I was doing some IELTS tutoring earlier this week and I figured it would be fun to write a “review” of one of the numbered IELTS practice test books.  This is, I guess, a review of “IELTS 17” but it could be used as a review of any of the books… they are all pretty much the same (but new editions more closely match the current style of the test).

Any review must begin by thanking Cambridge for cranking out one of these books every year. Thanks to these books, people preparing for the IELTS have a ton of material to work with. The books keep pace with changes to the test, even though those changes are pretty minor.  As of the writing of this review, there are 18 such books.

Each book contains:

  1. A short introduction that describes the format of the test and how it is scored.
  2. Four practice tests with audio provided via QR codes
  3. Transcripts of the audio portions.
  4. Answer keys.
  5. Sample answer sheets
  6. Sample essays

There is also a single use code that will grant you access to a “resource bank” online that mostly duplicates the stuff available via the QR codes.

Speaking of the QR codes, it pleases me greatly that Cambridge provides access to the necessary audio without a limited-use code. That means that library patrons and second-hand shoppers can use the books. That compares favorably to the most recent official TOEFL prep material. Those books are useless for library patrons as the audio files can only be downloaded four times.

My only quibble is that the books are pretty expensive considering their slim size.

A few notes for teachers and students:

  1. There are 18 editions of this book as of the writing of this review. Each edition has different tests.
  2. Editions 13 and above are generally considered to be the most accurate books, as they match slight changes to the end of the listening section.
  3. That said, editions 6-12 are pretty darn close to the real test.
  4. Editions 1-5 should be avoided as they are quite out of date.
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