IELTS preparation tips from winners

IELTS high achievers share their secrets

9 Academic IELTS Writing tips from Phuong on how to get Band 7

This is the last article from Phuong, Band 7 in IELTS, and here he shares the secrets to success in the Writing test.

Writing tips

This isn’t, in fact, my weakness. But this skill is difficult to self-study. You need to go to an English center where there are teachers who are willing to check your writing. Here are some suggestions I can think of, it maybe can’t help you out. But do your best, you will be fine.

1. Before writing an essay, you must know its basic structure. A book about essay writing might show you this.

2. Do Task 2 first, because it is worth more marks and is easier.

3. Don’t waste too much time on Task 1. Learn all the specific writing structure for each type of task 1. In the real test, you just have to apply that structure with new data and suitable verb tenses. Read sample essays and take note of the ones with good structure to have a wide range of academic structures for task 1. Some structures might be used in the task 2 as well.

4. You must complete both tasks. I don’t care how difficult the test is, I don’t care how little time you have got. You MUST complete your test at any cost. If you don’t, you will be penalized.

5. Again, practice writing. Do both 2 tasks in one hour. You can focus only on task 1 or task 2, but before the test, you should practice writing both tasks to get familiar with time limits.

6. Practice makes perfect. In writing, this statement is completely true. But it is better if there is someone to check your writing for you and so you can learn from your mistakes.

7. Writing requires wide academic vocabulary. You also have to buy a dictionary to work on and enrich your vocabulary.

8. Avoid all informal ways of writing. There are some rules of writing you should follow. For example: no abbreviations, no 1st and 2nd pronoun or possessive (I, you, me, my, your), except in conclusion where you have to state your opinion.

9. Each body paragraph has to include: the topic sentence, supporting sentences (2-3 sentences), development sentences (evidence: example, experience, data). In many languages (English included), there are many ways to develop a body paragraph, which results in a situation where that topic sentence is not the first sentence. But you are advised to put the topic sentence at the beginning of each body paragraph. Don’t be creative in this case.

That is all I can think of. I hope you will be lucky in your exam and what I wrote will help you in one way or another. But REMEMBER, to reach success, you MUST make an effort. You should have a clear motivation and a strong will to overcome difficulties. When I did practice tests, I was exhausted. But no success comes easily. Practice is the only way to gain success. Don’t just wait for a lucky break, it will never come if you don’t know how to grab it.

And the final point I want to mention is:

Relax before the test!

Attempting to do one or two practice tests before the real test won’t help you increase your score. On the contrary, it will make you feel stressed and less confident.

I took IELTS 2 times:

The first time: no relaxing, I tried to do more practice tests right before the test day. As a result, I couldn’t concentrate on the test and the result is: L:5.5 ; R:7.0 (don’t mention about W and S here because it depends mostly on examiners)

The second time: 2 weeks after the first time, that means when I received the first result, I had to take the test the day after. But this time I felt relaxed since I knew I got 6.5 overall in the first test. And here is the second result: L:6.5 ; R:7.5

I believe in a short period of time (two weeks), I couldn’t improve that much. Moreover, the second test was considered to be more difficult. So what makes the difference is the relaxation. There are more examples I could mention to prove this point, but it would be wasting your time.

In brief, you must relax before any tests. Forget about them to relax, and believe in yourself.

IELTS Reading tips from Phuong – how he got Band 7

Doan Hung Phuong, who got Band 7 in IELTS, shares with us his secrets for success in the Reading test.

Reading tips

I must say that this skill is based on intelligence very much. I was advised that reading various type of articles is the best way to prepare for IELTS. In reality, I have never done that, simply because I don’t have time. I hate reading. But the fact is that in this skill I got the highest score. I have no idea why, not because I am an intelligent man, but maybe, just maybe because I can understand the main idea very well.

Reading requires a great deal of vocabulary. But when my friends tell me that I got the high score because I have a good range of vocabulary, I totally disagree. Vocabulary is important, but you don’t need to know every word. You should only know keywords, the words that can change completely the answers.

Pay a particular attention to the grammar structure. You may see various types of grammar structures, but try to understand them all, they will be helpful for your writing. Most of us have limited vocabulary, but if you are weak at grammar, you don’t know what the text refers to, and obviously, you lose main idea. As a result, you can’t guess the meaning based on context.

Catching the main idea in reading is also important. You must have known that skimming and scanning are 2 essential tools in reading. Both rely on understanding of main ideas. Therefore, if you can’t catch main ideas in a short time, you will suffer. But how to practice getting main ideas in a brief time? I must say that reading various articles in this case is helpful (even though I’ve never done so). But I tried to do reading tests every day, and tried to understand the main idea of every passage.

Another way to practice Reading is Speed Reading. I have known this method from English centers but to many people, maybe this is still a strange way. You choose a short easy passage (about 500 words) and then read quickly (for both main idea and details). Please note that the passage you choose must be easy. If there are more than 5 words that are completely new to you, perhaps it is not a good passage for the speed reading. In addition, reading as quickly as possible is NOT the key. If you read so fast that you have to read again, there are no benefits gained from this practice. The key here is main ideas, and next is details. Besides understanding all main points, you should try to remember as much details as you can. In speed reading exercises, there are 10 true/false question for you to do at the back. These questions will measure your accurate comprehension.

Besides skimming and scanning, I found that reading intensively is also important in the IELTS test, especially to understand tough questions. Some questions or particular sentences, you need to read and try to understand every single word. Especially with true/false/not given (or yes/no/not given) questions, a single word can change the whole meaning.

After finishing the reading practice test, you MUST check all wrong answers, try to explain why you were wrong (you may need someone who has a good level of English to help you) and think of another way to answer those questions faster. You will gain the necessary experience by doing this before the real test.

In brief, guessing is the key in reading. You must guess logically and academically. Take time to practice reading, you will see that your reading skills will improve in just a short period of time.”