Let's talk about the best IELTS preparation books. It's hard to name the absolute best books for IELTS preparation - what helps one person may not be so effective for another. However, our experts have selected some of the best IELTS preparation materials, including the best IELTS books and free IELTS resources (like the Free IELTS eBook from Meridean Overseas Education Consultants), and ranked them according to their strong points. This should help you prepare for IELTS in a smart, efficient and focused way. Let's start!
Cambridge English also offers official mock exams. I recommend the IELTS book The Official Cambridge Guide to IELTS, which includes six comprehensive Academic IELTS practice exams and two comprehensive General Training practice exams. This IELTS book also contains helpful chapters with exercises and tips to help you prepare. If you plan to buy just one book, this is probably the one to choose from all the IELTS preparation books. However, there is a flaw. Although this is the best book for academic IELTS practice, it may not be the best book for general IELTS training practice.
Barron's IELTS Superpack is technically not one book, but three: Barron's IELTS, Barron's IELTS Practice Exams and Barron's IELTS Essential Words. These three IELTS preparation books are sold together in a box. Barron's IELTS is the complete guide, with tips and tutorials for every part of the IELTS, as well as 4 academic practice tests and two general training tests. The IELTS Practice exam book contains six additional IELTS academic tests and six additional GT tests. The Essential Words book teaches IELTS vocabulary, with a focus on IELTS reading vocabulary.
All in all, these three books are excellent, full of tips, tricks, and practice material that will help you prepare well for test day. That said, Barron's three books in the Superpack have some minor flows: sometimes they give advice that doesn't quite ring true. For example, these books tell you that the True/False and Yes/No questions are the most difficult questions on the test, but that's not true for most students. To give another example, you are also told to add as many personal details and experiences as possible in your task 2 essays, but it is not at all necessary to get a better score. And the practice material, while quite similar to IELTS, is just a little off; the audio focuses much more on American accents than real IELTS would, and the passages and questions are simpler than average for the IELTS exam.
These are all insignificant complaints, however. For the most part, Barron's does a fantastic job here, and the three Superpack books are all a good investment in your IELTS preparation.
Target Band 7 for IELTS Academic is one of the lesser known IELTS preparation books, but it's still great! This book focuses on testing strategy and includes a variety of helpful tips. The "Writing" section is the strongest chapter, with solid strategies, sample questions, and sample answers. Still, this IELTS book wouldn't work very well as a primary study guide. It does not include enough practical exercises with feedback. Also, in a number of places, the strategies and guidance lack examples to show how to put the guidance into practice.
It is very important to take several comprehensive practice exams before your exam day. Practicing with official IELTS materials will benefit you the most. Official IELTS practice materials vol. 1 and Official IELTS Practice Materials vol. 2 are definitely worth your investment. Each volume includes an academic test and a GT 1, as well as sample responses at different band score levels for writing tasks. Volume 2 includes a DVD with very helpful videos of people taking the oral exam. Make sure to use all official documents provided by IELTS. You should spend some time studying the free sample questions on the IELTS website in addition to these comprehensive exams.
IELTS 15 is perhaps the best IELTS practice book. (Or practice books.) Too often, IELTS preparation resources don't cover IELTS General Training as well as IELTS Academic. This is not the case with IELTS 15, a pair of official IELTS preparation books from Cambridge. The Academic and General Training versions of IELTS 15 are equally useful; each book features four practice tests, along with a set of audio transcripts and an answer guide that includes model essays with marker commentary.
For even more comprehensive official IELTS practice tests, IELTS Trainer is a great resource. This book brings together six practical tests, but it does much more than that. The first two tests, in the "Training and Exam Practice" section of the book, include extensive notes and advice on how best to answer the questions. And the test questions themselves are carefully prepared during the first tests, to help you focus on different essential skills. Once you have this support and preparation, the remaining four tests in the books are authentic and comprehensive practice tests.
IELTS Vocabulary Up to Band 6 is another official book from Cambridge's impressive IELTS library. Unlike the others, however, Vocabulary for IELTS does not contain practice exams. What it offers are a lot of hands-on activities to help you improve your vocabulary skills for the exam. The words are very well selected, and all of them could probably show up on the real test. And the activities help you build vocabulary in a fun, interesting, and rigorous way. This book tends to focus on the IELTS reading, as this is the most vocabulary-intensive part of the exam. As a result, it is one of the best IELTS reading books.
Like its companion vocabulary book, IELTS Grammar for Bands 6.5 and above focuses on skill building rather than practice test questions. However, Grammar for IELTS also includes official IELTS passages, question sets and tasks, although it does not include a comprehensive test. Learn how to use and apply good grammar to every part of the exam!
With a very generous selection of comprehensive practice tests and training modules, The Road to IELTS is also an excellent official resource. Although the Road to IELTS is not technically a book, it is its greatest strength. As an official online practice course from the creators of the exam, The Road to IELTS contains more material than could easily fit in a printed resource.
Although I really like this course, it has some downsides. Sometimes skill building materials seem a bit too broad. For example, many IELTS writing exercises include activities much more focused on listening or reading. In general, you will see an integration of all skills in the exercises for each of the four sections. This can be helpful for overall English fluency, but can be distracting for students who want to focus on just one section or skill at a time.
In addition to the online course I mentioned above, I have several other online IELTS resources that I can recommend. Many of them are free and the rest are quite affordable.
While many standardized tests have an official website, IELTS has many official sites. All four major sites offer a number of free practice tests and question sets, as well as a variety of free or inexpensive webinars, video lessons, e-books, and more. Meridean Overseas Education Consultants offers a guide to the four official IELTS websites and how to use them.
Meridean Overseas Education Consultants IELTS Section and Skills Guides
Meridean Overseas Education Consultants also offers the following guides on the important sections and elements of the IELTS exam:
Meridean Overseas Education Consultants’ Guide to the Whole IELTS Exam (free eBook)
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Here is our ranking of the best IELTS preparation books! For more rankings of great IELTS resources, check out the best blogs for IELTS students. We hope these resources will help you prepare effectively and usefully. Good luck!