Speaking tips from IELTS high scorer (Band 8.0)

This is the final portion of Vasco’s tips – here he explains what helped him get a great score for the Speaking test. For those of you who only joined us today, you will find his Reading tips here, Listening tips here and Writing tips here.

Vasco says:

You might find it challenging to practice speaking especially if you live in a place where nobody else speaks English. But be imaginative: opportunities are all around you to speak good English and finding someone else to speak to.

Try some internet friends (native speakers), look in your circle of friends for people who studied or lived for a time in an English-speaking country or even go back to your high-school English teachers. Don’t forget to repeat phrases you hear from native speakers in real time (the “pause-button” method) or even read texts into a voice recognition software, as I suggested for the writing.

But above all, speak with someone else in exam conditions. I still had the contact of a former high-school English teacher and she agreed to practice in speaking with me. I also had the help of a friend who lived in the States for a year.

We would start an informal conversation in English and then practiced the exercises in the book. With my portable computer and microphone in place we recorded various interviews in the exact 3 part format of the real exam (introduction with a set of questions, a monologue of 2 minutes and then discussing a given topic). This proved a great way to adapt myself to the interview format (11-15 minutes), with the timing information on-the-screen allowing us to keep it within the required limits. Then I would e-mail the audio files to my teacher for tips on my speaking: pronunciation, fluency, grammar, rhythm and any other aspects to improve.

With the latest audio files I was happy to find out that my teacher had nothing special to comment or improve on; it was all was very positive. I say this to recommend you to practice that speaking in exam conditions and record it so you can hear it later and notice were you need to improve. It’s amazing just how fast you will improve your speaking this way, with a real human interaction. You will benefit a lot just by doing it, even if you can’t reach a skilled teacher to listen to it later. The most important thing is to practice, in exam conditions as much as you can.

When I got to the actual exam all the sequence seemed familiar and natural to me. This is a sure way to be calm and cool on the exam day, because you know you prepared specifically for that moment, with the help and honest feedback of people who are good in English.

I wish you all the best for you Exam with the conviction that, if you are serious about IELTS, your success will be guaranteed.

Writing tips from IELTS high scorer (Band 8.0)

Some time ago I began publishing the tips I’ve received from Vasco Medeiros, our previous IELTS results competition winner, who got an Overall Band Score of 8.0. Thanks to those methods Vasco was able to score as high as he did.

Even though I had to interrupt the sequence of his tips to deliver the most recent exam updates to you, I hadn’t forgotten about the rest of them – his advice makes a lot of sense to me, and may help you with your exam preparation. Today it’s Writing tips, the previously published Reading tips are here and the Listening tips are here.

Vasco says:

This was, by far, the most difficult and challenging task for me, since I haven’t written anything in English since high school, many years ago. I can recall the first essay I’ve written: it took me 3 or 4 days to write it in my spare time with lots of thinking, planning, browsing the dictionary and grabbing words to express my thoughts on paper.

The reason I say this is simply for you to persist and try again even if the first attempts seen frustrating or greatly exceed the time limits. Don’t let this hold you back! By browsing the dictionary and writing down unfamiliar words, you will minimize spelling mistakes that cost you points!

This was also the section where IELTS-blog was more helpful to me, with the writing tips and essay examples. I read lots of them and even printed some band 7 and 8 essays in order to study the structure and vocabulary more closely. Learn from the best. If you persevere, you will write at their level.

Plan your report or essay before you actually start writing it. Those 2-4 initial minutes in planning can save you a lot of time and frustration while writing because you don’t have to worry about structure and sequence of ideas later on. With practice you will be even able to produce texts within the word limits without having to count the words every time.

If possible, have a teacher review your work and correct your mistakes. My own method was to complete the writing tasks in exam conditions in pencil on paper. Then I would type my text and mail it to my teacher for correction. This way I would immediately be aware of the number of words I’ve written (keep an eye on the “word count” functionality of your software) and got some basic spelling mistakes corrected right there. Them my teacher would review and correct my texts giving me valuable feedback both by e-mail and in the class.

After a few weeks of typing, I installed voice recognition software to speed things up. Instead of typing I just had to read aloud my hand-written text. Since the accuracy of the voice recognition software depends on how well you pronounce it, you can imagine how my speaking improved: I had to pronounce the words/phrases correctly for my words appear on the screen. Feedback in real-time! And it also saved me many hours of cumbersome typing in the process.



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