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Is IELTS Band 9 impossible for non-native English speakers?

IELTS Band 9 is the holy grail of IELTS test takers, it’s often thought of as impossible, but it really is not. Of course it’s not easy to achieve, but… Emiliano from Uruguay is a living proof that you can still get Band 9 in IELTS, without being a native English speaker (his mother tongue is Spanish). We learned about Emiliano’s success when he emailed his IELTS results to participate in our monthly competition. When he won, and we asked him what was the secret behind his beautiful score (straight 9’s in Listening, Reading and Writing, and 8.5 in Speaking) – here is what he said:

Band 9 in IELTS“I’d recommend doing some recreational reading in English, I think it really broadens your vocabulary and it reminds you that you can actually enjoy yourself while improving your English (as opposed to only studying for the test, which is important of course!). I did a bit of reading while I was studying for the test, and it proved not only useful but also entertaining! I believe a wide range of authors and styles is the way to go, so I went from Jack London and Arthur Conan Doyle to George R.R. Martin and Paul Auster.

Regarding more specific tips, I think time management is of the essence, particularly in the Writing test. I’d recommend to start the test by planning the answers to both questions before starting to write any of them. That is: when the test starts you’re at your best (you’ll grow increasingly tired and stressed with every passing minute), so you should take advantage of that moment of relative clarity and plan your answers (I stress: both of them). I guess you could allow yourself ten minutes to do so. Once the answers are planned, all you have to do is follow the plan, and that makes it much easier, because you can think of every paragraph as a small task rather than look at the whole essay as a big scary task.

Finally, I think it’s important to speak English whenever you have the chance (sounds terribly obvious, I know). But in case you don’t have someone to speak English with, you could just speak to yourself (when you are alone, I mean… you wouldn’t want people to think you have some sort of multiple personality disorder.. and you should also avoid saying “my precious”, that sounds really Gollum-like). Joking aside, I believe that just trying to think and speak to yourself in English helps a lot. Maybe also reading out loud. Of course, you might feel embarrassed at first, but it is great for your pronunciation and it will certainly improve your performance in the speaking test.

Thanks again and let me know if I can do anything else to be of assistance to other candidates. And by the way congratulations on your blog, it’s wonderful.”

P.S. IELTS results competition runs every month, and everyone is welcome to participate. Learn how to enroll here.

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