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Help! IELTS study tips

IELTS Study Timeline

Study, study and study some more! This seems to be the common advice many English language learners hear who are about to take the IELTS exam. This well-known, high-stakes English test is usually taken for education, immigration or employment reasons. Below are some tips on how long you need to study for the IELTS (based on your current level of English).

Take your time to prepare for the IELTS

First, and most importantly, in order to do well on the IELTS most English language learners will need to start preparing at least several months in advance. This timeline will vary depending on your level of English and what score you need to get. Many websites will tell you various time frames anywhere from six to eight weeks or more. The most important factor when deciding how much study time you need to take the IELTS (or improve your level) is to see what your current English level is.

1) Elementary level (A1) students should expect to get around a three or four on the IELTS. Unless you need below a four, if you’re at this level, it’s better if you work on improving your English first, before starting to focus on studying for the IELTS.

2) Pre-intermediate level (A2) students can expect to get a score in the four range, maybe a five. If you’re at this level and you need a five or six, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll reach this score by studying for the IELTS. It’s recommended that you focus on improving your English, not studying. To move from a pre-intermediate to intermediate level can take one to two years if you work really hard.

3) Intermediate level (B1) students should expect to get a score around a five, maybe a six. Some students are able to get a 6.5 (especially if they’re good in reading and listening), but this is unusual. If you want to get a 6.5 you need to spend at least six months to a year improving your English. Moving from an intermediate level to an upper-intermediate level takes at least one to two years of intensive English studying.

4) Upper-intermediate (B2) students should expect to a get a score in the six range, but could possibly get a seven. At this level English is more natural and is often referred to as a “dinner party” level of English. If you’re at this level then you’re ready to study for the IELTS, not just improve your English. If you need a seven or above, then it’s still recommended that you continue to improve your English rather than study. It’s ideal if you start to study at least a few months in advance.

5) Advanced level (C1) students can expect a score between a seven and an eight. If you’re at this level your English is becoming very natural and you speak like a native English speaker. The amount of study time needed for advanced level English language learners will vary, but it’s a good idea to give yourself at least a couple of months of studying. If you want to get to this level you would need to be dedicated to studying on a daily basis for several years or live abroad and immerse yourself in English.

6) Master level (C2) students are likely to get a score between an eight and a nine. At this level you’re basically a native English speaker. You may make some mistakes, but not very often. You don’t need to study for the IELTS, but there are some tricky parts on the test (especially the writing) that even native English speakers may have difficulty answering correctly. It wouldn’t hurt to review some main elements or take a course about the test strategy just in case.

Note: These are general timelines. Please keep in mind that improving your English and getting the score you want on the IELTS does take a lot of time and hard work, but it also depends on you as a learner (i.e. motivation, schedule, organization skills, etc.).

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