Learn about my IELTS prep strategy that got me (a non-native speaker!) a perfect 9 score, and how it can benefit YOU.
What does it take to be an IELTS winner?
If you think that you need to be a native English speaker to get that perfect 9, think again!
In a recent experiment, native English speaking graduates in the UK were given the IELTS test and guess what the average score was?
Only 7.5!!Taking my own example. I am an Engineer by education and have lived and worked in the UK for the past 15 yearsHowever, I still managed to get only a 6.5 at my first attemt!!
The point is that knowledge by itself is not sufficient to ace the IELTS.
You need the other ‘intangible’ qualities & smart Studying Strategies to make the thing work.
In this Website, I have attempted to share my IELTS experience for your benefit.
Here are the details of how I went from 6 to 9
My preparation Strategy that helped me go from 6 to 9
IELTS LISTENING PRACTICE TESTS
I think most IELTS books available in the market nowadays offer a variety of Listening Tests that are either too hard or too easy to understand. Listening to some of the Listening Tests in 4 different IELTS books New Insights to IELTS and Cambridge 6 are a lot easier to understand while Barron’s How to Prepare for IELTS and KAPLAN’s IELTS are the exact opposite. On the first two books I got better scores compared to the latter. Overall the 4 books were helpful in increasing my listening skills. I was able to try both hard and easy Listening Tests that have been very helpful during my IELTS exam.
Basically, most IELTS books do not vary that much but when it comes to answering techniques and the strategies some are more detailed and easy to understand compared to other books. Some books do not offer any techniques or strategies on how to go about in answering the questions and I choose not to buy them.
IELTS READING PRACTICE TESTS
Doing a time limited exam puts a lot of pressure on test takers like us and if one of your main problems in reading is being a slow reader I would suggest that you start practicing how to skim and scan on some reading materials like magazines and newspapers. This will improve your skills in this area and are helpful when you do your practice tests until the real test comes.
One general skill that is needed in doing the IELTS READING TEST is your ability to skim and scan the reading passages. Reading passages on the IELTS covers diverse topics. You may be familiar with some but most of the time the topics are new to you. Familiarity with one topic is not an advantage. This is one thing I learned when taking one of the practice tests. I actually lost my concentration on analysing the questions and answered too quickly because I thought I was right in choosing the correct answers based on my knowledge. After checking my answers on the ANSWER KEY I got lower scores on topics I am most familiar with.
It is better to read, skim and scan over each passage whether you are familiar with the topic or not. This will allow you to analyse the questions before answering them. You will have better chances of answering the questions correctly based on what you have read and not because you are familiar with the topic.
The first thing I learned about IELTS READING TESTS is that the answers come in a chronological order as presented on each passages. Every time a new set of questions are asked it is best to start from which part of the reading passage you last got your answer. If the last question falls on the last paragraph or sentence of the reading passage and there are more questions to answer then I start going over the reading passage again from the beginning. It was a simple strategy which I found very effective in getting higher scores on my reading practice tests.
Most of the time, I go over the questions first before reading the passages and having an idea about the questions once I start reading and remember one of the questions I have read I can easily write down my answer. This technique helped me in saving time.
One thing I kept in mind is to remember the keywords. Keywords guide you through on the reading passages as well as on the questions. Questions about the main topic rarely come or usually come at the last. By this time you have already become very familiar with the reading passage that you can get this one correct easily.
The most common types of questions you find in an IELTS Reading Tests are summary completion, matching headings to paragraphs, identifying the writer’s views (true or false), multiple choice, selecting factors, table completion, matching causes and effects, sentence completion and short answer questions.
You need to develop the following abilities to be able to answer the questions as accurately and correctly as possible.
- skim the text for information
- paraphrase the original text
- identify the main idea of the paragraph
- identify opinions and attitudes
- make inferences
- understand main points, particular points and specific points
- skim and scan the text for details
- understand paraphrase
- understand inferences
- understand cause and effect relationships
- read for details
- understand paraphrase in incomplete sentences
- understand the focus of the question
- understand paraphrase in the question
These are the kinds of abilities that challenge your skills in the reading exam and if you learn how to develop these abilities you are right on track in getting a high band score in IELTS.
