IELTS resources - what do you use?

I’ve been IELTS examining for a while (five years), but have taken a sabbatical from the job as I was finding it tedious.

However I am prepping a group of students for upcoming tests (good loot). I managed to get the latest Cambridge book - The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS (published this year), which is a well put-together book (for myself and them).

I also used to have loads of test topics and could remember the examiner script by heart. All that material was lost when my last PC crashed and I’ve since forgotten the script (to be used for mock tests).

Any suggestions on where to get additional material (topics, script)? Google seems to offer plenty of options but any specific links would be great.

Hmm…rather muted response. Perhaps the IELTS guru’s out there feel your experience means you don’t need any help?

My IELTS experience is limited to offering speaking-test interview practice sessions during my office hours at the request of a few students, maybe 4 years ago. Now they want me to do an IELTS prep course next semester for about 20 students. :astonished:

I said I thought the 1:1 interview nature of the speaking tests might make that rather labour-intensive. The solution offered was co-teaching with a Taiwanese colleage.

However, since we’re splitting the time, and she’s bagged the listening and reading, leaving me with the productive skills (short straw?) speaking and writing, that doesn’t really address the problem, though it halves the hours.

Anyway, a bit of poking around on Forumosa produced the following resources. You probably already know this stuff, but compiling it seems a worthwhile first baby step for me :- … e#p1039090 : Recommendation for IELTS books (Sept 2009)

"[i]Check out the Cambridge released tests. They have sample responses that give you an idea of how to structure the writing and speaking responses and give you lots of practice material. There are at least 6 of them available in Taiwan.

Cambridge also publishes Insight into IELTS, though I think only half of the book is really useable. IELTS Testbuilder is okay, worth having a look at.[/i]

Online :

And stay away from Step Up To IELTS … its terrible" … 30#p732686

In the above thread, Loretta here makes a good argument for putting the test in the context of real life skills required for studying abroad, and against “correction of errors” as a test prep method, along with an analysis of the structural requirements and strategies for some of the tasks. … ination%3A

This thread, about the role of vocabulary in general language learning and an IELTS context.

Includes mention of

“Check Your Vocabulary for English for the IELTS Examination: A Workbook for Students”?

A similar point, about test-taking strategies being ineffective in isolation, is made here.

The take home message seems to be that, unless the students are unusually high-functioning, an effective IELTS preparation can’t just focus on test-taking practice, but should fix thier general language skills, and thier generally profound ignorance. :astonished:

Makes sense, but a daunting prospect. Wish I hadn’t read it now.

That seems to be about it, apart from a 9-year old thread on an apparently dead (or stillborn?) Teaching IELTS course.

Thanks for that! I use a great book now (mentioned above), combined with videos I’m pulling off youtube (

Listened and watched a couple of tests on YT and typed out the Examiner script.

I do daily mock testing with two students at the end of each class, so everything’s on track.


What do you think of Cambridge English Complete IELTS series?

Its organised “thematically” along fairly traditional textbook course-unit lines, rather than on a skills basis, like the Cambridge Official Guide to IELTS seems to be.

I suppose I’m more familiar with that approach, so its easier, which may not be a good thing.

It is however, about half the price (Official Guide is $53 US on Amazon) which is a good thing, and is stated to be 60 hours of classtime. We’ve got about half that available(32 hours) if we go with the trad mid and eot tests.

I havn’t seen an estimate of the duration of the Official Guide (which seems designed for self-study) but it looks like a lot more, so we wouldn’t be covering much of the material in the classes, which would probably have to function (at least theoretically) as an adjunct to extensive self-study.

That’d be a bit of a paradigm shift for the sort of students I’m used to.

I’m not familiar with this material, but the book I’m using has worked well, in addition to other materials and activities.

I bought mine in Bangkok for 503 Thai Baht. A couple of my students bought their own for about RMB80.

Since I’ve got a (2-semester, in theory anyway) IELTS course this year, I asked various publishers/booksellers for sample copies of IELTS books, so I could be racked with indecision, which I am, but can’t be for much longer. It’s co-taught, which complicates the decision a bit.

For what they’re worth (not much, I’m afraid) here are some brief notes on the books I’ve seen.

There are two basic approaches.

(a) Teach the Test or (b) Teach English FOR the test.

The former tend to be organised around the 4 Skills / Parts of the test, the latter around thematic units (each, or in blocks) covering the 4 skills.

Last year I used The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS which I didn’t like much because it was too big and pricy for a 1-semester course, and because its a “Teach the Test” book which apparently assumes a higher level of English than most of the students had.

