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Best IELTS Books and Resources 2017

IELTS study materials are an investment. You put time, energy, and money into them with the expectation that they will help you achieve the band scores you need. Yet, not every IELTS book is created equal and not all IELTS resources are the same. What helps one person may not be as effective for another. This post introduces some of the best IELTS materials, including the best IELTS books and free IELTS resources, currently available and categorizes them according to their strengths. This should help you prepare for the IELTS in a smart, efficient, and focused way. Good luck!

Resource by Topic
PublisherTitleRanking
Best Practice Questions
British Council
Cambridge ESOL
IDP: IELTS Australia
Official IELTS Practice Materials
(1 and 2)
1
Practice Questions
Cambridge University Press

The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS
2
Practice QuestionsIELTS
Sample Test Questions on the IELTS website
3
Best Test Strategies
Kaplan
Kaplan IELTS Premier with 8 Practice Tests, 3rd edition
1
Test Strategies
Cambridge University Press
The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS
2
Test Strategieswww.ieltsliz.com
www.ieltsliz.com
3
Best Grammar
Pearson Longman
Understanding and Using English Grammar: 4th edition
1

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IELTS book

The Best IELTS Practice Exams



Official IELTS Practice Materials Volume 1 and Volume 2

It is very important to take several full-length practice exams before your test day. Practicing with official IELTS material will benefit you most. Official IELTS Practice Materials vol. 1 and Official IELTS Practice Materials vol. 2 are definitely worth your investment. They include model answers at various band score levels for the Writing tasks. Volume 2 includes a DVD with very useful videos of people taking the Speaking exam. Make sure to use all of the official materials provided by IELTS. You should spend time studying the free sample questions on the IELTS website in addition to these full-length exams.
 

The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS

Cambridge English also offers official practice exams. I recommend the IELTS book The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, which includes six full-length Academic IELTS practice exams and two full-length General Training practice exams. This IELTS book also contains useful chapters with exercises and tips to help you prepare. If you plan to purchase only one IELTS book, this is most likely the one to choose.
best IELTS book

IELTS Resources: Tips and Test Strategies



IELTS Liz
 
Earning a high IELTS band score requires a strong command of English. However, mastering test strategies can bolster your score as well. Take time management, for example. Time is very limited on the IELTS Writing and Reading papers. If you don’t know how to manage the clock well, you will almost certainly lose precious points. To learn about the exam and how to take it, start with the excellent videos and study materials on www.ieltsliz.com. This high-quality (and free!) resource is produced by an experienced IELTS instructor.
 

Kaplan’s IELTS Premier with 8 Practice Tests (Third Edition)
 
I’ve already presented The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS above as a great source of practice exams. Although the study guide chapters are useful, they are not very concisely organized around test-taking strategies. Each chapter includes tips, but they also contain many language development exercises that may not be as useful for some students. For a clearer presentation of IELTS strategies, Kaplan’s IELTS Premier with 8 Practice Tests (Third Edition) is an excellent resource. Kaplan’s practice exams are also well designed and worth studying (but they are unofficial). This text combined with one or more of the official practice exam options listed above would make an excellent set of resources for self-study.
IELTS resources

IELTS Resources: English Language Development


Ultimately, the IELTS exam assesses your English proficiency. There is no magical way to improve your English without a great deal of hard work over an extended period of time. Chances are you’ve already put a lot of effort into learning English. So what materials will help you improve before exam day?
 
The Best IELTS Resources for Improving Vocabulary
 
The IELTS rewards a deep vocabulary. Your ability to paraphrase and find synonyms will impact your score tremendously. Spelling also counts on the IELTS! Make sure you focus on spelling when you learn new words. You don’t want to lose easy points because of misspellings.
 
A great way to expand your vocabulary for the IELTS is to read well-written articles. Keep track of new vocabulary in a notebook or on your device. Here is a list of good journalistic resources for IELTS study:


Additionally, Magoosh offers a
(free!) vocabulary flashcard app for the IELTS. Download it and try to learn 20 new words every day!
 
Barron’s Essential Words for the IELTS is another vocabulary resource to consider. Each chapter includes practice questions and reading passages to reinforce your understanding of new words. If your English vocabulary is very advanced or very basic, you may not find this text very useful. Additionally, I would not recommend investing in this IELTS book if you only have a short time to study (6 weeks or less) because you won’t get through it. That said, with enough time, this IELTS book could be a good addition to your IELTS study plan.
 

