How to Make a Good IELTS Prep Timeline This post originally appeared on the Magoosh IELTS blog.

An IELTS prep timeline shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. After all, there are many IELTS test dates to choose from! There are benefits to making your own personal plan. Today, I’ll give you some tips on how you can make your own IELTS prep calendar.

Step 1: Figure how much study time you’ll need

Before you start to make your IELTS Prep timeline, take an IELTS practice test. Ideally, you should take an official IELTS practice exam, either from one of the official websites or one of the official IELTS books from Cambridge. If at all possible, you should also find a tutor or teacher to give you scoring and feedback for your IELTS Speaking and Writing.

Once you’ve got an IELTS practice test score (or maybe two practice test scores), compare your score to the score you actually need.

Basically, the farther you are from your target IELTS score, the more you’ll need to study. If you’re only half a band below your target score, you won’t need that much study time. However, if your score is too low by one band or more, you’ll need a longer IELTS prep timeline.

Step 2: Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses

When you look at your practice IELTS scores, it’s easy to just see the numbers. And it is important to look at your section scores, whole-test band, and the number of answers you missed. But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. You need to also look at the types of questions you’re missing. If you’re unsure what that means, review our complete IELTS guide for a breakdown of test sections and question types.

Maybe you’re weaker at multiple choice, or spelling, or perhaps you’re stronger in these or other areas. Your weak points tell you what you’ll need to spend a lot of time on during our study schedule; you may need to spend more time with vocabulary, or spelling, or essay writing, for exmaple. Your strengths represent opportunities to save time. If you’re already good at the IELTS Speaking interview, for example, you won’t need to devote much practice time to that (and if not, then check out this video for extra help!).

Step 3: Figure out how many hours of study you need

Once you’ve taken a practice exam and identified your strengths and weaknesses, you should do a little studying without a timeline (possibly a day or two of study). The idea here is to get a sense of your own IELTS studying style. Most importantly, you want to figure out how long it takes you to study a certain amount of practice material.

Based on the amount of material you cover in your first study session or two, estimate the total number of study hours you’ll need. How many hours will it take you to be truly IELTS-ready? Be sure to incorporate study tools like practice interview videos and practice for both IELTS Writing Tasks 1 and IELTS Writing Tasks 2. Once you’ve got that estimate, then look at how many hours you have for study time each week. This allows you to know how many weeks long your IELTS prep timeline should be.

Step 4: Make the actual IELTS Prep Timeline

So, now you know what you need to study and how long you should study. From there, you can make a full study plan. Your study plan can be weekly or daily. But remember to give yourself some flexibility. Some parts of your study plan may take longer than expected, while other parts may be completed more quickly than you originally planned. Be ready to make some changes to your IELTS study schedule as it progresses.

This final step can sometimes feel overwhelming. If you’re not sure where to start, check out some example IELTS prep plans.

About David Recine

David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent. Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest. When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life.