IELTS Preparation At Home

In this IELTS preparation at home guide, I’m sharing with you my top tips and tricks to help you study and prepare for the big day, plus the best practice material to prepare the test. Watch the video and read along as this guide is packed with juicy info!

In this video tutorial and blog post, you’ll find answers to the most popular IELTS Exam questions and beyond. IELTS registration? IELTS results?  IELTS essay writing structure? Got it. Got it. Got it.

I’ve divided this IELTS preparation at home guide in 3 parts: A 20-minute video, its full transcript and a quick IELTS study guide.

Jump to the IELTS preparation materials!

(Disclosure: Hiya, superstar! Certain links to products and/or services are affiliate links, and I may earn a commission for any purchases that you make. This will not be at any cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases)

If you arrived here because you are planning to move or travel in New Zealand, check these other articles in the blog:


IELTS Preparation Guide Video

  (Disclosure: Certain links to products and/or services are affiliate links, and I may earn a commission for any purchases that you make. This will not be at any cost to you.)

Jump to the IELTS preparation materials!

IELTS Preparation Guide – Video Transcript

I’ve edited the transcript for ease of use, so if you are following along, you’ll note a few grammar changes here and there. Enjoy!

Hello, my friends! Welcome to episode 4 of The Global Curious Travel Expat Blog. So what I’m going to share with you today is a video I made a year ago, in which I walk you through all my tips and tricks for doing the IELTS Exam, and being successful at it. This episode it’s quite long, so stay tuned and keep watching because it’s very, very juicy! Share with your friends, and subscribe to my YouTube Channel. 

Today I have a very useful topic that I would like to share with you, especially if you are from a non-English-speaking country, and you are planning to either move abroad, apply for residency, go on a working holiday visa, or just go studying abroad -specifically to English-speaking countries.

So I wanna walk you through what it is, who’s it for, and why you should consider doing it. I did the IELTS Exam three years ago. Originally, I was gonna move to Australia, and Argentinians need to do it to apply for the Australian Working Holiday.

I did it for that reason, but in the end, I didn’t go to Australia, but I used it for my New Zealand Residency. 

The IELTS is an English test and its scores go from 1 to 9. It’s not like we pass or not pass, it’s more like a ‘photo’ of our level of English, at the present time.

There are two different types of IELTS. The General Training it’s like the ‘easy’ one and then the Academic Training that is the one that you wanna go for in order to study abroad.

(min 02:00) General Information about the IELTS

The IELTS is divided into 4 different sections. Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. This exam is not made with a computer -if that makes sense. I’m aware that the TOEFL it’s an exam that you do like sitting on a computer. So this one you do with humans…not aliens but humans…

The difference between the General and the Academic is the Writing and the Reading. So Listening and Speaking are the same for both. But the Writing and the Reading are more difficult in the Academic because it’s more like the stuff you would see at the university -like analyzing data and looking at charts. 

So today I’m gonna focus on the General Training. Bear with me as I walk you through the different stages of the IELTS Exam. 

Let’s start by saying that we need to enroll for the exam in advance. We’ll receive an email that will tell us if we’re doing the Speaking during the same day that we are doing the other sections of it. Sometimes the speaking could be done after or during the same day. You need to pay attention to your date.

On the day of the exam, you are going to get into a classroom, there’s gonna be a clock, and you will have 2 hours and 40 minutes to complete the Listening, the Reading, and the Writing. But each section has its own time and this is timed very accurately.

Jump to the IELTS preparation materials!


(min 04:00) General Information about the IELTS + Talking about the Reading

You will have 40 minutes for the Listening. And then 1 hour for the Reading, and 1 hour for the Writing. The Speaking is between 11 up to 14 minutes.

You will be given something like this (video showing papers) that will have the writing. And you will also be given this (video showing papers). This is what you are going to be looking at, for the reading and the listening.

So if you f*it up here (video showing the same papers) you will lose score.

(Author notes: What I’m showing on the video is the answer sheet, where you’ll write your answers. Hence this is why I say that if you get confused when copying your answers from your exam’s booklet, then you’ll lose score. In other words, this is what the folks checking your exam are taking into consideration.)

