Preparing for your IELTS exam

Lots of people ask us about IELTS - an English qualification recognised by workplaces and academic institutions around the world. Here's a quick overview:

The IELTS exam is divided into FOUR parts:

Listening – a 30 minute test of 4 different recordings of increasing difficulty

Speaking – lasts between 11-14 minutes and has 3 sections which include short questions, a 1-2 minute prepared speech from a topic on a card, and some more general and hypothetical questions

Reading – 60 minutes and 3 sections and uses a variety of skills such as paragraph matching, general comprehension and true/false/not given statements

Writing – 60 minutes and 2 sections. The first task is writing at least 150 words describing a chart, graph, process or map. The second task is writing at least 250 words and is a "pros and cons" argument.

So, how do you prepare for the IELTS exam?

You need a really good base in General English. Think of it like a house - you build a house from the ground up and it needs strong foundations. IELTS tests lots of skills including vocabulary, particularly synonyms, so try to increase your vocabulary as much as possible. Podcasts, TV and radio are excellent ways to improve your listening skills, and you can improve your speaking by getting involved with social activities and talking to your host family. A lot of the listening and speaking skills improvement is done outside the classroom!

Reading is another thing you can do on your own - online newspapers, books, magazines, whatever you're interested in! Make sure it's at a native level as some of the IELTS readings can be pretty tough.

Writing is the most difficult part for most students, especially for those who don't use Western scripts. The only thing that will help is practice, so write, write and write some more. Get a great teacher who will correct your mistakes and give you suggestions for how you can improve the structure and content of your writing.

When you're getting close to your exam, you can move to an IELTS exam preparation course. At Castle School we give our students practice tests which show you the areas you need to work on to get your desired IELTS score. And we will time you - getting all the reading and writing done within an hour each is one of the biggest challenges when you get into that exam room, so you need to be ready. We also help you find model answers to IELTS questions available online to help you see what a really good score looks like.

We also teach you specific techniques for how to do the exam itself - how to approach the tasks, and what to do if it looks really hard!

Universities tend to want a score of around 5.5 (around B2 upper intermediate level) for an undergraduate degree or 6.5+ (C1 advanced) for postgraduate. Doctorates often want 7.5 and above. We are happy to give you an assessment of your current level and a rough estimate as to how long it might take you to get to where you want to be. There are no shortcuts but the students who progress the fastest are the ones who work the hardest! We have seen students go from elementary level to advanced within 9 months, so it is possible!

At Castle School, our teachers are dedicated to helping students achieve their desired qualifications. Some of our options include having your own IELTS tutor and even booking the exam for you, so we can guide you the whole way through. If you would like to know more about our IELTS Preparation course contact or apply online to enrol on a programme.


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