If you wish to study abroad, you’ve probably realized by now that IELTS is usually one of the requirements for the admission applications. Now you might be wondering if it’s possible to prepare for IELTS at home by yourself. It’s definitely possible if you put a decent effort into it.
The time required for IELTS preparation at home depends upon your proficiency in English. If you feel confident about English and just need to familiarize yourself with the IELTS test format, you might need only 2 to 4 weeks for that. However, if your English language skills are relatively basic, you might need 2 to 3 months for the preparation. You can shorten this time if you’re willing to invest more hours on daily basis.
Can I study abroad without IELTS? This is the question many students ask themselves. The short answer to that is “most probably you can’t”. Almost all universities around the world, which offer a study program in the English language for international students, require a language proficiency certificate. IELTS or TOEFL test can be taken to meet this requirement. IELTS is accepted universally, whereas TOEFL is mostly used in the US. Most universities require 6.5 bands. However, sometime the requirement might be 6.0 or 7.0 bands depending upon your field of studies.
Some applicants could be exempted from taking IELTS or TOEFL test. For example, if you’re a native speaker of English, your former education was in English or you’re applying only for a summer program or a semester abroad. Even if IELTS is not required by a university, it might still be required for the visa application. But the good news is that you can prepare for it at home if you don’t have time or money to join an academy.
Prepare for IELTS at home – Tips and Tricks
Your wish to pass the IELTS exam and study abroad may come true if you follow these guidelines and invest proper time and effort into it.
Take an online IELTS practice test
To get started, take an online practice test by keeping in mind the minimum score you need for your admission applications. It’ll help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Based on the results, you can prepare a plan for IELTS preparation at home and estimate the time required to improve your proficiency in English and score better in the test. While planning, it’s a good idea to target a score that’s higher than the minimum score required by universities.
Understand the IELTS test format
Usually, you need to take IELTS Academic for studying abroad. IELTS test consists of four modules: reading, listening, writing and speaking. The best way to familiarize yourself with the test format is to go through a sample test, which you can easily find online.
Reading module of IELTS
In the reading module, you read some articles and answer questions related to these articles. It’s alright if your vocabulary is not very rich. For this module, it’s fine if you can understand the overall meaning of a sentence even if you don’t understand a particular word.
To prepare for the reading module of IELTS at home, you should read as much as possible. Read articles of different difficulty levels on diverse topics. An English newspaper can come in handy. Subscribe to a daily newspaper and spare some time every day for reading it. If you encounter a difficult word that you don’t understand, look it up in an online dictionary and listen to its pronunciation.
Moreover, a magazine can give you the opportunity to read articles on different topics. You can subscribe to a magazine online or order a printed copy. You don’t always have to pay for these kinds of subscriptions. Some magazines have articles on their websites, which you can access free of charge.
Reading will certainly provide you with the essential vocabulary and understanding of words. Concentrate on improving your reading speed with time and try to recall the most important details of the articles after reading them. This will help you prepare for answering questions related to the articles.
Listening module of IELTS
In the listening module, you listen to monologues and/or conversations and you’ve to answer questions related to them.
In order to prepare for the listening module on your own, podcasts for example IELTS Podcast at Teachable, and audiobooks can be of great help. You can download a few of them on your mobile phone and listen to them. The best part about this approach is that you can prepare for this module while doing something else, such as jogging or traveling. Similar to the reading preparation, you should listen to a wide variety of topics and try to recall the most important details.
Writing module of IELTS
In the writing module, you’ve to usually describe a graph and write an essay. You need a good grasp of grammar and vocabulary for this. It can be a little more challenging than the other modules. But with practice, you can master it.
Generally, reading also helps you with writing but reading is passive, whereas writing is active. This means that reading alone won’t help you as much as writing. Try to write essays on different topics and describe different graphs by keeping the word limit and time for the writing module of IELTS in mind. In order to make a good writing habit and get in the flow, you can write about some topics you like without tracking the time or word limit in the beginning.
If you run out of your ideas or topics of interest, try to read articles from the internet and rewrite them in your own words. It will equip you with better writing techniques, and you will also get hold of some words and phrases that you can use in your test.
Speaking Module of IELTS
The speaking module is usually a face-to-face discussion with an examiner. This module tests your pronunciation, fluency, vocabulary, grammar, etc.
To prepare for the speaking module of IELTS at home, try to find a speaking partner. If you can’t find a speaking partner in your friends and family, try to find one online. It will be a little hustle on the internet. But you might find a study group for IELTS or a native speaker who can talk to you. Furthermore, you can also find apps that can help you speak proper English. Generally, these apps pronounce/show a word or sentence and then ask you to repeat it. Another way to improve your speaking skills is to have imaginary conversations with yourself in front of a mirror. You can also boost your confidence by doing so. This will certainly help you during the speaking module.
Practice some course books for IELTS
If you want to prepare for IELTS on your own, buy some course books for IELTS along with CDs/audio files containing the recordings for the listening module. Practice all 4 modules of from these course books because they’ll give you a feel for the actual test. Try to do some tests while tracking your time. Later, check the answers and think about your mistakes; why those mistakes happened and how you can avoid them in the next test.
Do you want to try something other than course books in order to improve your vocabulary? You can find essential IELTS vocabulary online. It’s generally a list of words, which will not only help you understand the questions of the test better, but also provide you with good vocabulary base for the writing and speaking modules.
You can use Magoosh IELTS preparation material, which includes in-depth video lessons, practice questions and support from remote tutors. You can access it anytime, anywhere on desktop or mobile. You can also find language related courses at Teachable and Thinkific. If you’ve successfully passed IELTS and have tips for others, you can also create your own course using these platforms.
Join an online, self-paced IELTS preparation course
If you want to prepare for IELTS at home and are having difficulty making a learning plan, you could join an online, self paced IELTS preparation course. These courses are usually well-structured and although they’re self-paced, if you’re disciplined enough to practice regularly, you can finish them within a few weeks. For example, you can check out the edX IELTS Academic Test Preparation.
Immerse yourself in English
Try to surround yourself with the language. For that, you can watch news, movies, series and documentaries in English. One good way is to watch TED Talks. In addition to providing you with good ideas on diverse topics, this approach will help you improve your English. Try to speak in English with people around you. If that’s not possible, try to think in English for a few weeks before your test. Slowly, your goal to prepare for IELTS by yourself will start turning into a reality.
Use the tips and tricks mentioned above and prepare for IELTS at the convenience of your home. Remember, it will take some time and effort, but it’s worth it because it’s important if you want to fulfill your study abroad dream.
All the best!
If you’re preparing for the GRE as well, read our blog post How to prepare for the GRE General Test at Home.
If you want tips on how to prepare admission documents such as CV, Letter of Motivation (LOM), Letter of Recommendation (LOR) etc., check out How to study abroad.