How to Take 97% IELTS Preparation at Home (Step-By-Step Guide)

Sunday, August 23, 2015


IELTS preparation

Are you struggling to Prepare for IELTS exam at home? I’m about to show you a way to do that easily, using quality guideline.

In fact:

When you prepare for IELTS ; you get a lot of opportunities and flexibility to improve your test performance.

As of July 2015, about 3 million tests are taken around the world in 1,000 test centers with 48 test dates each year.



Look at the graph below to imagine how IELTS become the world`s most popular English language test over the course of time.


The number of worldwide IELTS test taker
How do you think, these millions of candidates makes them successful in this test?

Simple:  With Proper Home Preparation.

If you want to get the desired score in your IELTS exam, you have to go through the hardship of homework.

So what does it take to maximize your effort to prepare for IELTS at home? 

This in-depth article will walk you through four steps to improve your home preparation, so that you can optimize your performance, build a good impression during the exam, and boost your band score.
Do you want a better preparation for IELTS? : Click Here to Download Exclusive IELTS Preparation Guide (Free)
Ready? Let’s go

Step #1: Familiarize With Test Structure

When something is not fully known, the first step is to research and study it.  Smart preparations are based on in-depth past papers analysis.

Cambridge IELTS Student`s Books are the good reference in this context, full with past IELTS exam questions. You can also go through online sources to have a look at the test structure.

Remember, in this step, you are not actually practicing or giving any mock test. Just skim around the questions and get yourself acquaintance with the IELTS test.

Because 90% IELTS candidate complains that when they try to solve the questions at start up, they make mistakes. Making lots of mistakes in the first stage discourage them from trying further and they end up with nothing.

IELTS students trying to solve the question

For example, if you want to know about the reading module  do not read the entire passage first and try to solve the questions? 

You can, of course, solve the questions later but in the beginning, I`ll not suggest to do so. 

You can off course, just get an overview of the question types of IELTS reading test in this stage; like:  sentence completion, true/false/not given, multiple choice, paragraph headings etc.

In the same way, listening to the audio recordings from CDs or internet of past IELTS exam is not like playing computer game– it’s a necessity, and should be the initial stage of IELTS preparation.

According to the British Council, “You will hear a variety of accents in Listening test.”

That means  you need to adjust with typical English accents like British, American, Canadian or Australian.

Few years back, I got a job in Essex and it became a nightmare for me to understand the Essex Dialects. But, month-long social interaction with the locals made it easy for me to grasp their way of saying English.  

So, Just listen to the IELTS listening audio recording for a month and you will not find any accent unpleasant or hard at all to understand.

Good & Active IELTS Listener

And furthermore, by going through the writing and speaking section questions, you’re building up your awareness of the type of question asked in these modules.

Over time, you’ll become so associated with IELTS test that will build enough confidence in your mind to pay your full attention in the rest part of preparation.

Step #2: Practice Makes You Perfect

The basic of any test preparation hasn’t really changed. It all boils down to knowing what you will be asked in the exam, and how you usually go to look for answers to solve these problems (most often, using own wit).

There is really no secret to success in IELTS. It is just practice and practice.

Because you cannot master this kind of international high stake test overnight. One has to give it a long study time to become efficient and master this exam.

Build Online Reading Habit

The American Life research project found that 42% of college graduates will never read a book again after graduating college. I bet, this is the habit which is common among most of us.

For example, how many full English Books you have read after graduation?

Reading can assist you in a many ways. In fact, Neuroscientists have discovered that good reading habit can improve brain function on a variety of levels.

The story is same for IELTS preparation.

According to the Quora respondent Sushil Jain ; who is a student of Technical University, Darmstadt, Germany: just 1 month reading practice brings him 7.5 band in the IELTS reading section.

So, How can you build a good reading habit for IELTS? Here are some good online sources that will enhance your reading proficiency up to the academic level.

BBC

Do you know why BBC News online generates around 40 million unique readers a week? It has several awards under the belt as best news site of the world.

