Let us suppose you have just heard about the IELTS and you arrived at this page looking for more information. Possibly you have just visited the site of the University you dream to study in and now you know the IELTS is a necessary step for your future. What to do now? This is a guide to help you taking the right steps and doing it at the right moment.
1) First of all, you need to know what the IELTS is: to have a first idea of how the exam is structured and how it is evaluated. Everything is in the IELTS official handbook, you can download from the following link (you need Acrobat Reader):
If you do not have Acrobat Reader you find all the information in the following site:
2) Now you know everything about it. The second point is: where and when can I take the test? Do not worry. There is an IELTS centre in almost all countries in the world. The complete list is at:
You will definitely find a centre not too far from where you live (you probably have to go to the capital of your country). What you have to do is to call or email the centre and ask when you can take the test. However, usually there is a large number of dates to choose from. Ask for information about the price, payment methods and test registration as well. Ask to receive an application form.
If you are not in a hurry, there is no need to book for your exam at once. Do some practice first.
3) At this point you can start preparing the exam. Obviously this is the most difficult part of the process. The fact is that points (1) and (2) are the same for everyone. The preparation, on the contrary, differs depending on your English starting level.
The good news about the IELTS is that it does not test your grammar, but your use and comprehension of the language. You do not need to know a very rich grammar (as, for example in the Proficiency); you must be able to write and speak without grammatical mistakes and to listen and read properly. However, this is not enough: even if your English is perfect, you still need to practice on some IELTS tests in order to get used to the test format. I will try to give you some guidelines for your preparation.
The work you need to undertake depends on two crucial factors:
your current level of English;
the band score you need to obtain.
My first suggestion is: unless you are forced to (say, because of time constraints) do not take the exam if you are not ready. It would be a loss of money. This is the reason why I told you above not to book your exam without doing any practice first. Take the time you need.
Try to be as frank as possible about your level of English: if your level is low, there is no sense in doing IELTS exercises now. Look for IELTS material only once your English fundamentals are in place. Otherwise practice all aspects of English (listening, writing, speaking, reading) in traditional ways, with traditional English textbook and courses. This is the first step of your preparation: improve your English to an acceptable level.
The appropriate level of English to start practicing on IELTS material depends on the band you need: if a 5.5 is enough, then you can start earlier. If a 7.5 is required, then your fundamentals have to be very strong.
Now that your level of English is acceptable, you should start to get used of the IELTS format. Your English will improve as well while doing IELTS exercises. You have basically two choices:
to attend an IELTS course, in order to receive help directly from IELTS experts;
to prepare the exam on your own, using appropriate material.
My suggestion is: always choose IELTS courses that are recommended by the British Council. In this way you will be sure about the quality of the course. Search the following site
to find a good course in your country or, if you can, invest a couple of months in an English speaking country attending an IELTS course there. If you have difficulties in finding a course ask your local IELTS centre for assistance.
A course is in general better than self-study, but is not the best strategy for everyone. Apart from costs considerations, if your level of English is very high, I personally believe that attending a course could end up being a waste of time and money. On the contrary, if your level is medium-low, a course might just be perfect for you. An IELTS course is definitely inappropriate if your level is very low (see above). By the way, I attended an IELTS course and I found it hugely beneficial, but many of my class mates did not. I guess this is because their level of English was either too low or too high.
If you attend a course they will provide you with everything you need. If you do not, you need to do everything on your own: in particular you have to find IELTS material to practice with. There is something on line, but not much. As far as I know, the only proper free exercises you find online are at:
In my opinion, this is not enough to prepare the exam. You need some more material you can buy online. In the IELTS books on line of this site you find a list of good books you might want to buy. Remember: irrespectively of your English level, you need some specific IELTS material in order not to have bad surprises the day of the test.
Before doing any practise, remember to read carefully all the pages of this site, in particular Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking: the IELTS is not only an English test, it is also a time-management test. During the test, you have to use properly your precious time and this site provides you with good tips on this as well as other aspects of the test.
4) Now you have done some practise. However, you might still have questions you do not know who to ask to. Well, now you have someone. I have founded a discussion group on the ielts. Subscribe and you will find many IELTS students and a few IELTS teachers there to help you.
5) During your preparation, when you realize you are about to be ready for the exam, fill in the application form your local IELTS centre has provided you with and send it to the centre in order to book your test. The countdown begins!
6) The day of the test has arrived. It is very important to sleep as much as you need the night before as concentration is an important part of the IELTS. Be relaxed. Do not panic. If you followed the steps above you should not have problems. Arrive at the centre at least half an hour before the exam. Take your time.
7) Good luck!!