The IELTS is a popular English test certificate requested by most universities for international students who are from non-English speaking countries, and sometimes even if you are from an English-speaking country, the test may still be required to certify that your English skills are adequate for study abroad. If you are preparing for your IELTS test and wondering what to do to pass first time, then this post is exactly what you need.

First let’s cover the basics – what is IELTS?

IELTS stands for “International English Language Testing System” and it’s basically a test to measure your English language capability over 4 key aspects: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. Each aspect is graded on a scale of 1 – 9, with 1 being the lowest possible score and 9 being the highest possible score. Your total IELTS score will be a ’round up’ average of the scores obtained in each aspect. On average, most universities require an IELTS total score of between 6 -7.5. Some universities may however accept scores lower than this and for some courses, some universities may require a higher score.

Tip: Always check the accepted score for English language tests. Most universities would usually have sufficient details on the minimum score they expect prospective candidates to have for admission and in most cases the score differs by course.

Now you know what IELTS stands for, lets talk about the crucial part, and the reason why you are here. How can you pass your IELTS test with a high score first time? Let’s get right into it

Tip 1: Understand the Test Format

This is the first and most important step. You need to understand the test format and how you will be graded. What are the various components of the test and what kind of questions can I expect? Well the good news is we have helped to do that research for you (just to make life easier for you) and we have summarised it in the infographic below:

As you probably know, there are 4 components to the IELTS test: listening, reading, writing and speaking.

The listening test measures your ability to understand the opinions and attitudes of speakers across the world as well as your ability to follow the development of ideas during discussions. The test has 40 questions and lasts approximately 30 minutes.

The reading test is designed to test a wide range of reading skills over various text extracts. Depending on the type of IELTS test that you are taking, the texts you read could be extracts from magazines, books, journals, newspapers etc. The test also has 40 questions and lasts 60 minutes.

The writing test aims to test your ability to understand written English and to communicate in written English in various scenarios. The test has 2 tasks and lasts 60 minutes

The speaking test assesses your use of spoken English and is usually recorded. The test has 3 parts which gives you great opportunity to communicate in English and is the shortest test lasting about 11-14 minutes.

The listening, reading and writing components would usually be taken on the same day with no breaks in between them. This is important to remember because you wont have time to ‘cool’ off from the previous component before starting the next component so you need to bear this in mind and be prepared. The speaking component would usually be taken on a different day which could be up to 1 week before or 1 week after you have written the other components.

The links below gives more details of the test format for each component. We strongly recommend you read it.

IELTS test format – Overview

IELTS Test Format – Detailed

Tip 2: Practice! Practice!! Practice!!!

Now you know what the test format is and what to expect, the next step for you is to practice. And you need to practice A LOT. And if you are wondering where you will get materials to practice with, don’t worry we have you covered. We have done the research for you and we found loads of FREE practice material which we have linked below:

IELTS free practice material 

IELTS Essentials free practice material

British council free practice material

British council IELTS free practice activities

Cambridge Assessment FREE practice material

When practicing for your IELTS test try to keep the following in mind:

  • Time yourself during each practice test – Your goal would be to time yourself just as if you are taking the real exam. Don’t worry if at first you are not able to finish the exercises within the time, with each practice test you will get better.
  • Simulate the exam environment – Try to practice in a quiet environment without distraction. This will help prepare you mentally for the test and also put you at ease on the day of the test
  • Analyze and improve – After each practice test, find out what your weak spots are and focus on improving them in the next practice test. Also try to seek ways to improve by using everyday activities. For example if writing is your weak spot, encourage yourself to write more perhaps by sending an email or a letter to a friend or a colleague or your family.
  • Practice well ahead of time – This is VERY crucial. If you have booked your exam you don’t want to wait till a week before your exam to start practicing. As much as possible and depending on your level of English fluency, give yourself at least 2-3 months to prepare and practice adequately.

Tip 3: Stay Calm and pass the test

You have done all your research, you have practiced diligently, and now you are about to write the test and ACE it. A few things to keep in mind for the test day:

  • Prepare all your documents before the test day – For the IELTS test there are a few documents which you would be required to present on the test day. This would usually be confirmed in the email you get when you book the test. Make sure all documents are printed and neatly packed in a file a day before your exam. You don’t want to start the day of your exam all stressed out looking for a document you need.
  • Aim to arrive early – Plan to get to the exam center at least 45 minutes before the exam starts. If you are not sure where the exam center is, aim to arrive even earlier. Trust me, we’ve heard stories of students who missed the exam because of this. Save yourself the stress and make sure you are at the exam center early. This gives you time to relax and get familiar with the environment.
  • Stay calm – Exams have a wonderful way of playing with our nerves. Try and stay calm. If you have practiced adequately you will have an added confidence and assurance that you know what to expect and how to answer the questions. Don’t skip your meals, remember your body (and indeed your brain) needs the energy to function. You don’t want to start your exams on a starving stomach!
  • Focus – Regardless of what happens in the test center, focus and avoid being distracted. If you have any problems or encounter any difficulties flag this immediately to the staff who would usually be able to help.


We hope this article has been useful to you. Which tip did you like the most and how will you use it to prepare for your test? Tell us in the comments below. We wish you the very best in your IELTS exam.We post scholarships and tips FREQUENTLY, so make sure to SUBSCRIBE so you don’t miss out.

You can also check out the related posts below:

Free Online Course on Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests

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