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

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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.

Erica shares her tips after scoring 8.5 in IELTS

Erica, a lovely lady from Nigeria, has won in our IELTS Results competition in May, and no wonder – her Overall Band Score is 8.5 with a perfect 9 in Listening. When we asked Erica how she did it, and what she would recommend that other test takers do to prepare well for IELTS, here is what she said:


Band 8.5 in IELTS- I made enquiries to find out when I can take the exam, how many modules there will be, and how each module affects the overall score.

- I started my preparation as soon as I decided to take the test.

- I purchased the official IELTS practice materials, read all the tips and studied the booklet. I also attempted all the practice questions for the four modules and watched the DVD.

- I attempted all the sample questions on the official IELTS website and in search of more practice materials I discovered .

- I visited IELTS-Blog regularly and attempted a lot of sample questions. More importantly I read through all the exam preparation tips on the website and those posted by candidates who took the test.


- Read all instructions carefully especially during the listening test.

- Remember to allocate your time proportionally, especially during the writing test.

- Work through the easiest part first during the reading test as lingering on the more challenging questions may rob you of valuable time.

- When answering speaking questions, try to relax and be as honest as possible as this would ensure a free flow of conversation. Remember, the test is mostly about your English ability and not about who or what you are. Do not feel intimidated in any way, the examiners are professionals and I believe are well trained.


Do not worry if you found the test challenging, because most people probably did as well.

Good luck everyone!



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