Best IELTS Online Preparation course (Academic) launched in 2016!

info-31185_1280As some of you know, I plan to launch my IELTS Online Preparation course (Academic version) this year.  It will be a members only area on this blog.   The General Training course is already up and running, and the feedback has been positive.

Both these courses contain targeted information and practice to aid you in a successful result.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

Best IELTS top ten tips.

info-31185_1280Recently I received an email from one of the readers of this site asking me for a list of my top ten best IELTS tips.

Obviously everyone who sits the IELTS Test wants to maximize their score so I’m going to share with you ten of the tips I have shared with my students over the years.  Please note that these tips are in no particular order.

Best IELTS Tip One

Prepare, prepare, prepare!  The best IELTS preparation is divided into two parts; you need to both improve your English language and understand and know the layout of the test.

These two factors are equally important as obviously it’s your English language ability that’s being tested here but let me tell you, I know many native speakers who would find taking the IELTS Test challenging because they are not aware of how the test operates.

So, my suggestion?  Find yourself a good teacher; either at a language school or online (keep your eye on this site for an online IELTS tutoring course early next year.  Secondly, make sure you do plenty of practice tests and exercises before you sit the test.

Best IELTS Tip Two

Read the instructions to each part of the test.  A lot of candidates think they can save time by skipping reading the instructions but this is a foolish move as the instructions often contain necessary information on how to answer the questions correctly; for example in the Listening Test, the instructions often tell you where the conversation is taking place or in the Reading Test, the instructions may tell you how many words to use in an answer (NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS).

Best IELTS Tip Three

In the IELTS Reading Test and the IELTS Writing Test, do NOT take any notice of what the other candidates are doing.  Work at your own pace, follow my tips for writing a plan for your writing; don’t just dive in.  If you’ve done some timed practice tests as I always suggest, you should have an idea of how to manage your time in the hour long test.

Now, I’m about to say the opposite for the IELTS Listening Test!  One of the most common problems that students who’ve taken the IELTS Test report back to me is that they ‘got lost’ in the Listening Test.  It’s not always a question of language here; sometimes you simply lose concentration for a second and ‘Oh know’, you’re lost!  Okay, don’t panic, try and catch up and listen out for what the other students are doing.  If you hear lots of people turning the page, then guess what?  They’re on to the question at the top of the next page.  I actually had a student in this exact situation; he lost concentration during the Listening Test (he wasn’t very good at listening in his native Punjabi either) but he managed to salvage the situation and get back on track when he heard the other candidates turn the page.

Best IELTS Tip Four

One of the most common complaints I hear about the IELTS Reading and Writing Tests is that there isn’t enough time.  Well, the test is what it is so we’ve got to learn techniques to deal with it.

You should read as much as possible and train yourself to pick out the main ideas as quickly as possible.  Some students of mine have had success with books on speed reading techniques (this, of course, depends on how much time you have at your disposal).  In any case, you do need to do plenty of timed IELTS practice reading tests.

I always tell my students to write a quick plan for their IELTS Writing.  Students often feel; ‘I don’t have time to write a plan; it will slow me down’.  In fact the opposite is true; if you’ve laid out a short plan, you know exactly what you’re going to write about and can get right into it.  If your native language does not have the same script (alphabet) as English, it can sometimes be more difficult to write quickly.  I always give my students timed exercises where they have to copy out paragraphs in English.  Remember that in Task 1, for example, you have to write about 150 words in 20 minutes.

You should listen to English as much as possible; you can listen to the radio in English or select the English language option (without subtitles) on a DVD.  If you live in a country where English is the native language, you should try to spend as much time with English speakers to improve both your listening and speaking.  If you are studying in your own country, why not get a group together and organise one evening a week where you speak only English.

Best IELTS Tip Five

Never leave an answer blank in the Reading and Listening Tests.  There are many different question types you may have to answer such as multiple choice and short answer questions.  If you really don’t know the answer, try to make an ‘educated guess’; that is, use logic to work out the answer.  If you leave a blank, you have definitely not scored a point, if you guess well, you will!  Make sure you follow the rules of the question, for example NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS means just that!

Best IELTS Tip Six

Try to eliminate simple grammar mistakes before the test; for example the use of tenses and articles.  You can revise the rules about articles in this post Best IELTS Grammar for Writing and Speaking – Articles.

Best IELTS Tip Seven

In the Speaking Test, if you are asked a question give more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Be helpful and willing to answer questions. This is your chance to shine!  Don’t waste the opportunity.  The Examiner wants to hear YOU speak, not his/her own voice!  You should aim to be speaking about 75/80% of the time.  Before your test, check out the Speaking Band Descriptors and think about how to be as fluent as possible whilst maintaining good grammar and pronunciation features.

Best IELTS Tip Eight

Keep up to date with current affairs; read a newspaper in English every day if possible.  Not only will this improve your English, it will also help you to answer questions in a more interesting way in the Writing and Speaking Tests.  In my opinion, only by reading widely can you improve your vocabulary which will help in all four parts of the test.

Best IELTS Tip Nine

Make sure you follow the guidelines in the IELTS Writing Test; 20 minutes and 150 words for Task 1 and 40 minutes and 250 words for Task 2.  Task 2 carries two-thirds of the marks so do not cut into your Task 2 time, by writing pages and pages on Task 1!

As a general rule, I usually recommend that my students write between 150 and 180 words for task 1 and 250 and 300 words for task 2.  The ideal would be to write just a little more than the minimum number of words required for each task.

