Preparing for the IELTS in a Non-English Speaking Country

September 19, 2017 by Lauren McKenzie Lauren McKenzie

Practical advice for taking advice

Once you’ve decided that the IELTS is the next step for you it’s time to plan. Look at the IELTS test dates and decide how long you need to prepare. If you’ve never sat for the IELTS, do a full practise test, or better yet, register for an IELTS test and do a full practice in the test-taking environment. Based on your score, ask yourself do you need 3 months of preparation (to move up approximately ½ a band score) or 6 months (a full band score)?

Once you have determined your timeframe, it’s in your best interest to find a good mixture of preparation activities. Preparing for the IELTS can be a long and challenging process. Whether you choose self-study or an IELTS test preparation course, there are benefits to starting this process early so that you can adjust your strategy, if necessary, before your test date.

IELTS test preparation: Making it fun

If you’re in an English-speaking country during your preparation time, you’ll have the advantage of immersion. Living in the target language will present you with the opportunity to communicate and interact in English daily – which if embraced, will help you to perform better on the test. If you’re doing the IELTS test in a non-English speaking country, you may have to start your preparation a little sooner.

reading fun

A good strategy for IELTS test preparation includes having a wide variety of language-based activities. These can be official IELTS test prep courses or self-study. Think about ways that you can engage with others in English like a book club, a conversation group, a sports team or a choir. Whatever your hobbies and interests are, start enjoying these activities in English. If you can find like-minded people who enjoy similar hobbies, you’ll enjoy your preparation for the IELTS test that much more.

Making good choices at the advice buffet

Getting advice on the IELTS is a bit like eating at a buffet. You know you can’t eat everything and that you must make choices. Some choices will be your tried and true favourites, whereas other choices will be foods you’ve never tried before and are therefore a little riskier. During your IELTS test, you must consider the advice you’ve received and make choices.

If you try to use all the IELTS tips and tricks, you may feel overwhelmed and your use of English may sound planned or mechanical. This is not desirable for the IELTS test. Examiners are looking for natural and authentic language production and are trained to identify pre-planned responses to the test questions, about the writing and speaking tests.

In a word

There are many ways to prepare for your IELTS test, and the greater the variety you have in your approach, the better your results will be. Be careful about using too many language ‘templates’, or pre-planned language, and make sure that you truly understand the meaning and use of expressions. For example, if you use the expression, in a word, to summarize your thoughts, a native English speaker will expect a single word to follow. Be careful about the advice you take. Be curious and ask questions about expressions and cohesive devices (transitional words and expressions) you learn so that your language production sounds as natural as possible. Good luck!

colorful books



Lauren McKenzie

Lauren has been teaching English for close to fifteen years in universities and language schools in Halifax, NS. To meet the needs of her students, she began her own study of the IELTS exam nearly five years ago and has since taught preparation workshops. Lauren lives in Halifax, NS where she enjoys hiking and live music as well as travelling, studying languages and reading nonfiction.

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