You cannot get into the room with anything but maybe a transparent water bottle, a pencil, and an eraser. That’s all you can have with you.

Each part of the IELTS Exam is divided into different sections. For the reading, you’ll have 1 hour and it has 3 sections with a total of between and 2000 and almost 3000 words each. You’ll also need to read, interpret, and answer the questions. So it’s extremely important that to begin with, you understand what the assignment is about, what you need to do, what you need to answer, and what’s the task.

It looks like these are a lot of words for 1 hour and all the questions that you will be asked. So it will be very important that beforehand you train your brain to be able to keep up with it. And just scan words and find your keywords -these are the pieces of information you really need to answer correctly.

Then, of course, you have to consider that basically, you need to be able to train yourself to keep your attention going.

You will come across different types of tasks for each section. So for example, the Writing can be much like ‘highlight X paragraph’ or just ‘answer questions in no more than 3-words phrases.’ So there’s a variety of exercises.

It’s important that when you’re getting ready for the IELTS Exam, that you do your practice going through all the different types of tasks. This is so you can rest assured that you’ll know how to interpret the assignments correctly.

Jump to the IELTS preparation materials!


(min 06:40) Talking about the IELTS Listening

I’ll now talk about the Listening. The Listening is divided into 4 sections and you will listen to the audios only once. So it’s very important that if you missed something, just do not get caught in it. The questions are in the same order as the audios.

So when you listen, you answer 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc, and then, if you get lost, keep going. Otherwise, you will likely miss the train and it’s hard to catch up again. 

These 4 exercises included in the Listening will take you half an hour in total. And then, you have 10 minutes to just transfer your answers to your answer sheet. 

You will hear different accents, different topics, people having conversations, phone calls, spelling, etc. So you want to make sure that when you’re practicing, you are training your brain and your ears to be able to understand very specific information.

You’ll notice that some questions are kind of tricky. It looks like they will ask you about a name, but in the end, they’re asking what’s that person doing.

(min 08:15) Talking about the IELTS Writing

So now we go to the third part of the exam, the Writing. For the Writing, you will have one hour, and it’s divided into 2 tasks.

The first task is easier and it’s more along the lines of ‘You need to write a letter to someone or an email explaining a certain situation,’ but they will tell you exactly, -kind of exactly- what it is that you need to write about. 

For example, ‘You are planning a trip to New Zealand. You need to contact your tourist agent, so you can get more information about your destination and your itinerary.’ So, ask about: Where are you going to be staying? What’s the time table for the bus? 

In the end, this first task is about requiring information, raising a complaint, or similar.

It’s recommended that you take 20 minutes for this first part. You’ll need to write 150 words and what’s very important is that your structure is good -and that you know how to write a letter. 

And then moving on to the second task, that one is a little bit tricky and it’s more complex. You need to write 250 words, but it’s more on the lines of critical thinking. 

Example: Cell phones are changing society very fast. What do you think of schools getting involved in this type of technology, and the impact on future generations?

Something along these lines. You will have to write like an essay telling what you think about this, how do you think you could improve that, or how schools should handle the matter. It’s more like an exercise that wants to go through your thought process, and how you can articulate more complex ideas.

As a personal advice, do task number 2 first, but quickly draft task number 1. This is what I did and I found it to be very useful. I read both tasks, and I was kinda like, ‘Okay, I’ll take two minutes to think about task one.’ But then I just put a pin on it and came back to it a bit later.

I focused on task number 2 because it’s the one that’s more relevant to this section of the exam, and then got back to task number 1. 

Another piece of advice is that, at the moment of the exam…stick to what you know. What I mean with this is, stay on topic, have a structure, be cohesive.

Use the tenses you know, use the words you know because it’s not that important that you use extravagant tenses or long fancy words. So if you can only write in the present tense, then only write in the present tense. That’s fine, as long as you are properly articulated.

You don’t need to be an English genius to nail this.

Jump to the IELTS preparation materials!


(min 11:50) Talking about the Speaking section of the IELTS

Now we go to the fourth section which is the Speaking. The Speaking is between 11 to 14 minutes.

For this you will be, let’s say, like in a classroom, but it’s gonna be just you and the examiner. The Speaking is divided into 3 different tasks.

