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How to prepare for IELTS online: 25 best resources in 2018

There’s so much written online about the IELTS test that it can be hard to know where to start! In this 2018 guide, we will walk you through the best online resources to help you prepare for your IELTS test at home. We have divided this up by section (Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing) and each of these provides links to the best tips, advice, YouTube videos, preparation material and practice tests.

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Quick intro to IELTS

IELTS – or The International English Language Testing System – is the most popular English language proficiency test for people who want to study or work in English speaking countries.

It is accepted by over 10,000 organisations around the world, including: schools, universities, employers, and immigration authorities. IELTS is available at more than 1,200 locations worldwide and there are 48 test dates a year.

IELTS tests your English abilities in four skills — reading, writing, listening and speaking and takes 2 hours 45 minutes in total to complete.

The IELTS test is available in two versions: General Training and Academic. The Speaking and Listening sections of both tests are identical, but the Reading and Writing parts are different. For example, General IELTS Reading texts may focus on everyday articles, adverts or magazine extracts, but the Academic version of the test uses journals, scientific literature and more intellectual copy. This difference in approach is mirrored in the Writing sections of both tests.

General IELTS is the most popular and tends to suit candidates who need to prove their level of English for university entry, usual jobs or immigration purposes. Academic IELTS is more for postgraduates, students studying technical subjects at university, or those wishing to register with professional organisations (e.g. GMC to register as a doctor in the UK).

IELTS is scored using a band scale from numbers 1 to 9. The IELTS scores are given for each section of the exam (writing, speaking, listening, and reading) and then added together to give you an overall band score, ranging from non-user (band 1) to expert user (band 9). Most educational institutions set IELTS score requirements between 5.5 and 7. You can check here to see what score your chosen organisation requires.
 

25 best online resources for IELTS preparation

Main sites for IELTS preparation

  1. IELTS.org

This is the official IELTS Exam website and is a very useful starting point to help you understand everything about IELTS! It gives you practical information on the different types of IELTS tests (General and Academic Training), what IELTS is used for and how to book your test. 

As well as this, there are lots of free IELTS materials to help you study at home. These include sample test questions and links to books and brochures for download. You can also find links to their YouTube channel and Facebook page, which have lots of handy tips for your online studies! 

  1. IELTS Liz – YouTube channel

These video lessons from teacher and IELTS examiner Liz are a good way of getting some general tips on the IELTS exam. This channel also offers specific lessons and advice on each aspect of the test (Speaking, Reading, Writing and Listening). The videos range from 3 minutes up to 20 minutes and include topics such as: “IELTS writing task 2: How to write an introduction”, “IELTS listening tips: preparing answers” and “Vocabulary for IELTS: paraphrasing tips”.

  1. IELTS Buddy

This site is packed full of useful information and resources about the IELTS exam. It includes information on the exam format, resources, sample questions and materials to download for each module. It also provides a reading list of books to help you study. This includes their own ebook called “IELTS made easy”, and a page dedicated to videos to help you prepare for and understand the exam.

There are some useful pages on grammar and vocabulary – two skills that carry significant marks on the IELTS exam. Here the site walks you through how the IELTS test marks you on “grammar” and “lexical resource” (vocabulary). These pages specifically offer guidance on more complex areas of vocabulary, such as: phrasal verbs, collocations and idioms.

If you want to get a higher band score on your IELTS exam, you need to improve your vocabulary to include more complicated language. Check out the OTUK blog for some detailed study guides on idioms, phrasal verbs and much more!

  1. British Council – IELTS

The British Council IELTS website provides you with information and resources on the full IELTS process. It explains why you might want to take the test in the first place, where you can sit the exam and how the scoring bands work.

The most useful part of the site, however, is the “Prepare for IELTS” page which is crammed full of helpful resources. As well as extensive free practice tests, you will find tips for each module, advice for the test day itself and a walk-through of the test format. They also provide links to IELTS books and study guides if you wish to buy additional materials.

Video:(IELTS Speaking test Part 1, Band 6)

  1. IH London – blog

This blog post from International House London – an internationally recognised language school – gives you a brief overview of the IELTS exam and how to prepare effectively for it. At the top you will find links to their own preparation guides for each section to help you prepare for each module and improve your band score.

This article also walks you through the difference between the Academic and General Training tests and explains exactly what to expect in each module – Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.

  1. IELTS-Simon

This site is run by ex-IELTS examiner Simon and therefore provides expert, in-depth advice on the exam. Simon writes a ‘lesson of the day’ to help share his knowledge. Some recent examples include: “IELTS Writing Task 1: collocations”, “IELTS Reading: it’s a vocabulary test!” and “IELTS Speaking: how examiners decide on scores”. He also has an ebook on ideas for IELTS writing topics, as well as his own video lessons.
 

IELTS Speaking resources

  1. IELTS Advantage

This page provides tips and advice for those specifically preparing for the IELTS Speaking test. It includes really useful information on: test format, understanding the scoring system, working out what level you are now and what your target band should be. It also explains how to make an effective study timetable.

There are also some helpful tips on achieving higher band scores by using real life situations to practise and expand on your answers.

Video: (IELTS Speaking test Part 1, Band 9)

  1. British Council – speaking test tips and advice

These two pages from the British Council IELTS site are great! 

