Five Essential Tips for Mastering the IELTS
15 Jan 2019
For international students who aren’t native English speakers, the day will come when they must sit the nerve-wracking IELTS. This may be to gain entrance to a VET or higher education course, for visa matters or to gain accreditation in a profession.
Regardless of what the IELTS is for, the feeling amongst those who have to take it rarely varies: it is an anxiety-provoking exam. Even more so if a band of 7.0 or greater is required.
Amanda Rangel is a Brazilian student who secured an impressive overall mark of 7.5 in IELTS Academic, the most complex version of the exam.
When Amanda decided to come to Australia, it was important that she could prove her English skills were on point. She would not settle for anything less than 7.0.
“It was seven months of preparation, studying for 4 months in an IELTS course in Brazil, before deciding to do three more months with a private IELTS teacher.”
From the outset Amanda’s training regime was rigorous and it only intensified once she started her private lessons.
“I had one private lesson per week focused solely on speaking and listening. That was great because the teacher would point out all my mistakes and help me improve in the areas where I was flawed.
“In between lessons I would do a reading test, which I marked using the answer key, and also two writing tests that she would mark before our next lesson, when we would discuss it.”
When asked what the most challenging aspect of the exam was, Amanda didn’t have to think twice.
“Time is of the essence. You have to move fast. Really fast. I didn’t even touch my food and barely drank any water during the exam”
That’s why she recommends practicing with a stopwatch.
“Take the full, 4-hour exam in your home and time it. I did it twice at my place with my teacher prior to taking the real test.”
However, it’s important to know when to be fast, and when to slow down. Amanda learned this the hard way, after almost ruining her plans completely.
“When you get to the writing test, there’s added pressure because it’s the last stretch and it’s entirely up to you, to your output. If you have a mindset like ‘I need to go fast’ you might misinterpret the question to be addressed. That’s what happened to me.
“I was at the end of my essay when I re-read the question and froze with the realisation I was off topic. I had two options: either write a good essay that was off topic or start from scratch but with not enough time to finish. I decided to keep what I had and added a paragraph that was more in line with the original question.”
Although Amanda finished the essay, she is sure that her topic misinterpretation cost her half a point – potentially a big mistake. “When it comes to the writing test, make sure you stop for a moment and interpret things correctly,” she said.
Fortunately, she had points to spare after acing all other tests and boarded the plane to Australia with newfound confidence in her English language skills.
Amanda’s top IELTS tips:
- On the eve of the exam, rest well. If you have studied hard, there’s no point in studying more. In the morning, before the exam, eat a light breakfast and get to the exam centre early. Take a jacket, the aircon may be ruthless;
- For the listening test, try to anticipate what’s coming by understanding the context. Keep hyper focused on the present, try to predict what’s ahead and let go of what has passed. If you miss something, let it go so you won’t jeopardise the questions ahead;
- For the reading test, read the questions first, then go back to the text to find the answers.
- For the writing test, slow down. Interpret the question and plan what you want to write. Use 40 minutes for the longer essay, and 20 for the shorter – which is worth less marks.
- For the speaking test, don’t rush. If you speak fast you will have to talk more, thus having more chances of making mistakes. Control your pace. Be polite when entering the interview room, as you might be getting assessed as soon as you walk in.