The Best IELTS Books and IELTS Resources for Grammar Practice
 
If you need extra grammar practice, one of the best resources for self-study is Understanding and Using English Grammar, 4th edition. It includes many practice exercises and very clear explanations of complicated English grammar topics. This IELTS book is for advanced non-native English speakers. If you struggle with English grammar or understanding grammatical concepts, you may want to start with Fundamentals of English Grammar with Audio CDs and Answer Key. This is an intermediate grammar text within the same series.
 
The Best IELTS Books and IELTS Resources to Improve Your Writing
 
The IELTS writing section is difficult. You only have one hour to complete the two writing tasks. Many native speakers would struggle with this section! You should practice responding to as many IELTS writing prompts as you can before test day. Time yourself strictly and (if at all possible) get feedback about your writing from a native English speaker. If you have nobody to give you feedback, then at least compare your answers to model answers in the Answer Key of your IELTS book or these official IELTS responses and examiner comments online. You can also use the IELTS scoring criteria for Task 1 and Task 2 to help you assess your approximate level.
 
If you have more time to prepare and want to improve your writing skills generally, make a habit of writing a little bit in English each day. Write with pencil and paper (don’t type!) to model the format of the IELTS. Pick a topic and write without stopping for 10-15 minutes. This is like a workout. Over time you will generate ideas faster and you will write more in less time. Review our Complete Guide to IELTS Writing Task 1 and Complete Guide to IELTS Writing Task 2 to improve. Here are 500 writing topics to focus your practice!
 
The Best IELTS Books and IELTS Resources for IELTS Listening
 
The Listening portion of the IELTS exam includes speakers with different accents…British, American, Australian, etc. It is a very good idea to train for the IELTS by listening to a wide variety of material. Good IELTS resources for listening practice include:

The Best IELTS Books and IELTS Resources for Reading
 
Read as much as you can in English every day! There is a good list of online news IELTS resources in the “Vocabulary” section of this post (above). This reading material represents the level and type of language you can expect on the IELTS. Otherwise, just read what interests you most! Books, magazines, academic journals….reading a little bit each day will benefit you on the IELTS.
 
The Best IELTS Resources for Speaking
 
Speaking English with native speakers is by far the best way to improve your skills. If it is at all possible for you to find native speakers where you live, seek them out! Join a group or find social and opportunities to interact with English speakers. Check out www.meetup.org to find an interest group in your area. Sign up for English conversation classes and/or find a tutor online. You cannot improve your speaking skills without speaking regularly.

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IELTS books and resources

Not Recommended IELTS Books and IELTS Resources

Barron’s IELTS with Audio CDs, Third Edition

If you’re looking for additional practice questions, this text is worth considering. However, it would be much better to use the authentic practice exams from IELTS and Cambridge English (described above) first before investing Barron’s IELTS. Additionally, while this book offers solid skill building advice, many of the related exercises do not offer sufficient practice for meaningful improvement. A final issue is that it lacks focus. The study guide chapters mix test strategies with skill building exercises in a way that is not as clear as other study aids.

Cambridge English: Common Mistakes at IELTS Advanced…and How to Avoid Them
This text (and the version for intermediate students) targets aspects of the English language that cause problems for many IELTS takers. The authors compiled these problem areas by analyzing real student errors on IELTS exams. This could be very useful information for educators. Teachers could use it to build a more expansive set of lessons around common IELTS mistakes. Unfortunately, as a resource for self-study, the text is not very useful. Many of the grammatical concepts lack adequate explanation. Occasionally, the explanations lack clarity and precision. Finally, the practice exercises and accompanying feedback in the answer key are insufficient for real improvement.

Target Band 7: IELTS Academic Module–How to Maximize Your Score (second edition)

This IELTS book focuses on test strategy and it includes a variety of useful tips. The “Writing” section is the strongest chapter, with solid strategies, example questions, and example responses. Yet, this IELTS book would not work very well as a primary study guide. It does not include enough practice exercises with feedback. Furthermore, in a number of places, the strategies and tips lack examples to demonstrate how to put the advice to use.

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