Am I ready for IELTS?
This is a question we hear a lot. To answer it, ask yourself a few things:
1. What kind of IELTS do I need?
There are 2 types of IELTS; General or Academic. For study purposes or professional registration, you usually need to do Academic. For work or migration, you’d probably need General Training. If you’re not sure, just get in touch with the organisation or institution directly and find out. Read more about the two types of test here.
2. What band score do I need?
IELTS works on a 9-band scoring system, with band 9 considered an ‘expert’ user of English. Different organisations require different band scores. Also, some institutions require an overall band score whereas others require you to achieve the score in each of the 4 sections (reading, writing, listening, speaking). The important thing is to find out exactly what score you need. Contact the organisation directly if you can’t find the information online.
The next question to ask is:
3. What’s my current level?
Broadly speaking, if you’re already in a General English program, you can estimate your IELTS level with this chart:
Adapted from: https://www.ielts.org/ielts-for-organisations/common-european-framework
A more accurate option is to take a practice IELTS test. That way, you’ll get a good idea of your current level according to marking criteria, and be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses. This is a huge help as you prepare for the real test!
Once you know your level, the big question is:
4. How (fast) can I improve?
Everyone wants to hear that magic number, to take that magic pill but the truth is, it depends on many factors.
If you’re already close to your target band, the best thing you can do is join an IELTS preparation class where you can work with expert teachers who can help you avoid the common pitfalls of test takers. You’ll focus on your weaknesses and, at the same time, get familiar with common test topics and tasks.
If you’re not close to your goal yet, it’s time to concentrate on language development. This chart provides a rough guide to the amount of study required to move into the next CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) level.
Notice that the higher your level, the longer it can take to ‘level up’. Don’t despair; there are heaps of ways to fast-track your improvement.
Language learning is no longer confined to a classroom and a textbook, particularly in this digital, globalised era. In fact, the whole world is your classroom!
The more you invest in mastering and broadening your grammar, increasing your range of vocabulary, becoming comfortable with natural-paced listening input and academic-style reading texts, the better your language level will be and, ultimately, the better test results you’ll get.
So, even if you may not be ready to take the test yet, you are ready to start preparing for it.