Best IELTS Tip Ten

Make sure you are in ‘peak condition’ for your test; get a good night’s sleep the night before, eat a good breakfast on the day (and make sure you take your lunch if your Speaking Test is in the afternoon).  Plan your trip to the IELTS Test Centre so that you arrive in plenty of time.

You also need to learn to relax as much as possible (easy to say I know!); I know that the IELTS Test is very important to you but as my late grandfather used to say to me; ‘it’s only an exam’.  You need to enter the test in a calm frame of mind; ‘OK, this is only a test; I’m going to do the best I can, hopefully get the band score I want but if not, I’ll learn from the experience’.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

What people say about Best IELTS Online’s IELTS Tutoring.

330px-Smiley.svgHere’s a small selection of the positive feedback I get from students.

I take this opportunity to thank you for your help. I got my IELTS scores:
9-listening, 8-reading, 7-writing, 7-speaking, and overall-8. Thank you so much!

Manila , India

I got my IELTS result today and it turns out to be : L7 R7 W6 S6 ; overall 6.5. It reaches the benchmark I need and I want to thank you for your help , in particular with my speaking test, which helped me so much.
Joshua , China

After taking the IELTS Test four times and always falling short either in my speaking test or my writing test, I requested help from Alanna. I was really inspired by her suggestions, advice and improvement strategies. I finally got 7.0 in each test, which has allowed me to apply for permanent residency in Australia.

Alanna is an amazing tutor, who gives a great service and effort. My family and I are very grateful to her.
Ali , Pakistan

I came to Alanna for lessons after various unsuccessful attempts to get the 8.0 (in all four skills) required by Australian immigration. After only a short time, I took my test again and scored L: 9, R: 9, W: 8.5 and S: 8.5, overall 9.0! I’m very happy!
Thurein, Burma

What can I say? Alanna’s teaching gets results! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Luca, Italy.

I had taken the IELTS test three times when I contacted Alanna.  My writing was always a 6 (I needed 7), even though my other skills were 7s and 8s.  I just didn’t know where I was going wrong.  Alanna really helped me get my writing in order; showing me how to shape my ideas etc.
I’m SO happy; now I can apply for immigration to Australia.  Thanks Alanna!
Javad, Iran.

Best IELTS Last Minute Test Tips.

info-31185_1280A few days ago I got an email from a visitor to this site asking me for any last minute IELTS tips to help him get the best IELTS score possible when he takes the test in a few weeks.

In this post, I’ve put together a list of general tips that I give my students. You can find tips specific to the different skills tests (listening, reading, writing and speaking) in the relevant sections under ‘IELTS Preparation’. I have divided the tips into three sections; before the test, during the test and after the test.

I apologise in advance if any of my tips make me sound like I am your mother; I’m a mother too!

Before The Test

The aim before test day is to prepare yourself as well as possible and hopefully help reduce your stress and nervousness in the process.

Some of the tips in this post may seem obvious but they are often forgotten:

1. Find out as much as possible about IELTS Test procedure so that you know what to expect; this will make you feel much more in control and relaxed. If you still have any questions after reading this post, contact the Test Centre where you are sitting the test and I’m sure they will be able to help you.

2. You should have done various practice tests before the test to give you some kind of an idea of where you sit on the IELTS Band Scale. If you are taking lessons, you teacher should be able to help you with this. If you are interested in me marking some writing tasks for you or conducting a practice interview over skype, please contact me.  The reason I think it’s so important to have an idea of your approximate level before you take the test is so that your expectations are as realistic as possible and you know what work needs to be done, should you have to re-sit the test.

3. The day before the test you should get everything you need together, re-read the instructions that the IELTS Test Centre sent you, the ‘Rules and Regulations’ and ‘Advice and Information’ from the application form. In particular you should make sure you take the same ID that you used for the application or you will not be allowed to sit the test.

4. OK, here’s the ‘mum bit’! Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before the test and don’t sit up all night ‘studying’. As with any language test, the IELTS Test is not an exam you can cram for. The best thing to do would be to try and relax. If you really feel you must do something ‘constructive’, then watch a DVD in English or read an English magazine (something relaxing that you enjoy).

Test Day

OK, so now the ‘big day’ is here. You need to be as relaxed as possible, which, I know, is easier said than done. If you know any good ways to make you feel relaxed, for example yoga or meditation, put them into practice. Try not to spend your time before the test drinking lots of coffee and chain-smoking!

1. Eat a substantial breakfast!

2. Make sure you leave for the test in plenty of time. You don’t want to arrive at the test centre rushing and stressed or worse, late and not permitted to sit the test.

3. You are not allowed to take your belongings into the exam room; you have to leave them outside. The test centre will look after your things carefully but for your own peace of mind, if you are the kind of person who worries a lot (like me!), try not to take anything valuable with you on the day of the test. You do not want to be thinking about the possibility of your valuables being stolen when you should be concentrating on the test.

4. Make sure you visit the toilet before going in to the exam room. Ideally, you don’t want to waste valuable time during the test, being accompanied to the toilet by an IELTS member of staff.

After The Test

Don’t do a ‘post-mortem’ of the test by discussing it with other candidates; you can’t change anything now.

It’s probably not a bad idea, however, to spend a little time on your own reflecting how you think you did in each test and making a few notes about things you found problematic or that might affect your score. This will help you analyse your results and in your future preparation should you unfortunately find yourself in the position that you have to re-sit the test. You should then put your notes away somewhere sate and try to forget about the test until you get your results.


My students have found these tips to be ‘good, sensible advice’. I hope you find them useful.


Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!