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Practical IELTS tips from Angie, Band 8.5

Many non-native English speakers think they would easily get Band 9 in IELTS, if only they spoke English from birth. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Even native English speakers require preparation if they want to score well in IELTS – and here is some practical advice on how to prepare from Angie Coleman, a young lady from the UK and our first place competition winner, who got Band 8.5 in her IELTS exam. Angie says:

Band 8 in IELTS “The advice I would share is simple: Don’t think if you are a native English speaker it will be easy, you still have to prepare.

Complete practice tests over and over again to ensure you know the format of the test and what types of questions are being asked, the pace of the test and get familiar with writing essays (by hand) over and over again.

Buy practice tests or access to a website for practice tests. I used a few freebee tests on the internet, but you can only use them once and then you know what they are looking for, so its not effective. I then paid for access to a website, the tests had a number of mistakes in them but it still helped me to get used to the format and I didn’t waste time searching for free practice tests.

On a practical level, the test conditions are not easy, so be prepared. I was in a room from about 9am until 14pm. During that time, no toilet breaks (you can go to the loo but it comes off of your test time), no snack breaks, it was freezing and you are concentrating hard from test to test. So best be prepared.

Get a solid night sleep the day before and don’t drink any alcohol, drink tons of water the day before, eat a healthy breakfast, don’t drink too much coffee or liquids in the morning before the test. Wear layers into the building. You have to check in your coat so make sure you will be warm enough. I had layers, but my teeth still chattered.

You move from room to room during the registration process, on the last leg try to go in near the end and use the loo one last time before the test. Otherwise you will sit in the room for an hour plus waiting for others to come in.


For the test itself, make sure you focus and don’t drift off in the listening. This is hard to do especially if you are not prepared on what to listen for. Scan the questions when you can so you know what to tune your ear into.


Read the questions first before diving into the text. You need to know what you are looking for. When its a matching section, answer question by question and if you do not know what it is, skip it and come back to it. After you have completed everything, go back and read the answer to the question to make sure it makes sense.


Answer the questions in full. Use a range of grammar and vocabulary. Learn 20 plus words that you can easily insert into almost any topic of discussion and practice your spelling of these words and other common words. During your practice tests, its useful to type your essay into a word document after you have hand written it and spell check it. You can then see any grammar or spelling mistakes you might not have otherwise seen. And also get a word count. If you run out of an argument to write about but are short on words, use personal experience to describe. Keep to the word limits, you get penalised for writing under the limit automatically.


Practice with your friends. Get them to mimic the test format and test questions so you are comfortable answering questions in this way. Have them time each section so you are used to speaking fluidly for that amount of time. Use lots of description (not just yes or no) and keep answering the question until the examiner (or your friend stops you). If you run out of things to say about a topic, draw on personal experience or make something up. Remember its a language test not an interview.

Good Luck and Best Wishes!! Thanks again for helping me get through this test!!”

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