Studying for IELTS

Before you study for IELTS, you should know that by studying for IELTS, you can not improve your English language skills. By studying for IELTS, you’ll only be making yourself familiar with the test and you’ll be polishing your IELTS taking skills.


Where to Study From?

Your best guide for IELTS will be the 12 books from the IELTS Cambridge series. The books contain sample tests from past exams. You don’t need to read any theory or any long essays to practice for IELTS. You just have to go through these past tests to get yourself acquainted to IELTS.

There are 12 books in the series so far. Each book contains four sample test. Each test has four sections (listening, reading, writing and speaking).


How to Study?

You can start from any of the 12 books. Keep in mind that book 1 is the oldest book and book 11 is the latest book. Before you start any test, read the introduction to understand the structure of the test.



Start off from the listening section. Read the instructions. Then begin testing yourself. If you listen to people talking in English in your daily life (for example, at home, at school, at work or even on TV), then listening will be pretty easy for you.

About the Test
You’ll have an audio recording to listen to. In the audio recording, you’ll listen to two people having a conversation. The answers to your questions will be from their conversation. There are 40 questions in the listening section.

Test Duration
After the audio stops playing, you have 10 minutes to copy all your answers from your question paper to your answer sheet, which is more than enough. Some people prefer to write their answers directly in the answer sheet, as there is not much that you can change in your answers, once the audio stops playing. Because your answers are based on the audio recording and once the recording stops playing, it’s difficult to recall what was said.

The key to doing well in IELTS is to listen to the audio conversation with complete focus and to blur out everything else from your mind. Another important thing is to let go of any questions that you miss. Because thinking over a missed question stops you from answering the next few questions. And because of one missed question, you end with up a lot of missed questions. Since listening test has changed slightly over the years, it is best to go through the recent books for the listening tests.

Preparation Time
If you’re good at English, then listening shouldn’t take you more than 10 to 12 tests, which should take 2-4 days. It doesn’t matter if it takes you less or more tests to achieve your target score. Once you start achieving scores of 38 out of 40, you can move on to reading.

Scoring Criteria

29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
6.5 7.0 7.0 7.5 7.5 7.5 8.0 8.0 8.5 8.5 9.0 9.0



Read the instructions. Begin testing yourself. You’re a medical graduate. So you’ve read dozens of books by now. Reading should not be difficult for you.

About the Test
The reading test comprises of three comprehensions tests. First you have to read an essay. Then you have to answer 13-14 questions from the essay. The total number of questions that you have to answer in reading is 40.

Test Duration
You have 60 minutes to complete reading. It is ideal to spend 20 minutes on each of the three essays. But you’re not bound to divide your time like that. The bell only rings at 60 minutes.

The are two approaches for reading. Some people prefer to read the essay first. Others prefer to read the questions first. There’s nothing wrong with either of these approaches. Choose what suits your best. If you read the essay first, when you start reading, keep a pencil with you and underline all the nouns and all other important information in the essay. Try to make a story of the essay in your mind. Try to make small maps of the story in your mind, to know which paragraph talks about which topic. So that when you read the questions, you remember where to find the information for the answers. Since reading test has changed slightly over the years, it is best to go through the recent books for the reading tests.

Preparation Time
If you’re good at English, then reading shouldn’t take you more than 10-12 tests, which should take 2-4. It doesn’t matter if it takes you less or more tests to achieve your target score. Once you start achieving scores of 38 out of 40, you can move on to the writing section.

Scoring Criteria

29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
6.5 7.0 7.0 7.0 7.5 7.5 8.0 8.0 8.5 8.5 9.0 9.0



This is the trickiest part of the exam. There’s no scoring system to judge yourself here.

About the Test
There are two tasks in writing.

Task 1 involves a diagram, which can be a table chart, a bar chart, a line chart, a pie chart, a flow chart or a graph. You have to explain the diagram using at least 150 words.

Task 2 involves writing a detailed essay on any subject.

Test Duration
You have 60 minutes to complete writing. It is ideal to spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on task 2. But you’re not bound to divide your time like that. The bell only rings at 60 minutes.

It is also your choice to write task 2 before task 1. I preferred writing task 1 first, because it was small and I wanted it out of the way. Because in task 2, you can write as much as you want.