This year its supposed to be a 2-semester course, so it’d be a better fit, but it still lacks enough English instruction


New Insight into IELTS (CUP 2008) (Hwa Tai)

This is a 4-Skills-Based course of about 50 hours, aimed at IELTS Level 6. Writing Task 2 (WT2) does develop, across 4 units, from paragraph to essay, but rather steeply. There is some vocabulary developent, but no grammar.

Conclusion : Better than The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS but with the same problems. Not much English instruction, and probably too advanced.

Complete IELTS (CUP 2012) (Hwa Tai)

8-thematic units, groups of 2 together cover 4-skills with vocabulary and grammar review after each two. (so a good fit to a 2-semester course with 4 “natural” exam-points)

Aimed at Band 5-6.5 (prob bit too advanced)

WT2 doesn’t show much development, with each unit requiring the production of a full essay.

Conclusion : Better than above two, but perhaps too advanced. Complete IELTS Band 4-5 (which apparently has 10 units, dunno why the difference) might be a good choice but I havn’t seen it.

IELTS Foundation 2nd Edition (Macmillan 2012) (Crane)

12-unit thematic aimed at band 4 - 5.5, so more appropriate in theory. Some vocab and grammar content, but a bit dependent on the “D” word (discuss)

WT2 does show some development, but again, its a bit steep, and here is also rather unclear, and wordy.

Conclusion : Probably best fit so far, but layout is generally off-puttingly WORDY.

Achieve IELTS 2 2nd Edition (Cengage Learning 2013) (Crane)

12-thematic Units, each covering 4-skills. Upper-Intermediate/advanced, Band 5.5 to 7 so a poor fit for the likely punters, though there is an intermediate/upper intermediate Achieve IELTS 1 (2nd Edition) that should be better.

This is more attractively laid out than IELTS Foundation 2nd Edition, though its also a bit dependent on the “D” word (discuss)

There is some explicit coverage of grammar (though they avoid calling it that) but apparently no explicit coverage of vocabulary.

WT2 curve is again rather steep, and of the 8 units covering WT2, 7 require a full 250 word essay to be written

Conclusion : Bit too advanced, but Achieve IELTS 1 (2nd Edition) would be worth a look, given time.

Objective IELTS Intermediate (CUP 2006) (Hwa Tai) Self study text with 20 thematic units. Clearly laid out with a test folder, which keeps linkage with the test, and a writing folder separate from the main units.

WT2 development is limited and doesn’t seem to emphasise structure much, (which is key) so would need supplemented.

Conclusion : This’d probably be OK, and best fit so far if the less advanced versions of Complete IELTS (CUP 2012) or Achieve IELTS aren’t available in time. The fact that its self-study means the teachers support may a bit limited, but there is apparently a class text version.

IELTS For Academic Purposes: A Short Intensive Course (McGraw-Hill 2009) (Caves - bought with OWN MONEY!)

8 Thematic units aimed at 5.5 to 6.5. Uniquely (?) comes with an initial Placement Test, which is odd, because there only seems to be one level.

This would be a pretty good short-course text. (said to be about 40 hours) . Its concise and fairly clear. WT2 development looks at component skills, but never integrates these into producing a complete answer.

I think this could be stretched to two semesters if supplemented, but it isn’t designed for that, and my co-teacher is quite concerned there isn’t enough material.

Conclusion: Not for two semester course.

Unlock 2/3/4 (Cambridge Discovery CUP 2014)(Hwa Tai)

10 Thematic units split into separate R/W and L/S skills, so a compromise, and could avoid duplication of effort when co-teaching.

This is a glossy, nicely presented series which apparently has a lot of online support and makes use of Discovery channel video support for the themes.

The snag is a lack of explicit linkage to the IELTS test. Writing development in 3 (probably the most appropriate level) is essay oriented (i.e. WT2) which is the most important element (in IELTS and generally) but there is no WT1 treatment until the last unit of book 4.

This seems to be a general textbook series that has considered IELTS in its design but isn’t explicitly linked to it. We could perhaps build some more explicit linkage in at the beginning and the end, BUT that may be a tough sell to punters who have signed up for an IELTS course.

Shortlist: Unlock3 (Hwa Tai) (but see caveats above), Complete IELTS Band 4-5 (Hwa Tai) (if available) Achieve IELTS 1 (2nd Edition)(Crane) (if available)

Ended up ordering Achieve IELTS 1 (2nd Edition) from Crane in Kaoshiung this morning, with just enough copies available (33) for the class at 600NT a pop.

Complete IELTS was already north of 1000NT (1285 with discount) but it’d sold out locally so would have to be special-ordered/expressed from Singapore, putting the cost up further (though Hwa Tai was willing to absorb some of the additional cost.)

