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IELTS Tips for International Students

Most international students wanting to study in an English-speaking country or pursue a course in English might need to take the IELTS test. 

So, what is IELTS? 

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System, and is a widely recognized and accepted measure of your English proficiency.

In this article, we will share with you some tips and strategies for the IELTS test, as well as some general advice on how to prepare for it.

Let’s dive right into it and get started. 

Understanding the IELTS Format

Before you start studying for the IELTS test, it’s very important to understand its format and structure. The IELTS test consists of four sections, which are: 

  1. Listening
  2. Reading
  3. Writing
  4. Speaking

Each of these sections has a different number of questions, tasks, and time limits. There are also two different versions of the IELTS tests: 

  1. Academic
  2. General Training

International students usually have to take the academic version, however, it is important to know which version you need to take and familiarise yourself with its format.

IELTS Listening Tips

A student noting down useful IELTS tips.

Image credit: Ivan Samkov

The listening section of the IELTS test lasts for about 30 minutes and has 40 questions. You will listen to four recordings of native English speakers and answer questions based on what you hear. 

The recordings can include a conversation between two people, a monologue set in an everyday social context, or a conversation among up to four people. 

Here are some tips to improve your listening skills and score well on this section:

  • Listen to a variety of English materials, such as podcasts, documentaries, TV shows, and practice taking notes and answering questions based on what you hear.
  • Use headphones or earphones when you practise listening, as this will help you focus better and block out any background noise.
  • Read the questions before you listen to the recordings, as this will help you identify the key information and keywords you need to listen for.
  • Pay attention to the speakers’ tone, intonation, and pauses, as these can indicate important details or changes in topic or attitude.
  • Write your answers on the question paper as you listen, and transfer them to the answer sheet at the end of the section. Be careful with your spelling and grammar, as incorrect answers will be marked wrong.

IELTS Reading Tips

Image credit: Michal Jarmoluk

The reading section of the IELTS test lasts for 60 minutes and has 40 questions. You will be required to read a few passages of varying lengths and topics and answer questions based on what you have read. 

The passages could be taken from authentic sources such as books, magazines, newspapers, or other sources and are primarily designed to test your reading comprehension and analytical skills. 

Some of the tips for you to score well in this section are: 

  • Read widely and regularly in English, especially on topics that are relevant to your field of study or interest. 
  • Skim the passages before you read them in detail, as this will help you get a general idea of what they are about and how they are organised.
  • Scan the passages for specific information or keywords that match the questions, as this will help you locate the answers quickly and accurately.
  • Use techniques such as paraphrasing and summarising to understand the main ideas of the passages in past papers. 
  • Manage your time wisely and don’t spend too much time on one question or passage. If you are unsure of an answer, make an educated guess and move on.

IELTS Writing Tips

IELTS writing test being completed by a student after gaining IELTS tips.

Image credit: Andy Barbour

The writing section is often considered one of the most difficult parts of the IELTS test, as it requires you to produce clear, coherent, and accurate write ups in a limited time. 

As challenging as this section is, following these tips below can certainly help you get a good score: 

  • Plan your time wisely: You have 60 minutes to complete two tasks, so make sure you allocate enough time for each task. A good rule of thumb is to spend 20 minutes on task 1 and 40 minutes on task 2, as task 2 is worth more marks than task 1.
  • Analyse each question carefully: Before you start writing, make sure you understand what the question is asking you to do and what kind of response is expected. Identify the main topic, keywords, and instructions of the question and follow them closely.
  • Organise your ideas logically: A well-structured text is easier to read and understand than a chaotic one. Use paragraphs to separate your main points and support them with relevant examples and evidence. Use linking words and phrases to connect your ideas and show the relationships between them.
  • Use appropriate language and tone: Depending on the type and purpose of your task, you should use formal or informal language and tone accordingly. It is recommended to use a variety of vocabulary and grammatical structures to demonstrate your range and accuracy.
  • Check your work carefully: After you finish writing, take some time to review your work and check for any errors or mistakes in spelling, punctuation, grammar, vocabulary, or coherence. Correct any errors that might affect your score or confuse your reader.

IELTS Speaking Tips

A girl having a conversation, representing insights acquired from the IELTS tips on the speaking section of the exam.

Image credit: SHVETS production

The last section of your IELTS test will be the speaking test, which is designed to assess your ability to communicate effectively in English in various situations. 

Many students often find the speaking test be the most challenging, however by following the tips below, you can easily score high in this section too: 

  • Relax and be confident: The speaking section is not a test of your knowledge or intelligence, but of your English skills. Don’t be nervous or afraid of making mistakes; instead, be confident and try to express yourself as naturally as possible.
  • Speak clearly: Try to speak at a normal speed and volume, without hesitating too much or repeating yourself.
  • Expand your answers and give examples: Don’t just give yes or no answers or short responses; instead, try to elaborate on your ideas and opinions and give examples or reasons to support them. 
  • Be prepared for the topic: In part 2 of the speaking section, you will be given a topic card with some points to talk about. You will have one minute to prepare your answer before you speak. Use this time wisely and make some notes or bullet points to help you organize your thoughts and remember what you want to say.
  • Engage with the examiner: In part 3 of the speaking section, you will have a discussion with the examiner about some related questions. Try to treat this as a natural conversation and not a question-and-answer session. Listen to the examiner’s questions and comments and respond appropriately. Ask for clarification if you don’t understand something or need more time to think.


We hope you found these tips helpful and useful for your IELTS preparation. Remember that practice makes perfect, so try to expose yourself to as much English as possible and practise your skills regularly.

If you need more guidance or support, you can always contact us and get more information on where to get your IELTS courses and where you can learn from experienced teachers. 

Remember, the key to acing the IELTS is consistent practice and smart preparation. So, don’t wait too long and start your IELTS preparation today to kick-off your journey of studying abroad.

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favour!

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Azmi is a versatile and creative writer with a passion for storytelling. With substantial experience in the education industry, combined with a keen eye on current trends-- he's able to provide in-depth insights to compliment our services.


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