Granted, BBC is a very popular and highly credible news site. But another reason to read BBC is its in-depth, thoughtful news covering wide variety of topics.

Many news articles of this site are very similar to IELTS texts. like theses ones:

These though provocation news will hone your appetite of reading which will prepare your mind to catch IELTS reading passage information more accurately and quickly.

The Economist

As the name suggest, the content of this renowned online magazine does not cover news and article only in the area of Economics. Rather, it covers a wide variety of articles on culture, economics, science, technology, and politics.

IELTS reading articles also cover these topics. Therefore, if you are familiar with the language of articles in this magazine, you will considerably improve your chances of scoring well in the IELTS reading section.

On the other hand, The Economist has a Daily Chart section useful to prepare for IELTS academic writing task 1.

As you probably aware in this part of the exam, you will be given a chart or graph. You need to analyze that chart or a graph and then make a report of 150 words.

Look at the picture below taken from this section, where we can see a table exactly what we can find in IELTS part-1 writing.

You can read a brief report about these graphs here to notice useful languages like describing comparison and trends.

The Economist for IELTS Writing Task-1

Moreover, reading The Economist can build your general idea about talking about different critical issues usually discussed in IELTS Speaking Part -3.

When speaking about in-depth issues in this last part, candidates often miss developing effective arguments.

Let`s see how you can use The Economist cover page to develop arguments. Below is The Economist magazine cover of January 2014 issues with an interesting title “Workers on Tap”.


The idea of “on tap ” means you can have something exactly when you need it. So, you don’t have to keep it, you can have it whenever you want.

Therefore, we got an idea from here that workers are readily available in the market when a company needs them.

That means a company can hire some people only for a short time and then just flush them.

Now, if you look down in the cover picture, you can see words “Technology, Freelancing and Future of the Labor Market” which actually outline the cause and possible effect of this ready-made labor market.

That brings out the argument like “Technology and Freelancing are enabling labor on the Tap”. Now, think about the logics and examples behind this argument. For example,workers can perform their task online & at the same time can be paid online.

This makes it easy for the employer and worker to find each other and serve the purpose virtually.

Now you can think about different facets of the future effect of “Workers on Tap”, like:

  • Is this a good thing?
  • How will this affect companies?
  • How will this affect workers?
Preparing yourself to answer questions like these will be helpful to prepare for IELTS speaking test or any academic discussion.

TED Talks

Do you want to enhance your listening and speaking skill above band 7 level? Then, TED Talks can help you out.

As we discussed earlier, IELTS listening test includes a range of different accents: Australian, British, Asian English like Indian or Chinese and North American.  It’s not difficult to find an online one stop site to listen to these different types of accent like Ted Talk.

Ted Talks contains useful and well-formatted academic lectures from experts of many different countries. These are the brief expert analysis of contemporary issues. They consistently update these conversations, so you can check the views of dominating persons of various fields.

Practice IELTS Listening in Ted Talk

Most of these lectures have transcripts. You can improve your vocabulary using these transcripts and learn the use of these words in real world situation. It will show you the ways academicians convincingly present their opinions on the different modern issues.

But, how can you use these lectures to built your vocabulary?

Here is how to do this:

IELTS Vocabulary-Professor Word

  • Go to an interesting Ted Talk, scroll down and find the interactive script
  • Click on the “Run Professor Word” tab on your browser bar
  • The important words of the transcript will get highlighted, click on these words to know the meaning from professor word popup.
Ted also presents customized lessons on their TED-Ed section with carefully curated educational videos. Here are some lists of supplementary materials to prepare for IELTS that you can watch in your home:


Step #3: Sharpen Up Your Skills

Now, it`s the time for real battle. Practice test papers and justify your capacity to deliver correct answer.

Cambridge IELTS Book Series is filled with original IELTS test papers. Practicing from these books is my best recommendation. 

As I said earlier, you cannot master the test in a short time. You`ll face a lot of errors first. But, don`t stop there. Give mock test continuously until you reach your desired threshold. 

You can easily judge your performance of reading and listening section from the score. The following infographic  tells you the band score of these modules for a specific number of correct answers.

