You will spend a lot of time preparing for the IELTS test on your own. This means you should work hard and study strategically. But research shows 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 IELTS preparation time where it is going to have the greatest impact. In this blog post, we will look at three key ways you can organise your time to fully prepare for your IELTS test.
Identify you weak areas
For a start, you need to know which are your strong areas and which are your weak areas. Use a tool like the Road to IELTS free study planner.
The study planner is designed to help you plan your IELTS practice over all four skills. It provides initial practice and diagnosis activities; and 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 British Council’s free study planner in the Free Version of Road to IELTS. Choose the module you are taking (Academic or General Training), then click on Resource Bank at the top of the screen, and the Study Planner is in the top left corner of the page.
Manage your time
Once you have identified your strong and weak areas, 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 on IELTS preparation and practice. 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.
And don’t forget, there is more to IELTS preparation than just skills based practice. You need to make sure your revision timetable includes all the jobs you need to do on and before your test day and learning how to manage your stress levels.
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 score you need. Particularly if you are short of time (some candidates only have one month to prepare!) you need to be disciplined, move outside your comfort zone, and you will deliver your best possible performance on your IELTS test day.
Looking for more help with your preparation? You can find 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. But if you are looking for a more complete online IELTS preparation package, you can subscribe to the Full Version here.