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IELTS Preparation: Knowing your IELTS level

IELTS Listening: Knowing your IELTS level

Like most IELTS candidates, you probably know which band score you are aiming for: it could be anywhere from 5.5 all the way to 9.0? But if you are going to plan your preparation properly, you also need to know your current IELTS level. After all, if you are planning a journey, you need to know two things: where you are going and where you are starting from.

So, how can you find out your current IELTS level?

The IELTS Score Calculator

The British Council has developed an IELTS Score Calculator to help you find out your approximate current IELTS level in the Listening and Reading tests as well as your overall level. To use it, you simply have to follow the steps below.

  1. Find free online practice tests with answer keys for Reading and Listening.
  2. Complete the test paper in conditions as close to the test itself as you can. (That means choosing a quiet place, sticking to the time, switching off your phone and so on. Read more about why this is so important.)
  3. When your time is up, download the Answer Key and mark your work. This will give you a score. (Now you need to repeat the same process with the Reading test.)
  4. Input your IELTS Listening and Reading practice test scores into the Score Calculator. Then specify whether you are taking the Academic or General Training module. It will then calculate your approximate current band score. So, for example, if you scored 23/40 in the IELTS Academic Listening and 27/40 in the IELTS Academic Reading, it will tell you that you are on course for a 6.0 in Listening and a 6.5 in Reading.

What’s next?

If you achieved a band score above the one you need, well done! You’re on the right track. But don’t get too comfortable, you should still put in some more IELTS practice to make sure you can consistently get the same result, and that you feel confident answering all the task types. The next step is to find out what you need to achieve in the IELTS Speaking and Writing papers. Input your Listening and Reading scores into the Overall score section of the IELTS Score Calculator:
Road to IELTS - Score Calculator

Adjust the Speaking and Writing scores until you find the band score you need in those papers to achieve your overall IELTS band score.

What if you didn’t achieve the scores you need in Reading and Listening? There are two possible reasons for this: either your English is not at the right level yet, or your IELTS test skills are not good enough. Let’s look at these in turn.

If your English is not at the right level, then you need to spend some time on General English. According to Dr Victoria Clark of the British Council, ‘depending on motivation and talent, a student can raise their level of English by half to one IELTS band score in three months if they put in enough work.’ Use this basic rule to judge how much work you need to put into studying English before your test.

It is also sensible to make a schedule, and to focus your efforts on the skills where you are weakest. Obviously, if you are strong at IELTS Listening and weaker at IELTS Speaking, you need to spend more time practising speaking. (This seems obvious, but research shows that students tend to spend more time on the skills they are better at. Make sure you avoid this trap and study strategically!)

Alternatively, your English might be good enough, but you don’t understand the IELTS task types. Many of these task types are different from anything you have seen in school exams. For example, a lot of candidates struggle with the concept of Yes/No/Not Given questions in the IELTS Reading test. The only way to overcome this problem is to do lots and lots of IELTS practice. Note that while trying past papers is important, it is not enough. It is difficult to learn from past papers — they belong at the end of the exam preparation journey.

Good luck with your IELTS preparation. We are here to help you!


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