Acing the IELTS: Time Management Strategies for Each Test Section 

 April 23, 2024

By  Jonathan

The IELTS tests your overall English proficiency, but it also indirectly challenges your time management skills. Understanding the time constraints of each section and actively implementing time management strategies during your IELTS preparation is crucial for maximising your performance and completing the test without the pressure of an unfinished answer sheet.

Listening (Approx. 30 minutes)

  • No Pre-Reading Time: Pay close attention to pre-section instructions, as you won’t have time to read questions before the audio starts.
  • Transfer Answers Strategically: You’ll have 10 minutes AT THE END to transfer answers to the answer sheet. Use this time wisely.
  • Don’t Fixate on Blanks: If you miss something, move on. You might get clues for the missed answer later in the audio.
  • Predict Answers (When Possible): Previewing the questions, if possible, can help you anticipate the type of information to listen for.

Reading (60 Minutes)

  • Know Your Weaknesses: If a type of question (e.g., ‘True/False/Not Given’) takes you longer, start with those during the test.
  • Passage Order: You’re NOT required to answer in the order of the text. Tackle easier passages first for confidence and time gains.
  • Skimming and Scanning Matter: Master these skills to quickly locate information. Don’t read every word in detail initially.
  • Underlining/Notes: Briefly highlight keywords in questions and text. Saves rereading time.

Writing (60 Minutes)

  • Task 1 = 20 Minutes; Task 2 = 40 Minutes: Adhere to this split. Task 2 carries more weight in your score.
  • Planning is Essential (But Brief): 2-3 minutes for each task to outline ideas and structure before writing.
  • Word Count: Be aware of the minimum requirements (Task 1: 150 words, Task 2: 250 words). Hitting them is necessary for the marking criteria.
  • Time for Proofreading: Leave 3-4 minutes AT LEAST to quickly check for grammar errors, typos, or sentence structure issues.

Speaking (Approx. 11-14 Minutes)

  • Part 1: Familiar Topics: Have general responses prepared (about home, work, hobbies) but avoid sounding too rehearsed.
  • Part 2: Full Use of Planning Time: The 1 minute for planning is golden. Jot down points to organize your response for coherence.
  • Part 3: Expanding Answers: Aim for more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Elaborate on your reasons or opinions, showcasing your vocabulary.
  • Clarity over Speed: Speaking too quickly due to nerves can damage your score. Focus on clear pronunciation and grammar.

Test-Wide Time Management Tips

  • Practice With Timers: Simulating test conditions at home builds an internal clock and reveals sections you need to pace better.
  • Know Your Exam Location: Factor in travel time on test day to avoid added stress.
  • Check Your Watch: Ensure you can readily see a clock or have a permitted watch with no alarms/complex functions.
  • Break Time is Not for Cramming: Use bathroom breaks and transition time to clear your head, hydrate, and refocus.

The Importance of Familiarity

Effective time management in the IELTS comes from both practice and knowing what to expect. Familiarize yourself with:

  • Question Types: Understanding question formats and expected answer length helps you approach each task with a clear game plan.
  • Official Test Format: Knowing the sections, their order, and how breaks and instructions are incorporated eliminates test day surprises.

Remember: Even with good time management, some questions will be harder than others. Don’t let one challenging question throw you off your rhythm for subsequent tasks. Focus on maximizing your overall performance by using your time effectively. Prepare thoroughly, strategize wisely, and confidently approach the IELTS knowing you can manage your time for maximum success.

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.