IELTS preparation: resources, materials, and avoiding common mistakes

Unlocking global opportunities hinges on a crucial factor: mastering the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). This exam, assessing proficiency in listening, reading, writing, and speaking, is the gateway to academic pursuits, career advancements, and international migration. However, success demands more than a mere desire; it requires strategic IELTS preparation and awareness of common pitfalls.  

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IELTS preparation: common mistakes to avoid  

Remember that addressing the following common errors through thorough IELTS preparation, practice, and awareness of the specific requirements of each section can significantly enhance your performance. 

1. Poor time management  

Poor time management is a significant issue that many IELTS test-takers face, and it can affect performance in multiple sections of the exam. Here is an overview of how it reflects on each section:  


Difficulty Tips
Candidates often struggle with time constraints due to the lengthy and complex passages, which may lead to incomplete reading of the text, resulting in difficulty answering questions.
  • Practice skimming and scanning techniques to quickly identify key information in the passages.
  • Allocate a specific amount of time to each passage and question set during practice to develop a sense of pacing.


Difficulty Tips
Both tasks (report or letter and essay) have time limits. Some test-takers spend too much time on one task, leaving insufficient time for the other. This can lead to incomplete or rushed responses, affecting coherence and quality.
  • Try writing essays and reports within the allocated time limits.
  • Develop a clear strategy for managing time between task 1, which is shorter, and task 2, which is the longest.
  • Allocate a few minutes at the end to review and make necessary corrections.


Difficulty Tips
Poor time management can result in missing answers for subsequent questions if a test-taker spends too much time trying to comprehend or replay an earlier segment.
  • Focus on listening attentively during the first play of the audio.
  • Avoid getting stuck on difficult questions and move on to the next one.
  • Use any remaining time at the end to review and double-check answers.


Difficulty Tips
Candidates may struggle with time management in part 2 (long turn) where they are required to speak for 1-2 minutes on a given topic. Some may not pace themselves well, resulting in incomplete responses.
  • Develop the ability to express ideas coherently within the specified time frame.
  • Practice with a timer to build confidence and improve pacing.

Two people attending a lesson

2. Ignoring pronunciation and fluency in speaking 

While content is important in the speaking section, pronunciation and fluency also play a significant role in your score. Some candidates focus solely on the information they provide and neglect the importance of clear pronunciation and a natural flow of speech. 

Instead of worrying about your accent, which won’t make you lose points, practice your pronunciation. If you get stuck because you don’t remember a word or how to say it correctly, try to find a synonym that makes you feel more confident 

3. Neglecting task response in writing 

In the writing section, candidates often fail to fully address the task requirements. It’s essential to understand the specific instructions and respond accordingly. This includes meeting word count requirements and structuring essays appropriately. 

In this sense, don’t omit a part of the instruction in your response, and make sure to cover all the points, because the examiner will notice. Also, avoid overextending it. If you are asked to write 150 words, don’t write 250, since it will lower your score. Keep track of your word count, so that you know if you need to add more information or delete something.   

4. Overusing transition words or the lack of them 

Transition words are useful to structure your essays and texts, as well as for organizing your ideas. They add coherence and cohesion and help you guide your reader. Remember that there are different types (addition, sequential, causal, adversative, etc.), so you must know when and where to use them. 

However, you shouldn’t overuse them, because the examiner will perceive that maybe you don’t know what else to write or what information to add so you are just filling the gaps with them.    

5. Overlooking instructions 

Test-takers may miss crucial information if they don’t carefully read the instructions before each set of questions. Understanding the context and requirements is crucial for answering correctly. 

For example, you might encounter questions about filling in the blanks with no more than 3 words. If you opt for using 4 or 5, that will affect your score for not following the instructions.  

3 students prepare for the IELT

IELTS preparation to avoid those mistakes 

It is key to get familiar with the test format and properly prepare to avoid all the above mistakes, which is why we will share two IELTS preparation resources from the British Council that will be very helpful.  

IELTS Ready Member 

This is a free resource that allows you to prepare for the test without booking it. It includes:  

  • Free preparation webinars with exam experts.  
  • Access 12 videos that cover all the test sections: listening, speaking, writing, and reading.  
  • Simulation tests 
  • Get to know the test format and how the scoring works.  

So, if you are considering taking the IELTS exam, but haven’t decided on the date, this tool will give you a great insight into the test.  

IELTS Ready Premium 

This resource is available if you already booked your IELTS exam with us. You will find:  

  • Online tools to prepare for the big day: score calculator, countdown to your test date, tracking your progress, etc. 
  • Timed-practice tests, so that you can learn time management skills.  
  • Tutorials and advice from IELTS experts. 
  • Videos about the experiences of previous test-takers 
  • Exam-like questions and practice exercises regarding the 4 sections.  

As you can see, even if you have strong English knowledge, maybe studying on your own without a plan or a route isn’t that effective, so these tools will help you to:  

  • Avoid spending too much time, or not enough, on different tasks 
  • Explore the test format and understand the types of questions and instructions that you might encounter 
  • Understand how your test will be scored 
  • Know your weaknesses and strengths, to map which abilities you should improve 
  • Define clear, realistic, and measurable goals 
  • Simulate exam conditions 

With these IELTS preparation alternatives, you are ready to succeed in the exam! 

Visit the IELTS Canada homepage to find out more 


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