2 assumptions you shouldn’t make about your IELTS exam

This post is basically a common mistake alert. As you know I’m receiving many emails from IELTS test takers and they tell me about their exams, what went right, what went wrong, and we analyze the situation and what should have been done differently.

And here is a point regarding the latest exam. As you know it was identical in many countries and apparently many people had the same problems, because they weren’t mentally prepared.

Assumption # 1

People assumed that Task 1 in the Academic IELTS will be a chart or a graph – and when they were given a diagram, it came as a complete shock. As a result, it took them longer to get their heads around the task and they spent over 30 minutes only thinking what they are going to write in their reports. Then it’s a chain accident – if the first task takes you longer, you don’t have enough time for your essay and you are stressed, so the performance goes down the drain.

This could have been easily solved by practicing beforehand. Guys, when you practice – don’t choose just graphs, prepare for diagrams as well, it’s important to be prepared for whatever they throw at you and not things you think are likely to appear. If you’re under time pressure and have only a week to study – that’s fine, do just one or two diagrams, but at least try yourself at it.

Assumption # 2

I don’t know why, but people assume that IELTS questions never repeat – when this blog is a proof to the fact that they do, and quite often. I’ve got an email from a student that said: “You know what is really ironic? I saw my speaking question the night before my exam on IELTS-Blog, but thought I will never get the same question and didn’t practice it.”

Do yourself a favor – go through the list of recent exams and familiarize yourself with the latest questions. The best chances to get the same questions as before are, of course, in the Speaking test, however in the Writing test we too have seen that the questions were repeated over time.

And above everything else – good luck with your preparation and I wish you an easy exam!

IELTS Speaking tips that helped Phuong get Band 7

Doan Hung Phuong, Band 7 student, shares with us his secrets to success in the Speaking test.

Speaking tips

Speaking is a weakness of analytic learners (who learn English from books and tapes). Moreover, in countries where English is not a first language, improving your speaking in English is really difficult. Therefore, I don’t have much experience in practicing speaking. Here are some tips that I got from my teachers and some suggestions that I think they might be helpful for you.

Pronunciation is the most important feature in speaking. If you speak correctly, academically and interestingly, but no one understands what you are talking about, you certainly lose your points.

One of my teachers, who is fluent in 5 languages, shares his experience that pronunciation is the key of learning a language. It might be true since native English speakers can pronounce a unfamiliar word correctly but don’t know how to spell it. Because English is a combination of many languages, there are no totally general rules for pronunciation. As a result, you must remember everything.

So how to pronounce the words correctly?

– Firstly, listen and learn what native English speaker said. As I mentioned, listening can help you in speaking. You can correct yourself in basic words if you listen a lot. Moreover, listening can also help you to learn how to stress important words, how to speak naturally and even how to organize your speech.

– Secondly, if you learn a new word, you must know how to pronounce it first. Typically, when people want to learn new words, they revise these words again and again, and write it down so many times. But now, to improve your speaking and listening, you must hear electronic dictionary pronouncing and repeat after it again and again.

– Thirdly, make sentences with new vocabulary. Everybody might know how to pronounce words correctly, but when they combine them all together, they cannot pronounce correctly anymore, or even if they do, their sentence may sound unnatural. The reason is they lack of intonation. Listening might solve this problem.

– Fourthly, practice pronunciation every week (3-4 times a week) by reading out loud a short passage. At first, you practice to pronounce all the words in that passage correctly. Then read the whole passage slowly and correctly (pay attention to ending sound).

Afterward, increase reading speed in each sentence (‘read’ here means you must speak out the words, not read in your mind). If you speak quickly but start to pronounce wrongly, that means you reach your limit, don’t speak faster than that. And finally, you read the whole passage again at normal speed, or may be a bit faster than normal a little bit, but you MUST include intonation.

To find material for practicing this exercise, you can visit this website: http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com. There are hundreds of short news and audio files spoken by a native speaker. I guarantee if you practice this kind of exercise gradually, you pronunciation will improve a lot. (Note: this is the exercise of my teacher, who speaks 5 languages, as I mentioned before)

Now, to prepare for IELTS Speaking test, you should practice some more exercises:

– Pick a topic and stand in front of mirror to practice speaking test. You should go through all three parts of the real speaking test. Standing in front of mirror will help you improve your body language and also your pronunciation. You might find it strange that mirror can correct your pronunciation. In fact, there are some vowels and consonants that you can’t pronounce correctly if you don’t know how to do that (not just simply remember the pronunciation).

– Try to speak naturally. You are advised to speak fast with intonation (the previous reading exercise will certainly help you). You should learn and apply some verb phrases, idioms and slang expressions. This is not the key part of speaking test, but it is better if you know, not only for your test but also for you speaking skill. If you want to get 7.0, you must master pronunciation, accuracy and intonation.

Important tip #1
When you practice in speaking, you must pay attention to the ending sound. But when you take the real test, don’t do that, because it will affect your fluency. In the real test, it is the time you show examiner what you got, not the time you can show them how good you can correct yourself. Using experience you gained from practicing to prove your speaking skill.

Important tip #2
Another wonderful way to practice speaking is to speak English in your dream. If you never do that, you do it now. I have already spoken English in my dreams even before my teacher advice me to do so. I just watch cartoons in English, films in English and listen to songs in English. As a result, I naturally dream in English. Actually, I can control my dreams, lol, it is very interesting, try to do that. By doing that, I can think quickly in my mind, but I still have problems when speaking my ideas out. So, you must do 2 previous exercises in order to improve speaking.



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