Warning: That free IELTS practice test is not as useful as you think!
It happens all the time: you’re a week away from sitting your IELTS Academic or IELTS General exam and you are in a complete panic, so you get on google and desperately type “FREE IELTS PRACTICE TEST” into the search bar. You find some free questions and you frantically start answering them, trying to cram each answer into your overcrowded brain in case it turns up on the real IELTS test.
Okay, let’s stop right there. Let me tell you how this story ends because it’s almost always the same: Test day arrives and you try to remember every answer you’re provided on that free IELTS practice test as you begin. Then you realize that not only do the questions look pretty different from your free IELTS practice materials; they are also much, much more difficult. The IELTS writing topics you saw on that free IELTS blog were too simplistic, the IELTS essay samples on that random guy’s YouTube channel were not in the right format, and you are completely unprepared.
Unfortunately, this story is one I hear almost every day. Except, by the time these IELTS test-takers come to E2Language, they have lost their motivation, their confidence and their trust in the IELTS process. Trust me, it’s not a very nice place to be.
I understand the temptation behind using a free IELTS practice test or sample to study. We live in a digital world now, one where free information is widely available and there are no limits to what you can find on Google. If you have access to the Internet, free information is at your fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The problem is this: Free information is not foolproof. You may have found a free “IELTS practice test”, but how do you know that it’s good quality IELTS practice test? You don’t.
IELTS is a high-stakes, challenging test. If you’re not prepared to invest in quality IELTS practice materials and real experts to help you achieve the score you need, you’re at risk of destroying your chances for university acceptance or PR. Unfortunately, you can’t trust everything you find for free on the internet to get you across the finish line.
So how do you know what quality IELTS preparation materials look like? Well, here are a few things that will help you distinguish which IELTS material providers are supplying quality IELTS practice, and which ones are just not worth your time:
1. A good provider will always give you structured, skill-building methods and strategies BEFORE they recommend taking an IELTS practice test.
Why? Because a real IELTS expert knows that you have to build your knowledge foundation before you can test your skills. Taking an IELTS practice test before learning how and what to study is like building a house without a blueprint. The results are often disastrous!
The E2 IELTS YouTube Channel is a great place to learn structured methods and strategies for the test!
2. A good provider will never recommend a “One Size Fits All” approach.
Many free IELTS blogs and websites tell you that all you need to do is follow one specific approach that works for everyone, no matter what your English level is. But a real expert recognizes that every individual is unique and has different strengths and weaknesses. Their aim is always to accommodate different learning styles, needs and test goals. This is why investing in one-on-one tutorials is so incredibly important. What worked for someone else isn’t necessarily going to work for you, and it’s not fair to pretend otherwise.
3. A good provider knows there is no way to “cheat the test”.
There are countless blogs, websites and YouTube videos out there claiming to have the “hacks” or the secrets to cheating on the IELTS and getting the score you need without putting in the work. If this were true, don’t you think that Cambridge would have changed its format or testing methods to combat this? Of course!
The truth is, the only way to succeed on IELTS is to know the test back-to-front, not only the content but also the format and scoring rubric. The more information you have the better prepared you will be. Besides, trying to find all the secret “cheating” techniques takes so much time, you may as well just spend that time actually learning the strategies, methods and (most importantly) skills that will get you the score you need.
True IELTS experts will teach you how to focus on the most important information, how to quickly recognize what a question is asking and what it’s looking for, even how to follow a formula to help you answer each question consistently and thoroughly, but they will never teach you how to “cheat”.
So, before you search for that “free IELTS practice test” on Google, think about whether you would rather waste your time building a house without a blueprint than putting in the work to plan and prepare and doing it right the first time.
I promise you, a good IELTS course provider is worth a million times more than an IELTS practice test on a free IELTS forum.