The first one it’s the examiner just asking you some introductory questions, eg: where are you from, talk to me about your country, etc. And that will last between 3 to 4 minutes.

Then it gets a bit trickier. You will be given a piece of paper and a pencil. The examiner will give you a topic and some prompts, and you need to create a draft of things you will talk about, related to that specific topic. You will have 1 minute to prepare your draft, and then you’ll have to talk about it for 2 minutes.

So what happened to me is that I didn’t get ready for the exam. So when then the lady asked me…’Do you rather go buying to the local market or to the supermarket? 

And I couldn’t think of anything!

So for 2 minutes, I was just saying ‘well, if I need to buy lettuce I’d go to the market, but if I need milk I may go to the supermarket…’ It was just stupid. 

So what I recommend to you is that you practice beforehand and that you stay on topic. My problem was that I kinda went off-topic because I wasn’t expecting such a question, it kinda didn’t make sense to me at that time. But if that’s how things are then I prefer to be flexible. Don’t just go bla-bla, because then it’s like you’re never-ending, but you’re…just mumbling with not really saying anything.  

All-in-all, you need to learn how long it takes you to express certain ideas. So then when you’re doing it you have that practice within you. 

Easy right? Easier said than done, more so when you are nervous and sweating during the exam! 

Now that I’ve told you what is it? What is it for? Who is it for? and how it’s divided…

(min 14:32) Final tips for success

Here’s a little bit of advice for when you are just starting to prepare for the exam. First, start without timing yourself. Specifically for the reading and the listening you can listen to the exercises as many times as you want, go through your reading as many times as you have to, and even if it takes you 2 or 3 hours, that’s fine.

I would suggest you buy practice exams and just do as many as you can, of course. But first, start by getting familiar with the type of exercises and the titles of the tasks. And what is that you are supposed to do with it. 

And then you can introduce like, ‘If this was taking me 3 hours. I’ll do it now in 2 hours, 1.5 hours…’ until you make it to the point where you can actually follow the section’s schedule.

Try to listen to everything in English. This is pretty obvious, but it’s important. Listen to a podcast, and basically, translate your life to English because that will make your brain be like a sponge. And you will be able to be more aware of the sound of the words.

When you’re writing, just always have someone that could check your writing. 

The scores are quite specific. So for example, there’s a sheet that will tell you exactly what are the main characteristics of each score level. If you are on a 5 -which would be like an intermediate user-, it says it can use 2 or 3 different tenses, makes occasional mistakes, doesn’t use a lot of vocabulary. 

It is quite specific, and it’s extremely useful to know where you’re at. And when you’re practicing for your writing, be aware of how to properly addressed a letter, how to introduce yourself, how to frame your ideas. 

Just make sure it makes sense because when I’ve been like, going through tasks that people send me, sometimes that’s what came up the most. That’s very important. And then make sure you know how to spell, get used for different accents, and just prepare for it.

I’m sure you’ll do great!

And it’s a little bit of an effort, but there’s nothing to be really scared of. You can take it again if you want, or if you have to. And always mind the score you will need for what you wanna do. For example, if you wanna go to university, you need to have like a 6.5 or a 7, in the Academic Training. For example, in New Zealand, you can do the General Training but you need to have a 7 which is quite a high mark. 

When I did the IELTS Exam I got an 8 and I didn’t prepare for it -I was confident that I was gonna do well. But that’s me, and I’ve been studying English for many, many years of my life. But in any case, even when I was studying, I would spend months getting ready for… for example, my First Certificate.

I hope this IELTS Preparation Guide was useful! Share it with your friends. We all know someone that’s very scared of doing the exam and I don’t blame them! 

Jump to the IELTS preparation materials!

Quick IELTS Preparation Guide and Resources

Above you have a full detail of the IELTS. In this quick guide, I go through the same, but ‘on a nutshell!’

The IELTS exam it’s divided into 4 different sections —Writing, Reading, Listening, Speaking —, each of them subdivided into different types of tasks. All of them are perfectly timed during the exam.

  • On the day of the exam, you will get a booklet, an IELTS answer sheet, and extra paper sheets where you will write all your answers.
  • It’s very important you understand and follow the guidelines given for each task.
  • The Listening and Reading sections are totally accurate. This means that you will have to give an exact answer.
  • The speaking and writing are a little bit more “creative”, but you still need to follow the instructions as the examiner will also evaluate that.

