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If your goal is to live or work in an English-speaking country, your IELTS band scores can have a significant impact on which visas, universities or careers are available to you. When undertaking the IELTS, you will be scored on four key skills.

If you need help preparing for your IELTS test, here's our list of best examiner approved tips to help you achieve the highest possible band scores in each category. 

IELTS Writing

Female test taker wearing a green t-shirt takes IELTS Writing on computer.

What to expect

The IELTS Writing test consists of two tasks, both to be completed within 60-minutes.

IELTS Writing Task 1

The first writing tasks are different depending on whether you are taking the IELTS Academic or IELTS General Training.

  • General Training: You will be asked to write a letter to either explain a situation or request information based on the topic provided to you. 

  • Academic: You will be asked to explain, describe or summarise the information shown in a graph, table, diagram or chat. 

IELTS Writing Task 2

You will be provided with a topic that may take the form of an argument, problem or opinion. You will be asked to write an essay on the provided topic. 

Tips to improve your IELTS Writing band score

  • Read the questions carefully. Set yourself up for success by ensuring that you understand the question well before you start writing. 

  • Use paragraphs. Each paragraph should contain one idea. Make sure you break multiple ideas up into different paragraphs. 

  • Utilise your vocabulary. Try to avoid using the same words too much. This is your opportunity to show off your English skills. If you see a word repeating in your writing, think about what other words you could replace it with.

How to paraphrase and boost your IELTS Writing Score

IELTS Reading

A male test taker looks up while taking IELTS on computer.

What to expect

The IELTS Reading test is 60 minutes in duration. You will be asked to answer 40 questions based on the source material provided. 

IELTS Academic

The Academic Reading test includes three long texts which range from descriptive and factual to discursive and analytical. The texts are authentic and are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers. These have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for people entering university courses or seeking professional registration.

IELTS General Training

The General Training Reading test requires you to read extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines. These are materials you are likely to encounter daily in an English-speaking environment. There are three parts in the test, with Part 1 containing two to three short texts, Part 2 contains two texts and Part 3 contains one longer text.

Tips to improve your IELTS Reading band score

  • Practice daily reading. Set aside at least 30 minutes per day to read English texts. If you don’t generally enjoy reading, try starting with some topics you are interested in before branching out to other materials. 

  • Mix up your reading material. Ensuring you are familiar with a variety of written texts will help you prepare for anything the IELTS throws at you. If you mainly read magazines, try some novels or newspapers. 

  • Practice reading strategies. You may be presented with a large block of text during your reading test. Learning reading strategies like ‘scanning’ or ‘skimming’ can help when you don’t have time to read all of the provided text. 

IELTS Reading Test: True, False or Not Given explained

IELTS Listening

Male IELTS test taker wearing a grey t-shirt listens to an audio clip during an IELTS on computer session

What to expect

The IELTS Listening test consists of 40 questions, and the test takes 30 minutes. You will listen to four recordings of English speakers and answer 10 questions for each recording. The four recordings consist of:

  • An everyday, social conversation between two English speakers

  • A monologue or speech set in an everyday social context

  • A conversation between two to four people in an educational or training setting

  • A monologue based on an academic subject

The questions may include multiple choice, matching, diagram labelling and sentence completion question formats.

Tips to improve your IELTS listening band score

  • Improve your active listening skills. You can do this by absorbing media made featuring native English speakers such as movies and TV shows, audiobooks or podcasts. Audiobooks and podcasts are ideal resources to practise your listening skills on the go. 

  • Take a practice test. Practice tests can boost your confidence and help you feel comfortable with the question formats prior to taking your official IELTS test. 

  • Take note of keywords. You will be able to see the questions for each recording prior to hearing them. Underline any keywords you think may be important and listen out for these (or similar words) during the recording.

IELTS Listening Test: Tips to avoid common mistakes

IELTS Speaking

Female test taker wearing a hijab sits opposite an examiner during an IELTS Speaking Test.

What to expect

The IELTS Speaking component of the IELTS test is the shortest of the four sections, taking no more than 14 minutes in total. There are three parts to this test, each lasting approximately three to five minutes.

Introduction and interview: Questions about the test taker (4 - 5 mins)

The examiner will introduce themselves and ask you to introduce yourself in return. They will ask some general questions about your family, work and personal interests. 

Individual long turn: Talking about a topic for up to 2 minutes

You will be given a card with a topic on it. You will be given one minute to prepare some talking points about this topic (you can make notes with a pencil and paper). You will be asked to speak on this topic for up to two minutes, and the examiner may ask one or two questions about the topic when you are finished speaking.

Two-way discussion: General conversation, linked to Part 2 

The examiner will ask you some questions related to the previous topic in order to create a natural discussion. This is your opportunity to show off your conversation skills.

Tips to improve your IELTS speaking band score

  1. Practice, practice, practice! Use any opportunity you can to practise speaking English before your test. Speak English when chatting with your friends or try striking up a conversation with a native English speaker you meet.

  2. Speak clearly. It’s natural to speak quickly when you’re nervous, but this can cause you to make mistakes. Slow down and focus on clear pronunciation.

  3. Stay away from simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. This is your opportunity to show off your vocabulary and conversation skills. Think about any personal experiences or opinions you can share with the examiner that relate to the discussion topic.

  4. You can switch your topic angle but you can’t change the topic if you’re not familiar with the subject that is being discussed. For instance, if you're asked to describe your car and you don't own one, here's what you can do: You can begin by answering:

"I don't own a car yet but I hope to in the next 10 years. The reason I haven't bought a car yet is because they are expensive and I much prefer to use public transportation. I like travelling on the train best."

Like the example above, you can use the entire 2 mins to talk about why you don't own a car, the disadvantages of owning a car and why public transportation is better.

IELTS Speaking Test: 10 tips from experts