Every year, millions of people take the IELTS test. The English test is required for university admissions and for anyone moving to an English-speaking country to work. To pass this international exam with eight points, it is not enough just to have a good command of the English language. There are two very important factors to include in your IELTS preparation: an understanding of the exam format and the right mental attitude. Let’s start with the last one.
IELTS preparation: How to Be Mentally Ready for the Exam
1. Get enough sleep
Seriously. A sleep-deprived brain works at half strength, and weeks of your IELTS preparation can go to waste simply because you stayed up too late. Exams start early in the morning, so set yourself up with an early night so that by 9am you are already alert and ready for focused activity.
2. Do a recon of the test centre
Find out in advance where and how everything will take place. If you are able to visit your test centre, go there. Get to know the environment and the staff.
3. Make sure you have everything you need
Prepare everything you will need during the IELTS test. Gather your favorite pencils and an eraser.
4. Stay hydrated
Take unlabelled water with you. Staying hydrated keeps your brain energized and functioning at its best.
5. Dress comfortably
There are no points awarded for smart attire, and if your shoes start to rub in the middle of the exam, it will be harder to concentrate. You won’t want to miss something important.
IELTS preparation: Get to Know the Exam Format
The IELTS test consists of four parts in the following order: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. As you can see, the exam does not assess grammar and vocabulary separately. What matters is how you speak and use it in all situations that life brings.
IELTS Part 1: Listening
In total, you will have 30 minutes to answer 40 questions in the listening exam. The audio will only play once. You will be given another 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the form and check your spelling. Keep track of the number of words in the answer – the task will always indicate the word limit and the format of the answers. On some questions you need to enter letters, and some require phrases.
Often people worry that there will be different accents that are hard to understand. But the exam is not trying to flunk you on purpose, you will only hear the most common accents. However, sometimes the speakers change the answer during the course of the audio. For example, first a woman chooses a red dress, and then changes it to blue. Don’t lose focus even if you hear an option, it may still change. But if you missed something, don’t be discouraged. Just move on so you don’t miss anything else.
All modern courses and textbooks offer plenty of audio materials for practicing listening comprehension, but here are some extra tips for how to improve vocabulary so you are ready for the listening exam:
- If you haven’t had the chance to immerse yourself in the language, start listening to everything you can, right now – from news to TV shows in English. If at first you don’t understand much, use English subtitles. These will give your brain a basis for recognizing all English sounds.
- Often the listening test involves labelling maps and diagrams. Familiarize yourself with directional instructions such as ‘in the middle’, ‘to the right’, ‘on the other side’, ‘next to’. Listen carefully from the beginning to make sure you know the starting point.
- One of the hardest parts of English listening comprehension is understanding the numbers by ear, especially the big ones. Practice in advance all the ways in which the price, date, floor and numbers in addresses, telephone numbers and numbers of various documents can be pronounced. Fractions are particularly tricky: 3.75 can be ‘three point seven five’ and ‘three and three quarters’.
IELTS Part 2: Reading
You will have one hour to read, but no one will ask you to read aloud. You will be given several texts and questions relating to them, so the most important thing in this part is to be able to scan materials in search of the necessary information. Be careful – you will not have separate time for transferring answers. You need to complete all your answers within the hour.
IELTS Part 3: Writing
Writing is considered the most difficult part of the exam and has the lowest average exam score throughout the world. In 60 minutes, you need to plan and write two essays. If you have not trained well for this, it will be extremely difficult for you to write everything within the allotted time.
There are several important things to keep in mind for the writing exam:
- To get a good grade, you need to use the correct spelling and punctuation.
- Make sure you follow the specific response format that the examiner wants to see. For example, in the first part you are not allowed to express your opinion, and if you write ‘I think’, points will be deducted for this.
- Remember that this is not a creative exam. Write only what is asked.
- Keep an eye on the time – you only have one hour.
The main advice for getting your English writing skills exam-ready is to practice writing these standard-style essays as much as possible. Get them checked by your teachers so they can help you hone your writing. Then when it comes to the exam, the sentence formulas will come to you quickly and easily.
By the way, here’s a life hack for your English writing: in the exam, you are allowed to write everything in block capital letters. Then you won’t need to worry about which English vocabulary is capitalized (for example, days of the weeks and months).
IELTS Part 4: Speaking
There are only three parts to the conversation block: a story about yourself, a monolog about an abstract topic, and a dialogue about an abstract topic. Here you need to be able to speak quickly and properly. The block lasts only 15 minutes and during this time your task is to demonstrate as much of your ability as possible. To achieve this with a high score, your speech needs to be light and fluent. Here are some more things to keep in mind:
- Do not give short answers. Even your name and surname can be phrased as a full sentence: ‘My name is Sunita and my surname is Kumar’.
- Keep in mind that the examiner is not assessing accurate information like your hobbies or how truthful you are about your favorite place in your hometown. It only matters how you use language and grammar.
- If you do not understand the question or are not sure that you understand, be sure to ask for it to be repeated. Points will not be deducted for asking again, but they will be deducted for an answer that is off-topic.
- It is very easy for examiners to spot answers that you have simply learned by heart. It’s not worth the risk to prepare in this way.
IELTS Preparation at Home
You can brush up on your listening and reading comprehension, improve your English writing skills, practice your speaking skills, find out how to improve vocabulary and learn grammar online with Cambly teachers. There are thousands of tutors on the portal with experience in preparing for international exams. Cambly tutors will help you understand everything you need to know about passing the IELTS exam so that you feel confident to achieve your best result. Sign up for a subscription today.