IELTS Topics and How to Prepare for Them

Students are always asking me how to prepare for the IELTS exam and it’s a really difficult question to answer. There is no simple answer. The IELTS is just a test of your English skills. Native speakers would have no difficulty in passing it. However, there are definitely some important things you can do to speed up the learning process. You can learn writing structures and practice your listening, or memorize some useful vocabulary. There are so many ways to approach the IELTS exam, but one important point is to consider it in terms of topics.

Some Common IELTS Topics

There are some common topics that come up in the IELTS exam and these are the ones you should pay most attention to. You might have realized, for example, that the topic of education appears all the time. You’ll never see a listening exam that doesn’t include education! However, there are plenty of others and not all of the parts of the exam are as predictable as the listening.

Here’s a list of some of the most common topics.

  1. Education
  2. Environment
  3. Sports
  4. Food
  5. Technology
  6. Society
  7. Work
  8. Family

It’s not a complete list, and some of the topics may seem to overlap. For example, sometimes society and technology may blend into each other. Likewise, you could see an IELTS task 2 essay question that mixes education and family. Other people tend to include things like government on their lists, but honestly I think that’s just a part of a larger topic and not a topic itself.

There are also other small areas that some may consider as IELTS topics but which I think are instead just parts of the above list, which are more general topics. Some of these are also just less common but also broad topics:

  1. Health
  2. Culture
  3. Government
  4. Business & advertising
  5. Travel and transport
  6. Crime and punishment
  7. Buildings
  8. The future
  9. Reading
  10. Art
  11. Hobbies – include music, movies

Example Questions

Health – speaking exam

Do you have any unhealthy habits? (part one)

How can people be encouraged to stay healthy? (part three)

Work – speaking exam

What’s the best thing about your job? (part one)

Do you prefer working alone or with others? Why? (part one)

Food – writing exam

With the fast pace of modern life, more people are turning to fast food for their main meals. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this?

How to Prepare for Common IELTS Topics

Once you know what the common IELTS topics are, you can better prepare for the actual exam. This can be done in many different ways. For example, you could try building up your vocabulary for each of the topics. When you know that you may well be asked about buildings and architecture, you can then figure out some basic vocabulary on that topic. Likewise, you can ask yourself on to describe a sportsperson or describe an animal.

You should also look at the different parts of the exam in which each of these topics may likely arise. Education could pop up at any point in the exam, but hobbies are more common in the speaking test. Crime and punishment is most likely in the writing task 2, whereas buildings are unlikely to occur there. When you do some practice tests (which I highly recommend), you should make a mental note of what sorts of topics occur at each part of the exam.

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Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the ‘Weird Cult’ and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel.

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