Top Tips for IELTS

An IELTS success story – some book recommendations and writing tips

IELTS can be a lonely business and it can sometimes be easy to feel that it will never happen for you. This is entirely understandable. It can work out though and here are some tips from Jingjing in China, who has now got through the IELTS process and is happily following her chosen career. All these tips look like excellent advice to me (read what she says about task 1 writing carefully) and the books she recommends are some of the best on the market.

I would add that very often the best writing advice is to be found in academic English textbooks and not IELTS books. More to the point, if you are doing IELTS for academic study, the best advice is not to concentrate only on IELTS and, in fact, learning to write a good academic assignment can definitely help your IELTS writing.


1.      Do not memorise any sample essay. First, because you might get a similar question in the real test and you will have a high risk not answering the question directly. Secondly, different people have different writing styles. You might mix your writing style with others if you have too many model sentences in your mind.

2.      Learning English collocations is more important than learning new vocabulary. Here I recommend two books from Cambridge University, but please only learn the topics related to IELTS. Otherwise, it will be too heavy for you. The books are English Collocations in Use (Upper-intermediate & Advanced) by McCarthy and O’Dell. And here is a useful website for quick checking collocations – Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Students of English

3.      Learning from mistakes. After I received a marked essay, I first categorised the mistakes and wrote them down in my notebook according to the spelling, grammar and collocations. Then I rewrote the essay again and asked my tutor to check again. Also, each week I reviewed this notebook and tried to avoid them as many as possible. There is another book I would like to share and I have read it at least four times. Common mistakes at IELTS Advanced by Julie Moore.

4.      Distinguish inform and formal English. Whatever phrases you learn, understand if they are suitable for your writing or only for speaking. Academic writing also requires a clear structure and certain vocabulary, and Dominic’s blog has enough resources about these. However, you might find them more detailed in this book – Writing Academic English (4th ed.) by Osima, A. and Hogue, A.. It may be too academic for IELTS, but I did what it tells us to do in the writing test and it is a must-have book in assignment writing for university study.

5.      Do not underestimatedTask 1. My tutor even pushed me to have a topic sentence for each body paragraph. Grouping, comparison and contrast are key elements in task 1 writing. The specific numbers are only evidence to show such areas.

Do you have a story or some tips to share?

Students can often learn from each other more than they can learn from teachers. If you have a story or some tips to share, let me know by contacting me through this site and I’ll happily publish what you have to say. I’d add that it’s possible to learn from mistakes made as well. Is there anything you got wrong that you think others should know about?


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One Response to An IELTS success story – some book recommendations and writing tips

  1. tijesu August 30, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Hi, Dominic

    I just want to say you are doing a great job. I’m from Nigeria. I sat for my ielts exam(Academic) on 17th Aug,2013 and I just got my result this morning. I had an overall band score of 8. Yaaaayy!!! (L- 8, R- 9, W- 7, S- 8). I needed a minimum of 7 in each of the components.

    Thanks to all the useful tips and great lessons on this site. I am so grateful to God and to you. I know I could have done better in the writing (I just studied the lessons and didn’t practice,so time management was a big issue on exam day), but hey,I am not complaining 🙂

    I wish I could give you a big hug but I guess my words would have to suffice.

    God bess you, Teacher Dominic. xxx

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