You feel prepared to give the IELTS but there is a nagging doubt about whether you’ve done everything within your power to crack the exam in your first attempt.In order to bring your efforts to fruition, the article below helps you cover all bases before you appear for the all-important exam. People study for IELTS for months and end up not scoring a good band which is simply because lack of good practice and help from mentors.
Interview with a Band 8 Scorer
We start with and interview with Meenakshi, an IELTS ninja student who was able to achieve a band 8 in the general format.
Interviewer: So how different did you find the actual exam pattern from the mock tests?
Meenakshi: I started preparing for the IELTS 2 months before the actual exam. This gave me ample time to dedicate my attention to each section and give multiple mock exams. Even though the questions were something that I had not seen before, the pattern was similar. So, I felt comfortable because I knew the pattern well.
A. Interviewer: How much time did you dedicate to each section?
B. Meenakshi: Reading, writing and listening took me at least 10 days each of focused preparation. I was particularly nervous about the speaking section so it took me almost 1 month of preparation. So, I would say it depends on a person’s competencies and weaknesses which decides the section that will take more time. At the same time when I decided to study for IELTS sections, I made a schedule and followed it properly.
Interviewer: What did you particularly work on for each section?
Meenakshi: For reading: The art of scanning and reading very fast helped me a lot.
For writing: Making skeletons for each question type keeping cohesiveness and comprehension in mind and working on a strong vocabulary.For listening: Listening and being able to write answers at the same time and also looking at the questions first to identify certain keywords in the audio clip.
For speaking: Working on exuding confidence, my body language and a vocabulary bank for each expected topic.
Interviewer: So, did you prepare for the exam by yourself or did you take professional help?
Meenakshi: I started the preparation on my own but as I progressed I realised that the writing and speaking sections are subjective which makes self-evaluation difficult. I realised a month before the exam that I needed someone to help me evaluate my skills so I picked the best option from all the available options.
Interviewer: What do you think helped you the most in your preparation?
Meenakshi: The fact that I started early and worked on developing a strategy rather than trying to mug up answers. The examiners are trained to spot well prepared answers and will change the question immediately to put you in a situation that you haven’t encountered before.
Reasons why our student only got 8 Bands!
The preparation was also done according to a strategy because I identified my weaker sections before starting by taking multiple mock tests. This helped me get a feeling of the areas I needed to work on.
Also surrounding myself with English speaking individuals helped immensely. I had my friends and family for support. I took to teaching some lessons to absolute beginners so that the lessons stay imprinted on my memory.
- Interviewer: Why do you think you lost a band?
- Meenakshi: I think I lost a band because I didn’t pay exclusive attention to pronunciation and punctuation s. I think that’s all the difference between a band 9 and band 8. The little things that show the examiner how well you know the language.
- Interviewer: What do you wish you had done differently?
- Meenakshi: I have no regrets about my score. I think in hindsight not paying attention to minor details and not taking professional help earlier costed me a perfect score of 9. Since I enjoy perfect scores, I would advise my fellow aspirants to not make the same mistakes as me.
I would advise enjoying the process of learning as English is a fun language, it is derived from multiple languages and each word has a history behind it which is very interesting to discover. I would suggest to all first timers that being tensed about the test doesn’t help and one should find joy in this process of learning. Luckily for us there happen to be a lot options and online courses that can help us achieve our goal.
For me IELTS ninja worked because it was recommended by a friend who is in London. It may not work the same way for you but spend time in finding a mentor or guide you can connect as it will make all the difference to your learning process.
IELTS Preparation Guide That Works
Below we try to give you a complete preparation guide for each section that will come in the exam and going through this will help you understand different types of questions that you have to answer in each section. At the same time we need to also know about the time allotted for each section so as to answer questions wisely.
1. Reading Section
The reading section takes 60 minutes and requires you to answer 40 questions.
The types of questions are as following:
- True/false/not given questions
- Multiple choice questions
- Matching tasks
- Gap filling tasks
- Sentence completion tasks
- Classification tasks
- Short-answer questions
- Chart, table or diagram completion tasks
Sample article: Click here
Tips to score well
- Before you begin, identify the type of questions you have to answer. So that scanning the passages is easier. You don’t really need to read the whole passage
- The questions require you to paraphrase or rephrase the answer because of the word limit that most of them have.
- You need to identify the main idea of the passages quickly to be able to move onto answering the questions effectively
2. Writing section
This section requires you to solve 2 tasks under 60 minutes.
The word count for task 1 is 150 words and for task 250 words. Section 1 is a bit less complex and you have to write a simple letter to someone with the help of basic instructions. The second section needs you to discuss a complex topic with the help of writing your flow of thoughts around it or your opinion about the topic. This task counts for twice as much as the first question.
Types of writing task 2 questions:
- Discuss both sides of an argument
- Discuss the Pros and cons or advantages or disadvantages
- Present your point of view on an issue
- Agree or disagree with a statement
- Discuss both sides in an argument
- Gives reasons for the existence of a problem
What you can do to ace it is to build a structure for each question type, for example –
Introduction – I think that…../ it appears that………. /From my perspective………..
The main body – in my opinion……./Initially……../to begin with …….
The second para or argument – On the contrary………./consequently…./furthermore………
Conclusion- To summarise……../Overall…………../It may seem that…………
Tips to score well:
- Read extensively with the intention of scrutinising writing styles
- Get your writing checked out by a professional since it is a subjective test with no correct answer
- Check the cohesiveness of the article and make sure your flow of thought is sequential and not haphazard
- Try and avoid repetition of ideas, sentences or words. Work on building a strong synonym bank and a wide vocabulary
3. Speaking task
You will have approximately 15 minutes to answer 3 questions. These questions will be a mix of casual and academic questions. You will be in an interview like scenario where the examiner will record your conversation and scrutinise it later to give you an appropriate score.
Q1. Talk a bit about a bonding experience with your family, like a vacation or an event.
Q2. Talk a bit about the best radio commercial you have heard in your lifetime.
- You should talk about why it is so good
- Why is the ad relevant for radio and not TV
- What was the key message of the ad
Q3. Talk about the most popular mediums of advertisement in your community and how it has changed over time.
Tips to score well:
- Treat it like a conversation with a friend or a colleague
- Again, try and create skeletons similar to the writing section
- Practice in front a mirror. Record your voice and listen to it for modulation and pronunciations.
- Develop your vocabulary and confidence in speech
4. Listening section
This section will require you to listen to 4 audio clips and answer 40 questions in 30 minutes. Additionally, you get 10 minutes to transfer your answers onto the answer sheet. The audio clips will be of different types. They will be in this particular order:
- A telephonic or face to face conversation which has a nature of enquiry
- The second section is mostly instruction based where a professor or a management personnel will dictate detailed instructions for a student or employee
- The third section you will hear a technical discussion between a group of people
- This section will generally be a lecture from a professor or an academic on a topic
Tips to score well:
- Listen to BBC radio for practice
- Look for keywords to watch for with the help of questions
- The answers are in a chronological order generally 40 seconds apart, so if you miss one move on
- Be aware of distractors, listen to the conversation completely
- Work on lengthening your attention span