IELTS Band Score Calculator Infographic

Let`s take band 7 as the desired overall band score for any candidate. He/She need to answer around 30 questions in IELTS academic reading and writing section to achieve this score.

How can he achieve it?  Can he achieve it at this step of preparation? It’s a great question. One that deserves an answer.

The answer is “no”. Climbing a mountain often takes months or years of hard work. It takes time actually climbing it and getting ready to do it.

Getting band 7 or 8 in IELTS is very similar. It takes months of hard work to learn, experiment, and practice on the way to success.

I’m going to go through the major challenges you will be facing in this step of IELTS preparation.

The Challenge: Reading

The IELTS Academic reading test contains 3 paragraphs each with at least 3-4 thousand words.

That`s a lot to read and answer in just 60 minutes.  

So, can you make your endeavor to correct at least 30 questions? While It is not extremely impossible, they aren’t that easy either.

The first challenge is to enable you to digest a vast amount of material very rapidly. This technique is called “speed reading” that merely goes beyond quickly look over the passages.

These are some basic rules of speed reading; like these:

  • Skimming
  • Scanning
During normal reading 80% of the time spends in reading is devoted to physical eye movements. The human eye can focus on about 13 characters at a time which dramatically decrease the effective reading speed.

For this visual limitation ; most of us tend to read at about 200-400 words per minute. Speed readers claim to hit around 1000-1700 words per minute.

However, you don't truly understand those words while you read at this speed which defeats the purpose of reading in IELTS.  But, it is effective in pre-reading or reviewing the reading passages to get a general idea of the text.

In order to find the answer in the text, you need to master the skimming and scanning skills. Remember, in 60 minutes you have to read all 3 passages and answer 40 questions. That means you need to get the information very quickly.

Skimming is very functional to solve this purpose. It means glance through the text to look for a particular item to be answered. This method involves reading at a three or four time faster than the normal one. The reader can move quickly through the texts in a passage with a conciseness of which parts they can skip over.

The skimming technique is particularly helpful to give answers to the question like match headings or finding writers view. Here is a very good video lecture describing the skimming technique.

Speed Reading IELTS

When you look for any keywords, phrases or acronyms in the text, you can apply scanning technique. In this process, your eyes move down the page to nail down the answer to specific questions.

IELTS reading test contains gap fill or multiple choice questions that can easily solve thought this scanning method.

For example, can you solve the question about percentage from the following passage.

You can find it easily, right? 

Because the question contains the word percentage (which is the keyword or clue) and you were actually looking for it (%) in the passage and finally find the answer at the bottom of it.

I bet, you have heard a lot about these scanning and skimming techniques in almost any book or blog about IELTS. But, remember, the question can be answered by only applying these tricks. There are more challenges waiting for you there.

Most of the student surprise when they first look at an IELTS reading paper; the sheer volume of unknown and sometimes technical vocabulary makes it almost impossible to know the meaning of sentences and paragraphs.

It can seem like an almost impossible task for students to attain this sheered volume of vocabulary, in such a limited period of time of preparation, to enable them to answer the questions.

But, there is a solution.

Nevertheless to mention that about 3000 academic words appear with great frequency in a broad range of academic texts. But there are many unknown words which can appear in IELTS reading passages beyond these academic words. 

IELTS learning academic words

The reading habit you built in step one comes in action in this stage. On the top of it, knowing all the vocabulary of Cambridge IELTS students book series guides reading tests can build your vocabulary up to 98 % ; this level of proficiency is enough to get whatever band score you want.

The Challenge: Listening

I’m writing this post under the assumption that you’re doing IELTS just for trying to get admission in a university or migrate in an English speaking country.

What is the first thing you will experience in those countries like UK, USA, Canada or Australia?

Listen to people speaking in English in every step of your foreign life. And, that`s exactly the spirit of IELTS listening test.

There are few hardships every non-native person goes through while staying in an English speaking country. These are:

  • The hardship of following Different Accent
  • The hardship of following the speed of speech.

