Many students ask how long it will take to prepare for the IELTS test. Some students hope that they can do well on the test with only a few weeks of study—and some can! For others, studying will take much longer. It’s important to have realistic expectations about the preparation you will need. How much time you will need to prepare depends on two major factors:
1. The scores you hope to achieve and
2. The scores you can achieve now without studying.
The scores you hope to achieve are likely determined by your reason for taking the IELTS. For example, if you’re interested in applying to an undergraduate program at the University of Toronto, you’d need an overall band score of 6.5 with no band below 6.0 in order to be admitted. To apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa to the UK, you’d need at least a 4.0 in each of the four bands. You will need to research the requirements for the school, country, or program you are interested in to determine the score you’ll need. Find out these requirements as soon as possible—you need to know what you’re aiming for!
Then, to determine the score you can achieve now without studying, find and take a practice IELTS test. There are two types of IELTS tests: the Academic IELTS and the General Training IELTS. The two types have different reading and writing sections. So it’s important to find a practice test with reading and writing sections for the type of IETLS . The British Council offers high-quality, free practice test materials for both types here.
When you take the practice test, imagine that it is the real IELTS. Read the instructions carefully, do not use any dictionaries or other materials, and do not allow yourself extra time. Your goal is to make the practice test as similar as possible to the real test. If you spend extra time answering questions or allow yourself to look up words on the practice test, your scores will not reflect your true ability. Be honest with yourself so that you can get a clear picture of how much you will need to study.
Once you know the scores you need to achieve and the scores you can achieve now, you’ll have a better idea of how long you should plan to do preparation before taking the test. If your practice test score is only one band below the score you’ll need, you may only need to study for a month or two. If your score is more than one band below what you’ll need, you will probably need to plan a longer time for studying—likely at least a few months, and maybe longer. How much time you will need also depends on how much time you can study each day. How consistently you study, and whether you study in a test preparation course with an instructor to provide feedback.