IELTS for Canada immigration: common mistakes and top tips

3500000 +
people around the globe take the IELTS each year

Preparation for the IELTS test may be both stressful and challenging, which only makes things worse. Listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills are all examined in the process. With so much to prepare for proper IELTS scores, it may be a lot to handle.

In this article we’ll discuss the top 5 preparation mistakes that are commonly made by IELTS test takers and how you can avoid them. 😉

Published on October 12, 2023

Table of Contents

📝 What is IELTS or International English Language Testing System?

IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System. It’s a test that checks how well you can use the English language. This test is needed for different reasons, especially if you want to study or live in Canada.

👩‍🎓 IELTS For Studying in Canada

If you plan to study in Canada, universities and colleges there often ask for your IELTS scores.

This is to make sure you can understand and talk in English, which is important for your studies.

✈️ IELTS For Canada Immigration

For people who want to become permanent residents of Canada, you also need to show your English skills to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The IELTS scores help prove that you can speak and understand English, which is one of Canada’s official languages.

❎ IELTS Top 5 Most Common Preparation Mistakes
❌ Mistake #1: Taking the Test Without Enough Preparation

The IELTS exam is not something you can walk into casually and expect to excel. It requires dedicated preparation to ensure that you are equipped to tackle the various components of the test successfully. Here, we delve deeper into why preparation is paramount and provide practical tips to enhance your readiness.

Why Preparing For Your IELTS Exam Matters

Familiarity with the Test Format

The IELTS exam comprises four main sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Each section has its unique format, timing, and assessment criteria. Without adequate preparation, you might find yourself unfamiliar with these formats, leading to confusion during the test.

Time Management

Time is a critical factor in the IELTS exam. Without preparation, you risk not managing your time effectively during the test. For instance, in the Reading section, there are multiple passages to cover in a limited time. Adequate preparation helps you develop strategies to allocate your time wisely.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety

Walking into the IELTS test center with minimal preparation can trigger stress and anxiety. You might worry about your ability to perform well, which can negatively impact your focus and concentration during the test. Preparation helps build your confidence and reduces test-day jitters.

Practical Tips to Avoid This Mistake

Take the time to thoroughly understand the format of each IELTS section. Familiarize yourself with the types of questions, timing, and scoring criteria. This knowledge will demystify the test and make you feel more in control.

Practice tests are invaluable in your preparation journey. They simulate the actual test conditions and help you gauge your progress. By taking practice tests, you can identify your weak areas and work on improving them.

Utilize quality study materials and resources. This includes official IELTS preparation books, online courses, and practice tests. These resources are designed to align with the IELTS test’s content and structure.

Consider seeking guidance from experienced IELTS instructors or tutors. They can provide personalized feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, helping you tailor your preparation more effectively.

Develop time management strategies for each section of the IELTS test. For instance, in the Writing section, allocate a specific amount of time for planning, writing, and reviewing your essays.

Establish a consistent study routine that fits your schedule. Consistency is key to retaining information and improving your language skills over time.

Practice speaking English regularly, even outside of your study sessions. Engaging in mock interviews with friends or language partners can boost your confidence for the Speaking section.

❌ Mistake #2: Choosing The Wrong Exam Type

Selecting the appropriate IELTS exam type is a pivotal decision in your journey to achieving your goals. It’s crucial to align your choice with your specific objectives, be it academic pursuits in Canada or immigration purposes. Here, we delve deeper into why making the right choice is essential and offer practical tips to guide you through this decision-making process.

Why the Right Exam Type Matters
Practical Tips to Avoid This Mistake

Begin by understanding why you need an IELTS score. Is it for academic studies, immigration, or other purposes? Your purpose will dictate whether you should opt for Academic or General Training.

Consider your comfort level with writing on a computer or on paper. If you’re proficient at typing and prefer digital methods, a computer-based exam might be suitable. On the other hand, if you’re more at ease with pen and paper, the traditional format may be your best choice.

