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5 Things You Need to Know Before Your IELTS Test

By: David Recine

Knowledge is power, and nowhere is that more true than in your IELTS practice. To get the IELTS score you want, you need to know all things IELTS. But where should you start? IELTS test dates? IELTS scores? A particular task such as IELTS Writing Task 2? Have no fear! I’m hear to tell you the 5 things you need to know to get a strong start in your IELTS prep… and a strong finish!

1) Know What Vocabulary You’ll Encounter 

The IELTS really does feature a large cross-section of vocabulary. And the vocabulary can actually be different for different sections. Reading passages contain different vocabulary than Listening audio tracks, and you’ll be expected to use different kinds of vocabulary in the various IELTS Writing and IELTS Speaking tasks.

Fortunately, there are a lot of good sources for IELTS vocabulary. You can see a set of the most common words across all sections with a good set of flashcards from a website like Quizlet or Vocabulary.com. Also consider Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS, an official IELTS vocabulary workbook from the makers of the exam. And of course, it also helps to simply read IELTS passages and transcripts from IELTS practice materials. You can highlight the words you find challenging, and make your own vocabulary list for the test.

2) Know What the Real Exam is Like by Using “Real” IELTS Practice

For the best IELTS question practice, you want to “get real.” What do I mean by this? I mean you want to use real IELTS practice questions, taken from actual IELTS exams that students sat for in the past. The makers of the IELTS have put together a number of tests made from real prior exams. Many of these tests can be downloaded from various IELTS-sponsored websites. How do you find these websites and make the best use of each site’s IELTS test sample? By reading Magoosh’s guide to finding and using each site’s IELTS sample test, of course!

3) Know How IELTS Scores are Calculated

To get a good score in the IELTS system, you need to learn how the system works. This complete guide to IELTS scores will tell you all about the way Listening and Reading is scored. In the guide, you’ll see how your raw score on the first two sections of the IELTS (the number of correct answers you give) is converted to an official band score. You’ll also see and get explanations for the official IELTS Writing and Speaking rubrics.

4) IELTS Test Dates: Know When to Book the IELTS

Setting an IELTS test date may seem like a minor part of your studies. After all, isn’t it more important to go through prep materials, take practice tests, and so on? Well that’s the thing. Your IELTS test date is the key to how you do all of your other study activities. This sounds strange at first, but it makes sense when you think about it.

The timing of your IELTS test determines how much time you have to do all of your prep. And your IELTS test date is even more important than that. Selecting the right date is absolutely necessary for meeting your deadlines for sending IELTS scores. A well-placed test date also determines whether you have time for an IELTS retake. (You may not end up needing a retake, but better safe than sorry!)

So you’ll want to plan your big day very carefully. One again, Magoosh has you covered. To pick the right day to sit the IELTS, consult Magoosh’s complete guide to IELTS test dates and registration.

5) Know what’s expected of you in IELTS Writing Task 1 and IELTS Writing Task 2

The IELTS Writing section can be particularly challenging. This is especially true if writing isn’t your thing in your own language. But it can even be true if you write well in your first language. Not everyone loves writing, and not everyone can easily use their native writing skills in a second language. And that’s OK! Anyone can beat the IELTS Writing section, with good IELTS course materials. And these materials can come from-- you guessed it-- Magoosh IELTS. 

Typically, IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 is the easiest writing task on the test. But you should still take some time to look at examples of this task and model answers. Material to help you master GT Writing Task 1 can be found on the official IELTS websites linked to the practice test page I mentioned in entry number (2) of this article.

IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 is a good deal more challenging. That task, along with Writing Task 2, are some of the most challenging tasks on the exam. So be sure to consult Magoosh’s IELTS Academic Writing Task 1 guide, as well as their complete guide to IELTS Writing Task 2. (Task 2 is the same on both versions of the test.)

BIO: David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent. Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest. When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life.

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