Who says you can only prepare for the IELTS exam in school? Many online platforms help you prepare for the IELTS Test for Academic English (including its four mandatory stages – Reading, Speaking, Listening and Writing), and provide ways to test your English skills and your familiarity with the testing process at a fraction of the cost of attending a specialised language school location.
However, before getting ready for the test you need to advance your English knowledge so why not pick an international English language school?
StudyPortals has reviewed three top online platforms providing IELTS test training, to help you choose the perfect option, and get admitted to an international university in no time:
- IELTS Test Online is a division of Impact Learning Services, New Zealand
- IELTS Master is provided by Macquarie University, Australia
- Cambridge English Practice Testbank is offered by Cambridge University, UK
- Vital English recommended by Cambridge Language Assessment
By assessing these online IELTS preparation platforms we can share our insights about who would best benefit from using these platforms.
The training platforms will be reviewed on the following points:
- Usability and page design
- Preparation materials included
- The simulation experience
- Test evaluation and keeping track of results
- Fees and subscription duration
- Additional features
Each topic section includes observations about each of the three platforms.
1. Platform usability & page design
IELTS Test Online
- At first, it is not very clear how to get started. The busy look of the page can create confusion.
- Some graphic elements look outdated.
- Including better links to previous pages may help with navigation.
- Sometimes it may be difficult to remember how you landed on a specific page.
- You need to read a few pages before you get started. Users go through clear steps meant for technical calibration.
- Clear start page that leads to preparation sections for each test type.
- Easy link navigation on the left side of the page – You can skip to whatever chapter you want to read by selecting it. The site is a bit busy visually.
- The exercises in the learning section are marked with special icons for easier navigation.
- The platform looks functional, but the design is just a little outdated.
- Users can access technical help at any time.
- You can ask for assistance by using the message box.
- Videos take a while to load.
- The website is straightforward and it's easy to get started. Users are not confused with a lot of information.
- You ca read the FAQ and tutorial before getting started, or whenever you need to.
- Minimalistic but modern page design. Intuitive and easy to navigate.
- Good tutorial for first-time users: includes videos, pdf brochure and on-page FAQ.
- Clear instructions. You can always access help features, even during the test.
- The interface language can be changed to 4 other languages.
- Tests open in a pop-up page, which doesn’t scale well on all monitors sizes. You may have to maximise the page manually.
- The pages are nicely displayed, and not using pop-ups.
- Information is easy to comprehend and each lesson has an essential preview summary.
- It's not very clear how to return to the main site menu.
- If you exit a course before finishing it and later come back, you start from where you left off.
- You can easily navigate between sections using the lesson menu on the left side.
- Videos load immediately.
2. Included IELTS preparation materials
IELTS Test Online
- Includes over 80 interactive lessons and 350 tutorial videos.
- A vocabulary introduction is available before each lesson.
- There is an initial quiz to before each lesson to test your starting knowledge.
- You'll find a lot of instructional videos included in the lessons.
- The platform includes preparation for a wide range of test takers: 5.0 to 9.0 score band.
- You'll find a study plan to help you with the learning rhythm.
- Find more than 260 activities in over 1000 study pages of content.
- You get 500 pages of teaching materials.
- Test tips and study strategies are provided in all modules.
- By assessing your experience with the platform, you get a few extra days of access.
- The short learning sections are easy to comprehend.
- A study plan is included to help students organise their learning activities – students can download the plan as PDF to keep track. This could have been presented better.
- Quizzes and assisted exercises are included in the preparation part.
- There are learning materials about how to take the test only included in PDF format.
- A few test samples included.
- You have the option to take preparation test before starting the actual simulation.
- Unfortunately, the preparation test is the same as the simulation. More variety would have been more helpful.
- The lessons are well structured and user-friendly.
- There are targeted recommendations for beginners and more advanced English-learners, before starting the lessons.
- Includes lessons for academic as well as general English IELTS preparation.
- Summary at the end of practice tests and lessons to remind you the keywords, topics and main ideas of the lesson, to help you learn how to approach a text.
- 25 hours of practice materials for each test section.
- Learning meant for 4.5 to 7.5 language level of IELTS.
3. Test simulation experience
Overall test simulation impressions
IELTS Test Online
- 15 preparation tests for each IELTS section for a total of 60 tests, regardless of the subscription you choose.
- Each test has a band score estimator included.
- You can take the tests as many times as you want.
- The tests loads in a pop-up page.
- Pop-ups appear with test requirements and answers. Answers need to be filled in separately, on a different page. This feature is a bit cumbersome and takes away from the simulation experience.
- You have the option to print the question sheet and the answer sheet.
- There is a visible timer included with the test. You can start, pause or reset it freely.
- Includes: 2 Writing practice tests, 3 Reading practice tests, 2 Listening practice tests, 2 Speaking practice tests.
- However, you will need to buy the help of an IELTS personal tutor for the Writing and SpeakingTests, if you want your assignments corrected and evaluated.
- Examples are included for each test. Also, before starting the actual test, students get an example of how to fill in their answers.
- The text of the listening test can be seen by clicking a button.
- The test has a fixed duration but the time is not displayed during testing.
- Plays recordings with instructions and time gaps to be able to complete requirements.
- You will have a fixed number of tries. You can take each test simulation only once, although practice tests have 3 tries each. This includes all four of the IELTS test sections.
- If you have to stop, you can just exit the window and the test is paused. When next accessed you can continue the recording from where you left off.
- The simulation is realistic. The difficulty curve is increasing and includes diverse types of tests for each test section.