How to Handle Different Accent

There are 3 major English accents that would cover in the IELTS listening Test.

  • North American
  • British
  • Australian
The best way to get familiarize with these accents is to travel and live sometimes in some major cities like Sydney, London, New York, Toronto,  Auckland. This idea of traveling may sound insane but this is the best way to accentuate all major style of speaking English.

However, it is not possible for most of us to manage time & money for traveling around the world. In that case, secondary sources like all kind of media are the only way to get through.

Got any idea how the English language could be sound like in different parts of the world? Just, if you are curious enough, please go through Speech Accent Archive of George Mason University and discover the world of English accent by clicking in different areas of the world map.
Most of us may know how North American accent would sound like as most of the English movies comes from Hollywood. 

Yes, you are right.

Watching movies is a good way to earn foreign accent but it sticks to American jurisdiction. But, what about knowing British accent where IELTS listening tests covers at least 2 sections in British English. Again, BBC can help you in this case. Let`s see how it can help you:

  1. Go to YouTube and type BBC Drama/BBC Documentary in the search box.
  2. You will find an array of videos to watch on
  3. Choose one, enjoy the show and learn English accents with pleasure.
IELTS Listening from Youtube


The same procedure goes for learning Australian Accent where YouTube can be helpful. Do not underestimate the practice test in Cambridge IELTS student`s book series where each tests contains a range of accent. Practicing Cambridge IELTS books would be helpful in this case as a book as because each book contains listening scripts at the end pages.

How to Handle the Speed

Can you guess what the purpose of IELTS listening test is?

In an academic setting, students need to interact in tutorials, discussions, meetings with tutors and supervisors, group projects. They also take part in informal social interaction in and outside the campus.

The IELTS listening test sections are designed in that way, where there are 4 sections each contains 10 questions:

  • Section 1: A conversation about a daily life context e.g. a hotel booking procedure
  • Section 2: Individual Discussion about an everyday social context e.g. a speech about how to get the local driving license.
  • Section 3: Discussion between two or more persons in an Academic setting. Ex: meeting or interaction of 2 students with the supervisor.
  • Section 4: An academic lecture or seminar presentation.
The difficulty of IELTS listening  usually lies in chronological order. You can expect section 4 more difficult to answer than section 3/2/1 .

Guess, why section 4 is more difficult? 

One of the reasons is Speed. And, they won’t go back and repeat what’s said.

Students need good listening skills to interpret the subject matter of an academic lecture usefully delivered at speed and take necessary notes.

IELTS Listening-Academic Lecture


Just, try to listen to an IELTS section 4 audio track . While listening, suddenly realize you missed a phrase or sentence, maybe an important one. As I said earlier, in the academic context, the speaker sometimes speaks a little too quickly.

While you practice listening test at the beginning, we will miss many chunks of the conversation.

Don`t feel bad.

After a few months of practice, you will again miss something you haven`t missed before and this  trend will continue in the future.

This is very normal. Even a native English speakers mind can wander or simply fail to hear something in a speedy speech.

All you have to make sure you miss as few words as possible when you take the IELTS itself.

There are few sites that can help you to take the challenge of speed. Like:

  1. ESL Lounge has audio in normal to advanced level British & American speakers with scripts. Practicing from this site will help you to comprehend English speech that is faster than usual.
  2. ESL-Bits.net will allow you with advanced listening audios with Audio Script on contemporary topics. The advanced section in this site will enhance your listening speeds with read-along text.
The good news is that the speech you hear on the IELTS Listening section 1 & 2 is usually slower than English speech in other sections. This means, building your skills at listening to speedy paced English speech will prepare you for band 7+ score.

The Challenge: Speaking

The first thing you need to consider about IELTS speaking is the power of speech.
Remember, the driving force of humanity is verbal interaction or speech.

Speech is considered as the tool of creation in many religious sects of the world, as in: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’ “ (Genesis 1:3).

It might seem intimidating, but it isn’t.

In January 2008, Hillary Clinton defeated Barrack Obama in New Hampshire Primary Election.

