How to prepare and pass IELTS: personal experience

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Hello, Habr! I am a teacher and methodologist at EnglishDom English School. In this article I want to share the experience of how I took IELTS. For those who are not familiar with this international exam, there will be a spoiler at the end of the article describing the goals, structure and typical mistakes in the exam.

Initial data

  • To prepare for the surrender, I spent almost 9 months.
  • The level of English from which I started training is Advanced / C1.


I never had problems with the spoken part, but I tried to tighten the rest of the moments intensely.

Listening was more difficult precisely in making notes quickly, and rightly and rightly.

For practice, I again took a timer and noticed how much time it took me to do one task and mark it together with checking the recording. It is very important to learn how to make concise and concise notes for yourself, a maximum of 1-3 words per answer.

At first, my attempts were terrible - a lot of obscure notes, more words than necessary. Therefore, I set aside at least 15 minutes a day to listen to audio recordings and tried to think of a system of abbreviations for myself in order to mark the whole word with a symbol or number. This helped to spend significantly less time on recordings. You can also mark the right word in a sentence or question in advance in order to quickly find the answer - after all, time is always given to familiarize yourself with the questions.

The result is 8 points for this part. It's a shame, but in a hurry I could not correctly recognize some of my notes and decided not to transfer them to the answer form.


I had to remember what we were taught at the university at the philological faculty - an introductory reading. It is important to be able to “scan” the text without going into every detail, and also not trying to translate all the unfamiliar words. This will necessarily lead to a loss of time, but the question about this word or phrase may not be. And the text itself can be very boring and difficult.

That is why I began to read a wide variety of articles in English - from the technical details of launching a new rocket to new discoveries in medicine, biology, etc.

With the help of a timer, I started doing exercises from the test book (once or twice a week). Allocated up to 20 minutes to work with one text (you never know which one will be easier or more difficult, therefore it is better to play it safe right away) in order to spend up to 60 minutes on three texts.

The most difficult thing was to complete the tasks on Yes / No / Not Given - it was necessary to analyze the meaning of each question and understand if there was a clear answer to it in the text.

During the exam, I came across the legend of Beowulf, an article about platelets and a nice light text about Guy Fawkes. The second text took me the most time, because medicine was never so interesting to me that I only read texts about it all the time.
I got 8 points for this section (I paid more attention to the most difficult text).


Writing has always been a difficult task for me, especially an essay. The first part, where you need to write a letter or message to a friend \ in social services or something similar, turned out to be simple. It is important here not to forget about the polite treatment at the beginning and end of the letter (I wrote to a friend about a vacation in a terrible hotel, where there were poor staff and food).

But the essay had to spend more effort, especially on the pros and cons sections. It was necessary to write the correct introduction and conclusion. Therefore, I wrote down as many phrases as possible for the introduction, the division of the text into subparagraphs and arguments, the conclusion and expression of the point of view. Then I printed it out and hung it around the house to stumble upon them from time to time, in addition to the days when I wrote the essay.

The ability to write a plan for an essay was a great discovery for me, because this is already almost 50% of all work. Twice a week I wrote texts of this kind, choosing controversial topics (Capital Punishment and such), so that negative and positive arguments could be made.

My recipe turned out to be simple:

  • make an essay plan;
  • write key phrases and words;
  • Use introductory phrases and structure in 5 paragraphs.

This will help to spend no more than 30−35 minutes writing, so that there is also 5 minutes to double-check what was written.

In the exam I got 8 points because of the topic for the essay (Animal research) and notes when writing - the text was blurry in places, and the examiner probably could not understand the main idea of ​​my second paragraph. I advise you to write with a pencil, if there is such an opportunity, then marking is easier to correct.


I took the last part of the exam a week later and was calm for her. I prepared and memorized a story about myself, interests in advance. Then he repeated various topics for discussion and phrases that would replace Yes / No - I believe or I don't think and so on.

In the exam, after telling about myself, I got the topic “Types of transport and which of them are more popular in our country”, and then we suddenly moved on to the third part, where I even had to stop me from discussing the future of electric cars. As a result, I got 8.5 points for Speaking. And the total score was 8 points.

general information

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) - a standardized test for knowledge of English. The received certificate is valid 2 years from the date of receipt.

