Preparing for IELTS: Part 3

Having a good strategy will help you prepare for any important test, especially the IELTS. Bangkok Post file photo, THANARAK KHUNTON

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In this week's article, Charles Cornelius details his 8 Steps to IELTS Preparation.

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Charles Cornelius is an English language teacher from the UK. He taught IELTS at the British Council in Bangkok for several years. He now teaches IELTS online and provides online courses and preparation materials for IELTS students through his website at

New: Charles has just uploaded a free IELTS preparation class and it already has over 2000 students enrolled. You can find it here:

Preparing for IELTS: Part 3

Charles Cornelius

In this week's article, I am going to give you my 8 Steps to IELTS Preparation. Steps 1 and 2 were explained in more detail in my previous articles, so make sure you read those articles as well!

Step 1: Improve your level of general English.

IELTS exam tips and tricks will only get you so far. You need to have good English. In my previous two articles, I explained some ways to help you improve your general English. So do this first!

Step 2: Understand the IELTS

You need to find out everything you can about the IELTS Test. Start by reading my previous article in the Bangkok Post.

You should also download my free eBook, 'The Essential Guide to the IELTS'.

Step 3: Read and listen to IELTS-style material

Next, you should try to read lots of IELTS-style articles, and listen to lots of IELTS-style audio recordings. These will help you to improve your English with the kind of language that comes up in the IELTS Test. If you read and listen to this kind of material, you will also discover the kinds of topics that come up in the IELTS test. You should focus especially on topics related to education, health and the environment - these are topics that frequently come up in the IELTS test.
Here are some great websites for reading IELTS-style articles (reading texts in the test often come from these publications):

BBC News Magazine
The Economist
The Economist Technology Quarterly
The Economist Magazine
Popular Science
The New Scientist
National Geographic
BBC Focus Magazine
Science Daily
American Scientist
Australian Geographic

And here are some great websites for listening to IELTS-style audio recordings:

TED Talks
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4: The Interview Archive

Step 4: Build your IELTS vocabulary

To succeed in the IELTS exam, you need to have a wide vocabulary. You need to have a good level of general English, but it also helps to know lots of words and phrases connected to common IELTS topics, such as education, health and the environment.
So make sure you grow your vocabulary for IELTS. Read the websites I suggested in step 3. You can also use reading and listening tests (see step 5) to help you learn IELTS vocabulary – simply learn the words you don’t know that you came across in these tests.
You can also join my IELTS Vocabulary Course. In this course you will learn 300 words essential for the IELTS test. Click on the link below to get a special discount for readers of the Bangkok Post Learning website.

Step 5: Slow Practice

Next, you should buy or download some IELTS practice tests. The "Cambridge English IELTS Practice Tests" are excellent. Read through the tests so that you know what a real test looks like. Then start to practice these tests.
At first, do not worry about time or doing the practice tests under 'exam conditions'. Instead, relax and practise the test slowly. Try a reading test or a listening test. Think carefully about the question, decide on your answer, and then check your answer – the answers will be in the back of the book if you are using the Cambridge Practice Tests.
If you get the answer wrong, great! Now you can find out why you got the answer wrong. Learn from your mistakes. If you learn from your mistakes, you will improve.
In other words, don’t do lots of practice tests quickly; do a few practice tests slowly. Slow practice will help you to develop the skills and strategies you need to answer the questions. Don't test yourself, train yourself.
Step 6: Find your weak areas

Identify your weak areas and try to improve them. If your weak area is writing, practise writing IELTS-style essays and try to get feedback on them. There are many tutors who will correct your writing; I offer an IELTS Writing Correction Service and I will correct your writing and tell you how to improve it. If you are weak at speaking, find a speaking partner or an IELTS tutor.
Step 7: Join an IELTS study group on Facebook

Meeting other IELTS students online is a great way to help you prepare for the IELTS Test. There are many IELTS study  groups on social media, including on Facebook. People will often share ideas and help each other in these groups. You can often get feedback on your IELTS writing by people in these groups.

Two of the best IELTS groups on Facebook are:

IELTS Writing Club
IELTS Tips and Tricks

Step 8: Fast Practice

Once you have practised some IELTS tests slowly (see section 5) and developed an understanding of the question types and strategies for answering, you can start to practise quickly; in other words, start to time yourself.
Good time management is essential on the IELTS test – the reason many candidates fail to get the score they need is because they don’t finish the tests in the time given. So practise timed tests – but only when you have tried the other 7 methods as well!
So those are my 8 essential steps in preparing for the IELTS Test. As you can see, there is a lot more to IELTS preparation than just “practice, practice, practice!” And it’s a lot more fun too!
I hope you find these tips useful and if you are preparing for the IELTS Test, I wish you every success.

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