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Effective IELTS Preparation Planner for Intensive Study (with Recommendations for the Best Materials)

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IELTS - International English Language Testing System

Nowadays IELTS is one of the world’s most popular English language tests. According to the official website, about 3 million people took the exam in more than 140 countries only last year. What’s the secret to IELTS popularity? Here are some possible reasons:

  1. IELTS results are used to gain entry to more than 10,000 organizations all over the world, including  large European universities, international companies, and government institutions;

  2. IELTS is the only English language test trusted by all immigration authorities in such key English-speaking countries as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain;

  3. There are two exam versions according to test takers’ needs: IELTS Academic is for those willing to enter a foreign university, and the easier IELTS General Training test is for migration purposes;

  4. IELTS is one of the few modern English language exams which includes a face-to-face speaking test with an experienced examiner, rather than recording equipment, which allows better imitation of real communication and more effective assessment of  a candidate’s language proficiency.

The Best IELTS preparation materials

Such widespread popularity of the IELTS test has led to a big variety of preparation materials, both found on the Internet and printed by well-known publishing houses. Among the best IELTS preparation materials are:

  1. Practice tests:

    a) IELTS Trainer by Louise Hashemi and Barbara Thomas, CUP 2011;

    b) The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS by Pauline Cullen, Amanda French, Vanessa Jakeman, CUP 2012;

    c) IELTS Practice Tests Plus
    by Vanessa Jakeman, Clare McDowell, Longman 2001;

    d) Cambridge IELTS 11 Academic
    , CUP 2016;

    e) Cambridge IELTS 11 General Training, CUP 2016;

  2. For speaking practice:

    a) IELTS Maximizer Educational Book by Alireza Memarzadeh;

    b) How to Pass the IELTS Speaking Module by 2010;

  3. For writing practice:

    a) 15 Days' Practice for IELTS Writing by Wang Hong Xia;

    b) How to Pass the IELTS Writing Module
    by 2010;

  4. Grammar and vocabulary:

    a) Cambridge Grammar for IELTS by Diana Hopkins and Pauline Cullen, CUP 2007;

    b) Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS
    by Paulien Cullen, CUP 2008;

  5. Complete IELTS preparation courses:

    a) Objective IELTS Intermediate
    by Michael Black and Wendy Sharp, CUP;

    b) IELTS Masterclass
    by Simon Haines and Peter May, OUP;

  6. Online resources:







The right strategies

So you have decided to take IELTS. It’s very important that you start preparing for the exam as soon as possible because a high degree of language proficiency does not guarantee you would easily get the result you need – it’s equally vital to know the test length and format, assessment criteria, and the right strategies to address all tasks.

But what can you do if the exam date is fast approaching and you have little time to prepare?  Especially for those who like to leave everything to the last moment, we have created an intensive 10-week IELTS preparation programme. We believe this period is the right amount of time needed to successfully prepare for the exam both on your own and with a qualified tutor. However, you should bear in mind that this programme can only help those whose English language proficiency is close to the CEFR level on which the required IELTS score is mapped (see the picture on the right, because the aim of this programme is not mastering the language, but acquiring detailed information about the exam format, systematizing  knowledge about the English language and maximizing chances of success at the exam by intensive training and repetitive test practice. For better results it’s also necessary to show diligence and discipline, and dutifully follow all the instructions given in the planner.

The following programme fully describes the plan of IELTS preparation in the course of 10 weeks leading to the exam date. It includes the objectives that a candidate should set for every week, gives useful tips and offers reminders, and recommends materials necessary to achieve all the objectives. Learning about the test components (listening, reading, writing and speaking) is organized in a different way from the exam: it starts with the most difficult, in our opinion, speaking component, the part which causes candidates most fear and self-doubt, then proceeds further to writing, reading and listening. If necessary, this order can be changed according to how much, or little, time you would like to spend on each test component. We recommend that you should spend the last four weeks before the exam on doing practice tests because this is the only method of preparation that can surely produce the desired outcome.



Source materials

Ten weeks until the exam

1. Learn about the exam format, choose the type of the IELTS test for you

- Test Format,

- About format,

- IELTS Welcome Series

2. Choose the exam date and location, register in the exam centre

Exam calendar for 2022:

-  in Moscow: near date,

-  in other regions of Russia: regions

TIP: while choosing the test date make sure that the test type you need is available on this day.

3. Find out the minimum IELTS score you need

The database of organizations that accept IELTS results on the British Council website:

- Who Accepts IELTS

TIP: the most accurate information about this can only be obtained from the organization at whose request you’re taking IELTS.

4. Take a complete IELTS practice test to establish your starting score, and strongest and weakest skills


- Free Practice Tests,

- Test 1 in one of the books with practice tests

5. Make changes to the preparation planner taking the entry results in consideration (if necessary)


6. Look for practical advice in success stories written by former IELTS candidates

- IELTS Stories,

- Success

Nine weeks until the exam

1. Learn about Speaking in detail


- Test Format in Detail (click on Speaking),

- Speaking Test

2. Study sample questions and model answers of the speaking test

- Speaking Part 1 (click on Next steps to go on to the next task),

- Sample Test Questions (click on Speaking),

- Full Speaking Test with model answers and audio

3. Read IELTS speaking assessment criteria

- IELTS Speaking band descriptors,

- Understanding Speaking Scores (a video collection of model answers for different scores)

TIP: about how to do the first task of the test properly: IELTS Interview Skills.