Before you start practicing your writing skills, it is important to understand how you need to write. To understand this, go through the answers section of each book. Read the task, then read the answer. When you’re done reading answers from 8 or 9 books, you can use the remaining books, to test yourself. Assess your writing skills by showing your writings to other candidates. You can find other candidates on Facebook.

Preparation Time
It usually takes 10-20 writings of each task, which can take 2-4 weeks or longer to feel comfortable with writing.



Read the instructions. Speaking shouldn’t be difficult since you’re a medical graduate.

About the Test
The speaking test comprises of 3 parts.

Part 1
You’ll be asked questions about yourself and your life.

Part 2
You’ll be given a topic to talk about. You’ll be given a pencil and a piece of paper to write ideas about your talk. You’ll have a minute to prepare your talk. During your talk, you can not stop or take breaks. You have to talk for 2 minutes uninterrupted. You can not see the 2-minute clock during your exam.

During this part, I couldn’t speak for more than 70 seconds. I ran out of ideas. The examiner used her hands to suggest to me to continue speaking. So I spoke whatever came to my mind about the topic. I stopped again 5 seconds before the bell. She again asked me to go on. Luckily the bell rang then.

Part 3
The examiner will talk to you, by asking you questions involving the topic about which you talked in Part 2.

Test Duration
13-14 minutes

If you speak English in your daily life, this will be very easy. Go through a few practice tests and you should be okay.

When I took IELTS, talking in English was not a part of my daily life. I only went through a couple of speaking tests, a couple of days before my exam. And I did fine in speaking.

Preparation Time
If you’re good at English, just a couple of hours can be enough. If you struggle with this section, then you should spend 15-30 minutes on it every day.


Summary of IELTS Preparation

Even if you have good command over English, it’s important to go through IELTS preparation, to make yourself familiar with the test.

You’ll need a week or two for listening and reading. And 2-4 weeks more for writing practice. Speaking shouldn’t take much time.It usually takes people 4-8 weeks to prepare for IELTS.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should I take IELTS Academic or IELTS UKVI Academic?

This is a personal choice. If you take IELTS UKVI Academic, you will not have to take IELTS again. If you take IELTS Academic, you will have to take IELTS UKVI Academic later on as well.

2. What is the difference between IELTS Academic and IELTS UKVI Academic?

The pattern of the exam is exactly the same. The only differences are that the UKVI version costs a little more, it has increased camera surveillance and is held less often.

3. Should I take IELTS from British Council or Australian Education Office?

This is a personal choice. IELTS is accepted from both of these bodies. There’s a common perception in Pakistan that AEO is more generous with IELTS scores. Because AEO has local examiners in the speaking part of the test, while British Council has British Speakers. However, this should not affect the scoring criteria.

4. Can I take IELTS before graduating from medical school?

Yes, you can.

5. Is IELTS easy to pass?

It depends on how good your English is. The only way to find out is to go through practice tests from the IELTS Cambridge series.

6. Can I improve my English language skills if I study for IELTS?

Studying for IELTS only makes us familiar with the test. It does not improve our English language skills.

7. How can I improve my English language skills?

The only way to improve your language would be to increase your exposure to English. You can do this by reading books, watching movies and shows and talking to people in English.

8. How can I improve my IELTS scores?

You can improve your scores by practicing as much as you can. If your scores still do not improve, then you might need to increase your exposure to the English language. You can do this by reading books, watching movies and shows and talking to people in English.

77 thoughts on “Studying for IELTS

      1. Your blog is really helpful.. Finally got a clear guideline on plab..
        My question is, as I recall from your video, you don’t need to go through FY part if you’ve completed 12months internship in your own country.. So will 7.5 score in each individual part be required by me at any part through the process? As I’ve already completed my internship ..Or shall i be OK with 7.0 in each and an overall of 7.5 score throughout the way?

  1. i need your help in IELTS,i am from Karachi and struggling for IELTS exams to achieve 7.5 score,but so far i achieved 7 overall score,plz let me know thanks.

    1. If you are achieving 7.0, that means you’re very close and you can achieve 7.5 as well. Go through other people’s IELTS experiences shared in my blog. They might help you.

  2. Im not very gud in english and starting my journey for Plab plz any advise to get required scores in ielts thanks in advance

    1. Practice as much as you can. And increase your exposure to English. You can do this by reading books, watching movies and shows and talking to people in English.

