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How to prepare for IELTS

Isn’t it nice to learn from the mistakes of someone else :)? Well, another mistake I made in my preparation for IELTS was concentrating on just one sub-test out of four. I started to study for Writing and neglected all the other parts – Listening, Reading and Speaking.

There are reasons why a person would do what I did. Usually, people like doing things they are good at and avoid doing things they are not so good at. I was good at writing, so it was very natural for me to write essays and letters and set aside all the other difficult and “scary” subjects. Or the opposite might happen – people assume they are good in Writing and concentrate on something else that needs improvement.


There are many reasons not to do what I did. Firstly, in many cases you are required to get a nice band score in every sub-test, or at least in two sub-tests. That means you can not be satisfied with a good average, because you need a Band Score 7 in two sub-tests no matter what.

Secondly, when you hope for a good average while concentrating on one or two sub-tests, your chances don’t look good. All the sub-tests in IELTS have the same weight, so if you score 8 in Reading, 4 in Listening, 8 in Writing and 4 in Speaking, the average score will be 6 (simple math). If you think about it, it is quite difficult to score 8 in Reading or Writing, no matter how hard you try. That’s why studying a little bit harder for all four sub-tests makes much more sense and eventually pays off.

Finally, some real advice – divide your time into four equal (or almost equal) parts and practice in IELTS Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking without making exceptions.

You can mix 2 subjects in one day, for example, practice in Reading for one hour and then in Writing for one hour. This way of studying helped me and my friends – I hope it will help you, too.

IELTS: Academic or General?

As I promised, this is a story about a mistake I made while studying for the IELTS test. I started to prepare for the Academic module whereas I should have studied for the General Training. It took me about 2 weeks to see what a mistake I was making, which means half of the time I had was wasted and the deadline moved much closer.

The first thing to do is to find out what module of IELTS are you going to take, Academic or General Training. Usually the Academic module is intended for future students and the General training for immigrants, but you should not assume – check and double-check which one you need to take.

The difference between these two IELTS modules is that the Reading and Writing tests are different in the Academic and General Modules. The Listening and Speaking tests are the same.

The difference between two Reading tests is that you may have to read 3 longer and more complicated passages in Academic versus 4-5 smaller and easier texts in General Training.

From my experience, the fact that I studied for Academic reading and practiced using Academic kind of texts didn’t hurt me and even helped me. The problem was the Writing test assignments. The difference between Academic and General Writing test is that in the Academic you receive a graph and the task is to describe it in 150 words. In the General Training you receive a description of a real-life situation and the task is to write a letter about that situation.

So I learned my lesson and now my advice to you is:

  • Practice in Academic Reading no matter what kind of IELTS you’re taking. If you take the General Training IELTS – do some General reading tests as well. This way you hope for the best and prepare for the worst 🙂 Jokes aside, here are some Academic reading tips and here is how to deal with one of the challenging question types True False Not Given. Another good idea is to learn how to practice smarter, not harder.
  • Pay attention to the Writing test: Academic = Graph, General = Letter, practice accordingly. Before you start practicing, go through these helpful tips for Academic writing task 1. If you’re studying for the General Training IELTS, click here for some writing tips
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