What Are The Best Preparation Methods For The British Council And IDP IELTS Exam?

IELTS is the International English Language Testing System.  It is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration purposes.

It is a standardized English language test designed for foreign speakers, who wish to study, work and live in an English-speaking environment. The IELTS Exam is designed to assess the language ability of candidates who need to study or work where English is used as the language of communication. It is required for entry to university in the UK and other English-speaking countries like Canada, the USA and New Zealand. Even native English speakers from countries like Singapore or South Africa are required to take the IELTS test.

IELTS is jointly owned and managed by the British CouncilUniversity of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL) and IDP Education Australia.

Cambridge ESOL sets the IELTS exam and the British Council and IDP offer the test at various test centres across the world.

IELTS testing materials are written by international teams of writers from different English-speaking countries so that the content reflects real-life situations.

Understand The Test Format

Unfortunately, there are plenty of would-be test-takers who underestimate the difficulty and effort involved in successfully taking the IELTS Exam. The first step is to always know what to expect. To do this you must understand the format of the test. The IELTS test consists of four sections in the following order:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking


The Listening Component of the exam tests your listening comprehension skills. You will have to answer different types of questions based on four different recordings. The recordings include a variety of Native English accents as well a different type of situations.

The Listening test lasts for 30 to 40 minutes. It consists of 40 questions, each worth one mark each and there are 4 parts, having 10 questions each.


The Reading Component of the exam tests your reading comprehension skills. You will have to answer different types of questions based on different reading texts/passages. The texts are all authentic and taken from trustworthy sources. The texts encountered in the IELTS exams are chosen to reflect the type of content you might naturally come across as a student or resident of an English-speaking country

The reading task is one hour long. It has three parts for both the Academic and the General Training modules. There are a total of 40 questions, and you will have 20 min to answer each task with no extra time for transferring answers


The IELTS writing test is usually considered the most difficult part of the IELTS Exam. It consists of two tasks. Students have one hour to write an essay and a graph (Academic module) or a letter (General Training module).


The IELTS Speaking test consists of three parts. and lasts for about 11 – 13 minutes. Just the candidate and the examiner are present during the interview. It’s important to note that there are no separate marks for each part, and you will be graded as a whole based on your performance for the entire test. The speaking test is the same for both the Academic Module and the General Training module. There is also no difference between the paper-based and the computer-based tests.

In Part 1 of the speaking test the examiner will ask questions based on personal information and everyday topics, such as your hometown, the area you live in, travelling

In Part 2 you will be given a task card, with a topic and questions related to the topic. You will be required to talk continuously for about 2 minutes on the topic mentioned in the cue card.

In Part 3 the examiner will take into account the topic in the previous Part 2 and you will be asked to answer more abstract and general questions related to that topic.

Preparing for the IELTS Exam

Each component has its own types of common questions. It’s important to know what the different question types are for each section and formulate a strategy to solve each one. For example, the strategy for solving a reading Multiple choice question is different from the strategy for a reading Matching Headings question. First time IELTS test takers are often unaware of the great amount of detail that goes into preparing for each component.

The IELTS Exam is a skills-based exam and not a knowledge-based one. Remember that the examiners are assessing your ability to communicate in English in a natural manner. This is especially true of the IELTS writing and speaking components when you will be asked to produce language on the spot. Your scores are based on your ability to provide sufficient evidence that you do have the required English Language skills. This means that any form of rote learning or memorization will not really help you get the band score that you want. It’s all about appearing as natural as possible, Since the topics for both the speaking and writing sections overlap, the best way to prepare for these parts would be to familiarise yourself with the vocabulary and phrases related to these topics and practice answering topic-related questions.

Another misconception often made by students is that they are unaware of their actual level of English proficiency. They misguidedly assume that the IELTS test is not that difficult and fail to note the finer details and skills that are needed to pass. This is often a costly mistake!

Use Authentic IELTS Practice Material

One of the best ways to overcome this initial hurdle is by practising using only official IELTS Practice tests, from trusted sources, to gauge your current level. Using practice tests from reliable sources like the Cambridge Practice Tests or the IDP and British Council Websites is important because there are far too many fake tests and practice materials which can give an incorrect impression of your actual level of preparedness for the IELTS test. Try taking a test under exam conditions or better yet, get feedback from an IELTS tutor or lecturer. However, it’s important to note that simply taking practice tests will not help you improve in any way. This is merely the first step determining the correct direction to move forward in regarding your IELTS preparation.

Enrol In An IELTS Preparation Course

If you find your English Language skills lacking in any particular area, then it would be best to consider enrolling in a course. This is because having an experienced teacher will significantly impact the time it takes for you to prepare. It’s the fastest way to identify the areas of your English language skills that are holding you back from the result you need. It’s also crucial to gain access to good and authentic IELTS Resources and I don’t just mean practice tests. It’s necessary to use good well-formulated material to help you master each skill before you even begin practising.

Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.