Book review

This book by Vanessa Jakeman and Clare McDowell is probably the best IELTS book to begin your preparation with. It explains the skills you need to tackle each type of question you will come across in the test. For those who are not familiar with the test you may find that you will need a teacher or someone who has done IELTS before to highlight important bits as they are sometimes lost in the mass of information that it provides. A definite must for anyone starting to study IELTS.

This follow up to ‘Insight Into IELTS’ provides ‘extra’ material and exercises and is useful to those wanting a fuller understanding of IELTS. We recommend that you use this book after having done the first one, as the authors intended.

This is the new edition of ‘Insight Into IELTS’, which is a mixture of the older edition and new material. At the end of each section there is a useful summary of the skills you should have learnt. Personally I prefer the original version, but that may be down to the fact that I have been using it for many years. Despite this I would still recommend this to anyone starting out.

There are a series of ‘Focus on IELTS’ books, but the one I recommend is the one by Sue O’Connell. The others are overseen by Sue O’Connell but are not as good. It is a very good follow up to the ‘Insight into IELTS’ books providing a lot of material to speak, listen and read about. I have never used the writing parts of the book as many students, and I, find them more confusing than helpful.

Another favourite of mine is ‘IELTS Masterclass’ by Simon Haines and Peter May. Again I mostly use it for speaking, listening and reading and gets the students thinking about various subjects that they may not have thought of before. It is very good to use with students who have some understanding of what IELTS is about and only deals with the accademic part of the test. This is a book that will create a lot of discussion in the classroom.

This set of 8 books usually have 4 complete accademic tests and 2 general ones. The earlier books tend to have only 1 general test. These are good to use periodically to see the students progress throughout the course. The answers are found at the back but with no explanation, once or twice I have come up against an answer with which I have disagreed. There are examples of essays, lettres and accademic writing task 1 with useful comments. Overall, a good series to go with your course books.

There are 2 ‘IELTS Practice Test Plus books’. The advantage of these is that there is an explanation to the answers, which helps the student understand where they went wrong. Shame there aren’t any more in this series.

This book by Michael Swan is mostly for teachers to understand some finer points of grammar and, as the title says, its usage. Having said this, IELTS students needing a high score (7 or more) will find this useful to further improve their writing and understanding of how the English language functions.

The ‘English Grammar in Use’ series , by Raymond Murphy, are very useful to get a quick and simple explanations of English grammar. Each double page consists of the grammar being explained and a page of exercises. Overall they are very good for those of you wanting to revise or understand difficult points. For IELTS students the ‘Intermediate’ book, pictured above, is all that you really need to pass the test. A must have for those of you who still have difficulties with tenses and articles.

For those of you who have problems in remembering new words, ‘Learn to Remember’ by Dominic O’Brien (8 times world memory champion) will offer you a wide range of techniques that can’t fail to help improve your mind. Not all techniques are suited to one person and so if one doesn’t suite you, another one will. Also, understanding a bit about how your mind works may help you understand a little bit more about yourself.

This is a very useful book not only for students but also for teachers. It gives you practical advice on how to sharpen you skills and information about the technical side of the test. A must have for those who need a high score (7+) as it gives you pointers on what to look out for in each section.


Having a good dictionary is a must for anyone learning any language. In order to chose well you should look out for the following:

1: Colour coding to easily identify the words and the descriptions. Plus a different colour that identifies the main meaning of a word.

2: Phonetic transcript of a word showing both the British and American ways of pronouncing the word.

3: What part of speech the word is.

4: How a word is used, whether it is formal or informal.

5: Labels indicating the importance of knowing the word and its common usage.

6: Synonyms and possibly antonyms.

7: Explanations of different means and usage of confusing vocabulary such as : affect and effect.

The Oxford dictionary is the standard for British English, but ultimately any English dictionary will do. Make sure you know whether it is American or British though. The meaning of some words are different in one or the other language. A good dictionary would point this out.


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