Ultimate Guide to IELTS Study Material

How to prepare for IELTS and what study material do you need?

IELTS preparation is all about having the right IELTS study material, doing the right practice tests and mastering the right test-taking tips and strategies.

Today, we'll take a detailed look at all these aspects and by the end of it, you will have a clear sense of the study material that you require to get a good score. To top it off, we've provided a comprehensive set of links to the best free IELTS practice tests available on the internet.

Let's begin!

Decide what study material you need before you start your IELTS preparation

Before you start your IELTS exam preparation it is important to get a sense of where you currently stand, that is, what your score would be if you took the exam right now. Once you've done that it is easier to estimate how much time and effort you need to put into preparing for the exam and decide on what sort of IELTS study material you require.

So how do you find out what your score would be like today?

It is quite simple - Take a realistic, free practice IELTS test.

Free IELTS practice tests and what you should keep in mind

The British Council and Cambridge English, which are organisations that conduct the IELTS test, provide free practice tests. These are the most realistic practice tests that are available right now and your most valuable resource as they are provided by the organisations themselves.

I've provided links to the free IELTS practice tests later in this article but do NOT head over there now. There are a few important things that you need to keep in mind before you take your first practice test.

Firstly, take only ONE practice test at this stage.

Doing well in the actual exam is a combination of good English skills and handling the psychological pressure of doing an exam and practice tests play an important role in preparing for the second aspect. Authentic practice tests are hard to come by and you will need to do as many as you can AFTER you are done with your preparation so use only one at this initial stage.

Secondly, remember to time yourself when you take the practice tests.

The allotted time for each section is clearly mentioned in the instructions provided with the free practice tests and it is very important that you stick to the given time limits or you won't get an accurate estimate of your current level.

Timing plays a crucial role in determining your score. If you had more time to do the same test your score could be drastically different. Since no one will be monitoring you while you do the practice tests it will be very tempting to give yourself an extra 5-10 minutes. Try and remember that the time constraints are what make the actual test difficult and if you ignore the time limits you will get a completely inaccurate estimate of your current score level.

And lastly, remember that it is important to follow all the instructions as you would in the actual exam.

For instance, in the listening section, the instructions clearly mention that each recording will only be played once. Do NOT replay any recordings. Again, if you do so you will only end up with an incorrect estimate and that in turn will affect your test preparation.

IELTS study material

Once you have an accurate assessment of your current level you can start your exam preparations.

The first step would be to get your IELTS study material in order. There is a plethora of study materials currently available in the market but there are two IELTS preparation books that I would personally, strongly recommend:

Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS and

Cambridge English IELTS 9

These two IELTS preparation books provide very different types of content and I suggest you first complete the Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS and then start with Cambridge IELTS 9.

The reason for this is very simple - The Official Cambridge Guide is more of a test-taking guide and provides detailed explanations of the fundamentals, step by step guidance for each section and essential test-taking tips and strategies along with lessons and exercises.

The Cambridge English IELTS 9, however, does not focus on step by step guidance and test-taking tips and strategies. Rather, it is more about realistic test material. It provides authentic, full length tests which are critical for your preparation once you have mastered the techniques and strategies provided in the Official Cambridge Guide.

Once you've completed the IELTS study material the next step is quite straightforward - practice.

Practice, practice and more practice!

The key to a good IELTS score is simple - practice! No matter how good your English skills are or how well you master the IELTS study material you chances of getting a good score are quite low unless you have sufficient practice.

The fact of the matter is that doing well in the IELTS exam (as in most exams) depends not only on good English skills and mastering test taking techniques and strategies but also on efficient time management and dealing with the psychological pressures of taking a test. The study materials will help you with the first two aspects but only practice can really help you with the third and the fourth aspect.

Keeping this in mind, I have put together a list of reliable, authentic and free practice tests that are currently available and will prove very handy while you prepare for the test:

IELTS exam pattern

And finally, before I end this IELTS preparation and study material guide, I'm going to provide a brief overview of the IELTS exam pattern for those who are new to the exam.

If you are already familiar with the exam pattern then skip ahead to the next section.

There are two types of IELTS exams - Academic and General Training. The Academic IELTS exam is for international students who are looking to do a Bachelors, Masters, PhD etc. or for those people who are looking to get professional registration, such as, nurses and doctors. The General Training exam is for those who are looking to migrate to Australia, New Zealand etc. or looking to study/ train below degree level.

The pattern of the exam itself is pretty straightforward. It consists of four sections - Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening - and you will receive a score out of 9 for each section.

It is important to note that the Reading and Writing tests are different in the Academic and General Training exams so make sure that you have the IELTS study materials and practice tests for the right version. The Speaking and Listening tests, however, are the same .

Your total score in the IELTS exam will be the average of the scores you have received in all 4 bands. For instance, if you have received a 6 in Reading, 7 in Writing, 8 in Speaking and 7 in Listening then your total score will be (6+7+8+7) / 4 = 28/4 = 7.

Most universities will consider your total score on the IELTS exam as well as the scores that you have received in each individual band. For example, if you are looking at the eligibility criteria for a Master's program in Australia then most universities require a total score of 6.5 and a minimum of 6 in each of the individual bands.


And that brings us to the end of this article. I've tried to provide a comprehensive set of tips and test-taking strategies for your IELTS preparation as well as a list of IELTS study material that I usually recommend to students.

If you have any specific questions or require any further information just fill out this enquiry form and I'll be happy to get back to you.

Hope this was helpful and good luck!

Scholarships, Work Permits & more!

Get the latest updates on scholarships, work permit rules, admission requirements and more with our newsletter.

Get Updates