Tips for IELTS success – Before Test-Day
The IELTS test can be scary if you’re not prepared. It’s important to prepare yourself by building your skills and not just practicing tests. Though being familiar with the test through practice is important for IELTS success, as it helps you know what to expect on the day, it is just as important to develop language skills such as:
There are many ways to do this.
To develop your vocabulary for IELTS success, you need to read, and build an IELTS vocabulary list. Reading is the best way to see how words are used in context and a great way to learn new words and collocations. You don’t have to read complicated books. The best way is to make reading fun by reading things that interest you. If you like fashion, read a fashion magazine like Marie Claire, GQ or Elle. If you like music, read a music magazine such as Rolling Stone, Billboard or Vibe. If you like news and current affairs, read an online newspaper such as the Guardian, the New York Times, or the Economist. National Geographic is also a wonderful online and print resource with lots of interesting articles and great new words for you to learn!
When you come across a new word, add it to your word list. Look it up and write the English definition and any synonyms that you find, as well as any words that it collocates with. Keep building this list. Try to use the new words in writing and speaking. You can write a short piece every day; this could be a message or email to a friend, a journal entry, or using a new word in conversation. Word puzzles are also a fun way to improve your vocabulary and your spelling. You are given definitions and you must solve the puzzle by writing the correct word. The more new words you learn, the better you will do in the reading, writing, speaking and listening parts of the IELTS test.
Although the IELTS does not directly test your grammar, you need to use correct grammar in your speaking and writing. Also, in the reading and listening tests, using incorrect grammar in your answers will cost you a point. To develop your grammar, go back to the basics! Many second-language speakers, no matter how well they speak English, continue to make basic grammar mistakes. So, learn parts of speech and their functions, (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, articles, prepositions and conjunctions). For extra practice, you can follow our weekly grammar practice activities here:
Also, be aware of your own weaknesses. If you keep making the same mistakes, focus on practicing these. You can use online resources, or write sentences using these grammar forms and have someone with a native command of English give you constructive feedback. This is key to your IELTS success.
Spelling is also an important part of the writing test, and many spelling mistakes will impact your score. It is also important in the reading and listening tests. When copying your answers from the test paper onto the answer sheet, many candidates misspell the words. Although your answer might be correct, a misspelled word will cost you a point.
Spelling and pronunciation go hand in hand. To improve your spelling, you need to…..you guessed it: read! This can be anything from a product packet, a billboard, a newspaper, or a BuzzFeed article. When you see a new word or a word that you struggle to spell, practice saying it aloud. Think about how it sounds and associate those sounds with the way it looks. Then add it to your IELTS word list!
Using the three senses of seeing the word, saying the word and writing the word will help your brain remember how to spell it and how to pronounce it. Also, the more you read, the more you see words. Seeing them will commit them to memory and help you to know if the word doesn’t look ‘right’ when you write it. You can further develop your pronunciation using our E2Pronounce app where you can practice your pronunciation and increase your oral fluency.
Tips for IELTS Success – Test-Day
Time management is everything!
In the reading task, you will be given an hour to read 4 texts, answer 40 questions on the IELTS exam paper, and transfer your answers onto the answer sheet.
It is not uncommon to lose track of time and as a result, not complete the reading task. Many candidates don’t finish the reading task because they don’t manage their time. It is recommended that you spend about 12 minutes on each reading text – that is almost 50 minutes. This will leave you with 10 minutes to transfer your answers onto your answer sheet. It is important to know that the first reading passage is the easiest and the fourth one is the hardest. So you don’t want to spend too much time on the first one as you will probably need extra time on the last one.
The important thing to note is that YOU are responsible for keeping track of your time. Even if you haven’t finished answering all of the questions for the first text after 12 minutes, leave it and move on to the second text. If you spend too much time on text 1, you risk not making it to the fourth and last text, or not finishing transferring your answers onto your answer sheet. An incomplete answer sheet will meet an incomplete score. You will not be allowed to take your phone or your watch into the test centre, but the time will be displayed on a screen. Use this to set your time limit for each reading.
In the writing task, you will have 1 hour to write two tasks. The first task should be at least 150 words in length and the second task should be a minimum of 250 words. It is recommended that you spend 20 minutes on task 1 and 40 minutes on task 2. Again, you will be responsible for managing your time here. Take note of when you start task 1 and then stop after 20 minutes, even if you haven’t finished. It is important to move on to make sure you finish task 2 as this counts for double the score.
There will be 3-4 different audios and 40 questions in total. Use the reading time before the audio is played to read the questions for that section. When reading the questions, try to predict what you think the answers might be, and think about what types of words you should be listening for (for example, a singular noun, an adjective, a verb?). Also, try to find the keywords in each question. Keywords are usually nouns and verbs. When you find them, circle or underline them. This will help you to focus on keywords rather than reading whole sentences while you’re trying to listen. Also, listen for hint words such as ‘however’ and ‘but’, that might indicate a change in the idea, and to vocal emphasis that might be a clue that this is an important idea.
You will also be given 30 seconds at the end of each audio to check your answers. You will be given 10 minutes to transfer your answers at the end of the listening test. Use this time to check that your answer makes grammatical sense and is spelled correctly. A grammar or spelling mistake will cost you a point. Also take care with your handwriting. If the examiner can’t read your handwriting, you will not get the point. Therefore, it might be better to use all capital letters as this is easier to read.
The main thing to do in the speaking test, is keep talking – the more you talk, the more the examiner can hear your vocabulary, fluency, pronunciation and grammar. If you don’t speak enough, they will find it hard to score you. Listen carefully to what the examiner is asking you and make sure you answer the question. If you don’t understand, it’s ok. You can ask for clarification. This will be seen as evidence of good communication skills rather than as a weakness. If you need time to think, don’t freeze, you can buy yourself time by paraphrasing the question. Be confident. Make eye contact with the examiner and speak naturally, and avoid using memorized answers. Speak up and speak clearly. Take your time and breathe.
Best of luck on your journey to IELTS Success!
Written By Jamal Abilmona.