The IELTS, or International English Language Testing System, exam is a test of English as a foreign language which has become hugely popular over the last two decades. Students all over the world join online English classes or learn English in face-to-face environments with the aim of getting an IELTS certificate that gives them their desired score.

The internet is swimming with advice for IELTS student, but not all of it is great. Here, though, are some genuinely useful tips and things for you to think about before you join an IELTS class.

Grammar is important

Although some online tips will tell you that you can do well in the IELTS exam without any knowledge of grammar, you still need to use grammar correctly and you still need to be able to recognise the mechanics of sentences. It is true that you will not be asked to label things as verbs, adjectives, or nouns, for example, but if you are unable to use these things accurately, your overall score will suffer. It is extremely difficult to get higher than 5.5 if you have serious problems with your grammar. For this reason, it is a very good idea to do general English courses before joining IELTS online classes or face-to-face IELTS classes. That way, you can focus yourself fully on improving your exam skills when you join your IELTS class.

The best way to improve your reading is… reading

Students who get high scores in reading almost always have one thing in common: they read. Find something you enjoy reading in English and read it for fun. Don’t think about it as exam practice. Do it because you want to do it. If you are aiming to get IELTS in order to go to an English-speaking university, you are hopefully planning to study something that interests you. Read about it. Read articles about it. Read books about it. Just read. It is not possible for me to emphasise strongly enough how important reading is.

Learn to spell

English spelling, whether British or American (and you can use either in the IELTS exam, but not both), can be quite idiosyncratic, and English speakers spend a lot of time practising it at school. If you get one letter wrong when you are doing the listening exam, that answer will be wrong. You therefore need to learn to spell in English. Make a list of words you have spelt incorrectly in the past, and read them into the voice recorder on your phone, or get someone to read them to you. Write them as you listen to them. Then check the spelling. Remove the ones you spelt correctly from your list. Repeat forever, adding new words until your spelling is perfect!

Make a note of words you translate

Did you translate “idiosyncratic” in the previous paragraph? Will you remember it tomorrow? If the answer is yes, great! If the answer is no, then you need to start making notes of the words you find. Translation software is great for understanding something at a given moment, but it does not help you learn new words unless you review and practise those words. Start using “idiosyncratic” in conversations and make exciting new friends!

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