You need to spend a lot of time preparing for IELTS on your own. But studies show that even when independent learners know which of their language skills are strong and which are weak, they still tend to spend more time on their strong areas. In a 2015 study at the University of Hong Kong, Professor David Gardner found that students ‘ultimately preferred to remain in their comfort zone.’
With limited time available, it is essential that you move out of your comfort zone, and spend your time where it is going to have the greatest impact.
For a start, you need to know which are your strong areas and which are your weak areas. That’s where the British Council’s free study planner comes in. Click to download it. The study planner covers all four skills. On the left hand side it provides practice activities; and on the right hand side helps you reflect on your performance. Make good use of it, and you will know your relative performance in each of the four skills.
You can find the practice activities in Road to IELTS, the British Council’s official IELTS preparation product. If you register for IELTS with the British Council, you will get the Last Minute version free of charge. If you are looking for a more complete package, you can subscribe to the Full Version here. (The IELTS practice tests and band score calculator in Road to IELTS can even give you an idea of the band scores you can expect in the Reading and Listening papers.)
Next, you need to know how much time you have available to spend on IELTS preparation. Download this time management study sheet to help you work this out.
Once you have been through the study planner and the time management study sheet, you will know which skills you need to spend your time on, and how much time you have to spend. The final step is to create a revision timetable. Allocate the time available to the four papers: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, giving the most time to your weakest skills. You now know how many hours per day you are spending on each skill.
Finally, you need discipline. It’s human nature to spend more time on the areas you are best at and which you enjoy the most. But this will not help you get the band scores you need. Be disciplined, move outside your comfort zone, and you will deliver your best possible performance on your IELTS test day.