Some Helpful Tips on taking the IELTS exam

Hello Guys!

I wish to share with you some of the helpful tips I have gathered when I was preparing for the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. This English proficiency exam is usually required for non-native English speakers who wish to work or study in a country with English as its primary language.

Hope these tips would help you:
  • Before anything else, you have to determine which type of IELTS exam you need to take. Depending on your purpose and the requirement of the country of your destination, there are 2 types or versions of the exam: Academic and General Training. Academic is usually required for education purposes or from those professionals in the medical field. General Training is required mostly for immigration purposes.
  • You need to know the band score required of you. Then try to aim 1 notch higher than that. This means you also have to adjust your effort. I have had friends who effortlessly took the exam and got high band scores. But I guess exams like this, I just want to take it one shot. Plus, I need to get high band score for my PR application scoring. So yes, I did study and spend a good amount of time. After all, practice makes perfect. As in my case, it helped me achieve 1 notch higher than what was required. Efforts paid off indeed. 
    * The nine bands are described as follows:
    * Wikipedia
    9Expert UserHas full operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
    8Very Good UserHas full operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
    7Good UserHas operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriateness and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
    6Competent UserHas generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
    5Modest userHas partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.
    4Limited UserBasic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in using complex language.
    3Extremely Limited UserConveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations.
    2Intermittent UserNo real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs.
    1Non UserEssentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
    0Did not attempt the testNo assessable information provided at all.
  • Check for available slot on your desired date of exam. I would suggest you book it as soon as you are sure to get the exam. There are a number of testing centers. I googled for that which had the best review. I took mine with the British Council here in Toronto. They do give free online review materials the candidates could access for 30 days. I was able to access my results after 2 weeks.
  • Choose the most up-to-date review materials you can get. I used the Barron's 3rd Edition reviewer. I also sought help from the internet through youtube videos uploaded and other helpful links. 


Here is a really good source of helpful tips ---> Good Luck IELTS

  • The entire exam takes about approximately 3 hours including instructions. It is divided into 4 modules (in the following order): Listening - 40 minutes; Reading - 60 minutes; Writing - 60 minutes; and Speaking - 11 - 15 minutes. I suggest you book all the 4 modules in 1 day just to cut the agony short.
  • As for the listening and reading modules, you have to carefully read the instruction. If you are asked to fill in no more than 3 words for the answer, if you had an extra word, your answer wouldn't count.
  • Listening. This usually has 4 sections with 10 questions each. You are given 30 minutes to listen and 10 minutes to transfer all your answers from the test booklet onto the answer sheet. The audio is only played ONCE. So you have to really be keen and focused. Listening is standard for both Academic and General Training. 
      I suggest you really need to practice on this. This is the trickiest module for me because you got to do 3 things at the same time. You need to listen carefully to the audio while reading through and understanding the questions at the same time you should be able to paraphrase. Most of the answers in the choices are not the same wording as mentioned in the audio. So the key thing is for you to really understand the questions. You will be given time to read the questions before the audio is played. 

Here is a helpful video on Listening by Emma. 

  • Reading. This module has 3 sections. The first 2 sections are easy to average and the last one has the longest text and is the difficult part. You need to learn to manage your time. I gave 15 minutes for the first 2 sections and allotted 20-30 minutes in the last part. Take note that you have to write your answer directly on the answer sheet. No extra time will be given for you to transfer your answers unlike in the Listening module.
     In reading module, you have to read the instructions carefully. Question types may vary from Multiple Choices to Matching to Sentences Completion to Fill in the Blanks. 

       You have to learn how to scan, skim and read through the text quickly to find the needed answer. What I suggest you do is read the questions first then look for the answers from the text. No need to read each and every line of the passage. But it is important that you are able to understand what is being asked so you know what to find. Again, you may need to look for the synonyms or the paraphrase(s) as the questions or answers may not be exactly the same as in the text.

  • Writing. This has 2 sections. Academic and General Training have different sets of instructions. For Academic normally it involves more academic topics with the first part asking you to explain about graphs or illustrations while the second part could be asking you to respond to an academic issue or subject. As for the General Training, the first part would require you to write a letter or explain a situation while the second part could ask for your opinion on general subject.
      You have to divide your time giving more importance to the 2nd part. I took the General Training so I spent about 20 minutes on writing a letter and 40 minutes for the essay part. Note to read the instruction/scenario carefully. You have to understand what is being asked of you. Assessment Criteria include: task achievement; coherence and cohesion; lexical resource; and grammatical range and accuracy. On the first part, your tone in your response should be applicable to the task being asked. If it asked you to write a friend, your response should be in a friendly/informal tone. For the the essay task, you may need to read on general topics before the exam so you can also gather general knowledge that could be the subject of task 2.

  • Speaking. This involves 3 parts. The first one is the introduction. The examiner will introduce himself. Then he will ask you question about yourself.  When asked, you have to expound your answer so the examiner can evaluate your proficiency in the English language. So if you can read through thesaurus before the exam it would be better because it would help you be able to find and use words which are not common. The second part is a topic that you have to discussed with the examiner. You will be given 2 minutes to prepare. Lastly, the examiner will ask you follow up questions about the topic that you are asked to discuss in section 2. 
       I suggest that for speaking, you read news, books and magazines as often as you could when preparing for the exam. It will help you obtain general knowledge on any possible topic that could be discussed and it will allow you to expand your vocabulary as well. Try to also research on the usual topics that are asked in the interview. The most important thing to do here is for you to be calm and confident. Talk slowly to give yourself some time to think and find the right words to say. You need not be perfect in English or use highfalutin words, you just need to be able to articulate your thoughts and express your opinions in a manner that the examiner could understand clearly.



Thanks to the sources for this blog: Wikipedia; Goodluckielts; Emma

Good luck and may the odds be in your favor! Ajah! :)


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