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A Simple Five-Step Formula to Help you Prepare for your IELTS Test (Plus Bonus Tips)


Are you about to take your IELTS test for your Express Entry application? Or do you plan to retake the test so you can improve your CRS score?

Whatever your reason is for taking IELTS, you’re probably asking around for preparation tips.

In this post, I’m going to share a simple five-step formula on how to prepare for your upcoming IELTS test. I’m also going to give you some tips on how you can manage your busy schedule so you can give priority to your IELTS preparation. 

I won’t guarantee that you will get the highest possible IELTS score if you follow these tips and advice. Because after all, it all comes down to the quality of your preparation. But this will make you feel more confident to take the test. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to get positive results. Right?

So, are you ready?

Disclaimer: This article is not written by an IELTS or English language expert and is not meant to substitute professional advice. All information about Express Entry was taken from IRCC’s website. To verify the most up-to-date information, visit

IELTS preparation

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn commissions from qualifying purchases without extra cost to you.

How should I prepare for my IELTS test?

There’s no single right answer to this question. Depending on how confident you are in your English skills, you might not need to prepare so much. 

Back in 2015, when my husband and I took our IELTS test, we only did some of the steps that you’ll find in these preparation tips.

My husband got an overall IELTS score of 7.5/9, while I got 8.5/9. My score might look great to others, but actually, I only got a 7 on my Speaking test. And that’s because even though I prepared, I didn’t focus on improving my speaking skills (which is one of my weaknesses).  

However, there are times when no matter how fluent we are in English, we don’t perform well in exams. That’s why preparation is still the key to getting the score you want on your IELTS test.

So here’s a simple five-step formula that you can start doing. By the end of this post, if you’re among those who are having a hard time managing their busy schedule, I’ll give some bonus tips on how you can plan your prep time for your IELTS test.

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The Five-Step Formula to IELTS Preparation

  • Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the IELTS test format
  • Step 2: Answer sample test questions
  • Step 3: Improve your English skills
  • Step 4: Practice, practice, practice 
  • Step 5: Attend an IELTS preparation course
IELTS Preparation Tips

Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the IELTS test format 

You may be excellent in English, but if you don’t follow the test rules, you’re still not going to get the score you’re aiming for. One important thing to do when preparing for your IELTS is to first get familiar with the test format. 

If you’re taking IELTS for Express Entry’s Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), you need to take the IELTS General Training test (the other one is IELTS Academic which is the one to take if you’re applying for colleges or universities under the Student Pathway). 

In overview, the IELTS General Training test is composed of four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. You can read here for more details about the IELTS test format. Try to also watch this short video below to know a little bit about IELTS (this is from their official YouTube channel).

It’s also important for you to understand the IELTS scoring system and what you need to aim for not just to qualify for Express Entry, but to also get a high CRS score.

In IELTS, they give scores to test-takers using a 9-band scale, where Band Score 9 is the highest. To qualify for Express Entry’s FSWP, you need to get at least a Band Score of 6 for each of the four abilities. In Express Entry’s CRS scoring, this is equal to CLB 7. 

IELTS equivalency to CLB
Screenshot from

CRS score is the overall points you’ll get once you create your Express Entry profile. Those who have the highest CRS score get invited by Canada to apply for permanent residency. 

(Related Post: What’s a Good CRS Score to Guarantee an ITA in Express Entry?)

Under the Language Factor in CRS, you can get 64 points if you reach the minimum of CLB 7 in your IELTS, plus between 4 to 22 points if your partner will also take a language test (it’s only 68 points if you’re single). 

But if you can get CLB 9 or above, you can get 116 points, plus other bonus points. CLB 9 is equal to the following band score per ability:

  • Reading: 7
  • Writing: 7
  • Listening: 8 
  • Speaking: 7
Official languages proficiency
Screenshot from

So, again, get CLB 7 and you only get 64 points. Get CLB 9 and you get 116 points. 

If we convert that to IELTS Band Score, it’s only a difference of 1 point (2 points in Listening) just to get from 64 points to 116! 

So make an extra effort to prepare for your IELTS test. This takes us to the second step.

Step 2: Answer sample tests

The next thing to do after you get familiar with the test format is to try out some sample tests yourself. 

There are lots of free sample tests online that you can get. Here are some that you can access:

You can also use IELTS General Training reviewers that you can either borrow from former test-takers or buy from bookstores or Amazon

Step 3: Improve your English

IELTS tests how fluent you are in English, so one of the key steps is ensuring you have good English skills. I know many of us Filipinos are not confident with the English language even though we speak it all the time. So if we’re preparing for IELTS, we need to put in some effort to improve our English skills.

In IELTS, using the correct grammar and having a wide vocabulary is crucial especially in the Writing and Speaking tests. So you’d want to review the English grammar rules and learn as many words as you can. 

You can review the English grammar rules by either going back to your high school textbooks or watching YouTube videos such as this one

If you haven’t kept your English textbooks (like me), then you can go and check some from the library or buy one from Amazon.

It’s also good to have a Thesaurus and Dictionary at hand, whether it’s print or digital, as this is a good way to learn new words. Read some news or articles, try to learn at least one or few words a day, then practice using these words in your daily conversations.