The first page provides general tips for the speaking test, including: the purpose of the test, the individual sections within it and their duration, and the exam criteria you should know. The second page provides short, easy to read advice for the speaking test; focusing on spoken fluency and more natural sounding English. 

  1. Video: English Pronunciation Roadmap – How to prepare for the IELTS speaking test

This is a helpful video from English Pronunciation Roadmap to help prepare you for the Speaking test. This clip focuses specifically on pronunciation during the exam.

  1. British Council – Speaking practice tests

The British Council website has a range of IELTS practice tests. Have a go at these Speaking practice tests for part 1, 2 and 3. You can download the tests, answer sheets, transcripts and answers if you prefer to work offline.

If you want to find more online practice tests for IELTS, check out these websites: IELTS Essentials, IELTS Online Tests, British Council, IELTS.org and IELTS Buddy.

 

IELTS Listening materials 

  1. IELTS – Eight ways to improve your IELTS listening score

This blog post from IELTS Canada provides eight simple and practical tips to improve your listening skills for the exam. Some useful advice includes: practising topics that are interesting TO YOU and using English in real life situations as part of your daily routine.

DID YOU KNOW? The IELTS Listening exam uses a variety of accents. It is important that you are able to understand speakers from the UK, America, Australia, Canada, etc. The best way to practise for the Listening section is to watch original TV shows and films from Britain or America so that you get used to the various accents used. For example, try watching this episode of The Graham Norton Show and try to distinguish the accents.

  1. IELTS Liz – IELTS Listening Tips, Lessons and Videos

This page is crammed full of useful resources for improving your listening skills! Here Liz provides you with general tips (in video form) as well as video lessons. These focus on specific areas, such as: “listening for plurals” and “listening for names practice & tips”.

  1. British Council – Listening test advice

This page from the British Council IELTS website gives you concise tips on the listening section. It recommends that you pay special attention to “exam technique” and explains how best to answer “completion” type questions so that you do not drop marks.

  1. Video: IELTS Essentials from IDP – Five top tips to improve your IELTS Listening score

This video provides simple tips to help you prepare for your listening test! The advice includes: listening to the radio to help you get used to different native English accents, reading instructions carefully, and improving your prediction skills.

  1. Listening practice tests: IELTS essentials

Have a go at these listening practice tests from IELTS essentials. You can download the tests and MP3 recordings too!
 

IELTS Reading practice

  1. IELTS Liz – IELTS Reading Tips: How can I improve my score?

In this article, Liz gives you a list of 15 in-depth, practical tips to help improve your IELTS Reading score. Some of these tips are particularly useful, especially given the time restrictions when reading and the amount of text there is to get through (it’s rather a lot!).

Particularly useful tips include:

  • Identifying and locating keywords in the text
  • Developing your skimming and scanning skills when reading
  • Analysing texts, but without needing to understand every detail 
  1. IELTS Advantage – Secret to getting a 9 on the IELTS Reading Test

This blog post from IELTS Advantage focuses on vocabulary with regards to the Reading test. It gives tips on how to improve your vocabulary and highlights the importance of learning synonyms. Well worth a read!

  1. British Council – Reading test advice

This page from the British Council IELTS webite provides simple but essential advice for the Reading test. They recommend that you pay particular attention to the time allowed to answer each question and do not spend too long on one individual task.

  1. Video: Learn English with Emma – IELTS Reading: Top 10 Tips

This video walks you through 10 top tips for the Reading exam in a clear and accessible way! The focus is on the exam itself. Emma stresses the need for quick reading (skimming and scanning) and recommends you leave adequate time at the end of the exam to transfer your responses to the answer sheet.

  1. Reading practice tests: IELTS Online Tests General and Academic

This website offers some good examples of General vs. Academic Reading tests for IELTS. Most candidates take General IELTS, but you may require the Academic version for certain professions and university degree programmes. The reading tests on the Academic exam tend to be highly technical in nature.
 

IELTS Writing websites

  1. Study Portals – 7 key tips for success when preparing for the IELTS Writing test

This article gives you practical tips for IELTS writing – looking at preparation and at final exam technique. It also gives several links to useful online resources to check your grammar/spelling, and offers some new methods for learning vocabulary.

  1. British Council – Writing test advice

This page from the British Council IELTS site gives you practical advice for the Writing test. It emphasises the importance of the word count in Tasks 1 and 2 – i.e. you should write enough, but not too much. Failure to do this can cost you marks on the final exam.

  1. IELTS Liz – IELTS Writing task 1: Tips, Videos, Model Answers & Info and IELTS Writing Task 2: Tips, Lessons & Models

These guides from IELTS Liz on both Tasks 1 and 2 of the Writing exam are packed full of information! There are general tips, model answers, videos and practice questions. If you are preparing for the IELTS Writing exam, then these self-contained guides are a must!

  1.  Video: English Lessons with Adam: IELTS Writing task 1 – What to write

This helpful video focuses on Task 1 of the Writing exam and talks you through how to go about writing an answer. Adam focuses on what information to look for and include, and how to plan and structure your answer to achieve a good score.

  1. IELTS.org – Writing practice tests General and Academic

The Writing test for IELTS has a General and an Academic version. Be sure to know which one you are doing in advance! The Academic option tends to be more technical in terms of the vocabulary expected and topics are often of an intellectual nature.

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Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

Written by
Esther Kersley
Staff Writer
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