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. Sometimes the Speaking test is conducted separately to the other components.

For each component you will given a score between 1 and 9 (native speaker level), and these will be tallied to produce a final result.


BY PREPARING for IELTS, you will perform much better in the actual test. That said, it is better to identify your strengths and weaknesses before starting your preparation. 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. Test-takers can read a newspaper to build their vocabulary if this is the case.

In general, most people are stronger in Listening and Speaking. Research shows that most test-takers score lowest in Writing, so this is a component worth preparing for.

Most students that I teach on iTalki are aiming for a Band 6 or 7 score. In my experience, they need about 8 weeks of study time to achieve their goals. That is because roughly 200 hours of guided learning is required to rise one score in IELTS. Of course, preparation can be passive, and active. Since face-to-face learning is more active, I consider 200 hours of guided study to be worth 50 hours of face-to-face tutoring.


Adam from Engvid recommends doing a complete practice test once a week. A mock test containing all four sections can be done here.

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, starting with everyday situations, but becoming more abstract as it goes on.

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. For example, it could be a seminar about how to find a job.

Section 3

A conversation of between up to 4 people.

Section 4

A university lecture.

There are six question types: completing missing words, 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.

The accents used in the listening test recording is predominantly British or Australian/New Zealand English.

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.


THE SPEAKING test is the shortest component of the IELTS exam, but is uniquely challenging.

(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.
When it comes to essays, there are three kinds: opinion, discussion or a double question style essay. In an opinion essay, you need to argue either for or against the given statement. In a discussion essay, you need to first discuss both sides of a topical argument (such as homeschooling), and then give your opinion on this debate. In the double question type, there are two questions that you need to answer. Often the first question relates to how a particular problem came to be (such as poverty in the Developing World), while the second question deals with possible solutions to this problem. For this reason, it is often called a "Causes and Solutions" essay.
To score well, you will need to construct a clear and relevant thesis... (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... (For more reading tips, click here!)

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 Brother
» IELTS is a Scam
» IELTS Podcasts
» IELTS Study Plan
» Score Calculator here
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