- At the end of the Writing Test, you get three examples of what to write in the assignment, for different Band score skills.
- Interactive and easy to use reading practice tests.
- A good amount of diverse practice tests.
- Features exercises using multiple ways of interacting, such as drag and drop, choice selection, type in, check box.
- The distinction between practice exercises and actual IELTS test practice is not always clear. These are quite well integrated together.
- The Listening section includes a few recordings similar to how the IELTS test experience – but not a lot.
- Exercises offer a good challenge.
- You can take tests and practice how much you want - no limit to how many times you can take the same test.
The Speaking Test
The speaking test assessment requires the use of a computer microphone, and your answers will be recorded.
- Students answer the test questions in real-time.
- Each practice test has an example of a student answering the questions.
- A video tutorial will teach you how to record and also access your tutor answers after being evaluated.
- The recording process is well explained but has a lot of steps and requires a lot of interaction with the software.
- Students can take the test completely independent – no need for external reviewing or talking to an actual person.
- Audio and microphone calibration takes place before the test to make sure everything works properly.
- Students watch a video recording and are asked questions, simulating a speaking test. The recording pauses to allow students to answer.
- You can see how much time you have to answer each individual question.
- After completing the Speaking Test, you can replay your answers and listen to how you did.
- You can also retake the same speaking test to improve your answers and get comfortable with the process.
- Speaking preparation seems to include the most extensive practice materials
- Record and playback your own responses, but with no feedback from a teacher.
- You can compare your response with a model answer.
- You will practise your pronunciation, word stress, intonation and connected speech
- Includes strategies on how to pass this part of the IELTS test successfully
- Video recordings explain different assignments for the speaking test – really helpful.
- No calibration options for microphone
4. Test results, evaluation and keeping track of progress
IELTS Test Online
- Each lesson includes a test at the end to evaluate your acquired knowledge.
- There is a test score report summary showing your overall grade and percentage of complete lessons.
- It's easy to keep track of your test results and you can always try to beat your previous score.
- After each test, you can check and see the correct answers.
- You'll find a breakdown of all tests taken and their result on one page.
- Depending on the result, you have a simple reference you can use to determine your band score.
- It's easy to check the results of the test after completing them.
- The platform shows your mistakes and the right answers.
- You get a percentage score based on your correct answers and an estimated band score based on this.
- For the listening test, you also get transcripts of the conversation you listened to with highlighted answers.
- The score breakdown includes the time you've taken to complete each test.
- Option to see the right answers, and another to see which answers you got right.
- In some cases, the tests only show you the answers you got right and reset the ones you got wrong so you can have another try. Encourages not giving up and finding the right answers on your own.
- Tests are not timed, so there is less pressure, but also a less realistic simulation.
- Completion progress seems to not be tracked in demo mode.
- Does not offer grades or scores after completing the practice test.
5. Fees and subscription duration
IELTS Test Online
- All subscriptions include all written, audio and video materials, as well as free e-book and personal email support
- 20 USD – 10-day access
- 50 USD – 30-day access
- 80 USD – 90-day access
- 100 USD – 90-day access + writing and speaking assessment from tutor
- 50 AUD – 45-days access
- 100 AUD – 90-days access to all content
- 300 AUD – all materials included + personal feedback from teachers for writing and speaking tests. 90-days access
- Pricing is not clear on the platform. It’s assumed you have already paid to get the code from the language schools.
- IELTS self-study 90 USD for 90-day access
- Academic vocabulary – 45 USD for 30-day access
- More options with similar pricing
- IELTS Demo – Free for 7-day access
6. Additional platform features
IELTS Test Online
- You can download audio files for further use after the subscription expires.
- Free 800-page e-book including all lessons.
- You'll get email support from the tutor for subscriptions of one month or longer.
- You also get a built-in vocabulary section that works as a dictionary for more complex words.
- There are games for relaxing but also practising your English level.
- More complex words in the training part are underlined and feature a dictionary explanation.
- The preparation schedule fits your chosen package option.
- You can buy a tutor evaluation for Writing and Speaking Tests and access the corrected material from your account – not need for direct interaction with the tutor.
- There aren't many extra features except the written resource files.
- Teacher tips are included in certain sections, to emphasise important points.
- The text is often accompanied by pictures, even in the practice sections, although these don’t seem to add much in some cases.
- Good emphasis on strategies you should take during your IELTS Test.
7. Overall conclusions
IELTS Test Online
- It's great if you want to practice a lot before your actual IELTS test – 60 practice tests and free e-book included with any subscription.
- You'll get a lot of resources for learning and test your knowledge.
- It's very useful if you can overlook some navigation and outdated platform graphics.
- More focus on actual IELTS test preparation.
- Fully online classes are aimed at replacing on-location IELTS Test preparation.
- Good if you want to also keep an organised learning schedule.
- A lot of teaching material and activities included.
- Students insert the code and get started immediately.
- Easy to use, to the point, and good implementation, without depending on teachers to correct the work. Fully independent.
- Would have been nice to include more test variations and more interactive extra resources
- Realistic test experience, best for students who have already completed their IELTS preparation and just want to practice their knowledge.
- It’s also likely that students can buy more Cambridge practice tests from the English schools they are enrolled in.
- The platform is great for learning and practising in a seamless manner. The activities are combined, creating a pleasant experience that is easy to use.
- You won’t get a simulation experience, but you will learn good ways to approach the different problems covered by sections.
- The modern look and interactive tests create a pleasant and instructive learning experience.
What are you waiting for? Advance your English skills, pick an online IELTS training platform and get ready for you IELTS Academic English Exam!