I’m sure you’d really like to know how long you need to prepare for IELTS and get the band score you need. You may be wondering if one month is enough time to prepare or whether you need longer. You may have already booked your test or are wondering when you should. You may want to start planning life after IELTS and need to know when that will be.
For all of these reasons, I would love to give you a simple answer, but the truth is there isn’t one because there are so many different factors that affect how quickly you can improve to the level you need.
Factors affecting how quickly you can improve your IELTS band score
|About you||About your situation|
|Your current level||The time you have to prepare on a daily or weekly basis|
|Your first language||The resources you have|
|Your age and gender||The help you receive|
|Your language aptitude, motivation and learning strategies||Your exposure to English in and outside of a classroom|
|Your level of anxiety about the test and/or using English||Your exposure to English in and outside of a classroom|
So, how can you get a better idea of how much time you need?
The answer is to look at examples of how long it takes other people, and to find the ones that are most similar to you and your situation.
- If you’re taking an IELTS preparation or English language course at a school or university you could base your preparation time on the findings of two studies that show on average it takes students three months to improve by up to half a band.
The two studies also show that the people who tend to make the biggest improvements in that time are those who start at a lower level (below 5.5), who study for more hours (over 23 a week), and who are more motivated. One student, for example, studied for around 60 hours a week for three months and improved their band score by 1.0. Conversely, another student didn’t enjoy their course, was very anxious about the IELTS test, and subsequently showed no improvement in their score at all.
The first study was of Korean students enrolled in IELTS preparation classes in Korea. The second study was of students from different non English-speaking backgrounds taking intensive English language courses in Australia and New Zealand.
Do you think you’re going to improve faster or slower than the average rate?
- If you’re preparing for IELTS independently you could base your preparation time on how long it takes other people you know (e.g. family members, friends or colleagues) or on success stories you see online. In each case though, you really need to check you have all the facts so you can see if you share characteristics from the table above (e.g. your current level) with the person who got the score they needed. This is particularly true for success stories you read online like ‘How I got an IELTS band score 8 in one week’.
Important! When someone claims to have got a really high IELTS band score in a short space of time, it may not be the whole truth, or their level of English may already have been at that level and they only needed to become familiar with the test format.
You also need to check whether the band score that a person refers to is the Overall band score or for an individual skill (i.e. listening, reading, writing or speaking). When you find an example or examples you share a lot of characteristics with, then you can use the example(s) as a guide for how long it may take you.
It’s not a good idea to pay too much attention to examples that are very different from you as you’ll probably end up frustrated if you don’t improve at the same rate!
The next step is for you to do what you can to improve as quickly as possible by...
- Making time for your IELTS preparation and getting help if you need it.
- Staying motivated and focused during your IELTS preparation.
- Understanding your strengths and weaknesses.
- Understanding how you prefer to learn.
- Managing your anxiety about the IELTS test.
- Using materials at the right level for you.