If it would help, keep a journal of all the new words you’re learning, list down examples of how they are being used, and then write something using these words. 

Step 4: Practice, practice, practice

This is the time to apply what you’re learning from Step 3. And also, one of the ways to also feel confident with your English skills is to keep practicing.

For the Listening test, one of the tips we got is to listen to local news, radio stations, or podcasts. The IELTS Listening test involves speakers with accents ranging from British, Australian, Canadian, and American. I find it hard to understand British and Australian accents.

If this is the case for you, too, you’ll find it challenging to do the Listening test because the answer to the questions will come from what you’ve listened to. So one way to beat this challenge is to get used to listening to hard-to-decipher accents.

It goes the same for the three other tests. Practice writing, speaking, and reading English. 

For your writing practice, use grammar-checking tools like Grammarly’s free version and note down all the grammar mistakes you make. Refer to your journal and show off your improved vocabulary when writing emails at work or love letters to your crush. 

(Never mind that they don’t get what you mean when you say “sesquipedalian”, LOL; though you don’t really need to use these kinds of words in your actual Writing test).

Grammarly Writing Support

For speaking, find a speaking partner who’s also willing to give you the necessary feedback you need to improve. You can also try to do a monologue and then record yourself. Sometimes we can catch our own grammar mistakes when we listen to ourselves speaking. Or you can also send your video to a trusted friend who can help you catch your mistakes.

And for reading, immerse yourself with articles and news from well-established sources and get used to reading techniques (like skimming and scanning). 

Step 5: Attend a preparation course

This isn’t required for everyone, but it might help you and boost your self-confidence. When we took our IELTS test in 2015, IDP provided us with a preparation course about a week before our test. It helped us a lot because of the tips we got from the course. 

Try to find a free preparation course, or avail paid ones. You can also try to enroll in review centers, or hire IELTS tutors if you have the budget. It’s up to you which ones you feel more comfortable with. 

Bonus Tips: How to squeeze in your IELTS preparation in your hectic schedule & what to do if all else fails

I know that most of the time, life gets in the way. So, finding a time to prepare for IELTS is easier said than done. And there may be an instance when we still can’t get what we aim for. 

In this case, try these quick tips:

  1. Keep your eyes on the prize. Having the right mindset is a great starting point. So, always remember why you need to get a high score in IELTS–it’s for you to get a high CRS score in your Express Entry profile. Or even if you’re just aiming for a CLB 7, it’s still to qualify for Express Entry. And for what? To have a chance to get invited to apply for permanent residency and to finally achieve your Canadian dream. If it helps, create a vision board to help you keep going. 
  2. Don’t rush yourself and commit yourself to a schedule. Some aspiring immigrants rush too much that they don’t get enough time for their IELTS test preparation anymore. The result? They also don’t get their target score, which means they don’t qualify for Express Entry. So take your time, but while doing so, commit yourself to a schedule. Dedicate at least 30 minutes or an hour daily or every other day for your IELTS preparation. If not daily, then commit yourself to a few hours every week. 
  3. Avoid getting overwhelmed by taking it one step at a time. The five-step formula that I mentioned above is called “five-step” for a reason. For you to avoid getting overwhelmed, start your IELTS preparation from Step 1, then move on to the next step once you’re confident enough. Of course, it’s just friendly advice. If you can easily do two or three steps at a time, it’s up to you. 
  4. Keep calm and pray. One of the most important things you can do is to not get too stressed and to seek help from God. Some suggest that you try to relax one day before your test so that you’re mentally prepared for your test. A mental block is a common issue, so try to relax as much as you can. Do whatever relaxation techniques work for you. And most importantly, pray to God as you prepare for your test and before you sit down for it. 
  5. If all else fails, relax and consider other alternatives. Sometimes, even if we give our best shot, it’s still not enough. So if you still didn’t get your target IELTS score, just relax. You have other options, like retaking the test. Or check out other immigration pathways that require a lower IELTS score (like the Atlantic Immigration Program, or the Student Pathway). Keep in mind as well that perhaps, God has better plans for you. 

Watch from INCMedia: Trust God’s Plans for Your Life

Final Words

This five-step formula for IELTS preparation is just one of the many ways that you can prepare for your test. Keep on asking around for tips and advice, and you’ll surely get tons of them.

Just to summarize, here are the steps again: 

  • Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the IELTS test format
  • Step 2: Answer sample test questions
  • Step 3: Improve your English skills
  • Step 4: Practice, practice, practice
  • Step 5: Attend an IELTS preparation course

Once you’re done with Step 5, it’s also a great help to go back to Steps 1 and 2 a few days before your test date. This way, you can simulate what you’ve learned from Steps 3, 4, and 5.

So, that’s it. I hope these tips will help you feel more confident in your IELTS test.

Best of luck with your IELTS preparation! 

And once you’re ready, here’s how to book for an IELTS test (if you haven’t yet).

Want more valuable tips like these? Subscribe to our mailing list below!

IELTS Preparation Tips
Kevin and Kris

About the author:

JK Legaspi is a permanent resident of Canada since 2018. She and her family lives in the beautiful Niagara Region. As the founder of Detour To Canada, she aims to help aspiring and future immigrants reach their Canadian dreams by sharing her family’s own immigration and newcomer story. 

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