While achieving a high IELTS score is undoubtedly important, it’s equally crucial to prioritize the improvement of your language skills. Merely focusing on score goals can lead to missed opportunities for language enhancement.

Before the actual exam, take advantage of practice tests in your chosen format (computer-based or paper-based). This allows you to become accustomed to the test conditions and requirements, enhancing your confidence on test day.

If you’re uncertain about which exam type to choose, consider consulting with IELTS experts or educational advisors. They can provide valuable insights based on your specific goals and needs.

❌ Mistake #3: Making Errors in Test Format and Timing

Not being well-versed in the IELTS exam format and timing can significantly impede your performance. Each section of the test presents specific content and question types, and neglecting these details may result in lower scores. Moreover, the IELTS is known for its stringent time limits. Failing to practice within these time constraints can lead to undue stress and challenges during the actual exam. Here, we delve into the importance of understanding the test format and timing and offer valuable tips to excel in these aspects.

Why Understanding Test Format and Timing is Crucial

The IELTS test comprises four main sections: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. Each section has distinct content and question types. Not being acquainted with these specifics can lead to misunderstandings and errors during the test.

Type of Exam Formats Description
Reading This section assesses your ability to comprehend written material. It includes various question types, such as multiple-choice, matching, and True/False/Not Given. Understanding the question formats is essential for accurate answers.
Writing The Writing section consists of two tasks—an essay (Task 2) and a letter/report (Task 1). Knowing the required structure and content for each task is crucial for scoring well.
Listening In this section, you'll listen to recordings and answer questions based on what you hear. Familiarity with question types like multiple-choice, note completion, and sentence completion is key.
Speaking The Speaking test involves a face-to-face interview. Understanding the three parts of this test and the types of questions asked will help you respond confidently.
Timed Sections The IELTS test has strict time limits for each section. Not practicing under timed conditions can lead to poor time management during the actual exam, causing stress and rushed responses.
Practical Tips to Avoid This Mistake

Understanding the IELTS exam format involves knowing the layout of each section. For instance, in the Academic Writing section, you should be aware that Task 1 typically involves describing visual data, while Task 2 requires essay writing. In the Listening section, you should know that the recordings become progressively more challenging.

Recognizing the order of questions within each section is crucial. In the Reading section, there are specific question types like Multiple Choice and True/False/Not Given that consistently appear. Knowing this order can help you allocate time efficiently.

Each IELTS section presents a variety of question types. For example, in the Listening section, you might encounter Multiple Choice, Matching, and Sentence Completion questions. To excel, practice extensively with these different formats. This ensures that you’re well-prepared to tackle any question that arises during the test.

Familiarity with question types not only helps you understand what is expected but also aids in managing your time efficiently during the actual exam.

Timing is of the essence in the IELTS exam. Set strict timers during your practice sessions that align with the time limits imposed in the actual test. For instance, allocate a specific amount of time for each reading passage or essay task.

Practicing under timed conditions allows you to gauge your pacing. You’ll become accustomed to allocating your time wisely, reducing the likelihood of running out of time during the test.

Tailor your approach to each section. For instance:

In the Reading section, practice skimming passages to quickly identify key information. This helps you save time and locate answers more efficiently.

In the Writing section, develop a structured approach to essay writing. Outline your essays, allocate time for planning, writing, and reviewing, and ensure that your essays have clear introductions and conclusions.

Taking full-length mock tests is a cornerstone of IELTS preparation. These tests simulate actual exam conditions, from the timing to the format. They provide a holistic view of your readiness for the test.


Mock tests serve as checkpoints in your preparation journey. They not only reveal your strengths and weaknesses but also boost your confidence. Knowing that you can manage your time effectively during a full-length test instills a sense of control and readiness.

After completing practice tests, invest time in reviewing your performance meticulously. Identify specific areas where you struggled with timing or format.

