detailed description focusing on the main trend. Remember to add data to support the information, also adding a conclusion is not necessary. 

24. Prepare an essay structure for task 2

Writing an essay will be a requirement for the IELTS exam in both, general and academic IELTS. You will have 40 minutes to respond to an essay question in 250 words. Remember that your essay should include 4 paragraphs, an introduction, 2 body paragraphs and a conclusion. 

We will give you the general essay formula but you have to adapt it according to the question you get. 

  • Introduction

Paraphrase question

State what the essay is going to be about

  • Body paragraph 1

Main idea 1

Explanation/reason

Example

Restate main idea

  • Body paragraph 2

Main idea 2

Explanation/reason

Reason

Restate main idea 2

  • Conclusion

Paraphrase question

Summarise main ideas

25. Your essay should be question made for the question type

Even when you should consider having an essay structure in mind, you need to be aware of the different types of essay questions the exam can have. Below we will leave you with a list of the 6 most common essay questions for you to be prepared.

Advantage/disadvantage

In this question, you will receive a topic and then be asked to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this topic. To answer the question you will need to present both sides of the arguments, one in each argument with supporting ideas and examples for each one. 

Agree/Disagree

In this question, you will receive a topic and then be asked if you agree or disagree with this statement. You will have to answer by giving your own opinion and then explaining why you agree or disagree with supporting ideas and examples.

Discuss both views

You will receive two views or opinions related to a topic and then you will have to discuss both, You need to explain why people may have held each point of view supported by explanations and examples. 

Discuss both views and give your own opinion

This essay question is similar to the one before, but in this case, you will have to give your opinion about the topic as well. So, answer this question properly you will have to discuss both opinions, one in each paragraph and then give examples and explanations to support each one. 

After that, you will have to say which one you agree with within the same body paragraph.

Double question

In this essay question, you will be asked two questions and you need to answer both. You have to use one paragraph to answer each question. Remember to support your ideas with examples and explanations.

Problem and solution

Finally, a very common essay question is the problem and solution one. They will present a problem and then you need to discuss the topic and give a possible solution for it. You can talk about the topic in the first paragraph and then give the solution in the second paragraph.

IELTS writing tips during the exam

26. Read what you have written

Go back and read the paragraph you have just written before you start the next one. You may think that this is a waste of time but it is not. It’s important to link your paragraphs together for them to make sense.

27. Be clear

Select the best idea that is on your mind and write about that. This means that you wouldn’t write everything you know, just the best ones. It is more important to give a clear explanation rather than let them know you have plenty of ideas about the topic. 

28. Write about what you know

You are being tested on the quality of your English, not on the quality of your ideas. So you shouldn’t worry about finding the right answer. You need a simple idea that you can clearly describe and justify.

29. Choose your writing style

Never use informal language in academic writing or essays. Only if they ask you to write an informal letter.

30. Paraphrase the question 

You will lose points if you copy the words of the question in the answer, but you can paraphrase them. To do this you simply have to change the words and use synonyms.

Is it possible to take the IELTS in Australia?

It is possible to take the IELTS if you are already in Australia and doing all the paperwork for study in this country. 

IELTS Sydney

The IDP IELTS test centre Sydney is located in 725-731 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000

Their operating hours are Monday to Friday from 10 am to 4 pm and you can choose a paper-based or computer-delivered test. 

IELTS Melbourne

In Melbourne, there exist 3 institutes where you can take the test. 

The first one is the Australian Institute of language located in level 6, 388 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000. Their operating hours are Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 5 pm and you can choose a paper-based or computer-delivered test.

The second one RMIT English Worldwide located in level 10, 235-251 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000. Their operating hours are Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and you can choose a paper-based or computer-delivered test.

Finally, the third one is the IELTS test centre Melbourne located on level 7, 170 Queen St, Melbourne VIC 3000. Their operating hours are Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm and you can choose a paper-based or computer-delivered test.

IELTS test centre

IELTS Perth

The IDP IELTS test centre Perth is located in level 1, 188 Newcastle Street, Northbridge WA 6003. Their operating hours are Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4 pm and you can choose a paper-based or computer-delivered test.

IELTS Brisbane

In Brisbane, there exist 2 institutes where you can take the test. 

The first one is the IDP IELTS test centre Brisbane Southside located in Central location, South Brisbane QLD 4113. Their operating hours are Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm and you can choose a paper-based or computer-delivered test.

The second one is IDP IELTS test centre Brisbane located in level 3, 99 Creek St, Brisbane QLD 4000. Their operating hours are Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4:30 pm and you can choose a paper-based or computer-delivered test.

IELTS Adelaide

The IDP IELTS test centre Adelaide is located in level 1, 16 Grenfell St, Adelaide SA 5000 and their operating hours are Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.

You can choose a paper-based or computer-delivered test.

IELTS Canberra

The IDP IELTS test centre Canberra is located in Canberra Institute of technology, 37 constitution Ave, Reid ACT 2612. Their operating hours are Monday to Friday from 10 am to 5 pm and you can choose a paper-based or computer-delivered test.

Choose carefully where you want to take the test because you need to be on time for the exam, otherwise they will not let you take it. 

Finally, we hope you find this information useful and you nail it with your IELTS test. We wish you the best of luck and if you have any question regarding the IELTS test don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below. 

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