IELTS preparation tips from Kyo Koo, Band 8

Kyo Koo, the winner of October results competition (for General Training Module), shares his tips for success in IELTS:

“To be perfectly honest, I didn’t spend a great deal of time studying specifically IELTS exam (as I’m a uni student).

Anyway, some general comment I can give is that overall ability in English is what it takes. Although some preparation is essential, focusing only on the test materials is not the way to do it. Improve your overall English first, and then prepare with the IELTS test materials.

Here are some tips:

For the Listening test, apart from English learning materials, use real life materials, including daily news on TV, TV shows, and news on the radio. This can be pretty hard if your English is still a bit rusty, but this makes your ears ‘tuned’ for English listening. One more thing: do not choose news or TV shows originated from one particular country. A number of people (especially those in Asia) are more used to American accent than other accents. Try those from the UK at least. IELTS listening tend to choose British accents, and Australian accent quite a lot more than American accent.

For the Speaking test, try keeping a diary in a SPOKEN form. In other words, record a monologue of your speaking. It is like a diary, but spoken, not written. When doing that, try to use expressions you learn from a language school, or what you heard from news or TV shows. Just talk about your feelings for the day, what you did, that sort of stuff. Then play what you recorded, and listen to it. It’s really weird at first, but this really helps you catch wrong pronunciations, and expressions.

For the Writing test, try as many practice tests as possible. Unlike speaking, the tasks in the writing module can be very tricky as those are things that we don’t usually do everyday. Especially in Task 1, the letter writing, it’s very easy to lose track and spend ages to get it done. This was exactly what happened to me in the previous test I took in July (I didn’t have enough time to use my full ability in the essay writing part).

For the Reading test, as I’ve suggested for the listening, use real life materials – i.e. newspapers, magazines, etc. Advertisements in those materials DO show up in the real exam – job ads, clearance sale at stores, etc. Ah, one more thing. DO watch out for SPELLING. I’m pretty sure I missed out quite a bit of marks for wrong spellings in the answers. Even slight mistakes in plural/singular make the answers wrong.

I know that these tips don’t particularly sound like a magic bullet answer and might not be easy to do when you’re not living in an English speaking country, but these are what made my English improve.”

IELTS exam in Portugal – October 2008 (Academic)

Let’s all thank R. for sharing with us her IELTS exam experience (it was an Academic module in Portugal).

“General feeling:

My exam wasn’t bad, I think, even though I am not sure that the results will reach band 7.0, which is what I need. The Reading and the Speaking tests were okay, I guess, but with the Listening test I got lost once and I am afraid that that “incident” can jeopardize my final score. Anyway, it’s a relief that Im done with IELTS! I just hope that I don’t have to repeat the exam!

It is true what is said in your blog: IELTS is not a difficult exam, if we practice and get familiar with the exam structure, there’s no need to spend a lot of money in extra-classes and this sort of things. The problem, as you said, is the time, that’s why it is stressful.

Reading test

First passage was concerning the causes of industrial revolution in UK in the 19th century
Second passage was about a psychological experience with 4 year old children and the different theories,
Third passage was about the history of the forests in UK and the recent deforestation.
Task types: we had to match headings, fill in blanks, match given statements and the true, false and not given, nothing unexpected.

Writing test

Task 1 (Report)
Describe a graph concerning the amount of hours allocated to a specific kind of show in UK since 1950 up to 2010 (therefore with a 2 year forecast); the shows were sport, films and drama and news.

Task 2 (Essay)
“Throughout the centuries the world has been governed by men and the result was that human history is full of violence and conflicts. If the world was governed by women we would have a more peaceful world.” To what extend do you disagree or agree?

Speaking test


  • Do you live in a house or in a flat?
  • Can you tell me how does your house look like?
  • Do you have something on the walls?
  • What do you see from your house?
  • (I have asked the examiner if she could rephrase the question, because I could not understand if they wanted me to talk about my house on the inside or outside, although I think the examiner couldn’t say or actually didn’t know as well, because she just repeated the question.)

  • Which kind of food do you prefer?
  • When do you usually have that food?
  • The food that you prefer now is the same one you used to prefer as you were a child?
  • Card
    Talk about the last book you’ve read (which one, when, which kind of book, why did i like it or dislike it)

    The follow-up questions were basically about reading habits and children and books:

  • In which ways could parents contribute more to improve their children reading habits?
  • What kind of books do you think children prefer nowadays?
  • Do you think that, in general, reading habits have changed during the last decades? how? (here it was concerning adults)
  • Do you think children should learn how to read only at school or is it okay if parents teach them at home? (along with the school teaching)
  • How do you think that reading habits change with age?
  • Once again, that you so much for all the feedback on the written essays, it was really important for me and also for clarifying some doubts that were coming up while I was studying. And it is true, we feel that we are not alone on this “journey”!

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