Top tips on how to pass the IELTS first time

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Getting a pass in the IELTS test is within your reach. However, it takes time and money if you have to re-take it to get the final score you need.

In this article, we are going to share the key tips on how to pass the exam first time. You will have the top tips from our IELTS Teachers and Examiners, so you can prepare.

Also, we are just a click away if you need help from one of our experienced teachers.

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Get familiar with the format of the test so you know what to expect

Of course, you need to have good English to pass, but you ALSO need to understand the test so that you give the IELTS Examiners the information they need to give you the marks you need to pass.

Without doing this you risk failing the test, even if your English is of a high enough level to pass.

Practice sample papers under timed conditions

Once you have really understood the key elements of the exam it is now time to practise, practise, practise.

Develop strategies to deal with different question types, so you build your confidence in each section as you approach the exam.

Also, make sure you practise all sections of the exam!

Here are some suggestions:

Writing test

We recommend that you learn templates for the different kinds of writing tasks you may be asked e.g. a letter, a discursive essay, summarising, describing and analysing a diagram or graph.

Then become familiar with planning for each piece of writing and know how long you should spend on each question. For example, writing part 2 is worth more points than part 1 so plan to spend 20 minutes on part 1 and then 40 on part 2.

Concept of preapring to exams and tests

Reading test

Remember how important it is to read the question carefully! As key to passing this part of the test is scanning the text to find information quickly and accurately.

You need to read for the general idea of the passage in question, making sure you identify the main idea. Then, look for the detail required to answer the question.

Make sure you practise identifying inferences from the text. As this is often the hardest part for students.

Finally, you will need to be able to understand the writer’s opinions and their arguments.

  • For the multiple-choice questions in the Reading test we advise my students to cover up the 4 choices and listen or read for the answer first.
  • Then, reveal the 4 options and hopefully, your answer will be the same as one of the choices.

Don’t forget the importance of learning to check the type of questions asked before reading a text (dates, names of people, etc) so you will know where to find the answers.

You will need to read quickly and efficiently and manage your time. You will be asked to read three different passages and respond to related questions in your IELTS Reading test. The content of the Reading test is different for IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests.

Listening test

Get used to listening to recordings only once (as you only hear them once in the exam.)

Speed is going to be important to you here as there are 40 questions for you to answer in the 30 minutes of the test. Remember there is an extra 10 minutes to put your responses into the answer sheet.

The exam will test how well you can understand the given idea and pull out facts. While you will also need to identify the opinions and purpose of the person talking and follow the development of an argument.

Finally, make sure you do your practice tests in timed exam conditions.  As this will help you see how you are progressing.

Concept of exams and tests, top view

Speaking Test

Often this is one of the tests students find easiest.  If this is true for you, then we suggest aiming for maximum marks through good preparation.

In the first part you will talk about familiar daily topics of conversation.  This idea here is that you can relax and start with easier topics.

In the second part of the test, there is a task which asks

Part 2: The examiner will give you a task card that asks you to talk about a particular topic, including points to include in your talk. You will be given one minute to prepare and make notes, then talk for 1-2 minutes on the topic. You will not be interrupted during this time, so it is important to keep talking. The examiner will then ask you one or two questions on the same topic.

Part 3: The examiner will ask you further questions which are connected to the topic of Part 2. These questions are designed to give you an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas.

In this part of the test the Examiners want to see that you can express your opinion (while justifying it) and speak at length on a given topic.

By organising your ideas making sure you present a strong analysis of your ideas, and fluently discussing issues will lead to a strong score.

Remember, the marks are based on: Pronunciation, coherence, fluency, lexical resource, grammatical range, and accuracy.

Make sure that you relax and talk fluently. As you will need to speak naturally.

Managing your timing in the exam

Keep a watch on the table during the exam so you can keep track of time on exam day.

If you really don’t know an answer, don’t panic, move on. Always, go back at the end of the test and guess the answers to questions you haven’t answered.  You do not lose makrs for incorrect answers, so it makes sense to answer all questions.

“I’ll say it again. Read the question! If the question asks you to write one word, and under the stress of the exam you miss this information and write two, you are going to waste your time and also it will be a clear signal to the examiner that you have not understood the task.”  (Liz McEwan, TutorsPlus Client Manager and EFL teacher.)


Work on general English language improvement

Make the BBC news your new best friend. Or, perhaps you would prefer to listen to a Ted talk.  Both resources have excellent English Language media for every interest area.

Try to get into a regular habit of listening to something in English every day. Here are a few more ways you can quickly improve your English.

  • Listen to the news for 20 minutes and write down the key points.
  • Read a newspaper article and then write a summary.
  • Give a presentation to a friend (or the mirror!). This will help you feel comfortable with speaking aloud.
  • Look for synonyms, phrasal verbs, fixed expressions, and idioms everywhere you go! Keep a notebook handy and jot them down.

Book an IELTS preparation course or book some sessions with a tutor here. As we have a number of EFL experts on their team, including IELTS examiners.

If you would like to have more resources to help with your preparation click here.

Finally, you may want to check the terms and conditions for the IELTS exam published by the British Council.

Book your tutor today

To book IELTS tuition, or find out more about how to best prepare for your IELTS exam, get in touch with one of our team here or call us on 022 731 81 48. You can also email us at


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