  3. thank u so mch for sharing such valuable info on plab n ielts.i want to ask
    if someone’s english is not good besides being a mefical graduate how can he start ielts prep?

    1. The best way to work on your English would be to increase your exposure to English. You can do this by reading books, watching movies and shows and talking to people in English.

  4. gr8 work man!!
    i hav one question. if i will pass plab 2 in may 2018 and not able to get register myslf with GMC before august 2018 so when will my FY2 start? will it start in august 2019?? because i heard that FY starts from august to july…

  5. Hello….wanted to ask u for ielts …i m stuck at 6.5…how can I surpass that? I havr tried different formats and took class from various teacher too…but still in the same zone..!!!

    1. Practice as much as you can. And increase your exposure to English. You can do this by reading books, watching movies and shows and talking to people in English.

  6. Thanks alot for your wounderful plan Dr. Naseer.
    I’ve many questions:
    -Which is more practical and let me pass with a high score while preparing for the exam, to solve the exercises for the 4 parts together every day or to concentrate on one part untill I master it then I move to the next part?
    -I’ve read in some blogs (one of which belongs to an IELTS examiner) that the more you use idioms in parts 1 & 2 in the speaking test the more you’ll look as a native speaker & the more you’ll score high. Is it necessary to use idioms? Did the exam test how much I look like a native speaker!!! Can I score 7 in the speaking test without using idioms?

    1. It is best to practice one part at a time. Once you have practiced and perfected all four parts, that is when you should practice listening, reading and writing together. There is no need to practice speaking with the other three sections, since speaking is held separately in the test, on a separate day (at least in Pakistan).

      I did not use ANY idioms and I scored 8.0 in my speaking test the last time. You have to use grammatically correct English and be able to communicate in English with the examiner. You do not have to use idioms or pretend to be a native speaker. We are not native speakers and we do not have to pretend to be. English is our second language. We just have to use grammatically correct English.

  7. Hi! I want to know about ielts UKV1.why we would need to retake ielts, if we go for academic ielts?
    Kindly clarify that point

  8. Hello Dr. Khan

    I plan on giving IELTS UKIV rather than academic. Is there a different source to prepare for it? Or is it sufficient to prepare from the standard IELTS cambridge textbooks?

    Thank you

  9. Dear Sir, while looking for the cambridge 12 series for purchase, I saw this book : The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS Student’s Book with Answers with DVD-ROM (Cambridge English) . Please do you know how good this book is . It comes with a DVD and 8 exams questions
    in all

    1. I am not sure if this is the same book that I used for my IELTS, so I can’t say. The books that I used are mentioned in the post above and can be easily found anywhere.

      Good luck! 🙂

  10. Good day Dr. Naseer,

    I have been an avid reader of your blog and I must say it has helped a lot in my understanding of the plab road/pathway and making my decision to write it in favour of other exam choices.

    I have a question about the listening section.
    Are we allowed to read the questions before we listen?
    Try to have them in mind when subsequently listening to the audio.

    And if this is allowed, is it advisable to?.

    Thanks very much and would appreciate a response

    1. Yes, we are given a bit of time to go through the questions first. You can go through practice tests to get an idea of this.

      Listening is very easy. So don’t worry about it. The key is to stay focused and to not lose concentration.

      Thank you for your kind words! And thank you for visiting the blog! 🙂

  11. Sir,
    I just want to thank you for your big heart. I want to thank you for taking out time to create this blog. The truth is that you have helped many lives and family by this blog. For me the richest people in the world are not people who are worth billions, but people like you.!!!

  12. If the IELTS UKVI is already required for the visa for doctors then do you recommend applying for it instead of IELTS academic?

  13. If i take UKVI IELTS and get a score of 7 in each section with 7.5 overall,is the bandscore enough to apply for FY2?I just know that we need 7.5 in each section with an overall 7.5 if we apply for FY1?Please correct me if I’m wrong.
    Thank you so much for the detailed information you provided here,really helpful for many new plabbers..Much appreciated work.Thank you so much.

    1. 1. It is enough for FY2/CT1 non-training posts, which we apply for as our first job in the UK.

