Preparing for IELTS

IELTS is the most popular English language proficiency test in the world. IELTS scores are accepted by over 10,000 organizations in 140 countries worldwide, including schools, universities, government departments, employers, immigration authorities and other professional bodies. IELTS is fundamental for you if you want to study in Australia. If you want to have a Permanent Residency (PR) status, then IELTS is a must.

Realization of the importance of IELTS can bring about questions like What are the components of the test? How can you obtain the optimum score in the IELTS?  This article has attempted to provide an understanding of IELTS those who want to attend the test and score as high as possible. There are tips and tricks to boost yourself up in each and every section of the test.

IELTS is divided into two versions- Academic (A) and General Training (GT). It is considered as the basic yardstick for admission to many international universities across the globe. So you may have a question in your mind: what does it take to do the best in the test? The tips for attaining high scores presented in this article will be meaningless if you do not have knowledge of the structure of the test. So, we will first have a look at how the test-makers have designed the test.

IELTS Test Pattern 2018

IELTS Test Component Duration Brief Description
Listening 30 minutes 4 sections, 40 items
Reading 60 minutes 3 sections, 40 items
Writing 60 minutes 2 tasks
Speaking 11-14 minutes 3 part one-on-one conversation

Never take this test as a burden. You can easily score high in IELTS if you include practicing for the test in your daily routine. Reading an English book (fiction-like novel, stories or non-fiction), informal chat with friends and family in English or even watching television, can help you prepare for IELTS. The fact is you should be able to bring a thing to your lifestyle if you really want to be good at it.

Here are the tips for performing your best in the test. The tips have been classified based on the four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking.

IELTS Preparation Tips – Listening Section
IELTS Listening pattern:

The Listening section is the first and most important part of the IELTS test. This section of IELTS has four sub-sections and includes 40 items. In terms of IELTS preparation, it is best to take each section separately.

Here are the IELTS preparation tips for the Listening section:

  1. One-on-one interaction: One-on-one interaction in English daily can make you more familiar to the language. It could be a telephonic conversation or a general one and candidates will be asked to note down specific information from the conversation. You need to learn to pay attention to what others say in English in your daily life in order to do better in the listening section. Listening to English news and watching English movies can help you a lot in improving your listening skills. It is difficult for a non-native English speaker to comprehend the fluency of the native English speakers. However, this obstacle can be easily overcome with a regular practice involving listening and noting it down on paper.
  2. Speech: In this section, the test-takers are made to listen to a speech. They would listen to a speech in a social or academic context and answer a series of questions asked. The test will measure how well one can grasp the core idea of the speech and understand highlighted issues.
  3. Monologue: Similar to speech, this section involves a monologue. The best way to prepare for this is by mainly listening to discussions on television.
  4. Group discussion: This involves interaction between a maximum of four people. So, it is important that candidates ensure to make their own selves feel comfortable catching up with more than one speech flow. Again, attending and listening to discussions are the best ways to prepare for this sectional test.

Some other IELTS preparation tips for the Listening section

  • In the listening IELTS section, test takers should first read the example provided at the beginning of the first section to acquaint themselves with the sound, the speaker and the situation.
  • Multi-tasking is mandatory in this section. Candidates need to continue to listen to the audio while writing down the notes and answers.
  • One has to practise listening to both an individual talking and more than one person speaking simultaneously.
  • It is important to be accurate with spellings, many lose easy scores due to spelling mistakes.
  • Practise short-writing style, as it will save you lot of time. For instance, instead of writing ‘approximately’ write ‘approx.’
IELTS Preparation Tips – Reading Section

This section evaluates candidates’ reading skills. The test takers are given long articles to read followed by a set of questions like multiple choice, sentence completion, summary writing, matching information, and short-answers. The reading passages for both IELTS Academic and General test are different. Since one is required to sit for the Academic test for the purpose of admission the content of the test is typically heavier and tougher in terms of topic and language.

Here are the IELTS preparation tips for the IELTS Reading test:

  1. Read as much as possible: It is fine if you have habit of reading books written in English. Reading literary contents—both fiction and non-fiction—can be helpful for you. Otherwise, this is going to be a kind of challenging for you. If you do not have prior habit of reading, you can start with reading anything of your interest. It might be a short paragraph from your high school textbook, an Ad, or even newspaper briefs. This was about the primary phase. You need to gradually excel towards reading more of the academic contents. You also must pay attention on whether you are slow or fast.
  2. Make Notes: It is advisable to make notes while reading. This will sharpen the ability to search for details. It is vital to understand what to highlight and what to note.
  3. Repeat the exercise: Reading a note once will not help. Sometimes it helps to go through the whole process of reading the text as it helps candidates to keep themselves updated and remember what had they earlier taken note of. Also, one could find new points in the same text when he/she re-reads it.
  4. Practice comprehension: Practicing comprehensions help a lot in the preparation process. Since the questions in the test are based on the style of comprehension, it always helps to sharpen comprehending skills.

