IELTS preparation tips from winners

IELTS high achievers share their secrets

IELTS Listening tips that Phuong used to get Band 7

Doan Hung Phuong, the winner of October results competition, shares his tips for success in the IELTS Listening test:

To succeed in the IELTS test, the key is practice. Never dream you will gain anything without any efforts. The fact is I had to do a great number of practice tests in a month before taking the real test. I did approximately one test a day, including reading and listening. Sometimes I practiced Writing and Speaking Tests at home.

Remember, you MUST do Listening, Reading and Writing Tests continually. In the real test, there will be no time for you to have a break. They officially say that you will have 5 minutes between each part, the fact this is not always so. Therefore, you must practice to cope with extremely high tension and pressure in the real test.

Practicing writing and speaking at home is not actually a good way. You need someone to check your writing and give advice how to improve your speaking. However, I myself don’t have that advantageous condition as well, so I just simply did the test at home. Regardless of disadvantages, practicing at home will certainly help you deal with the limited time and improve your organization in both writing and speaking in a short time. Moreover, it also helps you get familiar with difficult questions and be well prepared for the up-coming exam.

I spent 3 months preparing for the IELTS test, 2 months to gain back basic English knowledge in English centers and 1 month to constantly do practice tests. It is the best if you have a long-term plan for your exam , including improving vocabulary, revising grammar, learning and applying strategies for each type of questions in IELTS test as well as improving the 4 skills.

Now I will go into details about my way of studying and I think it will help your English improve:

Listening tips

This is considered to be the hardest skill to improve for most people. In reality, it is one of my weaknesses. To improve listening, you have no choice but to practice every day, practice as much as you can.

There are a lot of English channels where you can listen and try to understand what they are talking about. If you’ve got difficulty in understanding these universal channels, perhaps you need to learn more daily vocabulary and try to practice some easy listening books. The key here is just main idea. As long as you still understand what they are talking about, you will be fine. The purpose of this way is that you can familiarize with English and correct your pronunciation in basic words (the words you have known). Therefore, this is also an excellent way to prepare for speaking.

However, you MUST avoid BBC. There is absolutely nothing you can learn from BBC. If your level of English is good enough to understand BBC, you don’t need to come here and seek advice; just do practice tests, it will save your time.

When doing Listening Practice Tests, you also have to catch the main ideas as well. However, this time you must practice listening to details too. The main ideas will help to you determine what the key words are and focus on the important section. Stress and intonation are also helpful. Sometimes, a lot of unnecessary details make you confused and then you can’t catch the key words.

To sum up, the key for listening is Listen to English as much as you can.

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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.”