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So I’m taking my first IELTS exam this weekend…

I have a Masters degree in linguistics from a top university. I’ve been teaching English for nearly 10 years. I know my grammar inside out and back to front. I have a large vocabulary because I read widely; I studied English literature in my undergraduate degree and English teaching as a diploma. I read in English constantly. Not only that, but I’m a native English speaker. I was born and raised in Australia.

But you know what? I’m nervous… I’m nervous because I’m taking the IELTS exam on Saturday and I don’t know what to expect. I’m worried about the question types. I’m worried what the exam paper will look like. I’m worried about the answer sheet. I’m worried about the pencils. I’m worried about the essay question I will get – will it be an advantages/disadvantages essay?

(For me, I’m not so worried about the English language content part of the exam – that should be easy for me. What I’m more concerned about is the test format.)

IELTS exam
Here I am..looking nervous!

Nervousness is a funny thing. It feels the same as anxiety and I think it comes from fear. What should I do to relieve it? I want it to go away… I can ignore it and hope that it will go away but I don’t think that will work. I’ve tried that before – many times in fact! The thoughts will come creeping back no matter how much I tell them to leave. And each thought about my IELTS will be accompanied by a feeling – a feeling of nervousness, a feeling of unknowing. I don’t think ignoring the thought of my exam will help me. It’s not possible. These thoughts are telling me something.

What are they telling me? They’re telling me to prepare. That’s the only thing left to do, actually. But to prepare I need to stop being lazy. So I’m stuck with a choice. I can live with my anxiety and ignore it, which I know will be awful, or I can stop being lazy, put pen to paper and prepare for my exam.

Let’s talk confidence!

Confidence is interesting. Where does it come from? How is it that some people are confident while others struggle with their fears? Confidence, as far as I am concerned, comes from knowledge which produces ability.

Think about the first time that you drove a car. You were nervous. It was new. It was challenging. You didn’t know how to indicate, turn the wheel and use the accelerator. After driving for some time it becomes easy. It becomes easy because you are able. When you are able you have no fear anymore. The fears dissipate and you are left with confidence – confidence because you CAN DO! And the funny thing is about fear and nervousness is that once they are gone you forget that you actually had them!

Being able to do the IELTS exam is the same thing. Not knowing what the test will look and feel like brings about feelings of nervousness. But you know what? I’ve decided to prepare. Even though I’m a native English speaker I’ve started working through the content on

I’ve started doing the practice tests because A) they are of the same level of difficulty as the actual IELTS exam, and more importantly for me, B) they look the same. The YES / NO / NOT GIVEN reading a question, for example, looks like it will in the actual IELTS exam. If I practice it, therefore, I will not be scared of it. I will have a ‘game plan’. has even built an ‘answer sheet’ that looks exactly like the actual IELTS answer sheet. So when I practice, I practice with the next best thing.

IELTS exam

In addition to knowing what the test format will look like, which greatly relieves my nervousness, the IELTS content on also gives you METHODS.

Here is an example of one of our IELTS exam methods videos:

That’s what I’m talking about!

Put simply, the teachers tell you exactly HOW to answer each of the questions – step by step. This is gold. Really. I mean, could it be any better than A) knowing exactly what you are going to see and B) being told how to answer each of the questions step by step?

Most people freak out about IELTS Writing Task 1 – where you need to describe a graph. Without a model answer and a method of writing this, most people are terrified. I’m not. I know exactly what to do as soon as I see the graph… Step 1… Step 2… Step 3… etc. Done.

Good-bye nervousness! Hello confidence!

Another part of the IELTS that scares me is some of the reading questions, such as Yes / No / Not given… and True / False / Not given. They’re tricky! But the same rule applies… I know what to expect and I know how to do it.

24 hours ago I was nervous. But now I’m not only confident, I’m excited! Admittedly, there’s still a bit of fear there, but I’ll use that to motivate me on test day; I’ll use it to concentrate.

If you’re nervous you have two options: 1) You can choose to ignore your feelings and suffer or 2) you can start preparing now and start feeling confident. The good thing is about the second option is that not only will you feel a lot better but you will also score a lot higher as well.



Written by Jay Merlo

All Comments 8
  • Hi Jay. I really need your help and would appreciate any advise or suggestions. I recently write the IELTS for tge firat time and got 9 for speaking, 8.5 for listening, 7 for reading and 6 for writing. I am from South Africa. Studied my BED in English and my BED honors in English with 6 distinctions. I was mortified when i saw i got a 6 for writing because I always thought I was good at academic writing. So im even more nervous and less confident. I write again in 3 weeks. I would appreciate any advise or suggestions. Thank you so much.

    • Sorry to hear that! IELTS Writing is definitely the MOST tricky for a lot of people! Try to have a strategy for each of the question types in writing! STRUCTURE and ‘coherence’ goes a LONG way in the IELTS!

      The E2 Team

      • despite having studied for almost 3 years for the IELT i still do not feel confident I need 7.5 and it seems impossible .This exam is half random . I feel it s more journalist style oriented exam write about strange topics (crops) read about strange topics (beavers) It s not for professionals Maybe it s more a like market just to make money

      • despite having studied for almost 3 years for the IELT i still do not feel confident I need 7.5 and it seems impossible .This exam is half random . I feel it s more journalist style oriented exam write about strange topics (crops) read about strange topics (beavers) It s not for professionals Maybe it s more a like market just to make money

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