If you are thinking about moving to an English speaking country for study or for work it is likely you will be asked to take an IELTS test.

But what is the IELTS and why is it so important?

From the official International English Language Testing System website:

language proficiency

The IELTS test uses a nine-band scale to clearly identify levels of proficiency, from non-user (band score 1) through to expert (band score 9).

Academic or General IELTS

IELTS is available in two versions:


if you are applying for higher education or professional registration,

General Training

if you are migrating to Australia, Canada and the UK, or applying for secondary education, training programmes and work experience in an English-speaking environment.

Whether you choose the Academic or the General test, both versions will assess four language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Here are our pro tips for each section of the exam.

How to smash the IELTS LISTENING section:

The Listening test consists of 4 sections. Before each section you will hear some instructions and you will have the time to read the questions. Then the section will start.

1. Do not copy the answers in the breaks between sections
After the test you will be given 10 whole minutes to copy all your answers to the Answer Sheet so use the time in between section to read the following section's questions.

2. Don’t focus on spelling or grammar during the listening!
You can check them at the end of the test when you transfer the answers onto the answer sheet.

3. Read the Instructions and Questions very Carefully
Take the time to understand what you have to do, don't rush!

4. Write Down Answers on the test Paper First
While you are listening, write down answers on the test paper first without worrying about spelling and grammar. It would be a distraction and you will have another 10 minutes to copy and finish your answer at the end of the listening section.

5. Do Check Spelling and Grammar
Make sure to check spelling and grammar before handing in your answer sheet. Don't panic and save a few minutes for this very important task.

How to smash the IELTS READING section:

The reading skills required (prediction, finding specific information, identifying opinions etc.) are the same for both the Academic and general Training tests, but the type of test will be different. On the Academic paper you will be given three long academic texts that are similar to university readings while on the General Training paper, texts of a much more general nature like documents, newspapers and flyers are given to the candidates.

6. Check the instructions very carefully. Again
Some tasks require you to use words from the text in the answer; in others you should use your own words.

7. Don't panic if you don't know the meaning of some words
It is normal. If English is not your first language, you might be unfamiliar with some vocabulary, just move on and get a sense of the sentence.

8. Read. Read and Read
Prior to the test, make sure to read everyday for an hour or more. The more you read the broader your vocabulary will become and the easier the test will be.

9. Use your time very carefully
You will have one hour for the Reading test. Try and get each section finished in 20 minutes making sure you have at least 3-4 minutes at the end of each section to transfer and check your answers.

10. Don't leave any blanks
Even if you don’t know the answer, attempt every question. There are no penalties for incorrect answers, so have a guess. Luck might be on your side, if not, you've got nothing to lose.

How to smash the IELTS WRITING section:

Whether you are taking the Academic or the General test, you have to complete two writing tasks and you will have 60 minutes to do so. For the Writing Task 1 of the IELTS Academic test, you need to write a summary of at least 150 words in response to a particular graph, table, chart, or process For the the Writing Task 1 of the IELTS General test, candidates are asked to write a letter to solve a given problem.
Task 2 of both tests requires you to write at least 250 words in response to a topic that you will be given.

11. Use the appropriate writing style
Use a formal language for essays and informal language for informal letters

12. Answer the question!
There is no right or wrong answer as long as you answer the question. Remember that your language skills are assessed not your ideas.

13. Be concise.
Short, correct sentences are the winners.

14. Practice
Before the test, use the official writing forms to practice and check what 250 words look like in your own handwriting

15. Don't go off topic
What's the test about? Make sure you write about that and stick to it for the entire test.

How to smash the IELTS SPEAKING section:

And at the end, you will be finally sitting in front of the Examiner and you will have to talk for about 20 minutes.

16. Communicate effectively
Remember that you are not being tested on your general knowledge but on your ability to communicate effectively.

17. Listen before opening your mouth
This should be a general life tip, but especially during the speaking IELTS test, you should stay focused and let the examiner ask his questions before you attempt your answer.

18. Keep on talking.
The more you talk, the higher the score. Obviously only if you have something to say, don't just talk non sense.

19. Don't go off topic!
If you do, it might seem to the examiner that you didn't understand the question. So take a deep breath and aswer carefully.

20. Talk well
Talk as fluently as possible and use all those words you've learnt, try to put them among your well-thought answers, show off your vocabulary.

Extra tip!

An extra tip that's useful for the IELTS but also for any other tests in life is to avoid becoming a clock slave: don't panic and avoid looking at the clock every 10 secs - you have time!!!

Will these tricks and tips help you smash the exam? The answer is YES and NO. Or better, you will need to do a lot of work and become very familiar with the exam, these pro tips are useful only if you have studied and prepared for the IELTS test and your general knowledge of the English language is at a good level.

And you? Have you passed the IELTS test? What was your score? Let us know in the comments below!

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