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Top 5 IELTS Textbooks for Self-study

Over the years I’ve been asked countless times which IELTS textbooks are best for independent study. For me, the main criteria are a full answer section, preferably one with explanations of answers, and an approach to the test that breaks down strategies into simple steps that learners can follow. Here are five textbooks I’ve recommended many times in the past:

Focus on Academic Skills for IELTS (Longman)

At first glance this seems to be a supplement to Focus on IELTS, but it’s actually a radically different kind of coursebook, one very well suited to self-study. Test strategies are broken down into easy-to-follow processes, and authentic test items are supplemented with directions in blue text. There’s also a full answer key. The new edition of the book includes both audio CDs and is therefore an even more complete package than the first edition. The only drawback is that it’s a little too process-oriented for classroom situations. Rating 9/10

Grammar for IELTS/Vocabulary for IELTS (Cambridge)

Vocabulary for IELTSIndependent learners will appreciate these self-study guides from Cambridge which focus on grammar and vocabulary with an academic dimension. Suitable for all low- to high-intermediate-level students. Both books come with an audio CD, which means that test-takers are activating more than just their reading and writing skills. Of course, it is ideal if these books can be supplemented with opportunities for spoken output such as a group lesson or study buddy. Rating 8/10

Improve Your IELTS Reading/Writing/Listening & Speaking Skills (Macmillan)

Improve Your IELTS Reading SkillsThe Macmillan Improve Your IELTS… series is highly recommend for Academic IELTS test-takers who want to focus on a particular module of the test. Useful vocabulary, grammatical forms and organisational techniques are introduced through sample answers, and there are enough discussion questions to make these books suitable for classroom use as well. Practice test questions follow at the end of each unit, and the Listening & Speaking book is especially good value with two audio CDs. The only criticism is that the answer section lacks detailed explanations. Rating 8/10

IELTS Testbuilder 1 & 2 (Macmillan)

IELTS Testbuilder 1The official IELTS past papers don’t come cheap, but there is an affordable alternative in IELTS Testbuilder. Like the official Cambridge papers, this book includes four full Academic IELTS tests with CDs and answer key with detailed explanations. Of course you’ll need a teacher or study buddy to help you with the speaking practice. Recommended for anyone planning to take the Academic version of IELTS. Rating 8/10

Academic Vocabulary in Use (Cambridge)

Academic Vocabulary in UseNot a test-preparation book but an excellent resource for those who want to broaden their range of higher-level vocabulary for the Academic modules of IELTS. It may look dense and difficult, but the book is actually quite accessible and clearly written with second-language learners in mind. Importantly, all vocabulary is presented in the context of a sentence or short paragraph. Readers therefore gain exposure to collocation and academic register, which should lead to improvements in writing as well as vocabulary acquisition. Rating 8/10

Are you a teacher looking for an IELTS textbook for the classroom? Read about the Top 5 IELTS textbooks for classroom use.

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