The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is accepted in more than 140 countries across the globe. Organizations such as universities, private businesses and government agencies use the exam to make acceptance or hiring decisions. To attain scores required for work or school entrance, many students undertake an IELTS preparation program comprising independent and classroom study.

Learn About the Test

The IELTS exam has four parts: listening, reading, writing and speaking. Each part is scored on a scale of 1 to 9, with the four scores being averaged together to produce an overall band score. Because English is not always acquired evenly across the four skill areas, test takers often need more prep in some areas than in others. The test also comes in two versions -- IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. Before starting a prep program, test takers should determine which version of the test they need to submit. Each institution sets its own score requirements.

Work With IELTS Materials

General English study is helpful in preparing for the IELTS exam, but for real improvement, students often find they need to work with IELTS-specific materials. This is because test takers should be familiar with the types of questions found on the test as well as how the speaking and writing sections are graded; in other words, test takers need to understand the strategy behind taking the IELTS as much as they need to be able to speak English. To prepare students, IELTS materials contain practice questions, time management information and tips for tackling the different sections. These materials are available at bookstores, at IELTS prep websites and at public and university libraries.

Take Timed Practice Tests

Learners can prepare for the IELTS exam by taking timed practice tests. These tests let the learner see exactly what material to expect on the test and give the learner a chance to get a feel for how she will handle the time element of the test. Having a practice score is also necessary in measuring progress. A learner can note her starting score, then take a practice test again after an IELTS study program. If the score doesn’t change, the learner may need to consider alternative preparation methods.

Consider an IELTS Course

Those taking the IELTS exam might consider enrolling in an IELTS course. In these courses, a teacher who is trained in teaching IELTS test prep leads students through targeted practice designed to boost IELTS scores. Speaking activities are common, as this area is difficult to practice through independent study. Teachers also focus on writing in these courses, offering students feedback that they might not be able to get on their own. Students might also find taking an IELTS course useful in that teachers are available to answer questions about the test, which can ease test anxiety. Private language schools and higher education institutions usually offer IELTS prep courses.

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