Expert advice from our friends at Magoosh for beginners prepping up for the IELTS exam.


First Things First: Find IELTS Practice Tests

Let me introduce you to an English word that may be new to you: baseline. A baseline is the abilities a person normally has. Your IELTS baseline is your ability on the IELTS before you start studying for it. After all, studying for the IELTS hasn’t been one of your normal activities… until now.

An important part of measuring your IELTS baseline is taking a full-length IELTS practice exam. Here, your choice of specific exams matters a lot. Some IELTS practice tests are sloppy, made by people who are not carefully imitating the real exam. You should always use IELTS tests made by the same people who created the real IELTS. For additional practice tests, find materials made by reputable companies that carefully recreate the “real thing.”

How can you find a good test that will accurately measure your IELTS baseline? One way is to look online for guides to finding good IELTS sample tests, such as this portal for finding the best IELTS test sample. This free online resource helps you find the very best IELTS practice test listening, IELTS practice test reading, IELTS practice test writing, and IELTS practice test speaking.

How do You Calculate Your IELTS Scores? (Hint: You need more than just the answer key!)

Now it’s time to figure out your baseline score. To calculate your IELTS Listening and Reading scores, you start with the answer key. But then you need to figure out how your number of correct answers can be turned into a band score. You also need to check the quality of your speech and writing, comparing it to official IELTS scoring guidelines.

If you’re not quite sure how to do this, don’t feel bad. The IELTS scoring system is pretty tricky for IELTS beginners. To figure out your baseline score, use this IELTS score guide. That guide can also help you calculate your scores in future IELTS practice. And it can help you figure out what IELTS score range you may need for schooling, immigration, or employment.

Find Targeted Prep Materials
Your baseline doesn’t just tell you how much you need to improve your overall IELTS score. It also tells you which section of the IELTS are the hardest for you. You can think of these difficult areas as your target areas. These are the parts of the test that you need to target for extra study..

In the 10 years that I’ve been tutoring the IELTS, I’ve worked with many students who find IELTS Writing to be especially challenging. So they often target that section for improvement. If Writing winds up being your target as well, this is another place where the Internet can help. I recommend this excellent tutorial to IELTS Writing Task 1 and its companion tutorial for IELTS Writing Task 2.

Set the Date for Your IELTS Early On

Setting the date is the way you make your commitment to IELTS success official. (The IELTS is a little bit like a marriage that way. (Although for your special IELTS day, I don’t recommend inviting all of your family and friends!)

But setting a date is about much more than making sure your IELTS plans are official. Choosing the right IELTS test date is an important process. Your IELTS test date determines how much time you have to prepare. And your choice of test day must also allow you to get your official score report in time for application deadlines.

One thing you really should do is go straight to the source for this. The IELTS itself offers exam booking instruction on its official website. And if you’re looking for additional information on how to choose a test date, you can turn to sources such as this in-depth article on IELTS dates. Once you know your baseline, your study targets, and your date, you’ll no longer be an IELTS beginner. Instead, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the exam.