As an international student applying to an English-speaking university you will have to prove that you have a good grasp of the English language. In most cases this can be done through taking an exam called the Academic IELTS, which tests the strength of your English listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.
It might seem like a lot to take on, but having this under your belt will not only consolidate your English-speaking skills (which will be a great help when you are at university) but will open doors to which country you can study in.
Here are some tips to help you get started on studying for the Academic IELTS.
1. Surround yourself with the English language
One of the most successful ways to learn a language is to see how it is spoken and written on a regular basis. Even if you don’t understand every single word, try watching an English-language TV show – something like the news or a chat show where you don’t have to understand cultural references and the language will be fairly simple. Note down any words or phrases you don’t understand and look them up later. Or you could start by watching an English-language programme with subtitles from your native language.
Additionally, you could listen to songs recorded in English, listen to an English podcast, read books or magazine articles, find English-speaking university YouTubers and watch their videos, or watch IELTS prep videos online. Be sure to listen actively wherever you can by paying attention to the way that the words are pronounced, writing down ones that you don’t understand and looking them up, and keeping a list of any new phrases and words.
For the listening portion you will hear an array of English accents (British, American, Australian and New Zealander, among others) so ensure that you listen to all of these before you take the test to make sure you fully understand them.
2. Read academic articles in English
The key thing that the Academic IELTS tests is your ability to study and discuss ideas at an academic level. And so one way to get into that mindset is by reading academic papers or textbooks in your chosen subject. This way you will start to get familiar with technical terms, the way sentences are phrased and how academic writing is structured.
3. Learn the format of the IELTS test
This goes for any exam that you are preparing to take, but make sure you know exactly how you will be tested when you take the exam. In this case, the IELTS tests your listening, reading, writing and speaking in English, all in under three hours.
Be sure to look up how these four aspects will be tested, how long each portion will take and what you need to prepare in advance. There is plenty of information online that breaks down each section and the amount of time that you have for each section. This will be a lot to take in so make sure that you read as much information around this as you can and commit it to memory or make notes.
4. Practice tests
Another tip that can be applied to any exam is to do as many practice tests as you can. You will be able to access IELTS mock exams once you have registered and this is one if the best ways you can take the test under timed conditions.
Additionally, slip small study tasks into your schedule. Practise your speaking on your friends or family, do a quick spelling test before you go to sleep or listen to something and make notes. Keep a magazine or a book in your bag and dip in and out when you have a few spare minutes during the day.
Many test centres around the world also offer preparation courses, which may be a good road to go down if you have the time and the resources.
Doing practice tests will also help you develop a strategy for how to tackle the exam. A three-hour exam is quite daunting so by doing practice papers you will be able to see how questions are phrased and how to approach each section.
5. Sort out the logistics
Make sure that you register online, find out where your nearest test centre is and how you are going to get there well in advance. It sounds simple but can easily be forgotten when you have many other things on your mind, so be sure to take a few minutes to sort out your plan for the day. You’ll thank yourself on test day when you arrive calm and collected and ready to ace the exam.