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Six Helpful Tips for Passing the IELTS: Getting the Score You Need

If you’re researching your study options in Australia, you’ll know that taking an English test, such as the IELTS, is essential to get into most courses.

But what does the IELTS look like, and what preparation should you do to pass the IELTS and achieve the score you need to get into your chosen program?

What is the IELTS?

IELTS stands for ‘International English Language Testing System’. The IELTS is taken by millions of students globally each year and is one of the most widely accepted English tests in the world.

What is the purpose of the IELTS test?

The IELTS tests your listening, reading, writing and speaking skills in English. There are two versions: the Academic test (AC) and General Training test (GT). If you’re wondering which type of IELTS is to be taken to get into higher education, the Academic test is for students wishing to pursue undergraduate or postgraduate study at a university or college. The General Training test focuses on everyday language and is typically for anyone who is migrating to an English-speaking country.

The Listening and Speaking sections are the same in both tests, but the Reading and Writing sections are slightly different. Make sure you check which version of the test you’re required to take.

Tips for passing the IELTS test

Getting the IELTS score you need can be challenging, but with hard work, professional guidance and feedback, it is possible to achieve your goal. Here are our top tips for maximising your IELTS score:

1. Become familiar with the IELTS format

You might be curious about what the IELTS test consists of. The IELTS is divided into four sections. It is important to know what to expect in each section:

  • The Listening section has four parts. This includes a social conversation, a social monologue, an academic conversation and an academic monologue.
  • The Reading section has three parts made up of extracts from journals, books, newspapers and magazines.
  • The Writing section has two parts. You will be asked to write either a letter (for the GT) or data interpretation (for the AC) plus an essay (on both tests).
  • The Speaking section lasts 11 to 14 minutes and involves introducing yourself, answering questions about your life and holding a conversation with the examiner.

It’s important to understand how the different sections are marked. The IELTS band descriptors will give you an idea of what you need to do to meet the criteria.

2. Research the IELTS score you need

Before taking the IELTS, check what IELTS score you need to enter your chosen course. The required IELTS score might change depending on the educational institution and your level of study. For example:

  • To apply for a Student visa (Subclass 500), you’ll need a minimum of IELTS 5.5. This is a government requirement.
  • Different undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Australia require their own minimum scores, so make sure to check the admission requirements for your chosen course. Undergraduate and postgraduate courses at QUT in Brisbane, for example, typically require a minimum of IELTS 6.5, unless you choose to take a pathway program, which allows entry at a lower level.
  • There are some programs that require an IELTS 7 for entry. These are usually for professional registration but are required at the start of the degree program, for example, nursing.

3. Take an IELTS preparation course

One of the most important things you can do when preparing for the IELTS is to enrol in a preparation course. A good quality preparation course will provide valuable information about the academic skills necessary and will offer training in time management techniques to achieve the IELTS score you need.

4. Take practise tests

There are many benefits to taking practice tests, including:

  • Getting to know your strengths and weaknesses in English.
  • Seeing how you perform under exam conditions.
  • Becoming familiar with the types of questions and vocabulary that may be included on your test day. 

The IELTS website offers a selection of sample test questions to help you study, as well as an official online practice test called IELTS Progress Check.

5. Obtain professional feedback from IELTS teachers

Let’s say that your goal is an IELTS 7.0, but when you take the test, you achieve a score below 7.0. It is common for students to keep taking the test to raise their score, but often this is very difficult because the difference between 6.5 and 7.0 is much bigger than you might expect.

That’s why seeking feedback from an IELTS teacher can show you which of the four sections – Listening, Reading, Writing or Speaking – you need to improve in to achieve your goal. It also helps you avoid repeating the test several times without knowing not only where, but how you need to improve.

6. Be careful when practising with friends

If you’re curious about how to prepare to speak English for the IELTS, you might want to seek professional advice. It can be tempting to only practise your English with friends and fellow students, because that’s probably most comfortable for you. Talking with native English speakers is a great way to become more confident, but be aware that you might continue to make the same mistakes if you don’t seek professional feedback as well.

Lynne’s experience: Getting the right IELTS score to study nursing in Australia

Lynne is an international student from China who wanted to study nursing in Australia. The Australian Nursing & Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC) requires an IELTS 7.0 for entry into all Bachelor of Nursing programs. Lynne studied hard to obtain the score she needed to enter the program – and succeeded!

Lynne prepared for the IELTS through the QUT IELTS Advanced program, which helped her learn valuable techniques and strategies. “I got a lot of practice, not only through the weekly mock tests but also from the lectures,” she says. “I also received personalised feedback from my teachers, which I needed especially in my writing.”