Start Here: Preparing for the IELTS Exam

Preparing for the IELTS Exam


Most of my students are currently preparing for the IELTS exam and it’s one of my favorite things to teach.  My students vary in ability. Some of them start out with very little English and will have previously scores of  4 on the exam and I have some students who have scored 7s and want to improve upon that. It’s my belief that every student can get a 7 or higher as long as they are willing to do the work. If you have scored less than a 4 on the exam please start with my General English section. Because the best way to improve your score is to improve you English.

It’s important to know that all of the IELTS exam questions on this website are from actual past exams. This is true for all four sections of the IELTS exam.


The IELTS Exam Speaking Section

Just in case you don’t know the speaking section on the IELTS Exam is quick, it only last for about 15 minutes (11-14 minutes to be exact). That means you have less than 15 minutes to show the examiner that you have a strong command of the English language. In just a second I’m going to give you some tips on how to do that. But first I want to break down the exam.

The speaking section of the IELTS Exam has three parts


IELTS Exam Speaking Section Part One

This section will ask you questions about yourself or your country. The examiner is going to introduce themselves to you, ask you your name and your number, and then the next question starts the exam. If the examiner asks you to tell them a little bit about you, that’s the first exam question. Don’t be fooled.

Typical questions on this exam are “describe yourself”, “describe your family” or “describe your hometown”. One of these questions shows up on the exam so often that I suggest you have a good answer for each of these questions. There are predicted questions for the speaking section of the  IELTS Exam and I post them on this site as often as I can.

If you want to improve your overall IELTS Exam score my suggestion is to start with the IELTS Speaking Part 1 Section. This section is the most straightforward. If you improve your speaking skills it will help you with writing and listening too.

How to use this site to help you with  IELTS Exam Speaking Section Part One Questions
  1. Use the predicted questions. You should also use any other questions that I post here for IELTS exam practice.
  2. Don’t just say your answers, write them down too. When you write your answers you will notice your mistakes. It will also give you an opportunity to review your answers and improve them as you learn more vocabulary .  
  3. Show me your answers. If you post the question and your answer here. I’ll correct it for you if I have time.
  4. Learn more vocabulary.

You can find a list of IELTS Speaking Part One questions here. Most of these are predicted IELTS Exam questions. That just means that they’ve been showing up on the test a lot over the past few months.


Extra Tips

These tips apply to all three sections, but especially sections 1 and 3. These are the same tips that I give in my IELTS Speaking Section ebook, that will be available at the end of 2016.

  1. I recommend that you say about 5 sentences for every question. It’s ok if it’s a little short, and they will cut you off it it’s much longer, but you want to make sure that they know how well you speak.
  2. Use idioms. The IELTS loves idioms, try to use at least 5 throughout your exam. Spread them out, try to use 2 in part one, 2 in part two, and 2 in part 3 (yes, I know that equals 6, that means you can miss one). I recommend that you memorize 15-20 that you use and practice with them all the time, that way when you are in the exam it will be easy for you to use 5 ( or 6). That way by the time you take the exam you’ll easily be able to chose one of your go to idioms no matter which question they ask you.
  3. Don’t keep repeating the same words or phrases. Don’t say I like, I like, I like. Say I like, I enjoy, I prefer. Show variety in your sentences and vocabulary.
  4. All of your sentences should not be short. It’s ok to have 1 short sentence, but you want at least half of your sentences to be long or medium.
  5. Describe things.  Describe what you’re talking about, don’t be general, paint a picture.
  6. It’s ok to stretch the truth. Your answers do not have to be 100% accurate.  They should sound true, but it’s ok if you add something or make something up to improve your answer.


IELTS Speaking Part Two Questions

After you go through a lot of part one questions, move on to IELTS speaking part two and part three questions. It’s my goal to have all of the predicted IELTS Speaking questions posted by the end of 2016.

In the IELTS Speaking Part Two section you will be asked to describe something. You will be given a main question with three or four bullet points (talking points) to speak about. In the exam you will have 1 minute to prepare your answer and 2 minutes to speak. Ideally you will speak for 1 minute and 59 seconds. Keep in mind that many examiners will cut you off right at 2 minutes.  If you want to get a 7 or higher you want to speak for at least 1 minute and 45 minutes. It is my opinion that it’s better to have a great answer and be stopped because you run out of time than to speak for one minute and have nothing left to say. You may give the examiner the impression that you don’t know enough English to fill 2 minutes.  Here are some tips for Part 2.


  1. You want to make sure that your answer is organized. Once you speak about one thing do not go back and discuss it again after you’ve already started speaking about something else. This may confuse the examiner.
  2. Planning is very important. Make sure you know what you’re going to say.
  3. You should have a certain number of questions prepared that way you will be prepared for anything that they ask you.

