IELTS preparation tips from winners

IELTS high achievers share their secrets

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.”

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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