IELTS WRITING PRACTICE TESTS
The writing component was the hard part for me. I was never good in writing and it has been one of my weakest areas even during my studies. I can formulate all the ideas in my mind but putting them into writing is very difficult for me. I am a man who works with numbers and writing being my waterloo I really need to gather all my writing skills if I do have one. New Insights to IELTS was very helpful in developing some writing skills in me. Boy, am I glad I bought this book.
I learned to develop a strategy in writing wherein I came to understand how to describe all those graphs the way the examiners would want to read them. Writing task two was not any easier but going through all the basic points of how to write down my ideas and all the words I can use I worked myself out through the writing practice tests pretty cool.
IELTS SPEAKING PRACTICE TESTS
This one was easy. When everyone is having all those jitters getting through a speaking exam I didn’t have any problem with it. I can talk about myself and any topic about my work as well as discuss a topic at length and put my ideas into words. I just needed to hone my grammar and speak more clearly as I tend to talk faster than I should especially when talking about my opinions.
WHAT I STUDIED FOR MY IELTS PREPARATION
What I did was I went over the practice tests on Cambridge 6 being one the main partners in IELTS I thought it was best to start doing my practice tests using this book.
On my first practice test doing all the four components of the IELTS I got a score of 5. It was not a good score as I needed 7 to get my job application to be approved.
It was a challenge I took on myself and went on doing the practice tests following the guidelines on how to answer the questions. There are easy and hard exams on all the books I bought and I practiced both. I gave more room for my study hours to allow myself to improve on all four components of the IELTS.
And my practice tests scores started to improved.
IELTS BOOK I FOLLOWED
I bought four IELTS books I can practice on and compare. But NEW INSIGHTS TO IELTS was the most helpful for me. Each detail of how to answer the questions and how to make my writing improved are all there. Everything was properly explained on why my answers are right and why they are wrong.
KAPLAN IELTS 2009 – 2010 was also helpful but it was not as detailed as NEW INSIGHTS. Cambridge 6 was helpful as well for my practice test but nothing beats NEW INSIGHTS TO IELTS. I just love this book.
MY IELTS EXAM EXPERIENCE
The day before the exam I did not do any more practice tests. I didn’t want to overdo it. Early the following morning before I went off for my exams I went over my notes on the strategies and techniques I have learned during my review and did one writing tests as I want to make sure I am doing well.
At the test centre I started getting the pressure and I was almost knocked out with my nervousness. I needed to score high in this exam. Everyone around me was as edgy as I am. At the time I was seated my nerves started to calm after a few deep breathing exercises.
After receiving the booklet for the listening exam and going over the questions I forgot everything around me and my attention was all focused on the questions until the test started.
When the listening test was through we were in for a short break I felt I didn’t get much of it but I didn’t mind as I have other tests to attend to. Then for the next two hours I sat for the reading and writing exams and everything went on smoothly.
My speaking exam was scheduled in the afternoon and I was glad to do it. I just wanted to finish my IELTS test on that day. Then I have nothing more to worry about except the results.
There was no way of telling how you faired as there is no real gauge in knowing compared to other English tests.
Overall I know I did fairly well but until I get the results I will be speculating if I made it or not. A 7 overall band score is what I need and that is all I was expecting. Getting a 7.5 score was a REAL BONUS!
Is it worth spending for?
You can get all the necessary information about IELTS on the internet including IELTS tips and practice tests. This served as my introductory course on the IELTS exam. I have been self – studying most of the time and getting into an introductory course is not needed. The four components of the IELTS exam are basic skills which everyone have learned from childhood and studied in school for most part of our education.
Getting into a serious preparation on your own after knowing all the information about IELTS exam is what you need to do to meet the required score for your application.
Is it helpful?
I think private tutoring will help more for checking on your writing and speaking skills. Listening and Reading explanations are all found in the book. You can meet a tutor from time to time to assess your speaking skills especially your grammar and if you are talking clearly with your ideas. You can ask your tutor as well to assess your written works if it is meeting the IELTS standard. Your tutor can help in correcting your grammar and your sentence structures, too.
Private tutoring will help and you can take it as an exemption. It does not cost you that much as you meet your tutor on a scheduled basis.