Self Study: IELTS

Preparing for a test like IELTS, CELPIP, TOEFL, OET, or even the Cambridge Exams, is a challenging and often frustrating experience for so many people. In a major city, there are typically more than 20 schools to choose from, multiple programs, different prices and promotions, reviews to consider, schedules, class sizes, and more. Does the school have a good reputation? Will the teacher help me to get the scores that I need? Does the school guarantee a certain score for my test? What happens if my scores are too low? How do other students prepare for their tests? How long will it take me to prepare? The questions can feel overwhelming. And with all of those questions comes an even bigger one: do I really need to take a preparation class or can I simply prepare on my own time? And if I prepare on my own, what is the best way to self study for the IELTS test?

Self-guided study is a tool that every student and test candidate should be using, period. Regardless of your class length, program duration, homework amount, or testing date, every student should take advantage of the vast array of free study tools available online and around his or her city. Here are some tips for self-guided study for an English-language exam:

  1. Take a practice test or mock exam. You can find free IELTS practice tests online that will include answers for the Reading and Listening sections. You can also take a mock exam with an IELTS examiner and get the results as soon as your test is finished. For more information on IELTS practice tests in Vancouver, visit the following link: The bonus with this practice test is that it includes a writing and a speaking assessment from an experienced IELTS professional. Not to be outdone, CELPIP offers a free sample test online as well. Visit and scroll to the bottom of the homepage to register.
  2. YouTube, YouTube, YouTube. For a test like IELTS, there are thousands of videos, so the major hurdle is finding a channel that works for you. Take the time to read reviews and comments from other users and to see if the instructor is connected with an accredited school or institution. In some cases, students get the bulk of their information from a qualified IELTS instructor, all provided through YouTube, and all for free.
  3. Read every day – ideally before you go to bed. Find a topic that interests you and pick a reputable website. For sports, check out, for the news, try BBC, CBC, or CNN, and for entertainment, check out The library also has text books, novels, and a variety of materials at your disposal. Use them.
  4. Finally, use a streaming service such as Netflix or Amazon. For a real challenge, keep the subtitles off. If you’re finding this especially challenging, feel free to turn on the subtitles as it will still improve your vocabulary. Another tip, when watching a series or film, is to try repeating words and phrases with the same pronunciation and word stress as the actors. Pause the program, repeat the phrase into your phone and play it back. It may seem obvious, but speaking clearly and not too quickly are helpful for any speaking exam. A candidate might have an advanced knowledge of grammar, but if he or she isn’t able to express that accurately in a speaking exam, the results will be categorically lower. Comparing your own speech to a native speaker in a movie or series can help.
  5. Meet with an advisor at an official test centre. Many schools and centres offer free workshops. An advisor, whose services are typically free, will be happy to give you more information. At Global Village Vancouver, we post our workshop dates on Eventbrite. You can see them here:

Self study for the IELTS test works effectively when students develop a plan, stick to it, and follow the advice of experts.