If you’re looking for some extra help. I am currently preparing a guide that will take you through all of the currently predicted questions. It will give you example answers for each question as well as ways to help you come up with your own. It includes idioms and vocabulary for all three sections of the speaking exam. It will be available for purchase by the end of 2016.


IELTS Speaking Part Three

Most students ignore this part of the exam until the last minute. My suggestion is that when you practice part 2 also practice part 3. Part 3 of the IELTS Speaking exam is about the same length as part 1 and the same tips apply. In part 3 they will ask you about your opinion about issues that are similar to the part 2 questions. For example if part 2 is about describing a dinner party you attended, part 3 questions might be about food.

Because it’s asking your your opinion, you can start a lot of questions by simply saying I think _______ for the following reasons or I think ______because (if you’re worried you can’t list a lot of reasons) For instance, if the question is do you think people should try new food, you could start by saying. Yes, I think people should try new food for the following reasons…. or I think people should  try new food because…. It just helps get you started.


The IELTS Listening Section  

The IELTS  Exam Listening section is 40 minutes long. 30 minutes for the test and 10 minutes to transfer your answers. There are typically 4 sections on the exam.

Section 1- is a conversation between two people

Section 2- is one person explaining something

Section 3- is a conversation between 4 people

Section 4- is one person explaining an academic subject

Make sure you write down your answers as the recording is playing, as you will not hear it again.

You should start practicing for the listening section as soon as you decide to take the IELTS exam. Listening is the most difficult section for many students and that’s probably because it’s a skill that takes time to acquire. In the IELTS Listening section of this website you will find past IELTS Exams that you can practice with. These exams are in multiple speeds. This is so you can hone your listening skills. While your instinct will be to just practice the quizzes, the best way for you to improve your skills is for you to transcribe what you hear. Select the speed that works best for you and write down what you hear, then check your work. See what you heard correctly and what you spelled correctly. Remember spelling counts on the IELTS Exam, for listening and for writing. In the first few months of 2017 I will make an IELTS Listening course, but in the meantime use the resources from my IELTS Listening section to improve your skills and score.

How to best use this site to improve your IELTS Listening Score

    1. Do the quizes. The quizzes are from the IELTS exam so do them. Remember spelling counts.
    2. Transcribe (write down what you hear). This is the best way to improve your listening skills. You can transcribe the exam, something from the general listening section, a movie, a TV show, anything that you can check your work with.
    3. Use the faster speeds. When you first start using this site to improve your listening skills use the speed that works best for you, but as you continue to prepare start to use the faster speeds. If you can understand and answer questions correctly using the fastest speed you will easily be able to handle the IELTS exam
    4. Practice your spelling here



IELTS Exam Reading Section

The IELTS exam reading section is 60 minutes long  and it consists of 40 questions. The texts are taken from books, magazines, newspapers, and journals. The IELTS Reading section is tricky. That’s because most students can’t read fast enough to answer the questions on all of the passages. This is how I suggest you address this issue. First, be honest with yourself. Are you a good reader? Do you understand what you read? If the answer is no, then I would suggest that you should practice for the IELTS Exam by giving  yourself 1 hour to complete one  reading passage. In this hour you should not just read the passage, but look up all of the words you don’t know, write them down and make flashcards. This will help you answer the questions much better. Usually when students struggle with the reading on the IELTS exam, it’s because they can’t read fast enough and they don’t know enough vocabulary. As time goes on you can start giving yourself less and less time to answer the exam questions, until you are at 20 minutes per a passage. After you feel comfortable start giving yourself 10 less minutes. You can find past IELTS Exam Reading tests here.  


IELTS Exam Writing Questions

The writing section of the IELTS exam has two tasks. In Task 1 you will be given a graph, chart, or diagram and asked to describe it. In task 2 you will be asked to write an essay on a certain topic. The question is usually an agree or disagree question and  you can find current and frequently asked questions here .


After the speaking section I think the IELTS Writing section may be the section that students worry about the most. For this section it really helps if you are a good writer in your native language. The first thing you want to do is make sure you understand the questions. You can do this by breaking the questions into two Ideas.

Idea 1 Some people think ______

Idea 2 Other people disagree and think _____.

The ideas are in the question. I made a video about this.


The next thing you want to do is plan out your essay. That’s in the video too. Finally you have to come up with your reasons supporting information and actually answer the question. This can be intimidating and I often hear students say that they can’t think of any reasons. I’ve tried to solve that problem for you in my IELTS writing section.  In this section you can find old questions from the IELTS exam with sample reasons. They are all written out in nice pretty language you just have to chose the ones you like, or come up with your own and connect them together for your essay. In early 2017 I will make an entire writing course to walk you through all of this.  Spelling and vocabulary are a big part of this exam, so don’t ignore that.

Thanks for visiting this site. I hope that it is able to play a big role in preparing you for the exam. Good luck.