10 Friendly Tips While Preparing for the IELTSNovember 27, 2017

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a standardised test on English proficiency for non-native English speakers. Whether you're a foreigner wanting to study in Australia or an applicant who needs to take the test (to meet the requirements), a decent IELTS score will assure admissions tutors that you'll be able to write essays, participate in group discussions, and comprehend novels and other reading materials (in the reading list). You may wonder how IELTS differs from Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL). If you already heard the stories that the latter would be easier, then you heard it right. Moreover, TOEFL tests an applicant's proficiency in (American) English. IELTS, on the other hand, is managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge English Language Assessment.

It takes almost three hours to complete the IELTS, and it's divided into four parts, namely Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. It's possible to take all of it during the same day or you can schedule the Speaking test before or after the other three tests. One option is not better than the other, as it will depend on the length of your preparation. Let's get started.

Practice makes perfect

Arrange a mock conversation between your friends. The Listening test is thirty minutes long. The first audio is an informal dialogue on an everyday situation. The second audio is a non-academic monologue (e.g. tourist information). The third audio is a discussion between three/four people on education. The fourth audio is a university lecture. You can ask your mates a favour, where they try to imitate what you'll hear during the audio. This will make you familiar with the procedure, making you less nervous during the actual test. You'll also get to hear the audio once, so listen carefully.

Speak up before the test. If you can't hear the audio well, then call the attention of the examiner. Don't leave it to chance, as your score will depend on what you'll write in the answer sheet after the audio.

Proofread your answers. You have ten minutes to fill up the answer sheet. Make sure that you'll have ample time to check your grammar and misspelled words. Your handwriting must be legible enough. (If you end up procrastinating during your last few minutes, then you may opt to print.)

Practice speed reading. The Reading test is sixty minutes long. It seems a long period at first glance, but the reading materials come from books, newspapers, periodicals, and academic journals. It won't be wise to meander long on one text, and you're not supposed to understand the test in its entirety. Read your favourite books one more time. Use a stop clock (if possible). If you're unable to beat the time, then resort to skimming and scanning. The latter one is a risky move, as you might write the wrong answers. The main idea of the test is found on the first few paragraphs. Read this part carefully. And don't forget to proofread your answers before you proceed to the next section.

Follow the word count. The Reading test comprises three parts; you must compose a 150-word article on the first part. You should complete it in twenty minutes. Two 250-word articles must be completed in forty minutes. It is a daunting task, as you'll be penalised if it's too short. Write as fast as you can, which will allow you to look over your text one more time. Keep it legible (if you don't resort to print).

Get to the point. You won't get a high score if you don't understand the concept of collocation. It's a frequent use of a particular word (or phrase), which indicates poor writing. There's no need to memorize every word in the dictionary, but you should be familiar with synonyms (or antonyms). Forget prose. (This is a test!)

Don't forget your essays. Your instructors would require you to express your view, if not contradict it to a prevalent one. You need to interpret graphs (or charts) if necessary. Your perspective must not be lost in your text. This one doesn't require practice. It's also a reminder that your answers must not be in bullet form.

Speak in front of the mirror. The Speaking test consists of three parts, and you only have fifteen minutes at the most. This is the nerve-wracking part (of the entire examination), where the volume of your voice and collocation influence your score. You need a member of your family or your mate to guide you on this one, as both of you can talk about general interest or a particular topic. Look at the mirror while you're responding to the question; your body language can have an effect on your response. Make the adjustment, and try another conversation.

Keep it short and simple. You only have very little time, so there's no need to beat around the bush. But it must not be a word (or a few words) long.

Take deep breaths. The Speaking test will give you the jitters. Breathe. Keep on reminding yourself that you'll pass this one. And don't forget to smile at the examiner. It will relax you a bit.

Here's the score

Your score must be six (competent user) or seven (good user) out of the possible nine, the minimum score required by universities. Practice should enable you to determine which section(s) you need to spend more time on preparing. It's an all-around evaluation of your proficiency in English, so don't let stones unturned.

Best of luck!

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