What is the IELTS exam for?

There are two versions of the IELTS exam. The Academic module is mainly used for university entrance. The General Training module is often required to emigrate to English-speaking countries, and some times by companies to assess their staff.

Should I take a course?

You don’t have to take a course before you register to do the IELTS exam, but it is a good idea. A course will increase your knowledge with the exam – the types of texts and questions you can expect to meet – and that will help you to perform to your full current potential in the exam.  A course will also give you the chance to find out your weak points, so you can spend more of your preparation time improving those areas.

What can I do to improve my score?

The opinion given by the IELTS exam board is that the best overall preparation is to read widely. Newspapers, magazines, and websites such as the BBC website are all good places to find reading practice. Reading a lot will develop your vocabulary, your information of language patterns (grammar) and improve your speed and comprehension.
But you shouldn’t forget to practice your other skills as well. Podcasts are a good source of wide-range listening. Try the British Council Learn English Website podcast page for starters.
As for writing, it’s a good idea to read lots of example IELTS essays. is a good site for this. In addition to essays, do whatever writing practice motivates you: a diary, e-mails to friends, or a blog.
Finally, to improve your speaking, try recording yourself as you do an exam speaking task (which you can get from any IELTS textbook). Listen to yourself as the examiner will hear you: what good vocabulary did you use. On the other hand, if you have more time before your exam, it’s a good plan to read widely, according to your interests. The BBC website is a good place to start.

What score will I get in the IELTS exam?

Remember that, although teachers are trained to help you identify areas of weakness in your English, they cannot expect what score you will achieve in the IELTS exam. Trained examiners are not allowed to give candidates an indication of their score before doing the exam.

How can I reach Band 7?

This is a difficult question to answer and depends on your own strengths and weaknesses.
An IELTS score of 7 or 7.5 is roughly the level of to a lower-advanced level of general English at the British Council. This means that, in order to reach a score of seven your general English usually needs to be at least upper-intermediate level before you should consider preparing for the exam. The advice from the exam board is that on average, it takes 150 hours of classroom study for a student to raise their overall grade by one band, e.g. from 6 to 7.

Why listening answers are also marked for spelling?

It’s important to learn how to spell well if you want to be taken seriously in your academic studies or your career. The markers of the listening exam have a list of all the possible “correct” answers for each question, and you will only get a question right if you write exactly one of those answers. American and British spellings are equally acceptable.

Do the examiners really count words?

Yes they do. IELTS examiners are trained to recognize writing scripts that are under the required word count, and they do count the words to make sure. You will lose points if you don’t write enough. You must write at least 150 words for Part 1 and 250 words for Part 2.

How many paragraphs should I write?

This depends on how you organise your work and how many points you make.  Examiners want to see well organised writing, which means that you need to sort your points into complete and well developed paragraphs. Remember, notes or bullet points are not acceptable as answers.

Is the Academic Writing Part 1 always in the form of a statistical chart?

Not always. Although this is a common type of question you could be asked to explain any kind of visual information (e.g. a diagram, table, or map). The many animated guides (e.g. this one) on the BBC website are good places to find the kind of language needed to describe diagrams and processes.
For more information about preparing for and taking the IELTS test with the British Council, please see the IELTS pages on the British Council Malaysia website.
Let us know if you have any other IELTS questions, and we’ll do our best to answer them.