      2. We do need 7.5 in each band for FY2 training posts, but that is not the goal.

      1. Hey.. I scored 7.5 overall and secured 7.5 in 3 modules except reading where I gained 7…this is Alright for PLAB…but with MRCS wouldn’t this score be enough to secure a training post in uk ? Or I have to score 7.5 in every module ??????

      2. I think it is too early to worry about IELTS requirement for a training post. Focus on PLAB for now and give it your best shot. You will pass I’m sure. All the best!

        But to answer your question, each training program has their own requirement. I’m not sure which program you are asking for. You can always check their official website, though.

  14. First time someone has explained everything in one place and in such an organised manner. Thumbs up Doc 🙂

    1. Thank you for your kind words! And thank you for visiting the website! 🙂

  15. I want to know is IELTS UKVI aceptable for applying both in ireland and UK, or its only for UK registration?

  16. I am in my final year in Medical school from Nigeria. Your blog has essentially answered my questions.

  17. Dr naseer you have a done a briliant work in your blog i must say..
    I wanted to ask that once i pass my IELTS, for how long that will be valid and acceptable for PLAB 1 exam?
    Leave a reply thank you!

      1. Dr,
        I am bit concerned about IELTS validity in between passing PLAB1 and PLAB2.
        Suppose someone Cleared IELTS in December 2018, passed his PLAB1 in NOV 2019 in his second Attempt, took time to sit for PLAB 2 ( money, visa fact), he appeared in march, November in 2020 but failed, he wanted to try his third attempt for PLAB2 in march 2021 as his PLAB1 validity still ongoing

        1) Does he need to retake IELTS further for his PLAB2 third attempt as IELTS validity expired?
        2) if Someone failed in PLAB1/PLAB2 for his 4th attempts, what is next? Will he be expelled to sit for PLAB for lifetime or there is any period /time restrictions?

        3)Same questions about MRCP six attempt?

        Thanks in advance, Doctor.

      2. 1. No. Because you do not need IELTS for PLAB 2.
        2. You can only take PLAB 1 and 2 four times each.
        3. I am not sure I understand these questions. If there is a limit, then what is the confusion?!

      3. Dear Dr Khan,
        Thank you very much for this website, you are a rare gem. Please looking at the changes in the last PLAB 1 exam, do you think the study materials as advised on your website are still adequate to prepare for the PLAB 1 exam ?, Is it true that the PLAB 1 exam is now more difficult based on the last exam in July 2018. ?
        Thank you so much

  18. Thank you sir
    Your words have really inspired me n boosted me up.sir I hav few questions please help me on these:
    1. where to buy or get mock 7
    2.Exam of dates for plan 1 in india.
    3.where to buy Cambridge series for ielts

    1. 1. Facebook groups.
      2. Check the official website.
      3. Your local book store.

  19. Hello sir
    Have some doubts about the study material please help me on that .
    Do I need to buy all the 13 books of Cambridge series for ielts .
    Which is better to do plab1 before ielts or after ielts.
    Through which body should I apply ielts .
    Sir please help me really confused .

    1. 1. For writing, it is better to go through all the books.

      2. You can only take PLAB 1 after passing IELTS or OET.

      3. Please check my post “About IELTS”.

  20. Asalamualikum….
    Thank you for your blog sir…its very informative…
    Can you give guidance regarding OET too sir…?
    Many people reccommend OET because of its higher passing percentage(around 98 percent)..
    What is you advice regarding the topic sir??

    1. I’m afraid I can not give you any advice as I’m not familiar with OET. But I’m sure that you can find answers to all of these questions online.

      Check my post, “How to find Information”.

  21. Hello Dr. Naseer. I’m a final year student currently studying in Dow University in Karachi. I’m preparing myself to give ielts exam at the end of Oct 2018. Can you please tell me from where can i get/buy IELTS Cambridge Series along with audio cds?

    Thanks in advance.

  22. Thanks for your guidance.
    My question is; can someone at the age of between 35- 40 years can still write plab and still get job in UK?

  23. Thanx Dr Naseer for sharing your experience and giving such a valuable information, I did my mbbs without having any idea of how to pursue it further but now I think I have pretty much knowledge about Medical field and what are the career options in it. All Thanx to you Sir 😊

  24. OET or IELTS which one is preferable to get jobs after achieving GMC registration?

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