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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.”

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