In this article you will find practical tips and suggestions from our IELTS experts who explain how to prepare for IELTS at home.
If you are preparing for the IELTS test alongside work or study, you might have limited time to attend an IELTS class. So, if you’re wondering how to prepare for IELTS at home, here are some practical ideas to help you when you’re studying for the test.
How to prepare for IELTS at home: Writing
In order to develop your writing skills, you need a lot of practice. Here are some ideas to help you structure your writing practice:
- Review some model answers for Writing Tasks 1 and 2. Check IELTS course books, or have a look here. Analyse some models to get an idea how to structure your answer and explore the text for useful language. For example, in Academic Writing Task 1 check what language is used to present changes or comparisons. For General Training Task 1, check for different ways you can state the purpose of your letter.
- Try to write something daily on IELTS related topics, such as education, healthy living, climate change, etc. Doing some time-bound practice at home is a good idea because during the test, you only get one hour to complete both writing tasks. So, set your alarm and allow about 20 minutes for task 1 and 40 minutes for task 2. You can find some writing tasks here.
- Practising is not enough - you also need to reflect on your work. If you do not have teacher support, use the IELTS band descriptors to check your work and identify what you still need to work on. You can also check EnglishScore Tutors, the British Council's one-to-one tutoring service, or use this website to get some free feedback on your writing.
How to prepare for IELTS at home: Listening
The Listening section of the test can often be challenging for test takers. So, here are some ideas to help you boost your listening skills in preparation for taking IELTS:
- In the IELTS test, you can expect speakers with different kinds of accents. Listen to BBC 6 Minutes or TED Talks to become familiar with different accents. This will help you to easily understand the speakers in the Listening section.
- Doing a complete mock Listening test is not only useful to help you understand what 30 minutes of concentration feels like, but it also identifies your current level. When checking your answers, focus on the incorrect answers and think about where you went wrong. Did you not hear the text? Did you misunderstand the question? Did you write the answer incorrectly? If you notice you often make mistakes in one task type, practise this task type more.
- Exploring tapescripts can help you prepare your vocabulary for IELTS. Hearing and seeing the language used in context will help you better understand how to use it. You can also use the tapescript to find useful collocations or note down language that is related to the topic.
How to prepare for IELTS at home: Reading
Here are some ideas to help you build the reading skills you need for IELTS success:
- Create a reading habit and read in English every day. Any form of reading is good to develop your fluency, but in order to do well in the test, focus on texts that are useful for IELTS, such as texts that are related to IELTS topics, or texts that are written in a certain style. In other words, texts that contain language you might see in the test. Check out The Guardian, The BBC and The Economist for example.
- Speed reading strategies will help you manage your time during the Reading section. Develop your skimming and scanning skills by giving yourself one or two minutes to read a text and answer some Wh-Questions (what, where, when, who, how, why). You can do this with any text, although not every text might have all the answers.
- When you do a Reading mock test, focus on the incorrect answers and look at exactly where you went wrong. That will help you to answer correctly the next time.
How to prepare for IELTS at home: Speaking
Speaking can be a hard skill to practise when you are preparing for IELTS at home. Here are some suggestions:
- If speaking fluency is what you need to work on, select a TED Talk and shadow speak for 2 minutes: listen to the speaker, press stop and directly repeat what they said. This technique can help you to speak more fluently.
- If you are preparing for Speaking Part 2, listen to some model answers and explore it for useful language such as cohesion markers, and fixed expressions. Next, set a timer and record yourself answering the same prompt. Think about how you could extend your turn, maybe with more details or by using extension strategies.
- An ideal way to work on your speaking is with a speaking buddy. Working together can help you stay motivated, but also means you can give each other feedback. Select a prompt for each other and record your Speaking tasks. Use the band descriptors for each of the criteria to give each other some feedback.
Staying on track with IELTS preparation
There are many different ways to prepare for IELTS at home that are cost-effective and time efficient. Before you start, make sure that you are clear on which test you take (Academic or General Training) and in which mode of delivery (IELTS on Paper or Computer), so you can familiarise yourself with the right context.
Before you start preparing, take a practice test so you know your strengths for each skill and can work on those areas that need it.
A study schedule will help you make IELTS preparation a daily habit. Keep it realistic and break your preparation up into small chunks to tick off as you go along.
The key to success is finding reliable sources and putting the effort in.