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Glenn’s tips for busy people who need a high IELTS score (he got Band 8!)

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Glenn is a 33 year-old man from the Philippines, whose dream of moving to Canada is just about to come true. He works full time, but even though he’s very busy, he still managed to get an Overall Band 8.0 in IELTS with an amazing 9 in Reading. With such a score in his pocket, permanent residency is just a matter of time!

As a winner of our monthly IELTS results competition we asked Glenn to share his best tips for success. Here is what he suggests to test takers who want to follow his path to a high IELTS score:

Band 8 in IELTS“Work on your overall English language skills. Make the most of every opportunity to communicate in English. Be comfortable expressing yourself in the language (speaking and writing), as well as receiving and processing information (listening and reading). Hone your speaking and listening skills by observing and emulating native speakers with different accents, and by getting used to hearing the language via movies and music. When you speak or write, apply the English words and expressions you have encountered. By reading as much as you can, your eyes will get accustomed to seeing printed sentences and paragraphs, you enrich your vocabulary and grammatical range, and you gather valuable ideas about various topics. If you expose yourself to good reading materials, you also learn how excellent writing is accomplished.

After sharpening your English language ability, get familiar with the IELTS test format and question types. The exam may be designed to assess your language skills, but it is easy to receive a mark even lower than your actual English level if you do not know what to expect. To achieve a high band score, you have to acquire or approximate the way the test makers think. You cannot afford being unprepared for the test. You must train for it with commitment and perseverance. You need to develop strategies, some sort of game plan. It is a well-crafted advanced exam, which makes it the World Cup of English language proficiency tests.

Take advantage of the technology we have. The Internet helped me tremendously in getting ready for the test. If you have a smartphone, there are many IELTS preparation apps you can install. Numerous websites like www.ielts-blog.com and www.ielts-simon.com provide useful ideas on how to perform well during the exam. I also recommend www.ieltsielts.com and www.ieltsnetwork.com for more inputs. To set myself not only to English mode but also to IELTS mode, I maximized social media. Facebook has pages dedicated to IELTS preparation which you can like. YouTube is a rich source of tips and tricks. I created a playlist of videos I watched again and again to condition myself. The more websites and videos you check out, the better you understand the test and the more confident you will be taking it.

During my preparation, I printed copies of IELTS answer sheets and practiced with them while sticking to the time limit for each portion of the written exam. Be comfortable using pencil and paper. Read the instructions carefully. Circle or underline key words and
identify the answer expected (is it a word, phrase, number, noun, verb, or adjective?). Questions give clues. Throughout the entire IELTS test, knowledge of paraphrasing and synonyms is a huge plus. In the listening and reading components, the answers are often skillfully disguised so expect an idea or message to be stated in different ways. In the speaking and writing subtests, you will be able to communicate yourself more effectively through a variety of terms and sentence structures.

In the listening subtest, make the most of the time given to read the questions. Once you are allowed to open the booklet, view quickly the more difficult sections first so that you can anticipate the topics. Multitasking is a must: while you listen, you read the questions and take note of the answers. Stay focused.

Bear in mind that the reading test has 40 questions whose answers are buried in overwhelming texts, and by the end of the hour these must be on the answer sheet. Highlight key words in the questions, then go to the passage. Be calm and do not waste time. Proceed to the next item if a question requires too much analysis.

I find the writing component the most challenging among the four. Producing two written outputs in an hour is just outrageous. IELTS writing is not your usual writing; it is necessary to study and practice for it. While preparing for the exam, I consulted the websites I mentioned earlier, for sample task responses. You must read as much as you can since you can be asked to write on any topic. By reading sample IELTS writing tasks and their corresponding essays, you should notice how the authors tackle specific topics. Doing so will help you equip yourself with strategies on how to develop concepts. You must have techniques or templates in mind when you take the test.