OK its not my money, but the Cambridge IELTS stuff seems way over-priced to me, and I revert to my Scottish-Yorkshire-Jewish-never-ye-mind’t-qvaulity-feel’t-theeckness roots.

Feel sorry for the Hwa Tai rep though, who was very helpful getting sample copies to us at short notice.

Nice, I look forward to getting back to test prepping, and away from the current bag-of-shite job I landed myself in.

[quote=“Ducked”]Ended up ordering Achieve IELTS 1 (2nd Edition) from Crane in Kaoshiung (Gaoxiong) this morning, with just enough copies available (33) for the class at 600NT a pop.

Needn’t have bothered, and wish I hadn’t.

Turns out they “forgot” they’d said this was to be a 2-semester course, and its in the (Chinese)system as one semester.

(The conversation was of course in English, so never happened).

Since they also “forgot” that I’d said skill-split co-teaching was a hindrance rather than a help, if I can’t get this changed I once again have four classes (440 minutes) to cover IELTS Writing.




I need both, but never the twain shall meet, in Taiwan.

Achieve IELTS1 is riddled with errors.

LOTS of the Teacher Guide answers are poor/wrong/don’t make sense.

This isn’t too big a deal, but some of the questions don’t make sense either.

Not unique to this book of course, but still annoying.

From what I’ve seen so far, I’m not sure IELTS texts in general are worth having.

Didn’t bother with a textbook for this semesters course, just using my own material and online stuff, including that published by the British Council. (and, TBH, some stuff knicked from textbooks). Seemed to work OK for the the first bit. (Reading and Academic Writing Task 1).

The second half (Academic Writing Task 2) didn’t go so well, but its inherently more difficult and poorly supported by most IELTS prep books anyway. Many of them essentially give them an IELTS-style question and tell them to “get on with it”.

Assuming it’d at least be authentic, I used the Task 2 lesson plan available for download from the British Council, but IMO it’s deeply flawed. I wouldn’t use it again without completely re-writing it, which I didn’t have time for this time around.

The best I’ve seen is New Insight into IELTS (CUP 2008) (Hwa Tai) - which has quite a good Task 2 section with part-completed essays and such. Might consider it for next course.

I did very little on L+S and didn’t test it at all, for logistic and time constraint reasons, plus candidate performance in Asia is worst for writing.

Havn’t finished grading the final test yet, but it ain’t looking good.

Since many of the students had no possibility of doing a whole Task 2 question in my remaining lifespan, I cut it down (as I did for Task 1) by giving them a four paragraph essay with notes for each paragraph, 2 of the paragraphs intact (apart from some cloze gaps) and two of the paragraphs incomplete, which they had to finish.

This carries the risk of de-motivating those students (perhaps 5/20) who could probably write a whole essay

Looks like many of them did the cloze but didn’t attempt to complete the incomplete paragraphs. Maybe they didn’t understand.

Heigh ho, less grading for me, but still a bit sad.

I find the book “Writing for IELTS 6-0 - 7.5” useful. There is also one with a 4-5 to 6 level. I am currently teaching a writing course (30 hours, 3 hour lessons, x 3 per week). I thought I would struggle for materials, but so far so good, combining “Writing for IELTS”, “Advantage IELTS” (which I adapt) as well as “Instant IELTS”. I also use "Common mistakes at IELTS (intermediate and advanced level).


I don’t post on here much any more because I intensely dislike the new interface, but that looks potentially very useful.

Thank you very much for your reply!

Thank you and regards


IELTS kowtows to China by changing Taiwan to ‘Taiwan, China’ on English testing page

That’s not good.

They make so much money from China it’s not surprising, but the British Council should hang its head in shame.

Any IELTS tutors/ ex-examiners still on Forumosa?

I will be submitting an application for residency in Australia in the coming months and need the English proficiency points (8 for each section).

FYI - am a native speaker.

If you are an educated native speaker it’s virtually impossible for you to get below an 8, unless you have an aneurysm during the exam. However, it is an exam and as such you might make a mistake. Google “IELTS Task 1 writing” “IELTS Task 2 writing” just to double check on the requirements. Also, take a couple of online listening and reading tests.

I agree - it’s probably exam techniques and knowing what the marker is looking to see.

On my first try I got L-9, R-9, S-8.5, W-6.5, hence the reason I am asking here.

I have tried reaching out to local buxibans but they don’t know quite how to deal with a native speaker and have courses which require you to sign up for the full package regardless of whether you only need help in specific, targeted areas.

W - 6.5! Google “Task 1 overview” and “Task 2 paragraphing”.