By Albert Soewongsono
How many times do you want to do the IELTS test? Once! Do it once and get the score you need. Recently I did IELTS and I was blown away by my results. Ooverall score 7.5 with 9.0 for Listening, 7.5 for Reading, 7.0 for Writing, and 6.5 for Speaking.
In this article I will give you my insights and tips based on my experience. I do hope that these IELTS preparation tips that I am going to share are able to enlighten you. These tips are based on my experience, so you have the right to select which of these tips suit you and your situation.
- Paths That Led Me to Achieve Listening Band 9
Getting this maximum score may seem unrealistic, but with some proper preparation it is possible to achieve.
1. Always paying a deep attention to the test instructions
I found that this step is sometime missed by test-takers. In the listening question booklet, each section has its own instructions on how the test-takers are allowed to give their answers. For example, a section may require writing the answers with a certain word limit, or with some letters. This instruction must be followed, otherwise your answers will be considered incorrect. My suggestions is to always look carefully at the instructions and underline them if necessary when you are given some time to read the questions. Also, use the 10-minutes at the end of the listening section effectively by not only transferring your answers into the answer sheet, but also re-checking your answers and making sure that they have matched the instructions.
2. Expecting for the worst possible question type
In IELTS Listening tests, there is a wide variety of question types available. You may get questions like filling the blank space, matching options, or even labeling places. The first thing you need to do is, understand your own difficulties by doing lots of listening simulations by yourself or with fellow friends. Once you know your own weaknesses, you can practice those particular types of questions a lot, and you will be able to anticipate them if the questions appear in the official test. If they don’t appear, you can deal with less difficult questions, and I am sure that you will do fine in the test.
3. Always setting a high target score with a good attitude
I remembered a good saying from my IELTS teacher when I was in the training program. He said that you need to set your target as high as possible, so you will push yourself harder to achieve it, but if you think you are unable to reach that target, then lower it slightly and keep doing the same things continuously. However, I think you will get a good result only if you are doing it happily as well as seriously. Try to imagine that you are playing your favorite game that requires you to complete some stages, and each stage will increase the difficulty level.
4. Keeping yourself calm when doing the test
This tip was always repeated by my IELTS listening teacher during the training program, and I found it really useful. Listening is all about paying attention to the recording, understanding the given questions, and approaching it with calmness. If you already have the first two aspects, then you need to train the last aspect. Failing to master it will reduce your concentration during the test. Again, the best way to get used to it is by practicing a lot.
5. Simulating yourself in an IELTS-Like condition
If you are going to take the official IELTS for the first time then I recommend you to apply this step. If you have prepared everything to deal with the test, but you don’t get used to the real situation of the test, you may be in trouble by worrying too much. The solution is you can take either an IELTS simulation test which is much cheaper than the official one, or do a complete simulation test with your fellow friends or in your own training program.
6. Using time effectively whenever you are doing an IELTS Listening section
In the test, the IELTS recordings will allow you some time to understand the questions. Use this time effectively to quickly identify the key words for each question, the instructions given, and the predicted answers you may hear.
Some tips from the IELTS listening part I shared with you above, such as being calm, practicing a lot, paying attentions on instructions, and setting a high targeted score, are also applicable when doing the other parts of IELTS. So, from now on, I will share some more tips which are specialized for the remaining parts of IELTS test.
- Dealing yourself with IELTS Reading section
Reading IELTS passages can be such boring activities for some people, and require a high degree of concentration for the entire 60-minute of the test. As a result, boredom may block you from getting a good reading score. Here are some tips that you may find useful:
7. Getting yourself to read a lot even in the most unsuitable condition
This is a method that I often applied when practicing IELTS reading. It means that you will have to take time to do extra reading in addition to your regular reading schedule. If you are the type of person who only studies at night, then you need to add an extra reading schedule by studying it at dawn, for example. At first, your body and mind, perhaps, will resist you from doing it because it’s not your regular habit. However, by trying to do it will help you a lot because not only you will be able to gain extra knowledge and make yourself get used to reading, it will also help you in case, in the official test, you are not in a good mood. Please bear in mind not to apply this step 2-3 days before the official test conducted, because it may affect your fatigue and body conditions.