Remember that the speaking test lasts for less than 15 minutes, yet your performance within that short period of time will be the basis of your score. What if you are asked about something you are not interested in, or worse, a subject you know nothing about? It is crucial to have a database of ideas so that you can maximize every second you talk. I think it helps if you have experienced being interviewed several times. Organize your thoughts, speak clearly and audibly, and showcase your vocabulary and grammatical skills appropriately. Do not be shy and enjoy expressing yourself.

Once you understand how the entire exam is done and how you are scored, identify your weaknesses as well as the aspects of the test you find the hardest, and spend more time addressing them. Treat the exam as a mental marathon that requires stamina so make sure you rest properly at least a day before. Ultimately, IELTS is more than a language skills assessment: it tests quick thinking, imagination, creativity and common sense.”

A few suggestions from a Band 8 IELTS scorer

Dikshit Soni took the IELTS test for the first time, and walked away with Band 8. How did he do that? As a winner in our monthly IELTS results competition we invited him to share his tips with other test takers, and here is what he said:

What I Did:Band 9 in IELTS

The only preparation I did for my exam was to read through the tips and techniques on www.ielts-blog.com. I believe keeping it simple and uncomplicated is the key to achieving a good score. Here is what helped me crack the 4 modules of IELTS.

Listening

I usually involve myself in watching a lot of English movies, Sitcoms and listening to songs in English. I feel it is a great way to understand the nuances of various accents.

Beginners may start watching with subtitles and then gradually disable them as they progress.

Complete a self study book and CD if you receive one from your IELTS center upon registration for the exam. Make sure you complete the sample test in the stipulated time frame and free yourself from distractions while doing a mock IELTS test.

Reading

By far, this is the easiest of the 4 modules, and potentially the highest-scoring. Listening module doesn’t allow you to revisit your answers since the voice over is only heard once. However, 40 questions in 60 minutes in Reading is a breeze. I managed mine in just over 20 minutes.

I have heard so many people are not doing well in Reading because of time running out. The tip here is go one question at a time. I don’t suggest reading the whole passage once before going through the questions. This inadvertently leads to precious time being wasted leaving very little time to re-analyse your answers towards the end.

The best approach here is to read a given question, seek out the context in the passage, answer it, move on. Period!

Certain questions in Reading require to be answered as either TRUE/FALSE/INFORMATION NOT GIVEN. Such questions always tread on ambiguity. Therefore, it is imperative to manage your time and double-check your answers to these questions before submission.

Speaking

Reading and culling out new words which can be substituted in a conversation is a frequently heard advice, so I won’t repeat the obvious.

Many people lose their confidence feeling the examiner was very cold with them, or he/she didn’t particularly seem very interested in what they had to say. Please understand that the examiners are specifically trained and required to maintain that poker face and not let out any feedback through their expressions. So don’t assess yourself or lose focus through their expressions or reactions.

Ask someone to give you a certain topic to speak on, give yourself 5 minutes, record your speech and take feedback from your peers/teachers. Hearing yourself speak would help you analyse and understand more about your language skills and help you map out areas for improvement.

Writing

Time Management: 20-25 minutes for the first question (150 words), 35-40 minutes for the second (250 words).

Try and use a ball point/gel pen. Less friction would help you write faster as compared to writing in pencil.

I believe this is the least practiced module due to complacency. Most people taking the GT IELTS are professionals and have not written a letter or essay using pen and paper in years.

Computers and smartphones auto-correct our mistakes, MS Word underlines grammatical and spelling errors differently. The sudden change of not having this luxury when using pen and paper can be a game changer for many aspirants.

Therefore, I suggest to practice a lot in writing within the given time frame. Assess your work for spelling errors, grammatical errors, use of CHAT language where ‘You’ becomes ‘U’, ‘We’ becomes ‘V’ and so on.

For the basics, read a lot – for example newspapers, online articles, movie reviews, sports coverage. Understand the way various writers string different words into sentences and try and implement the same.

 

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