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How Dawn improved from Band 6 to Band 8.5 in less than a month

I am excited to share with you today exam tips from Dawn Hutchinson, the winner of our monthly IELTS results competition, who got 8.5 overall score in her IELTS exam.

When Dawn and I first exchanged emails, about a month before her second IELTS exam, she told me about her situation. Even though Dawn was a native English speaker, she was unable to get more than Band 6.0 in the IELTS Reading test.

Surprising as it may sound, I’ve seen this happen many times to people whose English is perfect. The reason why they didn’t get straight 9’s is because IELTS requires certain techniques and methods of solving tasks, to increase speed and accuracy.

Dawn has kindly agreed to share her tips for all parts of the exam – read her email below and take notes:

“Hi Simone,

WOW thanks – I never thought I’d do so well and it’s partly due to you invaluable web site and support, and partly down to hard work – studying and practice. I would absolutely recommend IELTS-BLOG.com.

Here’s my story:

I sat the wrong test (general) in February. I went in blind, not having a clue what was involved and thinking “It can’t be too hard”. I got 8.5 and 9.0 for listening and speaking, 8.0 for writing, but a miserable 6.0 for reading. I was stunned, I needed 7.0 for all bands!

I then discovered I should have sat the Academic test, so I went online because I knew I’d need to find some support and practice papers. I was fortunate to find IELTS-BLOG quickly and the positive vibe from Simone and the testimonials of others convinced me to sign up.

It was the best decision, lots of variety in the test papers and although at the time I felt the writing correction service was a bit “picky” and I often got less than a 7.0, it made me try harder and focus on the format, that’s really the key.

Writing

In the essay there’s no right answer. The examiners are looking for the correct format. Do try to take that few minutes to plan before you start writing – it will help you focus or even discard ideas before you start, as you won’t have much time to edit and it looks untidy to cross out ( I used a pencil that turns permanent after 24 hours so was able to rub out, which looked a bit better).

The graph report – it’s hard to keep your words to around 175, make sure you have an introduction and conclusion, which probably will take about 60 of your word allowance and use the key words “trends, rises/declines, slowly/rapidly, compares to”, etc in the 90 – 115 words you have left.

Reading

I struggled with the True/ False/Not Given, getting only 50% right during practice. I did the ones I felt sure about, then I left the rest til last in the exam, and just really concentrated on them in the time I had left rather than getting stressed out.

It sounds mad, but read the question at least twice and read them before you scan the passage then underline the answers if you find them.

Leave questions you can’t find the answers for and go back and look for them at the end, again less stress, and you can focus knowing that you’ve done most of the questions.

Do read each paragraph, its easy to skip the smaller ones that look boring and appear to have no information there’s usually an answer hiding there!

Listening

Concentrate as you go on each section and guess at the end if you had to leave a blank.

Speaking

Smile, speak clearly and ask them to repeat if you don’t understand.

I found it quite hard to speak for 2 minutes (and normally I could chatter away for hours). If you run out of things to speak about on the given topic it’s OK to veer off a little, as long as it’s related to the subject.

I hope some of this might help some one out there.

Good Luck!”

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