3 Best IELTS Prep Books (2021-2022)

The Best Books to Prepare for the IELTS Exam

The International English Language Testing System is a universally accepted way to measure an individual’s English proficiency. Interestingly, a mastery of the language isn’t the only requirement to successfully pass the test. You also need an understanding of the test structure so that you can implement appropriate test-taking strategies.

The best IELTS Prep Books teach you about the material on the test while also teaching you to take the test itself. With so many options on the market, how do you know which prep book will work best for your needs and preferred teaching style?

Our complete guide answers common questions about IELTS prep books, plus we’ve graded some popular options by usefulness, effectiveness, and more. If you’re looking for the best book to help you pass the IELTS, you’re in the right place. Let’s get started!

Reviews of the Best IELTS Prep Book

Here’s a closer look at some of the most popular IELTS prep books

1. Kaplan IELTS Test Prep

A thorough and easy-to-understand IELTS testing guide from a trusted name in test prep.

Publisher: Kaplan Test Prop

Year: 2018

Number of Pages: 504

Our Final Grade: A+

For over 80 years, students have turned to Kaplan for test prep, and their IELTS guide continues their tradition of excellence. It features a whopping eight full-length practice tests, with two General Training tests and six Academic tests.

All practice questions include detailed explanations for every answer so that you can learn from your mistakes in a low-stress environment. Also, the book includes a CD with audio tracks to help you practice for the Listening sections.

Finally, we like the Kaplan team’s writing style. It’s designed to engage students and make learning fun. Plus, the course materials have been refined over the years to target typical problem areas.

Pros

  • Experienced Kaplan team has a solid understanding of test prep
  • All questions include detailed explanations for each answer
  • Includes eight full-length practice tests
  • Includes audio tracks to help you study the Listening section

Cons

  • Audio content doesn’t always match the corresponding written component

2. Barron’s Test Prep IELTS Superpack

Barron’s Superpack is about as comprehensive as it gets with multiple practice exams, an audio CD, and an emphasis on vocabulary.

Publisher: Barron’s Test Prep

Year: 2020

Number of Pages: 1368

Our Final Grade: A+

Barron’s is another trusted name in test prep, and their Superpack contains everything you need to succeed on the IELTS. It includes six Academic Module practice exams, six General Training practice exams, and audio material available both online and on the included CD.

Barron’s guide emphasizes test-taking strategies to help you handle unfamiliar questions. Plus, the guide helps you learn the 600 most common vocab words found on the test.

Pros

  • A trusted name in test prep
  • Includes 12 practice tests
  • Emphasizes test-taking strategies
  • Helps students learn 600 common vocabulary words

Cons

  • Includes material from earlier editions

3. Test Prep Books IELTS Academic Study Guide

This comprehensive guide from Test Prep Books combines an explanation of the material with detailed test-taking strategies.

Publisher: Amazon.com Services LLC

Year: 2017

Number of Pages: 154

Our Final Grade: B-

Although it’s not packed with unique strategies, this IELTS study guide from Test Prep Books is packed with solid information written in an engaging, easy-to-understand style. It covers all four sections of the test plus sample questions and a thorough explanation of types of commonly wrong answers.

The Reading section is the strongest part of the guide. It covers common spelling and grammar mistakes. Plus, it also focuses heavily on vocabulary.

Unfortunately, the Listening section isn’t as well done. Many of the answers to the sample questions aren’t explained in detail. Additionally, the guide only has one sample test for each section.

Overall, this guide is best for someone who needs help with the Reading section but isn’t interested in taking multiple sample tests.

Pros

  • Provides instruction for all four sections of the test
  • Includes a wealth of test-taking strategies
  • Explains how to avoid common testing mistakes

Cons

  • Listening section could use improvement
  • Guide only includes one sample test per section

Frequently Asked Questions about IELTS Prep

Finding the best IELTS Prep Book can feel confusing, especially considering that you’re likely not studying for it in your native language. Here are the answers to the most common questions:

What is the IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System is a standardized test that measures a person’s ability to read, write, speak, and understand the English language. Launched in 1989, it’s the world’s most popular English certification test.

The IELTS is owned and managed by the British Council, Cambridge English Language Assessment, and IDP Education Australia. A variety of different English speakers (British English, American English, Australian English, etc.) write the test to help reflect real-life use of the language.

Who Should Take the IELTS?

As the most widely-used English proficiency test in the world, the IELTS has a wide range of purposes. Broadly, it’s used by anyone from a non-English speaking country who needs to demonstrate proficiency to work, study, or live in a primarily English-speaking country.

IELTS certification is required by many different employers, academic institutions, governments, and other organizations. Even when not strictly required, certification often helps increase opportunities professionally, academically, and even socially. Over 9,000 organizations worldwide accept the test as proof of English-language mastery.

Those who don’t take the IELTS may instead be required to take the TOEFL or PTE exam.

What are the Types of IELTS Tests?

There’s actually no “IELTS test.” Instead, three different versions exist. Here’s a closer look at each:

IELTS Academic – This type is often required for international students applying to English-speaking universities

IELTS General Training – This type is often required as part of the immigration process to many English-speaking countries, including the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.

IELTS Life Skills – This version tests only speaking and listening. It’s typically part of the test for UK Visas and Immigration. It’s the least common type of test.

How is the Test Structured and Scored?

The Academic and General Training tests each have the following four sections:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking

Each section is graded with a band score that ranges from one to nine. A band of one indicates that the person is a non-speaker, while a nine signifies the highest level of language use. Generally, a band six is considered competent enough for most organizations, although some places require a higher degree of proficiency.

The Life Skills test type doesn’t use a band scoring method. Instead, it’s a Pass/Fail test.

All sections of the test involve reading and writing except the Speaking section. For the Speaking component, you’ll undergo a one-on-one assessment with a live administrator. He or she will converse with you to evaluate your spoken language skills.

Your test scores for all test types are valid for two years. If you don’t pass the Life Skills test, you can retake it as often as you wish.

Where Do I Take the IELTS Test?

Finding a test location usually isn’t difficult. Over 1,000 locations are available in 140+ countries. About two million people take an IELTS test each year.


Conclusion

Use the reviews above to help find the best prep book. When selecting a book, you want one that emphasizes all the sections of the specific type of test you plan to take. Plus, the guide should also teach you test-taking strategies such as how to manage your time and spot common mistakes.

Preparing for the IELTS can feel nerve-wracking because the outcome can have a significant impact on where you live, work, or attend school. However, with the right prep book, you can maximize your study time and pass the test with flying colors!

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Brett Gordon
 

Founder of ExamCave.com