Thành Đỗ Hữu is originally from Vietnam, but currently lives and studies in Australia. His Overall IELTS Band Score is 8, with two straight 9’s in Listening and Reading. When we asked what would his advice be to other test takers working to achieve similar results, he said:
“Basically, you need to do a practice test, then try to give a reasonable explanation for every single mistake that you made or problems that you have. It can be a group of mistakes/difficulties, for example something like trouble with choosing headings, leading to a huge amount of time consumed for just a few questions, etc. You need to come up with solutions for that problem, I googled my problems and found several good solutions online, most of which worked. Be selective though, try and find what works for you as everyone is different.
For the Reading: time your practice for each test and speed it way up, try to finish the first section in 12-14 minutes, the second in 15-18 min, and the last one in less than 25 min. I got around 10 minutes to go back and check my answers in the end, and was able to make one crucial correction (which could have cost me half a band). Also, try to summarise every paragraph that you read in just a few words, this will help you immensely in understanding the whole passage and make it easier to find answers.
Finally, if you’re looking to get a high score in reading, you must improve your vocabulary a lot. Tricks and tips can only get you so far, you need real ability to score high. To score above 8.5 you shouldn’t have more than 1 new word for each paragraph.
For the Listening: To be able to listen well you should be able to pronounce your words correctly, otherwise you will have a lot of trouble. My way of fixing my vocabulary and pronunciation was to watch TV shows with subtitles, and write down every single word that I mispronounce, as well as new words, with their pronunciation, meaning, and example, and review the list every single day (this is necessary or else you will forget most of them in 24 hours). It may sound like a lot of work, but nothing worth having comes easy.
After being able to score above 8 in practice tests consistently, you can focus solely on test taking skills. To go from Band 8 in my previous test to Band 9, I fixed my plural/singular form problems (by checking and listening for plural form in every expected noun in answers) and multiple choice questions with massive amount of info to read by spending time reading and preparing ahead. I was preparing for my third task, when the recording was waiting for everyone to prepare for the second, this had to be complemented by fast reading skill as well.”