Some other IELTS preparation tips for the Reading section

  • Read the entire passage carefully and take an overview of the crux of the passage.
  • Be careful of the time limits, you will not be given any extra seconds.
  • Do not leave any question unanswered even if you are not sure of the answer, as there is no negative marking.
  • To save few seconds, write the responses directly on sheets since you will not be given extra time to write it again.
IELTS Preparation Tips – Writing Section

The writing section in each version of IELTS has two subsections. In the academic test, you are required to describe a chart, graph or diagram and in addition, write an essay expressing your point of view or argument.

In the general test, the test-taker is presented with a situation and asked to write a letter explaining the situation along with the essay.

Here are the IELTS preparation tips for the IELTS writing test:

  1. Reading sample essays:  Writing is directly related to reading. The better you get on reading, further you excel in writing. It is always helpful to read as many sample essays as possible. Analysing the essays carefully, and writing down relevant points play an important role to structure the essay. There are few points to consider here:
    Clarification- Topic of Essay. Aspirants can pose the following questions to gain clarity on the topic

    • Does the first paragraph make the topic clear?
    • Does the headline reflect the subject of the essay?
    • Observe how the writer flows the vital points of the essay.
  2. Write essays: It is important to write sample essays as part of the preparation. The following points should be kept in mind before writing the essay:
    • Writing down all the points that come to one’s mind on the given topic
    • Once that is done, filtering of relevant points should be done from the same list.
    • Then candidates need to which direction they want their essay to take.
    • While presenting an argument, it is important to adhere to the point that one has decided to move forward with. Aspiring candidates should never present more than one point of view in an argument. It will reflect confusion on the invigilator’s part.
  3. Grammar practice: Practicing grammar helps test takers in making their essays and summaries devoid of any mistakes. Since it is an English level exam, grammar is one of the vital areas that will be checked. Hence, it is important that all articles are grammatically correct.

Some other IELTS Preparation tips for writing section

  • It is advisable to commence with Task 2 first as it is worth more marks and is easier.
  • Both the tasks should be completed on time. To get familiar with IELTS writing section time limits, it is necessary to undergo rigorous practice of writing.
  • One must refrain from using informal language as much as one can, for instance, no abbreviations, no 1stor 2ndpronouns or possessive, apart from the concluding paragraph where examinees support their response.
  • Candidates should underline important words in the task to focus on what they have to do when they start answering. It works as a reminder.
  • Test takers must stick to the topic and not write unnecessary responses and statements.
IELTS Preparation Tips – Speaking Section

One of the most interesting sections of the IELTS test, the speaking section involves a one-on-one live interaction with an invigilator. This test analyses the proficiency pertaining to spoken English and the duration of this section is between 11 and 14 minutes. The speaking test requires one to be spontaneous as it is a human interaction as opposed to a computerized one. The test is divided into three parts.

First part: In the first part, the examiner asks some general questions to the test taker about their personal interests, academic background, family, etc. Here are the tips to crack this section:

  1. Adding value to replies: It is good to be specific with the responses but candidates can always add some interesting facts in their reply. Eg: If asked, ‘where are you from?’ Besides answering the usual they can add some detail about the place you are from as well.
  2. Must be responsive: Candidates must respond promptly. They should be quick and responsive throughout the Speaking section.

Second part: In this part, test takers are given a topic and asked to speak uninterrupted on the topic for at least two to three minutes. The examiner tests both speaking skills and knowledge of the examinee.

  1. Thinking before Speaking: Though it is important to be responsive, still it is ideal to take at least a minute before one starts speaking. It brings clarity to the points candidates are going to make and most importantly the manner they would begin the speech.
  2. Knowledge: Examinees should ensure that they have knowledge about what they are speaking about. They should be able to communicate the key points of the topic to the invigilator.

Third part: This part is important as here the examiner asks questions about the topic from the second part. The examiner can put forward some arguments taken from candidate’s speech or he/she might ask to elaborate on a specific point of view the candidate had previously shared.

  1. Arguments to be remembered: Arguments from the previous test part should be kept in mind. Test takers should not look surprised or taken off guard when asked a question.
  2. No room for confusion: The answers should not reflect confusion. It is important to project confidence and willingness to respond.

Additional IELTS Preparation tips for Speaking section

  • This is the section where one can enjoy speaking English, thus it is vital to sound confident and talk as fluently as possible.
  • Candidates can practice by recording their responses on a tape at home and listen to it. It will be easier to focus on individual mistakes and pronunciation.
  • It is advisable not to prepare the answers, as the examiner may spot the same.
  • The best way to respond is to present one’s opinion, as that will help them assess his/her English communication skills.
  • Candidates should remember that there is nothing called single answer and there is no right or wrong answer. However, test takers should ensure that their ideas and opinions are conveyed in a proper manner.

Examinees should avoid using fillers while responding as it reflects hesitation. Filler words in English ‘are’ ‘um’, ‘uh’, ‘er’, ‘ah’, ‘like’, ‘okay’, ‘right’, and ‘you know’.

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