In this article, I will answer some of the most commonly asked questions I get about the IELTS exam, outlining the four steps you must take in order to organise your studies and begin your IELTS journey.
1. Understand how scoring works
It is important that you understand how the scoring works in the IELTS exam so that you can appropriately measure your progress.
The exam is graded on a scale of 1–9. These grades are known as ‘bands’.
Take a look at the infographic below to get a better understanding of the standard of English that each band represents. I will only list 6–9 because if you are reading and understanding this article, you’re most likely already at least a 5.
You can read the full band descriptors on the IELTS website by clicking this link.
Once you’re familiar with the band system used for grading IELTS, you must apply this system to each section of the exam.
Each section of the exam — Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing — is a separate test and therefore will be given a separate band score. Your final IELTS result will be an average of these four scores.
For example, let’s say your IELTS results are:
Then your total score would be (8+7+7+6)÷4= Band 7.
Click this link to view the full IELTS assessment criteria.
2. Understand the test format
In order to excel in the IELTS exam, you must first have a thorough understanding of what the exam will look like. This will prevent you from being taken by surprise on exam day, allowing you to focus on the quality of your work.
To begin, I would suggest taking a look at the graphic below that explains exactly how the exam operates:
Once you understand the exam conditions, you can familiarise yourself with the IELTS format by completing practice papers.
3. Identify your current level
If you are completely new to IELTS, the best way of getting an understanding of your current level is by completing real IELTS practice papers under exam conditions and marking yourself honestly.
Taking practice papers is also a great way of improving your understanding of the exam format. However, you should only use tests from official and reliable sources. The reason being that fake tests are very misleading and can prevent students from understanding what the real test is like.
See below for a number of reliable sources of practice tests:
Remember: there is a crucial difference between IELTS practice and IELTS preparation. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that completing practice papers will improve your score — it is important to learn from your mistakes to expand your ability.
4. Equip yourself with the tools you need
There are so many tools available to help you improve your IELTS skills, such as video lessons on YouTube, IELTS podcasts, blogs and free online courses.
Note: You don’t want to waste your valuable time on a fake teacher or IELTS scammer which, sadly, are very common on the internet in the present day. You can learn how to spot an IELTS scam by clicking this link.
In spite of the volume of IELTS materials available on the internet, most IELTS pupils will require the assistance of a teacher at some point throughout their studies.
The reason being that it is almost impossible to objectively assess your own speaking and writing ability, as these are productive skills which require both practice and an expert’s feedback. An IELTS professional can tell you what your current level is, but more importantly, highlight what your weaknesses are.
Identifying your weaknesses is a crucial part of IELTS preparation because if you don’t know what you are doing wrong you will never learn how to improve.
Watch the video below to hear Chris’ advice on the best technique to follow when preparing for your IELTS exam:
If you need help finding an IELTS expert to help improve your productive skills, please feel free to take a look at our IELTS VIP Academy or send us an email at