What is possible thanks to the IELTS certificate:

  • To live and study abroad.
  • Participate in international internship programs.
  • The rating system is from 0.0 to 9.0, in increments of 0.5 (the score can be either whole, for example 5.0, or half 5.5).
  • The concept of a passing score is different for different countries, but, as a rule, an average score below 4-4.5 is impassable for most countries and universities.
  • It usually takes up to 2 business weeks to get results.
  • This exam is more interesting for those who study the British version of the English language, but the certificate may be suitable for American / Canadian universities.
  • On the exam, you will need to communicate with a living person - a native speaker.
  • There are two types of exams - Academic (more complex, but makes it possible to study in foreign universities) and General (simpler, makes it possible to live and work in an English-speaking country).
  • In order to understand exactly what type of exam you need, it is better to consult the university / organization in which you plan to study / work.
  • We can safely say that the IELTS Academic is more complicated, therefore, if you prepare for it, and not for IELTS General, you will be prepared immediately for both options.

Exam structure

First, the written part is given, then the oral part with a break of up to 7 days between them).


  • 40 minutes (30 minutes of listening and questions, 10 minutes to write everything in the form) - only 4 parts.
  • In each part there is a short pause to get acquainted with the questions, then audio and a couple of minutes to reconcile.
  • 40 questions (one answer - one point).
  • Questions can be: choosing the right answer from the options, choosing two or more answers from the list, filling in the blanks and notes, keeping within a certain number of words.

The audio recordings themselves become more complicated with each subsequent recording, which will be played only once, so you should first answer clear questions and return to difficult ones later if you have time.


  • 3 parts, 60 minutes (20 minutes for each part).
  • The texts gradually become more complicated: the first is the easiest, the third is the most complex.
  • 40 questions (enter the correct answer option into the pass, a choice of several options (Multiple Choice), questions with statements that must be answered Yes / No / Not Given or True / False / Not Given).

It is better to first complete more understandable tasks and leave time for difficult or incomprehensible in the end.


  • 2 parts and 60 minutes.
  • The first part - 150 words on the topic (letter to a friend or request to the company).
  • The second part is an essay of 250 or more words on a specific topic.
  • Both written works are evaluated independently of each other. The assessment for the first part is 1/3 of the final assessment, for the second - the remaining two-thirds. It is very important to remember this and not spend more than 20 minutes on the first part (ideally - no more than 15).

It is very important to keep the essay structure correct and not to forget the arguments for and against. To do this, you need to plan about 5 paragraphs and also invest 40 minutes in planning and writing an essay, so you need to practice making plans and drafting key phrases for the essay that will help you remember the necessary arguments.


  • 3 parts and 15 minutes on: acquaintance, dialogue on simple topics and three leading questions (minute on preparation of a small monologue).
  • The questions in the third part may be similar in theme to the task of the second part, but there are more general points that need to be answered in more detail (at least 3 suggestions for each question).

When to start preparing

  • Sample calculations - from zero to passing the IELTS exam at 7.5, you need 1000-1200 hours of instruction with a teacher. Hours of independent studies, preparation, assignments, etc. need to be added to this figure.
  • In practice, most of the students who wanted to pass one of the exams spent at least a year with the level of Upper-Intermediate and about 2−2.5 years, with the initial level of Intermediate. In both cases, students spent 2-3 hours on classes with the teacher and about 3-4 hours on their own DZ per week.
  • It is important to understand that you can use the certificate when passing the exam, at least in the next 18 months, otherwise you will have to spend money on taking the test itself again.

Common mistakes and recommendations

  • An attempt to pass an exam with a lower level of language, based only on online tests or other, not reliable sources.
  • Passing the exam without plans to use it in the next 2 years. If this does not happen, you will simply lose your money and time for retake.
  • More answers than the task requires.
  • In the task, where you need to "give one answer" or "answer in three words", points are taken for more or less words, and this leads to a loss of points.
  • If you lose track of time, no one will tell you when to finish one task and start the next.
  • Looping on obscure points - you need to move on to simpler or more understandable questions, and then return to difficult ones if you have time.
  • Too detailed and detailed reading and attempt to translate all words from the text. It's better to tag key phrases and words to make it easier to find the answer.
  • Not checking answers is a big mistake. It is worth checking that the answers are at least written in the right column. If the answers are accidentally shifted up or down, but true, the examiners will still consider all the following answers to be an error.
  • .If you know that you can better talk about the benefits of smoking than sports, then you do so, and do not try to tell only the truth on the exam.
  • The desire to impress the examiner can lead to the use of phrases and words that you are not sure about.
  • The answers “Yes” and “No” on the oral part should not be given, because the examiner's goal is to talk to you, and also to check the vocabulary.

If my story didn’t scare you and you are at the beginning of the road to passing the exam, I recommend that you try learning from EnglishDom. Below are the bonuses. Leave a request for a free introductory lesson via Skype and get the first time you pay with the goodhabr2 promo code +2 lessons for free . The bonus is valid until 05/31/19. And if you plan to start on your own, try the online course, follow the link - 2 months of subscription to all courses for free.

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