Official Guides for the IELTS

Summary of the IELTS Official Guide

The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS Academic and General Training, published by Cambridge University Press, should be considered an indispensable resource for IELTS preparation. The Official Guide is available for purchase from commercial bookstores for approximately $40, and some bookstores will rent this title for a much lower cost. The Official Guide includes general information about the academic and general training tests, comprehensive coverage of listening, speaking, writing, and reading skills, and a total of eight official academic practice tests. The Official Guide comes with a DVD-ROM and access to a multi-media app.

The Official Guide's General Discussion of the IELTS

The first section of the Official Guide includes a description of each IELTS academic and general training paper. Students can find information on the types of exercises, types of questions, assessment criteria, and section timing. The discussion of the academic reading paper, for example, lists the 11 question varieties and three different texts that students can expect on that section of the IELTS. The summaries of the IELTS papers are concise and easy to use.

The Official Guide and the Individual IELTS Papers

The Official Guide gives students a coherent framework for developing each of the language abilities evaluated on the IELTS. Reading, writing, and listening skills are covered by eight chapters each, while the speaking paper is the subject of four chapters. The section on the listening paper, for instance, includes chapters entitled "Getting Ready to Listen," "Following a Conversation," and "Recognising Paraphrase," all with practice exercises that focus on a discreet task. Each section also features relevant information on paper content and testing procedures.

IELTS Practice Tests in the Official Guide

Eight full-length academic IELTS practice tests are included in the Official Guide as well as two pairs of general training reading and writing papers (the listening and speaking portions are the same for both versions of the IELTS). Recording scripts for the listening papers, an answer key, and a sample answer sheet can be found at the end of the book. The answer key includes solutions to the practice exercises found in the chapters on each IELTS paper as well as answers to the practice tests. For the writing section tasks, the key offers sample essays.

Additional IELTS Official Practice Materials

The IELTS website includes links to additional official practice materials, which can be purchased for nominal cost (see the "Book a Test" link, click on "Prepare for Your IELTS Test" from the dropdown menu, and then scroll about halfway down the page). Two volumes of these materials are available. Although they are intended for teachers with students preparing for the IELTS, they can be useful to anyone in need of IELTS practice. Volume 1, published in 2009, includes an audio CD with recordings of listening scripts and examples of speaking tests. Volume 2, which comes with an accompanying DVD, was released in 2010. The DVD features a practice listening test and video recordings of three different students undergoing the speaking assessment.

How to Use the IELTS Official Guide

Students are advised to obtain and use a copy of the Official Guide, but it must be stressed that this book is not complete IELTS preparation in and of itself. The Official Guide is a valuable reference work and source of practice materials, but the highest test scores usually result from a combination of official materials and professional instruction. Experienced IELTS teachers help students structure their preparation and offer constructive feedback. Without this regular interaction, optimal IELTS skills and scores are extremely difficult to achieve.

About the Official Guide Authors

The IELTS Official Guide was written by Pauline Cullen, Amanda French, and Vanessa Jakeman. Cullen has more than 20 years of experience as a test writer, and she is the author of several other titles on the IELTS, including volumes that cover vocabulary and writing. French has been a teacher trainer and test item writer for over 25 years, and she has written online courses for Cambridge English. Jakeman is the author of more than 10 books on the IELTS, including study guides and practice materials.

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