Gif courtesy of Archie Comics, Giphy



There are two types of IELTS exams: academic, and general. The Academic test is usually studied for university admission; the general, for immigration purposes. There is also another type of test, the Life Skills IELTS.

There are four parts of the test: Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Reading. In general, most people are stronger in Listening and Speaking. Research shows that most test-takers score lowest in Writing.

You will given a score between 1 and 9 (native speaker level).


By preparing for IELTS, you will perform much better in the actual test. Adam from Engvid recommends doing a complete practice test once a week. A mock test containing all four sections can be done here.

That said, it seems that it requires roughly 200 hours of guided learning to rise one score in IELTS. Of course, preparation can be passive, and active. Since face-to-face is more active, I consider 200 hours of guided study to be worth 100 hours of face-to-face tutoring.

Most students will be aiming for a Band 6 or 7 score. In which case, they will need about 8 weeks of study time to achieve their goals. The individual module scores are especially important as they will suggest what the focus of your lessons should be. One extreme generalisation that can be made is that IELTS students may fall into one of two broad categories. Those with higher scores in Listening and Speaking may have spent some time in an English-speaking environment and now need familiarisation with written academic discourse. Conversely, those with higher scores in Reading and Writing may have spent years studying from books and would benefit most from communicative-style teaching methods. A lower than average score in Reading may signify a vocabulary deficiency. Students can read a newspaper to build their vocabulary.


Please be aware that if the difference between your lowest and highest scores is more than 2.0, you will be subjected to an automatic remark.


The first part is the listening test. The listening test is the same for both academic and general tests.
Thus, it tests some skills necessary for both students, and general migrants.
The test is in four sections.

Section 1

An ordinary conversation between two people. It could, for example, be a telephone call between a sales assistant and a customer. You may be asked to fill out missing words in sentences while listening to the conversation. Often these missing words relate to prices, numbers, addresses and that sort of thing. Remember that in English, groups of numbers are ordered and written in a different way than you might be used to. We use a full-stop for decimal points, and commas for groups of thousands/millions/billions/etc. In other cases, you might also be asked to label a map. Keep an ear out for keywords.

Section 2

A monologue about everyday affairs.

Section 3

A conversation of between up to 4 people.

Section 4

A university lecture.

There are six question types: multiple choice, matching, diagram labelling, ...

The listening test can be somewhat baffling, which is why it is important to be prepared for it. Go through the questions before you listen to the recording, scanning for keywords. If you miss a question, leave it... don't try to remember too much, because there is too much information to remember.

Take care writing dates. Some advice on this topic can be seen here: here. Don't use abbreviations (such as Oct. for "October".)
Numbers can be confusing (particularly the difference between "13" and "30", etc). You can write the numbers on the answer sheet in numerical form.

There are no half answers. Therefore, using incorrect articles, or more than the required number of words, in an answer will cost you a mark.
The listening test can be somewhat baffling, which is why it is important to be prepared for it. Go through the questions as you listen to the recording. If you miss a question, leave it... don't try to remember too much, because there is too much information to remember.
It can be useful to practice spelling by doing dictation tests. When learning new vocabulary, use mind mapping. Some apps that could be useful include Anki and Trello.


See here for more details.


The writing test comprises two parts. In the general type, you need to write a letter and an essay. In the academic type, you must write a report about a graph of some kind, as well as the essay.
There are three types of letter styles: informal, semi-formal, and formal.
Essays can be in argument or discussion style. In an argument essay, it is necessary to construct a clear and relevant thesis.
There is also a "hidden argument" style question ("Do what extent do you agree...?") In answering this question, once must acknowledge the hidden argument.
The third type is Situation question ("Please explain why this situation exists..."

In your introduction, do not write what the essay will be about.

Topic paragraphs should use the TEEL (Topic Sentence; Explanation; Example; Link) outline. This systematically addresses the four criteria of the scoring outline (COHESION AND COHERENCE, etc). Use well-known facts in your answer. Make topic sentences clear and obvious. The link is like a conclusion.
In a five-paragraph essay, it is not necessary to use an example in the YOUR OPINION paragraph. You can recycle your earlier points as well.
You should, however, state your opinion briefly in the introduction. This may be a problem for East Asian students.
(For more writing tips, click here!)


The reading test for IELTS is 60 minutes long, and comprises three text passages and 40 questions. It has been called one big vocabulary test. Skimming allows you to understand the general meaning of an article. This will enable you to scan for more detailed information later.
Often the main point is not discussed at the beginning of the article.
1. Skimming exercise on page 4 of IELTS OBJECTIVES textbook (student book). You can time yourself as you read and then do the exercise.

There are three parts. The first section is usually easy, while the last one is the most difficult.
For more details read here.

» Dictation Exercises
» IELTS is a Scam
» IELTS Study Plan
» Score Calculator here.
» Viet Leap.

copyright rob sullivan 1996-2019 and beyond!

If this page has enriched your life, send me a donation at the following Potcoin address: