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A-C-E the I-E-L-T-S !

Over the years, many medical students and junior doctors hold back from applying overseas as the IELTS feels too large of a hurdle to pass. With planned and well-timed preparation, the IELTS can be an easy exam for you!

How to prepare:

Broadly, there are two ways that candidates can prepare for the IELTS.

a) Using books and self-study techniques: This is more than sufficient if you consider English to be your first or second language, and if you are studying in English.

b) Seeking help from a professional instructor or institution: If you do not fall into the above category, it is recommended that you seek help from an instructor or institution, either in person or online to make sure you are getting constant practice and feedback for your English Language skills.

Litmus Test: I am not sure how good my English is, what should I do?

You can give an online mock IELTS test on this website.

Is your grade within 2 bands of what you require it to be? If yes, you can continue to study by yourself. If it is not, you should seek help from an instructor or an institution.

Preparation Books:

  1. Cambridge English IELTS Books 6-11

  2. IELTS Practice Tests Plus Books 1, 2, and 3

  3. Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus

Time for Preparation:

Approximately: 3 months

Minimum: 1 month


The listening part consists of a fill in the blank exercise while you listen to an audio file via headphones. To prepare for this, you can get yourself used to the accent and pronunciation employed in the exam context by listening to the recorded audio files. Many of the books come with the CD, however, they are also readily available on YouTube.

As each listening test is aimed to be 30 minutes, completing one practice listening test from the book with the YouTube audio file every day, will help you ace this part of the exam. Listening is one of the sections where some candidates do get full marks in, so do aim for the stars with this part!


The reading section comes with 3 articles to read and answer questions from. The questions are either multiple choice questions or fill in the blanks to answer from the context of the passage, identify which paragraph a statement is mentioned in, or to answer one of TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN to a statement.

The first challenge to overcome in the reading section is time management. Practicing a mock reading section in 60 minutes every day will help you with this. It is also advisable to read more than you usually would before your exam from sources like magazines or the news to progress your reading speed. This will also help you gain the ability to filter out important, retainable content from literature, which will be useful in the exam.

A technique that is often used in this section is to first skim through the article in about 1 minute to get the basic gist, then reading the questions, and then reading the article again, focusing on finding the answers to the questions.


The writing part consists of 2 tasks, Task 1 is where you will be asked to interpret visual displays of information such as a graph, chart, or map, and summarise the findings in 150 words. Task 2 is to write about a stated topic, usually one related to current affairs, in 250 words.

This writing segment can be mastered in three steps. I would first recommend reading the writing task answers in the IELTS Practice Tests Plus Books. They contain samples which are deemed to be suitable for a Band 7 or 8 score, therefore will give you a format of how your writing should be.

Next, try to learn the marking rubric by following the guidance given by professional IELTS instructors on YouTube. IELTS Liz ( and IELTS Ryan ( are particularly helpful for teaching this, and I will recommend watching all of the writing videos at least once.

Finally, attempt to write the answers to the practice writing tests from the IELTS books and compare it to the Band 8 standard answers. Do you think it matches in quality?

You can use the Oxford Thesaurus or a thesaurus online to further enhance your vocabulary pool. It is also helpful if you can ask a friend (preferably someone who has given the IELTS or someone who considers English as their first language) to read your writing and give you feedback.


The speaking part of the IELTS is possibly the most informal section. Many say that it feels like chatting to a friend if you can keep your nerves calm during the test. It consists of 3 parts:

Part 1 - You will answer questions about yourself and your family.

Part 2 - You will speak about a topic.

Part 3 - You will have a longer discussion about the topic introduced in Part 2.

There are many sample questions that can potentially be asked in this part on the books, which you can either practice with a friend or record your answers and play it back to analyse whether you can improve your answers any further.


- When you get tired of studying, watch TV series and movies which are in English. If you watch them with subtitles, you are passively working on your reading and listening, while enjoying the show!

- Use the dictionary to look up any of the words you are unsure of when practicing the reading section, then look it up in the thesaurus and think of ways to use it in a sentence. You are hence concurrently improving your reading and writing vocabulary.

- Practice writing using a pencil. As adults, many of us have not written 400 words using a pencil for many years so it might feel a bit out of place if you don't practice this.

- Watch documentaries on current affairs on Netflix or YouTube to gain an insight onto topics you may be asked to write about in the writing section.

- Read the news as much as you can. Published articles in reputed newspapers use exceptionally good English with no grammatical errors, which is the format you should aim to emulate.

- Speak to your friends in English as much as possible, the more comfortable you feel while doing this, the more likely you are to look confident during the speaking section.

- Dress comfortably for the exam and make sure you have a nice meal beforehand. The writing section is the last part of your reading-listening-writing day of the exam so you will need your creative juices to be flowing until the very end of your exam.

Good Luck!

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