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How to focus on IELTS when your mind is somewhere else

It’s an unsettling time and even the happiest and most positive people among us can’t help but feel down occasionally – especially after reading the news.

Those of you who spent some time on know that I often recommend reading the news online or reading newspaper articles to improve your English.

I’m afraid I have to change that advice now. In fact, I take it back!

1. Stop constantly reading the news.

Now your top priority is to keep calm and stay positive. To do that you need to limit your exposure to the news. I believe you already have the words “Coronavirus” and “COVID-19” in your vocabulary, and at the moment there isn’t much content out there about other things. Most people who panic do so because they see and hear others panic – stay away from that mood, stay withdrawn, unplug your mind from the news. You can’t control the virus, but you CAN control how you feel and react to the situation. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. I’m sure you are already protecting your physical health – so it’s time that you start taking better care of your mental health.

So, from today, promise yourself to read the news no more than once a day – allow your thoughts to spend time away from the hysteria, to recover. That includes news in your first language, too!

2. Instead of consuming, create.

Reading the news is so easy, because it’s on your phone, it’s on your laptop, it’s just so accessible. When you read the news, you passively consume content that upsets you. We need to change that, to make you active and doing things that are GOOD for you. So, whatever device you are using, put IELTS materials there, and make it your ‘go-to activity’ on that device.

  • Instead of reading the news, read an IELTS Reading passage and answer its questions.
  • Instead of Googling stories about Coronavirus online, research ideas for an IELTS essay and then write that essay.
  • Instead of watching a news video online, do a Listening test – that’s at least half an hour spent not thinking about the virus.

Now THAT is what I call advancing your IELTS preparation and wellbeing at the same time!

IELTS content is great for taking your mind off everyday life, because its range of topics is very wide. You get to learn interesting facts from the world of physics, chemistry, psychology, marketing, law and more that you wouldn’t discover otherwise.

3. Take a break from reality.

Some people escape stress by reading a book, others like to watch a movie, whichever works for you – do it, just make sure the book or the movie is in English. Reading a book in English will help you learn new sentence structures, linking words, vocabulary, spelling, increase your reading speed, all at the same time as transporting you into another reality. Watching a movie can improve your Listening skills, Pronunciation, Speaking in general, you can learn some new idioms and expressions, and of course it’s a really fun way to spend an hour!

4. Remember your goal.

To keep your sanity and motivation, keep your eyes on the prize – the reason WHY you are taking IELTS. Because even if you don’t feel this way now, as soon as the situation is contained in your country (and hopefully in the world too), that goal will become even more important to you. Look at Hong Kong, for example – the IELTS exams were suspended there at first, but resumed as soon as the virus was contained. Other countries will follow the same pattern, and you want to be ready.

Remember that you are strong, and you will overcome this hardship. Then start proving it to yourself by preparing to ace your IELTS test!

5. Visualise your success.

You probably heard this one before, that visualising things helps you achieve them. But what does it actually mean ‘to visualise’? Surprisingly, not many people know. It means imagining things in detail, in a POSITIVE way. If you want to take IELTS and pass, don’t imagine going to the test centre, sitting down to do the Listening test and missing half the answers. Don’t imagine yourself failing. Imagine how you calmly sit down, put your headphones on, concentrate and tune out all the distractions, and how one by one you hear the answers and write them down in their spaces. You are focused and confident, you know what you’re doing. This is visualising and it prepares you for success.

Stay healthy and spread positivity around you.

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