However, Mr. Obama changes the dice by his phenomenal speech that have won him the nomination and ultimately the presidential election.

IELTS Speaking-Barack Obama Speech

Through speech – with praise and encouragement – we can change or build our society. So that, we can get a better score in IELTS speaking test.

Learn to speak well will improve in all areas of your life —one-on-one. It will bring good friends, help you positively in family settings and above all bring high score in speaking module!

Do you think there’s no magic or luck involved in delivering good speech?

According to an academic research , there are some certain Rules of Thumb that shape an academic speech.

When you imply these rules in your speech, you`ll make positive impression with the IELTS examiner and drive your band score up.

It is true that a good speech matter on your words, tone and body language. But, IELTS consortium has set some criteria to evaluate your speech for the examiner. There are:

  • Fluency and coherence
  • Lexical resource
  • Grammatical range and accuracy
  • Pronunciation
These are the basics of marking your speaking test. In the nutshell:

First, by fluency & coherence, the examiner will judge the pace & smoothness of your speech.

Second, in lexical section, the wide and powerful vocabulary usage will be credited.

Third, in Grammatical range and accuracy, your ability to deliver the speech with grammatical accuracy and variation will be checked.

Fourth, finally in pronunciation section, the tone speech will be marked if you deliver each word with clarity that could be easy to understand.

In my opinion, you can practice IELTS speaking test in your home by keeping these 4 criteria in mind. But, it`s really hard to find a speaking partner if you are staying at home. Unless, you join any speaking club or IELTS coaching center. 

Don`t worry, there`re some alternative solution to practice speaking of your own. 

First of all, you can sneak into the nearest British Council Library where usually the IELTS candidate gathers for registration or practice. Make friendship with them to go for a cup of tea or coffee and in the meantime practice speaking. 

You can also jump on certain Facebook pages about IELTS ; where you can find a speaking partners request through Skype ID.



As you can expect, with the pace of time, your capacity to speak academically in any topic will improve over time. If you are beginning as a novice in this speaking learning curve, I`ll tell you will become an expert speaker. It`s not that difficult to do, just keep the habit going on.

The Challenge: Writing

The IELTS academic writing contains 2 tasks. Task-1 requires less time; you are supposed to write 150 words answer  in 20 minutes while in Task-2 it requires 250 words answer in 30 minutes.

Just imagine being able to write a 250 words essay in 30 minutes.

This means that time management and planning is an integral part of the writing process, but the real work comes in the revision stage, where you give 10 minutes to perfect your writing.

IELTS Academic Writing Time Distribution
The IELTS academic task-1 contains charts, figures and tables to present visual information in a way that is accessible and understandable to the reader.

All you have to do is gathering important facts, changes, and comparison figures to built the foundation for your answer.

However, you don’t have to be perfect at this “fact-gathering” stage. But, you are required to present your answer according to the set of standards set by the IELTS consortium. To know these facts please follow this post:

Although, writing isn’t all about arranging words to make a sentence – you’ve got to know what types of words or sentence structures you need to use for particular tasks. There are several ways you can use online sources to get familiar with how to structure your task-1 answer and use complex sentences and grammatical forms.
      One of these sources (I stated earlier) is The Economist websites Daily Chart section which is similar to the graphs and charts often used in Task 1.
        You should learn to use clear and specific Language to describe charts, table and diagrams. In the meantime, you are supposed to understand and write about following key points:

        • The purpose of the given table, charts or diagram
        • Determine which pieces of information are significant.
        • Describe the highest and lowest value of the dataset.
        • Make comparison between significant data sources.
        Go to this link  which is a nice learning source about how to write about these key points. 

        You should also focus on using appropriate adjective, adverbs and preposition to present the task in a proper way. Here is a very good source to learn these words/phrases that fit with particular charts.

        Sometimes, task-1 question covers flowchart/diagram instead of table or graphs. Flowchart is the schematic visual representation of the “flow” of the process. Don’t get overwhelmed when you stumble upon these flow-charts.


