Hazell Gayatin (one of our ‘Best IELTS Score’ competition winners in March 2012) is originally from the Philippines, and speaks Tagalog. It was her first IELTS exam, and here is how she prepared and won this battle, in her own words:
“For Listening I did a lot of practice tests I found online; all that I could grab from the free sites. I did all of the practice tests when I was very relaxed and in a quiet and comfortable place.
I also listened to (FM) radio where most of the DJs are British. Most of the time I used to guess what was said if I didn’t get it the first time, and then I made up sentences to use new words on the subject being discussed in a sentence.
I also watched a lot of foreign movies including those that have characters who speak in British and other European accents such as ‘Pirates of the Carribean’, ‘Notting Hill’, ‘Bridget Jones Diary’, etc. Those movies made me familiar with words otherwise difficult for me to catch upon hearing in a whim.
Reading was the component where I had too much confidence in myself to hit Band 8. I am a “Reader”. I read books in English since I was 5 years old. My first book was the Holy Bible my grandfather gave me. Since then I read novels, magazines, newspapers, anything I can lay my eyes on, even store and traffic signs. So imagine my disappointment when I received a 7 score for Reading (sob).
Well, I hope you, future test takers, consider this: it’s not enough to rely on reading for pleasure. You have to read and learn. Comprehension, grammar, vocabulary; all these should be taken into consideration especially for a test like IELTS. As for me, I skipped some of practice tests for Reading I saved for this particular IELTS exam. As I’ve said, I was very confident I will score high. Higher than 7, that is. Now I can’t help but regret passing on those practice tests.
Some questions I encountered in Reading contained trick words, words that will confuse a test taker. I advise to always watch out for synonyms and paraphrases as they can be allies or enemies, depending upon how you utilize them. However, it has to be to your advantage, right? One has to understand that words grow into sentences, sentences eventually morphs into paragraphs and become a story. Nonetheless, the story, every bits and parts of it, has to be studied and understood. DO PRACTICE TESTS!
Writing is the hardest component for me. Why? Because I need time to write a very good piece. IELTS gave me only 60 minutes! Well, there are always ways and means to a good ending. I found the following tips very useful:
1. Spend 2 minutes brainstorming for ideas,
2. Outline, outline, outline, and
3. Practice writing by hand and count your average number of words per line to know exactly how many lines you need to construct during the test.
In IELTS you get deductions for writing pieces with less than 150 words in Task 1 and less than 250 in Task 2.
Write from the heart. There’s nothing more interesting than to tell something you have experienced rather than make up something that didn’t happen. I was lucky I get to write about my hobby in the Task 2 of the Writing test. The question posed gave me the opportunity to discuss something I love doing – Fishing!
Not every day is a holiday, but you can always find something to celebrate. My point is, whatever the topic asked to be discussed, you can always try to point it to the direction you want it to go. If it’s not your experience then maybe it is a story of a family or relative, a friend, a colleague, someone you’ve been with at the airport, or from a book you’ve read.
The Speaking test was a breeze. But I realized after the test that I became too excited and nervous at the same time, my mouth could barely keep up with my mind! I was doing a 120 in a 80 kph road! My advise would be to work on your speed (pace of words and punctuations), volume, clarity. Practice to modulate your voice.
I always practiced speaking after I did the listening and reading practice tests. I read aloud. I read the texts over and over. I recorded my voice and listened for some inconsistencies in my pronunciation and diction. It is also very helpful if you can have a buddy whom you can converse regularly in English with.
I hope I can encourage would-be IELTS test takers to do a lot of practice tests.