Seek feedback from teachers, peers, or online resources. Constructive feedback helps pinpoint areas requiring improvement, guiding your subsequent practice sessions.

❌ Mistake #4: Not Taking a Practice Exam

Not taking practice exams can leave you unprepared for the actual IELTS test. Practice exams help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in each section, allowing you to focus your preparation where it’s needed most. Without this important step, you might struggle with the real test’s format and time constraints.

Make Practice Exams a Must: The Foundation of Prep

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Practice exams are your IELTS prep building blocks, simulating the real test with questions and time limits. This helps you get comfortable with what to expect on the test day.

Find Out What You're Good At: The Power of Self-Assessment

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Taking practice exams isn't just about answering questions; it's about understanding your strengths and weaknesses. Use these mock tests to figure out where you're doing well and where you might need some extra practice.

Study Smart: Focus on What Needs Improvement

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Using practice exams' insights, you can study smarter by focusing on areas that need improvement. For instance, if your Speaking skills require work, invest more time in practice.

Track Your Progress: See How You're Doing

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Taking practice exams isn't a one-time thing. It's something you should do regularly. As time goes by, your improving performance signals progress toward IELTS readiness.
❌ Mistake #5: Not Surrounding Yourself with English

Imagine you’re learning to swim, but you only practice in the pool during lessons. If you avoid water outside of those lessons, you won’t become a strong swimmer. Similarly, focusing solely on IELTS preparation without embracing English in your daily life can hold you back.

Tips on How to Embrace English

Dive In: Surround Yourself with English

Think of English like water, and immerse yourself in it as much as possible. Read online articles, blogs, or books in English about topics that interest you. It’s like exploring a new world through words.

Put Pen to Paper: Practice Writing

Just as swimmers improve by practicing strokes, writers get better by writing. Maintain a journal or start a blog in English. This will help you become more comfortable expressing yourself in the language.

Engage and Chat: Interact with English Speakers

Engage with English speakers in online communities or on social media. Having conversations can boost your confidence and fluency.

💯 IELTS Scoring System

IELTS band scores are given on a 9-band basis, with bands ranging from 1 to 9.

A band score is given to each section of the exam based on how well the student performs on it.

Listening and Reading Sections

The Listening and Reading sections of the IELTS exam are scored differently from the Speaking and Writing sections. There are 40 questions in each of the Listening and Reading sections, and each right answer is worth one point. The 40-point scale is translated to an IELTS 9-band scale. Candidates who take the IELTS Speaking test will have their speaking skills assessed in a face-to-face interview by certified IELTS examiners who will use an assessment criteria set in order to assign band scores for each of the four criteria: fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range, and accuracy and pronunciation.

IELTS Writing Task 1 and Task 2

As for the IELTS Writing Task 1 and Task 2, they are both scored in the same manner, with the examiner giving band scores for each of the four criteria that best reflect the performance at each band level. Studying the evaluation methods can help you better prepare for the exam and approach each part of it.

Important Note: Immigration, work, and student visas all need a minimum test score of 6.0 to be eligible for admission.

✍️ Why take the IELTS Exam? Importance of Language Skills for Canada Immigration

When it comes to moving to Canada, having strong English language skills is a big deal. It’s not just about passing a test; it’s about being ready for life in your new country. Here’s why the IELTS exam matters:

Four Essential Skills

The IELTS test looks at four important English skills:

  • Reading: Can you understand what you read in English?
  • Writing: Can you express your thoughts in writing?
  • Listening: Can you understand when people speak to you in English?
  • Speaking: Can you have conversations in English?

#1 Real-Life Readiness

These skills are crucial for your daily life in Canada, whether you’re studying, working, or just enjoying your time there. Being good at English makes everything easier.

#2 A Must for Immigration

Most immigration programs in Canada now ask for IELTS scores. It’s like a key that unlocks the door to your new life in Canada. Without it, your chances of moving there become more challenging.

