If you have booked your IELTS test, but aren't sure where to start with your preparation, read on for 6 easy steps to get your IELTS prep off on the right foot.

Step 1: Choose the right IELTS test

The IELTS test you need to take will depend on whether you plan to work, study or migrate to an English-speaking country.

If you are planning to study in higher education or seek professional registration in an English-speaking country, then you will most likely need to take the IELTS Academic test.

On the other hand, take IELTS General Training if you plan to study in higher education, seek vocational training or want to migrate to Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the UK.

And exclusive to the UK, take IELTS Life Skills if you need to:

  • Apply for a family of settled person visa

  • Apply for an extension to a family, spouse of partner visa

  • Apply for indefinite leave to remain or citizenship

  • Study at undergraduate or post-graduate levels in the UK

  • Apply for professional registration in the UK

Our IELTS Life Skills page goes into detail as to which IELTS Life Skills test might apply to you based on your circumstances.

Step 2: Familiarise yourself with the test

Once you have narrowed down which IELTS test you need to take, get familiar with it - from the test format to test parts and the question types to expect. Once you understand the test format and question types, prepare for test day by doing IELTS practice tests.

The IELTS test is made up of four parts - Speaking, Reading, Listening and Writing. Each part of the IELTS test has different tasks associated with it.

You will need to discover what IELTS is, the skills that are tested, and what the IELTS results mean.

Once you have gained more knowledge about IELTS, you should decide which test is best for you, Academic or General Training.

Step 3: Learn about the question types

Both the Academic and General Training IELTS test is made up of 4 test parts - Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. The question types in each part of the test are different.

Get familiar with the question types you might encounter in each test part, and the time assigned to completing the Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking tests. And download the free practice tests to familiarise yourself with the different question types.

Our prepration page has some excellent resources to get you started.

Step 4: Understand the band scores

Your IELTS results are reported as band scores, which scale from a Band 0 to a Band 9. Each band score corresponds to a level of competence in English. You will receive an overall band score as well as an individual band score for each part of the tests. Band scores are reported in whole and half bands, e.g. 7.0, 8.5.

It's a good idea to familiarise yourself with what each score means and the marking criteria that examiners mark against for the Speaking and Writing tests.

Our How is IELTS marked page has some great information to get you across this.

Step 5: Study and set goals

It is important to study for your IELTS test, so make using English a habit leading up to your test. Setting simple study goals can help you get ahead when preparing for IELTS.

Some goals you might want to consider:

Familiarise yourself with the band scores

Each band score has a set of defined marking criteria. IELTS Examiners use these criteria to assess your English-language skills. Knowing exactly what an examiner looks for in a Band 7 in your Speaking and Writing tests can help you set up the best possible study plan.

Asses your English skills

Knowing where you stand within the band scores will help determine where you need the most improvement. IELTS Progress Check is a mock test that gives you indicative band scores for each part of the IELTS test as well as official feedback on your performance.

Make English a habit

Practising English every day can make a big difference. Setting aside as little as 5 minutes a day can go a long way - something as simple as reading English news stories, writing a letter to a friend or watching English-speaking movies can make a big difference.

Set up a study plan

Put aside some time each day to practise the 4 parts of the IELTS test. Set aside time for tasks that can help you improve - such as:

  • Read English newspapers, books, journals, advertisements and books

  • Listen to English-speaking audio books, podcasts, radio and music

  • Speak to colleagues, friends and family in English

  • Learn a new word every day or week and practice using it in a sentence

Step 6: Know what to expect on test day

To ease some of those pre-test nerves, get to know what to expect on your test day. Some things to keep in mind for test day:

  • Arrive early to allow time to register and be seated for your test

  • Check in your personal belongings such as phones, smart watches, books and notes

  • Bring your personal identification which is needed for the check-in process

Add these 6 steps to your IELTS preparation plan and you will be better prepared to get the IELTS band score you need.