Imagine you are walking back after giving your IELTS, feeling good about how you performed and suddenly a thought strikes you – You forget if you were within the word limit for the essay that you just wrote. This thought can cause considerable stress to most and snatch that comfortable feeling all at once.As important as it is to practice being right in IELTS, it also helps immensely to know where one could go wrong.

In the following article, we try to help you keep that comfortable feeling and highlight some common mistakes that you can avoid along with unnecessary deductions.

1. Breathe, pause

Whether it is for the speaking section or writing, pausing and taking a deep breath before answering can help you center yourself and your thoughts.
It is commonly known that rushing to answer because of time constraint can lead to stupid mistakes which you want to avoid at all costs. So, when you prepare for the IELTS, make sure you include breathing/prep time into your strategy.

2. Reading the instructions right

Whether it is to answer within 3 words or 250 words, when answering writing questions, one must paraphrase and try and stay within the count, not exceed it or fall too short of it. A few words over or under is acceptable but the closer you are to the count, more chances that you get closer to the feel-good band 9.When attempting the reading section, most students end up copying the words from the paragraph onto the sheet even though paraphrasing may be required to ensure that it fits within the word count. Make sure you read the instructions right and stick to the word limit.

3. Not strategizing

Whether to dedicate more time to the second essay while writing or to attempt the last section in reading are major decisions that can affect your score as the IELTS get progressively difficult within sections. When you are preparing for the exam it is crucial that you make a plan based on your strengths and weaknesses.

Use the practice sessions to study what carries more points and which sections are taking you much longer to solve. Find a coach to help you through this task.

4. Making rough notes

Whether it is in the listening section or the writing section, making notes before you transfer the answer onto the final sheet can save you from having to figure out how to correct a mistake that you have already made. Make sure, your strategy when practicing, includes the time needed to make rough notes before you transfer the correct answers.
Give yourself time to cross-check and you can save yourself from deductions. Even when you are in a speaking test, you are given 5 minutes to collect your thoughts. Use them to make shorthand notes to refer to when you start speaking.

5. Giving time to revision

This applies to any exam in life but in the IELTS minor mistakes can make you lose a band which determines your eligibility to apply for certain companies or institutes for a job or a course. When you finish any of the tasks, give time to making sure you were on point instead of feeling that you should’ve reviewed the paper when you had the time.
When you have five minutes remaining we suggest you divert all attention towards reviewing what you’ve written instead of trying to write more. What this can also help you do is to have an eye for the common mistakes that you as an individual make.

6. Getting professional help

When we begin practicing for a certain test, we all try to gauge where we stand. When preparing for the IELTS, most students will know in a short time whether they will need professional help or not. What deters them from getting the help they need is the cost of the professional help.

The commitment required when you are dealing with a professional. Let’s not forget you have a not-so-cheap fee for every attempt at IELTS. Instead of having to pay again for the lack of a good score, why not pay for the professionals instead?

7. Working on the vocabulary

The IELTS may seem easy enough in the beginning but as you start aiming higher and higher for the elusive band 9, you will realise that developing a good vocabulary will get you ahead.
Paraphrasing because of the word limit, using connective words and making a list of extensive vocabulary should be a core part of your preparation.


The topic ‘sports’ must include vocabulary like – Athletics, players, games strategy or coach and so on. You can find commonly asked topics online and work with them to make sure you are not caught off guard.

8. Studying the patterns

Each section in the IELTS has been following a unique pattern of questioning and testing a candidate. Once you know the game, you can plan to win it as well. What you need to do is understand what you are being tested on, with each question type.

Once you know the purpose, you know what to look out for in the passages or the test. When your answer hits the purpose of the question, you can be sure that deductions will not come easily. So, dedicate time to questioning the questions and watch yourself get ahead in the game.

9. Memorizing the answers 

The examiners are trained to spot mugged up stuff and these answers don’t get deductions, rather they get disqualified as answers. When you are preparing, a great memory should only help you keep in mind vocabulary or pronunciations.

Do not use it to mug up ideal answers, instead work on developing real English speaking and writing skills. This can help you not just in the exam but also when you clear the exam and make it to your desired destination.

We hope these tips help you dodge the potholes on the road to your IELTS success.

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