IELTS Tips for Winning Students

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We help lots of online English students from all over the world prepare for the IELTS exam.

The term IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. The IELTS system assesses and grades the student on: reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Preparing students to ‘win’ for IELTS is serious business.

Here are some useful tips for students preparing to pass the IELTS exam based on our teaching experiences...


Make vocabulary your best friend

Learning new vocabulary can be like pulling teeth.

A tip to help you improve your vocabulary (without boring yourself to death) is to read as much as possible about a topic you are genuinely interested in. When you read about a topic you love you will be much more inclined to figure out the meaning and context of the words you don’t understand.

Make sure you highlight the words you don’t understand and look them up in the dictionary.

Remember, you only need to learn 500 of the most common words to be able to speak confidently in a foreign language. Practice using the new vocabulary and try to apply it to different scenarios and contexts to help solidify your learning.

Bonus Tips

Make sure you use a good dictionary to understand the vocabulary context and placement
Don’t pick out specialised words!
Practice using the vocabulary immediately
Write down the new vocabulary as you practice speaking it


Read the questions in the exam properly

Don’t rush your reading when you are trying to understand the exam questions. Make sure you have a good dictionary (English-English) and carefully translate the vocabulary as you prepare your response. Some students misread the vocabulary in the exam question/s which results in misplaced and incorrect answers.

Bonus Tips

Remember what you learnt about how to read text properly and apply this technique in your exam.
Read all instructions. When you have done that, read all instructions again.
IELTS often include some of the key vocabulary for you in the questions – use it!


Follow the exam instructions carefully for writing – don’t be marked down!

Make sure you read, understand and follow the instructions in the IELTS exam.

During the exam, if you have been instructed to write 350 words, make sure you don’t write 450! You will instantly lose marks if you fail to understand the instructions and take the word count too far over the boundary.

When you have read the instructions for the writing task start to develop an outline of what you plan to write. Use the headings, 'start', 'middle' and 'end', and stick to these categories. This will help you shape your text correctly and also stick to your word limit.

If you simply start writing what comes into your head you will soon find yourself struggling to bring the word count within the limits set.

Bonus Tips

Practice timed writing with your Generation English tutor before your exam to improve your pace
Remember to never ever write below the required word limit.


Fluency and pronunciation

Within the IELTS exam the speaking task in split into three areas. There is an interview, a relatively short discussion (talk) and a freestyle interview.

You need to be ready to speak for at least two minutes in these discussion sessions (around 5 minutes in total).

Conversation practice is essential so when you work with your English tutor online it is important that you reinforce the vocabulary you have learned in preparing for the IELTS through speaking.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes when you are practicing your speaking technique with your tutor. You will be using new vocabulary so there will be new tones, inflections and pronunciation placement to practice together.

Bonus Tips

Practice, practice and then practice speaking some more! Don’t under estimate the need to practice speaking with your tutor. You will be amazed at how quickly your fluency and pronunciation improves.

As homework, record yourself reading different paragraphs of text and replay them to your tutor in your lessons.

Listen to English Radio as often as you can (try the TuneIn radio app to find BBC channels from outside of the UK – it’s free)


Listen, listen and listen some more

Listening skills is a common weakness we often notice in IELTS students. Your tutor will help you practice IELTS listening exercises so you can start to prepare yourself for the listening module within the IELTS exam.

In today’s digital world there are hundreds of resources online that can help you improve your listening skills. Use online radio and television resources every day and try to write down some vocabulary to discuss with your tutor.

Bonus Tips

Practice the IELTS listening exams with your tutor and familiarise yourself with the preparation time

Take your time understanding the task and re-read the instructions before the task starts

You only hear the questions once in the IELTS exam so don’t pause the recording when practicing with your tutor!