Tips for IELTS Reading Section

You will notice the texts are quite long. Many people feel they won’t have enough time to go through it all. Chill. You don’t need to read all of it. Questions and texts are in the same order. You will have to practice training your brain to scan searching for your keywords. I recommend you to quickly read all the questions first and then jump to the text. You will write the answers on the IELTS answer sheet that you will have with you during the exam.


Tips for IELTS Listening Section

The key here is to be able to listen, read the questions and write the answers all at the same time. Again, you will “scan” through keywords. Since you start preparing for the IELTS exam, translate your life into English. Watch movies, listen to podcasts, practice singing in English!


Tips for IELTS Writing Section

It is very important that your text is properly structured and articulated. Correctly divided into paragraphs, cohesive and with proper punctuation marks. Task 1 is usually a letter/note which can be formal or informal. The 2nd task is a 250 words essay on any given topic.


Tips for IELTS Speaking Section

The most important thing is that you sound clear and properly articulated. This means: What you say needs to make sense and be correctly structured. You don’t need to use very complex vocabulary or tenses.


How to Prepare for Your IELTS Exam

Will you prepare it yourself?

Guess you are wondering how to get some free IELTS preparation material? Find practice tests in this blog. They update the best blogs to prepare for the IELTS on a weekly basis.

I would recommend you to get as many IELTS general training practice tests as you can.

Personally, I find it very hard to find proper listening practices!

Get a tutor

You can also go to class or get a tutor to make your life easier and stay committed. It can be good to have someone to keep you accountable for your progress. Some people go to institutes or hire a private teacher, which totally fast-tracks your progress.

When you are preparing for the IELTS, keep in mind that you will also learn a lot of new words and will practice your grammar often!

Start without timing yourself

As you improve, introduce time frames until you are able to follow the allotted time for each of the sections.

Scan keywords

When I say you need to train your brain to scan words, this means that you should quickly read the questions and then just browse through the text to find the connecting words. You wouldn’t stop to read full sentences or paragraphs, but with practice, you can detect the information you need very fast.

Stay on topic

For the writing and the speaking is key to stay on topic! Be cohesive. Time yourself to check how long does it take you to articulate an idea. This way you will be able to give yourself a few seconds to wrap up your topic elegantly.

Practice each and every single type of task

Make sure you’ve gone through all the different types of tasks that may come your way. There are quite a few for each section but the tasks are quite consistent. Following the instructions is key to success.

 IELTS preparation is key: practice, practice, practice

Yes. No one is saying this is super easy, but like all good things in life, if you want it, you gotta commit to it. I’ve seen many people getting frustrated or thinking they need to be bilingual to do well at the IELTS. Guess what? That’s not true. As you practice you will learn a lot of vocabulary and your brain will become a trained muscle. If you know just enough, but become a master in applying it, this can be a game-changer.

Assess how you are doing

This link will take you to the document that describes each type of user according to IELTS exam standards. It will give you a clear idea about the IELTS results you can expect. I find it to be extremely useful.

 Jump to the IELTS preparation materials!

IELTS Fee for Test-takers

The fee for the exam is around $ 200 – 300 USD. I did it in New Zealand and paid about $ 300 -ouch!!!!

If you have any questions leave me your comment! If this has been useful or you have a friend stuck in an IELTS crisis share this with them.

IELTS Preparation and Practice Materials

Access all these resources by simply pinning this Guide to Preparing for the IELTS to your favorite Pinterest board!

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  1. Martina you are hilarious and so cute!!I’m thinking to start to take classes in Argentina, maybe a whole course about IELTS.
    For my surprise there is more than just two types of exams, there is also one about Life Skills and it’s a little more easier and necessary if you want to apply for a spouse visa.
    I’m very nervous but confident and you are 100% right about how to practice and turn our world into English (netflix, songs, books). Thank you so much for all those tips girl! Wish me luck!!

    1. Hey love! I’ll look into the life skills I had never heard of it!!! I’m glad you found the video useful and yes… I’m pretty damn cute lol

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