Orange County Test Prep: 4 Ways to Beat the IELTS Exam

Although the majority of students who wish to study in the US will take the TOEFL exam, some US colleges and universities will accept the IELTS exam, (most often used in Great Britain).


Students studying for the IELTS can follow the same general study habits as students studying for the TOEFL. The majority of students, even those who are fluent or near fluent, will need to focus on a number of factors including speaking, listening, reading comprehension, and writing (READ: “ESL Study Tips for Taking the SAT”).

1. Speaking

Speaking is one of the most difficult aspects of the IELTS exam because many students who speak English as a second language will feel a little bit nervous, especially on test day. Although many fluent and conversational speakers will have no issue speaking English to other ESL students or to native English speakers whom they know in their personal life, the fear of failing an exam often causes the mind to forget important aspects of a second language. Students are highly advised to practice speaking in a structured, test-like environment starting several months before they take the exam. Students should practice with a tutor or classmate until they become comfortable speaking English in an interview situation. When it comes to speaking any language, practice makes perfect.

2. Listening

Listening is also a challenge when it comes to taking the IELTS exam because people who are listening in their second language will need additional time to comprehend what is being said due to the fact that their brain is translating their second language into their first language throughout the conversation. It’s often harder to get practice listening if a student lives in a country where there aren’t a lot of native English speakers. The IELTS exam will have a person speaking in a British or American accent, depending upon the situation, and so being able to hear a native English speaker on a regular basis is important. Students who need practice are advised to listen to recordings given to them by their tutor or to utilize English language podcasts, TV, or radio broadcasts. Students can practice their listening by dictating the information given and then replay the podcast or TV show to see how close their translation was (READ: “5 Steps for Surviving Literature Class”).

3. Reading comprehension

Although this is certainly not an easy topic, it’s often one that IELTS students struggle with less because there is more study material available. Although tutors and classmates are helpful, students can practice reading comprehension during self study and underline or highlight unfamiliar vocabulary words and look them up in a dictionary later on. Reading comprehension students are also encouraged to utilize websites like in order to understand how different words are used and how they can substitute similar terms. They can also practice reading the great books list as well as more user-friendly publications such as American magazines or novels that are generally read for fun. Students should practice reading comprehension about 30 minutes per day in order to solidify their skills for exam day (READ: “More Standardized Testing: What is the SBAC?”).

4. Writing

Writing is also something that IELTS students can practice by themselves. However, it’s very important that a tutor or teacher read through the various passages that the student writes in order to determine if the student is on the right track. Some of the most common issues when it comes to ESL and English language test prep are subject-verb agreement and words in context; understanding vocabulary in context can be very difficult for a non-native speaker.

In short

IELTS students are encouraged to work with their Orange County test prep tutor to discuss their individual strengths and weaknesses. Studying for the IELTS can become overwhelming but it’s important that a student’s study is targeted to improve the issues they struggle with the most and also reviews the subjects they are doing well in.

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