The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is one of the most preferred measures of language proficiency. It has two versions: Academic and General Training. Academic IELTS is for those who are applying for higher education or professional registration, and General Training is for those who are migrating (Australia, Canada and the UK) or applying for secondary education, training programs and work experience in an English-speaking environment.
The test uses a nine-band scale to measure levels of proficiency, with 1 as non-user through 9, expert. Both versions measure the four language skills – reading, listening, writing and speaking. The test is intensive. It takes two hours and forty-five minutes in total (listening – 30 minutes, reading-60 minutes, writing – 60 minutes, and speaking – 11-14 minutes). Before taking the IELTS, make sure that it is the appropriate language test to take and that it is accepted for the particular purpose. Check with the institution you are applying to or go to: Find out who accepts IELTS.
There are review classes you can enroll in to prepare you for the test. However, if you are the self-directed type or if you prefer to study independently, there are so many free resources online that can help you prepare. Here are some of them:
IELTS.org – IELTS takers say that achieving a good test score requires not only good language skills but a thorough understanding of how it is designed and administered. This site is the most reliable source for such information. You can learn about the types of tests and the format, answer sample test questions (downloadable), and get information about the process and requirements for booking a test here.
British Council – the site’s resources will guide you from understanding the test format to helping you speak like a pro. It contains reading materials, practice tests, test day advice, test taker tips, and various apps to make studying more fun and effective. The British Council also offers a free IELTS online course. Schedules are posted on this page.
Road to IELTS (British Council/Clarity English) – an online course that prepares you for the IELTS using various resources and activities that are available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The full version is by subscription and costs US $49.99. However, there is a free “Test Drive” version with 10 hours worth of practice materials.
IELTS Preppers – this is a Facebook group that shares various resources for reviewing for the IELTS and tips and links to ace the exam. “Like” the page and you will get new posts and updates on your FB page.
Cambridge English IELTS preparation – you can download free sample paper and tasks, test FAQs, tips for your test day, useful links, and test practice materials on this site.
IELTS Practice Tests – compiled by the IELTS experts at Magoosh, this page has everything you need to know about practice tests – why they are helpful, when you should take them, how Academic IELTS differs from General Training IELTS (and which practice tests you should take), and where to find free practice tests.
IH London Blog – getting overwhelmed with the vast amount of materials you have go through to prepare? You will appreciate this site for its concise information. It has nine short preparation guides that are essential to attaining the score that you need.
IELTS-Blog – if you want tips straight from IELTS takers who got high scores, read this blog. Aside from the advice, the site contains preparation tips, writing samples for the essay portion of the test, and question samples from testing centres in different countries.
IELTS-simon and DCIelts – These two sites are run by IELTS experts (an IELTS examiner and an IELTS teacher). They focus on helping you develop grammar and vocabulary most appropriate for use in the test. Also check out IELTS Liz which is run by an IELTS examiner and teacher from the UK.
IELTS Buddy – contains more than 50 lessons for each language skill aside from tips, sample tests, forums and useful links.
IELTS Material – the site has a collection of more than 100 books and resources to help you get ready for the test. It also has daily lessons and practice tests to keep you engaged. You can subscribe to the site and like it on Facebook for regular updates.
St. George International (SGI) – the site has helpful materials and articles such as How to write better English sentences for IELTS, Common mistakes, How to write the perfect essay.
YouTube channels – these are veritable treasure chests of free video resources for reviewing for the IELTS or just generally improving your English language skills. Check out IELTS Liz who also has a website full of IELTS resources (link above) and EngVid’s free IELTS lessons for videos that are easy to follow and understand. These ESL experts share various strategies in answering IELTS test sections and tips on how to get a high score.
IELTS Skills (Macmillan Publishers Ltd) – provides sample content for all four language skills. It has sample exams, practice materials and interactive tasks for learning on-the-go.
IELTS Speaking Assistant (Android apps on Google Play) –provides speaking topics with IELTS vocabulary. It will guide you with model answers to questions and tips for preparation. You can also go to IELTS Speaking Assistant to download the app and for a more detailed description.
IELTS Word Power (British Council) – this is also for vocabulary building. It also contains basic IELTS information.
IELTS Flashcards (BH Inc.) – if you are the type who learns faster with visual aids, this app contains 2000 premade flashcards, slideshows and quizzes to help you review. It will also teach you how to make your own flashcards.
IELTS Essay (Estar Education) – also for vocabulary building, the app contains 200 essays on various topics. Reading through the essays will give you an idea of the style of writing and type of words to use for the writing part of the exam.
GRE TOEFL IELTS Vocabulary – contains about 1500 words to build your vocabulary. It provides the meaning of the word, as well as synonyms and antonyms.
This list is by no means exhaustive. There are so many resources around! It may be a good idea to try some of those in the list above or define what you need first (for example materials that will train your weakest skill the most) and then choose. Goodluck!
Sources: 15 Android apps for IELTS, TOEFL and GRE preparation, Hongkiat.com; Top 5 best websites for IELTS preparation, International House Aberdeen. With thanks to Rachael Brandt of Magoosh.com.
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