Preparing for your IELTS Exam
What is the IELTS Exam?
IELTS is the International English Language Testing System. IELTS exams are designed to assess students abilities in speaking, writing, reading and listening to English. IELTS exams are internationally recognized in countries such as Ireland, the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand. For many employers and universities in these countries, IELTS exam students are a much more attractive candidates than those without. For some employers and universities IELTS exams are an absolute necessity for a student to be considered. It’s for this reason more than 2 million people take the test each year!
Preparing for the IELTS exams is often a VISA requirement for a lot of students coming to study academic year courses and renewal visa courses in Ireland. This includes students from Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Russia all the way to the Philippines!
Here at Everest Language School we find that many students opt to improve their English by working towards the IELTS exam. It gives students who are learning English a goal to focus on and it’s a great way to test how far along they have come since they began studying.
In this blog, we will give you the best tips and advice you will need to help you improve your English and prepare for your IELTS exam.
What’s the first step?
First things first, you will need to decide which IELTS exam you want to prepare for! At the moment there are 2 types – IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic. In each exam the listening and speaking tests are exactly the same. The exams differ when it comes to the reading and writing components.
It can be difficult knowing which IELTS exam you want to prepare for. Our advice would be to check out the workplaces or universities that you are hoping to go to and see what their IELTS requirements are – Academic or General. They will also be able to tell you what score you will need to apply – scores are between 1 to 9, with most universities and workplaces expecting a minimum of 6 or 7. Check out the IELTS 9-band scale to see how the scores are measured.
What’s the difference between IELTS General Training and IELTS Academic?
IELTS General Training is generally geared towards practical, everyday English speaking. This includes the kind of English speaking that you would use in your everyday life in social situations and the workplace, such as speaking with work colleagues, customers and clients. The IELTS exam is a great exam for those who are looking to gain work experience or do internships in an English speaking country.
IELTS Academic exam preparation focuses on the English language that will improve the English of students who are hoping to study undergraduate, postgraduate or further education courses in an English speaking university or college. Popular Irish universities such as UCD and Trinity College Dublin look for students who have done well in their IELTS Academic exam. Everest Language Schools Director of Studies Anne-Marie Connolly studied at Trinity College herself where she completed a PHD on the cognitive benefits of bilingualism and adult language learning!
What is the IELTS exam format?
The IELTS exam is divided into 4 different sections – Listening, Speaking (Interview), Reading and Writing. You can also do practice tests for all sections!
The listening test is the same for both Academic and General Training IELTS exams. This section consists of 4 different recordings that you will listen to in the space of 30 minutes. You will answer about 10 questions on each recording. You will have to listen carefully as you only get to hear the recording once! On top of this, each recording will consist of a variety of voices and accents.
The recordings will vary from conversations or monologues about a range of different topics, some of which will be academic and some that will be everyday topics. Your exam paper will have a variety of different questions to test your listening abilities. For example you may be asked to summarize what they are saying or there may be multiple choice questions.
A great way to prepare for the listening exam is to listen to podcasts. You can check out which podcasts Everest Language School recommends to learn English on our blog – Podcasts for Learning English
You can also download IELTS listening tasks here.
The speaking test is the only part exam that generally falls on a different day to the others. You can sit this part either 7 days prior or 7 days after you have completed your listening, reading and writing tests.
The speaking test usually lasts about 15 minutes and is divided into 3 parts.
The first part is 4-5 minutes and included an introduction between you and the examiner and some general conversation. Small talk basically!
The second part, you will be given a card with a written description of an issue or concept. You will have one minute to take some notes and then you will be asked a couple of questions about it. This takes about 4-5 minutes also.
The final part of the test is again 4-5 minutes where the examiner will attempt to have a more in-depth and detailed conversation about the topic raised in part 2 of the examination.
Check out these speaking test samples to help you prepare.
Another great way to practice your speaking is to stay with a host family while you study, as you will be able to practice your English speaking outside of the classroom, as well as getting a good grasp of the different accents for your listening test too!
The writing test is different depending on whether you have chosen to do the IELTS Academic exam or the IELTS General Training exam. Both consist of 2 pieces of writing and the exam is 1 hour long.
In the first part of the writing test you will be shown a graph, table, chart or diagram. You will be then asked to describe various things about what you’ve been shown. This may include explaining data that is shown on a chart, to describing stages on a graph.
In the second task you will be asked to write a response to opinion piece, argument or problem.
For the Academic writing exam you should keep your writing in a formal style.
In the first part, you will have a choice whether to write to a letter in either formal, semi-formal or personal style. In the letter you will be asking for information or to have a situation explained to you.
In the second task you will be asked to write a response to opinion piece, argument or problem. The only difference here, is that you can write the response in a less formal manner than in the Academic exam.
Here are some great articles you can read to help you prepare for the IELTS writing exam. You can also check out this blog on a writing sample and it also shows you the marking scheme which is worth having a look at in order to see which areas you need to improve in the most!
Even just writing your texts and emails in English is great practice. A good idea is to write an email in your email drafts without any help. Afterwards you can copy and paste it into Microsoft word and take note and analyze the grammatical and spelling errors that show up!
As with the writing test, the IELTS reading exam differs between the Academic and the General. Both consist of 3 sections, 40 questions and the exam is 1 hour.
The academic reading exam consists of three different texts taken from publications such as magazines, books, newspapers and academic journals. The content of the texts will be academic and aimed towards subjects you might look at if you were studying an undergraduate or postgraduate course.
Some of the texts may even include graphs, diagrams and illustrations. A glossary is provided if the texts contain any technical terms.
Check out these Academic reading sample tasks.
In the first section, there will be two or three short texts about an everyday topic.
The second section will consist of two short texts about topics that are workplace related. This may include applying for jobs, pay conditions and staff training.
The third and final section is again a topic of general interest. However it is slightly more difficult, longer and complex reading than the first two sections!
Check out these General reading sample tasks.
Practising for your reading exam doesn’t mean you have to sit down with a big English coursework book. You can make it fun! Read magazines, books and online new sites and journals that you find interesting. Everest language school has tonnes of IELTS blogs you can read and also comment on if you have any questions or just need advice on the exam!
Where can I take the exam?
Dublin has two test centres. You can take the exam in CES or UCD or with Mobile Testing Solutions. Just make sure to register and check out which dates they are on. The cost of sitting the exam is €200.
Where is the best place to prepare for the exam?
There are loads of different ways to prepare for your IELTS exam, you can do practice tests, sample questions and many more options. However the most effective way to prepare for the IELTS is to study on an IELTS Preparation course. These courses are taught by teachers who know the IELTS exam inside out, and can help make sure you go into your exam confident that you will get the result you want!
At Everest Language School, there are IELTS preparation courses to suit students who have all sorts of levels and timetables. We have Intensive 24 hour a week courses and part time courses in both the morning and the evening! They have had great reviews which you can check out on Facebook and Google. All you have to do is complete our online booking form and a member of our team will get back to you with all the information you need to start preparing for your IELTS exam and help you decide what the best course is for you!
Click here if you want one of our teachers to correct your IELTS writing: https://everestlanguageschool.com/ielts-writing-correction