Written by Yasmin Kamal

If you are a student at a lower, pre-intermediate level, there is no reason why you can’t start preparing for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

However, it is important to bear in mind that the IELTS is designed to access your proficiency in the English Language and that it will test for exactly that.

Thus students at an elementary level, should expect to have their ability measured and placed between a band 3 or 4. 

As such, students aiming to achieve a higher band score are advised to focus their initial preparation on improving their general English abilities. As well as, ensuring they have allocated enough time, to better their language skills.

Here are 5 steps on how get started with your preparation.  

Increase Your Language Ability

Language practice and improvement is pivotal if you are a lower – level candidate. One major setback for students at this level is that they don’t have the range of grammar and vocabulary needed to score highly in IELTS, and this affects all four sections.

In addition, the language requirements needed in the test, are of an academic standard, which presents a further challenge. These issues can be overcome by doing targeted language practice.

The test concentrates on certain areas of grammar and vocabulary, and these need to be learnt, hand-in-hand with practice questions, that exploits those language items. 

Using a grammar and vocabulary book that has been written specifically for IELTS training can be a great help in doing this. Or by enrolling into a preparation course, to receive targeted practice and feedback, directly from a teacher.

Increase Your Test Knowledge

Having strong knowledge of the test itself is essential.  Students, particularly lower-level students often lack understanding of why they are doing tasks and what exactly they are being tested on. 

The Task 1 writing is a good example of this. In Task 1, you are provided with a graph, table, or chart, and are required to summarise and make comparisons using the data given. If you don’t really understand what the purpose of the task is, and describe or list what you see, instead of summarising and making comparisons, you will lose marks.

Try and make each task more meaningful, by understanding the explicit links between each question and it’s required answer. 

Expand Your Vocabulary

Vocabulary is the key to success in any language proficiency examination. As you read and listen to conversations in English, make a list of words you don’t recognise or understand. 

Look up these words online or in a dictionary to make sure they are spelt correctly in your list, and to properly understand the meaning of each word. Note down a synonym or short definition for the words, and practise using them in your writing and daily conversations.

Familiarise Yourself With Your Current English Level

It is important for you to have an idea of how much you need to improve, and, more importantly, how you can do this. One way to find out your strengths and weaknesses is to use a practice or diagnostic test. This will provide you with an insight into your level while you steadily improve your ability.

Use Practice Tests Wisely

Candidates often believe they need to do endless IELTS practice tests in order to improve their English. This approach is unlikely to lead to your language proficiency. Practice tests are useful, but it is more fruitful to prioritise learning the language than doing repetitive practice tests.

At lower levels, students need to concentrate much more on increasing their vocabulary and grammar knowledge. It would be more beneficial to test yourself  regularly on the vocabulary and grammar you have been studying at home or in class. 

Once comfortable, try to move on to applying this knowledge to small sections of the test.