#3 Boost Your Chances

Taking the IELTS exam is a smart move if you want to live in Canada. It’s a way to show that you’re ready to communicate effectively in English, which is a big part of life in Canada. So, by acing the IELTS, you’re taking a big step toward making your Canadian dream come true.

🤝 Who can help in IELTS exam preparation?

Preparing for the IELTS exam can be a significant challenge, but you don’t have to go it alone. There are various ways and resources to get the assistance you need.

IELTS Preparation Centers and Language Schools

IELTS preparation centers and language schools can be found in many countries around the world. They specialize in helping you get ready for the IELTS exam. These institutions offer structured courses and study materials designed to improve your skills in all IELTS test areas: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. You’ll benefit from the expertise of experienced instructors who understand the IELTS format and can provide valuable insights and tips.

Assistance from CanadaCIS
and Our Partners

CanadaCIS offers a unique opportunity to prepare for the IELTS exam with the support of language exam preparation partners. With this option, you can receive targeted guidance specifically tailored to the IELTS requirements and your goals related to Canada, whether it’s immigration, study, or work.

Professional Courses and Qualified Teachers (Optional)

Depending on your starting point and goals, you might opt for a professional IELTS preparation course led by qualified teachers. These courses often include practice tests, personalized feedback, and strategies for tackling each section of the IELTS exam.

Remember: It’s Not Mandatory!

While professional assistance can be incredibly beneficial, it’s important to know that it’s not a strict requirement for IELTS success. Many test-takers achieve their desired scores through self-study and practice. The choice of whether to invest in professional help depends on your individual needs, resources, and preferences.

🗂️ Other Canadian Language Test Options

Following the Oath of Citizenship, you’ll be presented with a tangible symbol of your new status – the Canadian Citizenship Certificate.

CELPIP (or Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program)

When compared to the IELTS, the CELPIP assesses competence in Canadian English, which has a blend of British and American influences, as well as a distinct Canadian accent. The General Test and the General LS Test are the two CELPIP test categories. If you wish to immigrate to Canada, it is required for you to take CELPIP’s General Test.

TEF (or Test d’Evaluation de Français)

TEF is required if you are a natural French speaker who wishes to immigrate to Canada. TEF comes in two forms: TEF and TEFAQ. TEF is the more common of the two. Normally, it is advised to take the TEF. However, only Quebec and federal immigration recognizes the TEFAQ.

Note: When choosing which test to take, it’s always best to be extra careful and check the requirements of your immigration program. You can do it on your own or by consulting immigration experts such as CanadaCIS. Making the decision to take the test on your own and choosing the test that is not recognized by Canadian immigration authorities may result in wasted effort, time, and money.

💯 Why A Good IELTS Score Matters

A good IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score matters for several reasons, especially in the context of immigration, education, and employment. Here are some key reasons why a good IELTS score is important:

Immigration Purposes:

  • Express Entry System: In Canada, the Express Entry system uses a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) to assess candidates for immigration. Language proficiency, as demonstrated through IELTS scores, is a significant factor in the CRS. Higher scores contribute to a higher CRS score, increasing your chances of receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residency.
  • Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs):  Achieving a good IELTS score can make you a more competitive candidate for nomination.

Education Opportunities:

  • University Admissions: Many universities and educational institutions in English-speaking countries, including Canada, require IELTS scores as part of the admission process. A good score is often a prerequisite for acceptance into academic programs.
  • Language Proficiency for Courses: Even if IELTS is not explicitly required for admission, demonstrating a high level of English proficiency through a good IELTS score can enhance your application and make you a more competitive candidate.

Employment Opportunities:

  • Job Applications: Some employers, particularly in English-speaking countries, may require proof of English language proficiency as part of the hiring process. A good IELTS score can demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively in a professional setting.
  • Professional Registration: Certain professions and regulatory bodies may require evidence of language proficiency for professional registration. IELTS scores are commonly accepted as proof of language ability.

Learn more:

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