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Gian got Band 8 in IELTS, here’s how

Gian is an IELTS test taker from Italy, who prepared for the exam on his own, and got an amazing result – Band 8. Since he used extensively in his exam preparation, Gian felt like sharing his best tips and strategies with the other readers of our website.

Gian says:

“I’ve been working and partially living in a mostly English speaking environment for some years, but all oral and written communication is quite ‘relaxed’ in the workplace. So what I had to do before the IELTS wasn’t to learn English, but to ‘polish’ my English. I also had to pay attention to the differences between formal and informal English, both oral and written. Also, I’m not used any more to handwriting, so I had both to enhance my awful handwriting and to refresh some spelling.

My studying method was the following:

I studied for four weeks. I did eight practice tests in total, taken from two different books, strictly respecting the time limits imposed by the ‘real’ IETLS.

Listening: I never used earplugs, I rather used a couple of ordinary speakers kept at low volume, placed on the other side of the room. I also watched some movies in English and I listened quite a lot to BBC online radio. They have several national and local stations so you can familiarize with many different accents if you wish.

Reading: nothing special to say.

Writing: Apart from the eight practice tests from the books, I extensively used the IELTS Blog (thank you guys!). I wrote one essay every two days on average. After finishing an essay I used to count the words and to check a good online dictionary for all words and expressions I wasn’t sure about. I transcribed all of them on a notebook with synonyms, and I took some minutes before going to bed for re-reading the new words.

In order to see if my essays were OK, I assessed each one of them according to the following parameters:
a. Response to task,
b. Coherence/cohesion,
c. Vocabulary/syntax,
d. Grammar (once again: many thanks to IELTS Blog).

For the Speaking part, I read sample questions and I did some sort of ‘monologues’, trying not to be too informal.

Here are my tips:

– When you prepare for IELTS, your main objective is not ‘learning English’ but ‘learning how to pass the IELTS test’. So I suggest you to get as informed as possible on the structure of the test and on how your test will be assessed. A number of IELTS practice books are available, plus all the info you’ll find on IELTS Blog. However, while practising you will realize if you need to refresh some grammar: in that case do it, otherwise do not.

– The IELTS test makes it quite impossible to cheat: the score you get reflects the level of your English. So do not try to impress the examiners at any cost, use only words and expressions you exactly know how to use. Improve your vocabulary and syntax during the preparation, do not improvise during the test.

– In the Reading part, what I did was to underline keywords and key-concepts and to circle names and dates while reading. I think it works.

– Familiarize yourself with the Answer sheet (for the Listening and Reading sections) and with the Writing sheet (for the Writing section). Most books offer a sample Answer sheet: make some photocopies and use them while practising.

The Writing sheet is an A4 ruled sheet of paper, with lines of more or less 1 cm. You have to use a pencil to fill the Answer sheet, while you can use a pencil or a pen for the Writing, as you prefer. Correcting fluid is not allowed. An extra sheet of paper will be given to you, but you’ll not have the time to write a rough copy. For Task 2, what I did was to draft some bullet points with keywords and key-concepts on the extra paper, and then I wrote my essay directly on the Writing sheet.

– You are likely to be somewhat nervous during the test, making mistakes you wouldn’t make normally. Anyway, the idea is to stay concentrated but not stressed. Personally, I knew I would be tense during the test, so I got used to assess my own practice tests very strictly, in a way that I could be quite certain to do good enough on the day of the test, even though my performance was a bit lower than at home.

– During your preparation, take some days of break from time to time. That helps you not to get stressed and gives your brain the time to store information.

– During the Speaking part you have a lot of freedom. Try to steer the conversation towards topics you are familiar with, of course without going off topic. If the examiner asks you something you are not confident about or if you feel you haven’t the right vocabulary, feel free to say “I’m not an expert” or “I’m not able to go into technicalities” as a preamble. After all, it is your English to be assessed, not your general knowledge. Also, I think the examiner will not be very happy if your language is too informal, so try to avoid expressions like “you know…”, “kinda like”, “see what I mean”, and make it sure that you use syntax properly.

Good luck everybody and congratulations to IELTS-Blog!

Gian M.”

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