By IELTS Expert

03 June 2024 - 10:56

A group of students preparing for IELTS

In this article, we explore a list of the 10 most effective study techniques that will help you get the IELTS score you need. 

  1. Create a daily routine
  2. Focus on your weaknesses
  3. Underline important points
  4. Create mind or concept maps
  5. Summarise what you’ve learned
  6. Make flashcards
  7. Focus on the core four skills
  8. Study the format of the IELTS test
  9. Make the most of apps
  10. Practise with mock tests

IELTS is recognised by over 12,000 organisations worldwide, and has helped many people meet their goals both at home and abroad. But how can you prepare for it?

Effective IELTS test preparation is the best way to familiarise yourself with the test structure. Understanding how it works will help you approach the test with confidence and increase your chances of success. 

Sign up to IELTS Ready Member and start preparing now!

10 effective techniques for test preparation 

1. Create a daily routine

For the most effective IELTS test preparation, the first step is to establish a schedule you can follow every day. You must stick to this schedule, even if it’s just half an hour. Committing to a routine and learning gradually are the best ways to get good results.

Organise your schedule so you can set aside the same time every day. That way, studying will become a habit. Don’t forget that studying for half an hour every day is more effective than studying for a couple of hours once a week.

Only add new activities to your study schedule when you’re familiar with previous ones to avoid overwhelming yourself - and make sure all your sessions connect to IELTS topics. 

2. Focus on your weaknesses

You make better progress in test preparation when you know about your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll know exactly which skills you’ll need to work on as you prepare for IELTS. By focusing on the areas where you need to improve, you’ll make the most of your study time. 

For example, if you have strong reading skills but you’re not great at writing, it might be tempting to keep practising reading exercises - but you’ll get a better overall score if you include more writing exercises in your study sessions. 

3. Underline important points

The underlining technique is a common way to help us memorise what we learn. When you underline important information, it immediately stands out when you look at the page.

You can also use it alongside other study techniques. It’s especially helpful when you want to create a summary or outline based on keywords in a text. 

Here’s how to use the underlining technique:

  1. Skim the text to get the general idea.
  2. Read more carefully to find important points.
  3. Read again and underline, highlight, or mark what you want to remember.
  4. Do one last reading to look for any points you’ve missed.

4. Create mind or concept maps

Mapping is one of the most common study techniques. It’s a visual technique for capturing and remembering information. It’s so effective for test preparation because we process what we see more quickly than what we hear or read.

Use a mind map to visualise ideas and link them to one important point. This kind of map usually uses a radial structure with the key idea at its core, and then related ideas linked by lines. This type of graph is great for associating words with images and colours which makes them more memorable.

On the other hand, use a concept map to organise words and ideas you’ve learnt together. This type of map looks more like a tree, with one or more central ideas in boxes, and then new ideas emerging from them and connecting with one another, like branches of a tree.

5. Summarise what you’ve learned

Taking the main idea and contextual clues from a lesson can save you time. When revising, you have a shorter amount to read and fewer unnecessary, distracting details.

Here are the steps to build a great summary:

  • Read the text you want to summarise a few times.
  • Separate it into different sections (these can be based on paragraphs)
  • Write the main idea for each section
  • Underline or highlight any contextual clues
  • Use all this information to write the summary

6. Make flashcards

Flashcards are excellent for memorising a new language and combining it with what you’ve already learnt. They can help you revise the language you’ll need to use in your IELTS test.

One advantage is that you can design them in a way that suits you. Personalising them can help you memorise what’s on them more effectively.

Here are some tips for creating flashcards as part of your test preparation:

  • Identify the topic or language area you need to learn.
  • If there’s more than one topic or language area, give them different colours.
  • Number the cards so you can order them.
  • Give them titles and subtitles.
  • Highlight the most important points.
  • Store them safely together in a plastic wallet or a folder. 

7. Focus on the core four skills

Practising all four language skills by yourself - reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills - is essential for thorough test preparation. 

Here are some exercises you can do to improve your skills:


  • Read in English for 30 minutes every day.
  • Find books, magazines, and online articles that interest you.
  • Try to guess new language from context before looking it up.


  • Write small essays about your experiences and interests, for example, travel and hobbies.
  • Use the new vocabulary you’ve learnt in your writing.
  • Summarise a news article or short story in English.
  • Listen to songs and write as many of the lyrics as you can.


  • Listen and watch things like songs, TV shows, and news broadcasts in English.
  • Get familiar with different accents in English.
  • Practise listening to audio repeatedly to see if you can understand details you didn’t the first time.


  • Speak to yourself to build your confidence and practise your pronunciation.
  • Join a conversation club so you can practise speaking with others.
  • See if your family, friends, or colleagues are happy to spend 15 minutes speaking in English sometimes.  

8. Study the format of the IELTS test

It’s best to know and understand the structure of any test before you take it so you can prepare yourself. So, an important part of preparing for IELTS is learning exactly what you’ll be asked in each section of the test, getting to know the task types, and learning techniques for completing these test tasks. 

In our online preparation courses, the British Council gives you a breakdown of what’s included in all the sections. We tell you the number of questions and explain how you should answer them.

You’ll also learn the best strategies for test preparation and more tips on how to prepare.  

9. Make the most of apps

The British Council has many apps you can use to practise different skills or get recommendations on how to study. For example, there are the free Learn English Podcast and Learn English Videos apps.

You can download apps from Google Play or the App Store to your device. That means you’ll be able to study when you’re on the go. 

Apps have lots of different activities to help with test preparation, including grammar tips, quizzes, and sample questions - so you won’t get bored!  

10. Practise with mock tests

The British Council offers free IELTS practice tests for all four skills, covering both the Academic and General Training tests.

It's essential to practise with these mock tests under timed conditions, simulating the actual test duration. This approach will help you be better prepared on test day.

After completing the practice tests, you can compare your answers with the model answers available on the British Council website. These model answers include explanations, helping you understand how different answers are scored. 


Remember that good test preparation is key to success with IELTS. By improving your skills and boosting your confidence, you can achieve high scores. Experiment with the techniques mentioned above to find the ones that work best for you.

Sign up to IELTS Ready Member and start preparing now