4. Practice exam tasks

- Ielts Speaking Part 1 Topics (Part 1)

- Ielts Speaking Part 2 Topics (Part 2)

- Ielts Speaking Part 3 Topics (Part 3)

- IELTS Maximizer Educational Book by Alireza Memarzadeh

1: record your answers for further listening and assessment, preferably by an experienced tutor.

2: remember about the time limits for every task and don’t cross them!

3: read about note taking in Part 2 of the test here: The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, pp. 143 – 144.

Eight weeks until the exam

1. Learn about Writing in detail



- Test Format in Detail (click on Academic Writing or General Training Writing)

TIP: carefully study all of the task types (Academic Writing is different from General Training Writing!), pay attention to the required length of your answers (150 and 250 words for Part 1and Part 2 respectively) and time given for each task (20 and 40 minutes).

2. Read IELTS writing assessment criteria

Writing band descriptors (Task 1),

Writing band descriptors (Task 2)

TIP: writing strategies can be found here: IELTS Writing Strategies.

3. Learn about Task 1 in detail

- 15 Days' Practice for IELTS Writing by Wang Hong Xia, pp. 46 – 78 (Academic)

- IELTS Trainer (pp. 40 – 45 and 83 – 86 – Academic),

- Chapter IELTS Writing in The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS (pp. 93 – 112 – Academic, pp. 113 – 118 – General Training),

- Successful Writing Proficiency by Virginia Evans, Express Publishing 1998, pp. 82 – 116 (General Training)

Additionally on the Internet:

- IELTS Writing Introduction,

- Describe a line graph,

- Comparing pie charts (Academic)

4. Study model responses with examiners’ comments

- Academic writing samples - task 1 (Academic),

- General Writing Samples - task 1 (General Training)

5. Practice Task 1

- Ielts sample chart for writing - task 1 (Academic)

- Ielts sample letters for writing - task 1 (General Training)

TIP 1: ask an experienced tutor to evaluate your writing responses.

2: practice self-correction here: (for FCE candidates, but can be useful for those preparing for IELTS General Training Writing because it contains a large archive of letters with corrections.

TIP 3: use the Task 1 answer sheet: General Writing Answer Sheet.

Seven weeks until the exam

1. Learn about Task 2 (essay) in detail


IELTS Writing Task 2 (about Task 2 in detail),

- Chapter IELTS Writing in The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS (pp. 119 – 133),

- 15 Days' Practice for IELTS Writing by Wang Hong Xia, pp. 91 – 128

TIP: practice writing introductions (How to write an introduction).

2. Study model responses with examiners’ comments

- Ielts Writing Samples - task 2,

- Ielts Sample Essay (Band 9),

- Academic Sample Scripts (both tasks from Academic Writing),

- General Training Writing Sample Scripts (both tasks from General Training Writing).

3. Practice Task 2

- 100 Ielts Essay Questions,

- 15 Days' Practice for IELTS Writing by Wang Hong Xia, pp. 134 – 149

1: ask an experienced tutor to evaluate your writing responses.

2: use the Task 2 answer sheet: Academic Writing Answer Sheet.

Six weeks until the exam

1. Learn about Reading

- Test Format in Detail (click on Academic Reading or General Training Reading),

- Ielts Reading FAQ

2. Practice reading and doing exam tasks

- Sample Test Questions (click on Academic Reading or General Training Reading),

- Reading Practice (Academic),

- Reading Practice (General Training),

- Reading ,

- Reading 2,

- Reading 3,

- Reading 4.

: use the answer sheet: Academic Reading Answer Sheet.

2: keep track of time and do not cross the 60-minute limit (20 minutes per text with exercises)

3. Practice fast reading

- BBC World,



- Nationalgeographic,


- Monthly magazine for learners of English Hot English Magazine: Hot English Magazine

TIP: learn to read 300 words per minute, practice on 1000-word-long texts.

Five weeks until the exam

1. Learn about Listening

- Test Format in Detail (click on Listening),

- Listening frequently asked questions

2. Practice listening and doing exam tasks

- Sample test questions (click on Listening),

- Listening Practice

TIP: use the answer sheet: Ielts listening answer sheet

3. Practice spelling

- Spelling Quiz,

- IELTS Trainer, pp. 10 – 11

4. Practice single listening to texts on various topics

- BBC Programmes,

- TED Talks,

- Listen and watch.

Four weeks until the exam

1. Take a complete IELTS practice test each week until the exam


-  Practice tests: IELTS Trainer, The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, IELTS Practice Tests Plus

1: use answer sheets (see above).

2: try to keep to the time limits.

2. Ask an experienced tutor to evaluate your speaking and writing responses.

Choose a tutor from our website.


3. Continue preparing for the exam and working on your weakest skills


One week until the exam

1. Take a final IELTS practice test and compare your results with 10 weeks ago


-  The last test in one of the books with IELTS practice tests: IELTS Trainer, The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, IELTS Practice Tests Plus, or

- Free Practice Tests

2. Prepare for the test day

- Test Day Advice


We hope our intensive programme will help you prepare for the IELTS exam thoroughly and effectively, and most importantly – on time. We recommend that you closely follow all the instructions above and use every opportunity for practice. Try to “surround” yourself with English and take pleasure from your progress.

Good luck!

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