The answer is yes! With the boarders opening and restriction being gradually lifted, people are flooding out of the country and an English proficiency exam becomes a must. So preparing for the said exams becomes vital as well, that's when the dilemma arises to take coaching or not. It all depends on how comfortable you are with self-preparation, if you are okay with it then, there is no stopping you, go ahead and start studying.

There is no substitute for hard work but here only hard work alone won’t help you to sail through, smart work is key.

If you are wondering how much preparation time one should take before giving the exam, I’d say it would depend on the level of English proficiency you have. If you’re a high school level English speaker or you have a basic grasps or you’re below basic fret not, it would take a little more time but if you perceiver you’ll make it out with flying colours.

There are many authentic and official IELTS pattern following websites, blogs and YouTube videos which provides plenty of study material for the exam. The exam is available in both pen-paper and online modes.

Whether you are applying for academic or general training, the first step is always self-assessment.

As already mentioned find where you range and then systematically prepare for the exam.

Time is of the essence so while preparing do use the timer as a life line while completing any practice paper.

From the duration of preparation until the exam try conversing in English as much as possible.

Now, let’s break it down according to the exam pattern:

Speaking: It is like an informal interview, where you have a face to face discussion with the examiner on general topics from everyday life, lasting for 11 to 14 minutes. You can practice against your parents, siblings or even over video call with friends and if, no help is available just use the oldest trick in the book, use your old and trusty mirror. The purposes of the exam is to assess whether one is capable of holding a conversation in English with ease, so, have relaxed and confident interaction with the examiner and you’ll be able to achieve a high score. It is same for both academic and general training candidates.

Listening: This consist of four recordings of native English speakers and then you’ll have to listen and answer a number of questions. This consist of 40 question to be answered in 30 minutes and extra 10 minutes to transfer to the answer booklet in case of pen-paper based IELTS, for 1 mark each. Listening will contain situations pertaining to everyday social context, monologue, educational and training contexts and conversation between two main speakers (like between student/s and a tutor).

 For listening it would help if you listen to BBC podcasts, English news or try watching movies and series without subtitle. It is same for both academic and general training examinees.

Pay attention to your answers because poor spelling and grammar will be penalized. If you minimize your mistakes you can score well here, plus the aim of the exercise is to perceive that you are able to comprehend and respond well towards a native English speaker.

Writing: Here, the format varies for academic and general training. In case of academic it consists of two task that have to be completed within 60 minutes, where in task 1 you are provided with a graph, table, chart or diagram and asked to describe, summarize or explain the information in your own words. However, task 2 consists of an essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Response to both the task have to be in a formal style of writingIn general training writing section, task 1 consists of letter writing  requesting information, or explaining the situation. Task 2 is on the same pattern as academic.

Task 1 has a word limit of 150 words to be completed within 20 minutes, while the other is 250 words in 40 minutes. Task 2 carries more weightage than task 1, so plan accordingly. Marking is same for both academic and general training tests.

For writing you’ll have to practice manually either type to develop speed or write using a pencil on paper. You can find various IELTS topics online and try writing within the stipulated time. One crucial reminder, please, adhere to the word limit. Below the word limit you’ll be doomed to get a lower score.

Reading: Just like writing, reading too is slightly different for both academic and general training (GT) IELTS. Academic version consists of three long comprehensive passages which range from the descriptive and factual to the discursive and analytical. However, GT version contains extracts from books, magazines, newspapers, notices, advertisements, company handbooks and guidelines. Both of them have three sections with 40 questions in total, which is needed to be completed within 60 minutes, worth 1mark each. Here too you can practice question from previous papers  that are available online.

The similarity between those who achieve a high IELTS score whether they had coaching or not is practice. It matters not whether you can’t form perfect sentences or use the correct grammar, but with steady practice you can change it to get a high score. There are plenty of You-tube videos for basic grammar that you already refer, while preparing for competitive exams. So don’t get disheartened, just stay on track and keep practicing.