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How to Prepare for the IELTS Exam

How to Prepare for the IELTS Exam

Preparing to move to Canada is an exciting but complex process that requires a long list of paperwork to ensure you meet all requirements.

One of the most commonly asked questions is: do I need to complete an IELTS exam (or similar) to come to Canada?

The IELTS exam was taken by more than three million people in the past year alone, making it the most popular English language test in the world. As a result, it is the preferred test for professional organizations, universities and colleges, and employers. 

Certain classes of Canadian visas require a minimum score on the IELTS exam. This depends on the specific requirements of your visa, where you plan to work, and which university you plan to attend. You can click here to find out more about which organisations and visas accept IELTS and the required minimum scores. 

If you’re planning to enter Canada on a Skilled Immigrants Express Entry pathway, you must prepare for and take a test in one of Canada’s two official languages (English or French). It is important to note that even native English speakers from predominantly English-speaking countries will need to complete an approved test. 

Who Needs to Take an IELTS Exam?

To apply for most Canadian visas, you need to show Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that you have a basic level of competency in English. An IELTS exam will assess your English language proficiency on a scale from 1–9 across four main skills: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. 

If you’re a native English speaker, it may seem strange to have to take an exam to prove you can speak your own language! The test, however, is standard, and it can help you obtain career and educational opportunities. A lot of English speakers enter the test feeling over-confident, but it is best to start preparing for your test early if you want to obtain the highest possible score. 

Meeting Language Exam Requirements 

To meet the language requirements, you must:

  • Locate an IRCC approved agency and testing centre, schedule your test, and pay the associated costs.
  • Enter your test results into your Express Entry profile, along with your Personal Information Number.
  • If invited to apply, include the official results with your application. If you neglect to include these results, your application will not be processed. 
  • Never ask for you language test results to be sent directly to the Canadian government. Instead, include them in your application package. 
  • Keep your test results in a safe place, as you may need to produce them later. 

Language Tests Accepted by the Canadian Government 

You can complete any of the following language tests:

English Language Tests

Note that the General-LS test is not accepted for Express Entry; you must take the CELPIP-General test

The Academic option is not accepted for Express Entry; you must take the General Training testing option

French Language Tests

You must include compréhension de l’écrit, compréhension de l’oral, expression écrite, and expression orale

You must include compréhension de l’écrit, compréhension de l’oral, expression écrite, and expression orale

Once you have completed your language testing, you can assess your language level based on the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) or the Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC). Make sure that your test results are less than two years old when you apply. 

Preparing for the Exam

To be prepared, it’s vital that you spend time reviewing your English language skills by reading, writing, listening, and speaking as often as possible. Not only will this practice help you achieve a high score on your test, but it will also help you communicate with greater fluency and confidence.  

Review the Official IELTS Resources

There are quite a few free resources available for those planning to take the IELTS exam. Make sure to download the Information for Candidates booklet and review it carefully. Next, start by answering sample test questions online and get completely comfortable with them before your testing dates. 

It’s also a very good idea to order the Official IELTS Practice Materials. This pack includes real sample questions and answers from the Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Reading sections, along with actual examiner comments.  

Take an English Language Course

Learning a language takes time and energy, so many people find that taking an English language course is one of the best ways to reach this goal. Having a professional teacher assess you, guide your lessons, and help you prepare for the IELTS is a proven way to improve your English language proficiency. 

Listen to English Language Radio and Podcasts and Watch Films and TV

Listening to a wide variety of English accents can help your ear get used to hearing different styles of speaking. You will also learn slang and idioms that are useful when speaking to native speakers. Try to listen to a variety of accents, including Canadian, American, English, Scottish, Irish, Australian, and New Zealand, and turn the English language subtitles on so that you can follow along. 

Understand the Rules and Testing Format

If you want to feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible on test day, familiarize yourself with the format and all the rules. The test usually takes a total of two hours and 45 minutes. You can find the specific testing format on the IELTS website. 

Time Yourself  

There are many sample tests and practice questions available online and in the official study guides. You should download these sample questions and go through them as often as you can. Since the IELTS exam is timed, you should time yourself taking the practice tests and slowly build up your speed. 

Speak English Often

It can be tempting to lapse back into your native language when chatting with friends and family. If you’re all preparing to take the IELTS, make it a priority to speak in English as often as possible. You should also try to meet with other students in order to get comfortable and confident with your speaking and listening skills. 

Plan Your Test Day 

There are many ways to ensure your test day is a success:

  • The night before, review the rules and go over some sample questions in the areas you need the most practice
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before your test, as well as the previous two or three nights
  • Do not drink any alcohol the day/night before your test; instead, drink plenty of water so that you’re hydrated
  • For breakfast, eat a nutritious meal that is light on carbs and high in healthy fats and protein
  • Make sure you know the location of the testing site so you can easily reach it on time 
  • Try to arrive to the testing location at least 15 minutes before the test starts so you have time to use the facilities 

Good Luck!

By following the simple advice listed above, you will be fully prepared for your IELTS exam. Now hit those books! 

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