Before you start your exam study program, I recommend that you ask yourself this question:
"Am I ready?"
After more than 10 years helping students get the exam scores that they need to enter university or migrate to another country, I noticed that there are two main approaches to preparing for these exams.
Approach One: Let's Go!
Many learners, upon discovering that they need to pass an exam to further their life ambitions, choose to dive right in. Regardless of their current English level, they immediately start working with exam level material.
This seems like a fast-track method. Their thinking is usually something like this:
"Even if I'm B1 level, if I start working on my exam now, I'll be able to pass the exam much sooner."
Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.
Most of the time, students who try this approach find themselves struggling early-on and losing motivation very quickly. Even if they stick-it-out, they often have to do the exam 2 or more times before they get the score they need.
Any teacher who is an exam expert will quickly realise that their student isn't "exam ready" and will suggest the following approach instead:
Approach Two: C1 First!
Learners who do really well in exams, and who have a much easier time studying for it, usually start their exam preparation once they are at C1 level. A high B2 level is also manageable.
Starting at these levels means that they already have a strong standard English vocabulary base and are confident speakers.
Hence, students at this level only need to focus on making the transition to academic English which is considerably more complex that standard English. Not only do the words change, but how they are used also changes.
Thus, in reality, the shortest and most painless path is to reach a high level of English before you start learning exam strategies and how academic English differs from standard English.