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How Monica got two perfect 9’s in Reading and Listening

We have a real treat for you today – Monica Jo from Indonesia, a lovely young lady with an overall Band score of 8.0 who won in April’s IELTS results competition, asked us to share her tips with you. Monica got a top IELTS score (Band 9) in the Listening and the Reading sections, so she probably did a few things right! Give her advice a try to see what it does to your own score:

Band 8 in IELTS“Hi, I am Monica from Indonesia and my mother tongue is Indonesian. I had 2 months of preparation prior to my IELTS test. Overall, there are 2 things that helped me to succeed: time management (in practice and in the real test) and learning from the right source. And here are the details:


This was the first module that I prepared for. It may look simple, but for me this was the trickiest part where one can get a lower mark just because of simple mistakes. I started my learning by reading the theory first: understanding the listening module structure in IELTS, getting familiar with types of questions, learning some basic grammar such as articles, singular/plural, etc. This may seem basic, but in my experience in practicing for the test, this was the area where I often made mistakes. Then I did 2 or 3 listening tests to get to know typical IELTS listening questions and it helped me to identify areas that I needed to work on harder.

Then I read “Ace the IELTS” book, which for me was very practical as it contains simple tips that are crucial. After reading the tips, I knew more about traps (and it really did happen in the test!). One of the tips that I used was “guess the answer”. You have a bit of time to read the questions first before the recording starts. Use this time to read the questions quickly, underline keywords and guess what the topic is and what the expected answer is for each blank (a number, a noun, a verb, a time, etc). When listening, focus on keywords and write down some keywords on the question booklet pages because this definitely helped me to guess an answer after I missed something. When you find the answer, quickly put it in the blank, don’t worry about the 3 words limit first and quickly focus on the next sentence.

The hardest part for me during the exam was to match responsibilities (A – E) with each role. So I read A – E first, and then instead of trying to match while listening, I wrote down the keywords for each role, and later on during the 10 minutes given to transfer answers, I matched the keywords with the options (A – E) as I found it hard to match long sentences in A – E with the role while listening to the recording.

Watch out for singular/plural (such as apple/apples) and articles (a/an/the), use the last 3 minutes to check all the answers and ensure your grammar is 100% correct and your answers are within word limits. Practice definitely helps! Luckily I had 10 sets of practice tests from the, I did at least 7 of them, and in the real exam, I felt like it was just part of the training, as the more I practiced, the more I knew what to expect and what techniques are required to succeed. It was pleasing for me to see I could get 9 for Listening as this is definitely a skill that we can learn when there is a strong will and a correct learning resource.


This was the second module that I prepared for, and I found this section to be the easiest one. The key thing in Reading is time management. Following the tips from “Ace the IELTS”, when I received the reading question booklet, I counted how many articles were inside. I had 5 articles in my exam, and I divided the time required for each, while allocating the longest time to the last article as that’s the hardest and longest one. In every article, I read the questions first and tried finding answers in the article. This tip helped me focus on important sentences in the article that contained the answers. It helped me in managing my time as well as I could skip sentences that I didn’t really need. Underlining or circling the keywords helped when I rechecked my answers.

For T/F/NG, this was the tricky part, I agree with the book that says “do not over-think”, it is simply a matter of seeing whether the answer is in the article or it is not. For reading, the answers must be in the text, so no need to guess or make our own sentences, just really find the answer in the text and copy it to the answer sheet. Remember to practice as well. I did around 6 general practice tests prior to the exam and 2 academic reading texts just to have some additional training in more difficult reading passages. During the test, be mindful of the time, go as fast as you can in the first passages, as the last 1 or 2 texts took most of my time. Don’t get stuck on one question, if you don’t know, skip it for now, come back later on because you need to keep on moving. Spare 15 minutes to check all of the answers, check the grammar and that the answers are within word limits.


Writing tips in Ace the IELTS were definitely my key success factor in writing. The book really scrutinizes each type of letter and guides you how to respond to each type of letter. For the essay part, the book also gives clear guidance on how to respond and it did help me in the practice and the exam. If you can remember some key sentences and the key structure that is required, you can be successful in this section.

It is important to practice in time management. It helped me to allocate the right time to the letter, the essay and reserve some time for checking. I allocated 15 minutes to the letter: 3 minutes to structure the letter and think of some keywords for the content, 11 minutes to write the letter, 1 minute to ensure 150 words requirement is met (I calculated this by counting words in 1 line and multiplying by the number of lines I have written). I then allocated 35 minutes to write the essay: 5 minutes to plan, 25 minutes to write, 5 minutes to recheck and count the words. I used the last 10 minutes to check the overall grammar and make small adjustments.

Good handwriting is important to make a positive impression on the assessor. Also, I found that using pencil is easier for me and it makes my essay and letter cleaner as I could easily erase any wrong sentences and rewrite them neatly. Again, practice is important. I wrote around 6 letters and essays. Reading the essay samples on helped me to identify which type of essay would get Band Score 6, and which would get Band 8 and why.”

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