Preparing for the IELTS test on your own: Listening & Speaking

IELTS listening preparation

The IELTS test is not a pass or fail exam. Achieving a successful result depends entirely on your goals or the requirements of the organization who has requested an IELTS score from you, such as a university or government. Once you know what kind of score you need, it’s time to prepare to do your best on the test.

Preparation is key to success because high-stakes tests like IELTS are designed to challenge you. So how can you make sure you’re ready?

One good option is formal IELTS preparation classes, in fact, this is your best option for IELTS preparation. However, you may not have the time or access to classroom-based preparation, or maybe you’d just like some extra practice.

Luckily there are several good ways to practice for IELTS, including some great online resources you can use for free.

Preparing to Listen

There are two important ways to practice for the listening section. First, you’ll want to get comfortable listening to a variety of English accents such as Australian, British, and American. Second, you’ll want to be familiar with appropriate listening strategies for the test format.

A good place to start is with the British Council’s excellent sample listening test or, which both come complete with printable question and answer sheets.

You’ll get the most out of practice test sections if you treat them as much like the real thing as possible. That means respecting the time limits and resisting the temptation to rewind the audio. It’s better to take a realistic practice test more than once than to repeat parts for a better result.

Repeating parts can be a helpful way to get comfortable with accents and the test format. For additional practice, check out the listening section at IELTS Buddy. There are several different sample listening tests that can be answered right on the webpage.

Preparing to Speak

This is the most unique part of the IELTS Test and it is also the most difficult to prepare for, but don’t worry, there are plenty of great resources to help you get ready.

As with the listening, it’s important to follow the test format very closely when practicing. To do this, you’ll need to find yourself a study partner because the IELTS speaking test is modelled on a real-world conversation.

Check out IELTS Essentials for sample prompts and transcripts for all three parts of the speaking test. Now, with your partner you’ll want to practice the 11–14 minute interview without any breaks, but do take the time to get familiar with the kinds of topics for each part.

  • Part 1: You’ll have to answer questions about yourself, work, family, or other familiar topics for 4–5 minutes.
  • Part 2: You’ll be asked about a specific topic and be given 1 minute to prepare your thoughts; then you’ll speak about it for 1–2 minutes.
  • Part 3: You’ll have a 4–5 minute discussion about an abstract topic or idea.

The most important part of preparing for the Listening and Speaking sections of the IELTS Test is getting comfortable. You don’t want to be surprised by accents or certain topics on test day. You also don’t want to be nervous about speaking—so find a friend and get talking!

There are great resources online to help you get ready for IELTS. Try British Council, IELTS Canada, and IELTS Essentials. IELTS Buddy is an unofficial resource but has a helpful comment section.

Interested in IELTS Preparation Classes? ILSC offers the IELTS Mastery Program and IELTS Mastery: 6.5 as well as general preparation and evening IELTS classes to get you ready for your test.



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