        Just like describing charts and tables, it is important that you spend some time carefully looking at the diagram until you understand what it shows. Look for the following:

        • The main parts or blocks of the diagram.
        • How one block of the process leads to another one in the diagram?
        • Are the stages shown in the diagram follow any sequence (what comes after what)?
        • Identify the keywords in the diagram that help you to explain it
        Remember, in the flow-diagram; as a reader, you are active while the visual itself is passive. This active-passive role is very important in describing it.

        That’s why; using the passive voice can add a more formal tone to your descriptions.

        Sometimes IELTS writing task-1 diagram express the cause and result relationship. In that case, using certain connective phrases like- (as a result, because of, consequently, due to, give rise to, on account of, results in) will give a natural flow to your writing.

        As I stated earlier, you should find more time in writing task-2 because it carries more marks than task-1. The IELTS Academic Task-2 questions comprise 3 types of discourse:

        1. The task will describe a problem and ask you write a solution
        2. It can ask you to describe the advantages and disadvantages of something
        3. The question can present a controversial issue and need you to express own opinion.
        Although, the main types of questions in task-2 can be varied among these 3 types, all you have to do the following things during first 5 minutes.

        • Brainstorming ideas
        • Organizing ideas in a mind map
        • Planning your essay
        The following infographic about IELTS Academic Writing Task-2 will show you how to organize your writing at the level of the paragraph and, finally, how to write a good conclusion.

        IELTS Writing Task-2 Structure infographic

        A good academic writing is that each sentence follows on logically from the one before it.  Your responsibility, therefore, is to maintain this flow of ideas.

        But the logical flow is not what you need to consider alone. There are other things to consider in your writing for getting high band score. To know this fact, just follow the post below:

        That`s all about the challenges you are going to face in IELTS writing preparation.
        In the nutshell, your writing should be clear to understand and maintain an academic tone by including a few more complex sentences for getting band 7 or higher.

        Writing is an art and requires creativity. However, the IELTS test seldom justifies this act of creativity and demands certain rules to follow. I tried to give you a glimpse of these rule of thumbs. Without following these rules, you`ll be lost in the crowd.

        Step #4: Here Comes the Sun (Conclusion)

        Scoring high band score in IELTS isn’t a mystery.

        In case of speaking and writing, you just need to know its components & learn how to use them for the best answer.

        In the course of time, you can incorporate some—ideally all—of these components into your preparation. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how your answering capacity increases during the final stage your home preparation.

        For reading and listening module, if you get to score between 32 to 38 correct answer out of 40 questions, you are ready for the test.

        You can also justify the quality of your speaking, by recording it and listen if it satisfies the standard requirements. I will describe in detail of these elements of speaking test in this post.

        However, you will still long for perfection and fear of unprepared before the exam day.

        Don`t worry! This is a very common feeling among candidates.

        Click me!

        The practical proficiency of IELTS usually builds with everyday practice. This practice involves a good understanding of how the test structures, errors that may lead losing scores etc.

        There’s nothing fancy about finding any shortcut to pass this exam. So don’t waste time or fret over it.


        Depending on your goal or the demand of your target band score, you may want to practice at least 1 to 3 hours per day. Practicing at this speed will usually take 3 months span to prepare you for getting a comfortable band score.

        However, if you want to stand out, you’ve got to add more and more practice in your IELTS preparation endeavor.

        When you’re practicing for the test, don’t lose sight of what matters most: hard work. The goal is to hone your expertise and intellect for the target band score.

        But understand that there is a difference between hard work and smart preparation. During hard work, you adjust yourself with the model test to score better; where you might end up with frustration.

        For instance. When preparing smartly as I guide you in this post, you focus on correcting yourself and achieve the level desired by any IELTS candidate.


        Scoring a good enough band score is tough. You’ve got to solve model tests and use the rules and techniques to answer them properly. You need to figure out what techniques works, and what doesn’t.

        But I’m confident that if you can focus on these 4 steps, you’ll be able to get a good band score that you can be proud of – within 3 months or less.

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