2020 has seen an uptick of IELTS students on Fluentify platform thanks to our partnership with English Score. If you are a B2C tutor who is interested in teaching IELTS, but lacks experience, then this post is designed to help you. It contains commonly asked questions about the exam and the best sites for IELTS resources.

The sites have been compiled from tutor recommendations on the Slack group #sharingmaterials. We thank everyone who contributes to the group.

What is IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) assesses a person’s English fluency. Unlike other English exams there is no pass or fail. Instead students are given a score from 0-9. To give you an idea of the scores, 4.5 would be considered a regular intermediate, 6 a regular upper intermediate and 8.5 an advanced student. Universities in the US and UK usually require a minimum score of 6.5.

What IELTS exams are there?

There are two IELTS exams: General IELTS and Academic IELTS. The Academic exam is designed for participants who wish to study in an English-speaking country.

How long does an IELTS qualification last?

Two years. As IELTS is designed to test a student’s ability to enter a country for work or academic purposes, the qualification expires after a couple of years. After that a person must take another exam to demonstrate their new English level. This makes IELTS different from other Cambridge exams which have no expiry date.

Does IELTS use British or American English?

Neither (and both). It is an international exam, therefore both language systems are accepted. The important thing is that the student doesn’t mix British and American English. For example, if they choose to write with American spelling, any words spelt the British way would be considered an error.

How does IELTS work?

Like other Cambridge exams, students are assessed on four disciplines: Speaking, listening, writing and reading. Students will take the first three parts: Listening, reading and writing, on the same day and the speaking test either later that day or a few days after.

Listening – 30 minutes of audio with 40 questions (all IELTS students take the same test)

Reading – one-hour paper. Three passages with 40 questions. (General and Academic IELTS students will take different papers.)

Writing – one-hour paper. Two tasks. General IELTS must write a letter and an essay. Academic IELTS must write a report based from a chart or map and an essay.

Speaking – 11-14 minutes. A face-to-face interview with an examiner. All IELTS students take the same test.   

For more on the exam format, go to this British Council post here.

Tell me more about the speaking exam

The speaking exam will be the part that students will be most keen to practice with their tutor.

It consists of three parts.

Part 1: The examiner introduces themselves and asks the student general questions on familiar topics such as home, family, work, studies and interests. This section warms the student up in preparation for more complicated tasks ahead.

Part 2: The examiner gives the student a task card which asks them to talk about a particular topic, along with points to include in the talk. The student is then given one minute to prepare and make notes. They must then talk for 1-2 minutes on the topic without interruption. The examiner will then ask one or two questions on the same topic.

Part 3: The examiner then asks further questions which are connected to the topic of Part 2. These questions are designed to give the student an opportunity to discuss more abstract issues and ideas.

How can I help my student understand more about how the exam works?

There is a free British Council course to explain the exam in more depth.  https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/ielts/free-online-courses-understanding-ielts

How do I help my student prepare for IELTS?

IELTS Liz has loads of free listenings, readings and speaking and writing questions to help your students prepare.

Listening practice: https://ieltsliz.com/ielts-listening/

Reading practice: https://ieltsliz.com/ielts-reading-lessons-information-and-tips/

Writing practice: https://ieltsliz.com/ielts-letter-writing-essential-tips/ and https://ieltsliz.com/ielts-writing-task-2/

Speaking questions: https://ieltsliz.com/ielts-speaking-free-lessons-essential-tips/

What vocabulary topics should I cover with my student?

To prepare your student for the speaking exam, you should go through the common topics discussed in the speaking part and expand your student’s vocabulary on each one.

According to IELTS Liz, the common topics are

  • Work
  • Study
  • Hometown
  • Home
  • Art
  • Birthdays
  • Childhood
  • Clothes
  • Computers
  • Daily routine
  • Dictionaries
  • Family and friends
  • Food
  • Going out
  • Happiness
  • Hobbies
  • Internet
  • Leisure time
  • Music
  • Neighbours and neighbourhood
  • Newspapers, books and reading
  • Pets
  • Shopping
  • Sport
  • TV
  • Transport
  • Weather

You can find lexical sets for most of these topics right here on the Materials Hub. IELTS Up also offers vocabulary for many topics taken from exam answers and so students can see the phrase in context.

Link: https://ielts-up.com/speaking/ielts-speaking-practice.html

How else can my student prepare for the speaking exam?


Your student would benefit from watching videos of others taking the test. Test videos gives students a good idea of how they should approach questions and what their general level is.

Check out these test videos here.


Students can also stay up-to-date with the latest questions asked on the exam with this short podcast produced by All Ears English.

Link: https://www.allearsenglish.com/episodes/ielts/

Mobile app

Finally British Council have produced an app which allows students free tests, grammar tips, exercises and quizzes.  

Link: https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/take-ielts/prepare/free-apps