8. Trying to catch IELTS readings as the new source of knowledge for yourself
Reading IELTS passages are always interesting for me because you will get to know things that you, perhaps, did not know before. It could be things related to Science, Arts, Cultures, etc. My IELTS reading teacher back at the training program always taught us to read IELTS passages curiously, so you will not put so much pressure on yourself when reading.
9. Labeling the answers you have found on the passages
Doing this step will help you to use your time efficiently since you do not have to re-read a passage when moving to different questions about the same passage. You can underline certain parts of the article where you found the answer with the question number.
- Overcoming IELTS Writing test with a good mark
This part of IELTS, undoubtedly, is the biggest concern among many test-takers. Getting a good score in IELTS Writing could be quite tough for some people, particularly as you need to write two writings with required word limits (A minimum of 150 words for part I and 250 words for part II) in 60 minutes (20 minutes for part I, and 40 minutes for part II). Here are some tips based on my experience that you could apply:
10. Understanding the prompts given
One of the main issues with a lower band score in writing is because the prompt for each writing section is not carefully understood and explored by the test-taker. Writing in an interesting style and using a wide range of grammatical structures and vocabulary definitely contributes significantly to your overall writing score, but keeping your writing on track with the task achievement is also important. To do that, you will need to spare your given time for brainstorming your ideas, identifying the key words and making a general outline of your writing. There are tonnes of IELTS writing books that discuss those things in very good detail.
11. Having a second opinions about your writing practice is recommended
Back when I was in the IELTS training program, I received a lot of valuable feedback for my writings from my teachers, my English speaking friends, and my colleagues in the same program. Do not be shy about asking for a second opinions, they can help you a lot to improve your writing skills. Don’t let bad attitudes holds you back.
12. Practicing under a time limit
Doing writing under a time limit can train yourself to manage your writing outline properly. Sometimes, we can produce a good writing in practice since when we do not have to work under a time constraint. It is okay if you are still at an early stage and allowing yourself to get used to IELTS writing, but later on during your preparation, apply this constraint when writing, so you will not be shocked when in the real test.
13. Reading or watching news as an additional source of knowledge
Writing cannot be separated with reading. Your content of writing is usually determined by how much knowledge you have. In IELTS writing part II where you will need to give your own arguments discussing a certain public issue, reading or watching news will be able to equip yourself with some knowledge to build your paragraphs. In addition, in IELTS part I where you need to analyze and describe the data of tables, graphs, or charts (excluding describing maps or procedures), reading economic-related articles will help you on developing your writing style and providing you with range of vocabularies often used to describe data.
- Being Fluent but Accurate when Speaking
There are many factors that affect your speaking score in IELTS. Being fluent when answering questions is not enough, giving quality answers with range of vocabulary and structures is inseparable from achieving a good score. Understanding points you need to include in your answers for each speaking session, as well as practicing speaking with others, will boost your confidence and skills.
14. Anticipating each topic that may appear during the speaking test
I think it is quite important to inform yourself about this step because in my last test, I was a bit unaware of certain topics, so I could not achieve a much better score on the speaking test when the unanticipated topic appeared. You need to understand that IELTS speaking topics can range from some challenging topics like animal welfare, environmental protection, and industrial world to everyday topics like family and people's habits. Try to look on the internet to find out more about this information.
15. UniBRIDGE Project as an option to boost your speaking skills
At the time I practiced my speaking, I got help not only from my friends and teachers, but also from UniBRIDGE Project. This program allow you to practice speaking directly with native English speakers from Australia, and each of them are really passionate about language exchange, so they will be able to give you some useful advice and suggestion to improve your speaking skills. So, if you are living in Kupang and want to improve your speaking, you should think about joining the program. Register yourself at: http://university-bridgeproject.squarespace.com/registration/
For Help with IELTS speaking check out these free worksheets
Check out this video of Albert practising his IELTS speaking on UniBRIDGE Project
In the end, I do hope that these tips and my experience I've shared can lead positively to your IELTS preparations. If you'd like more information, you can reach me either by sending messages to firstname.lastname@example.org or to my Whatsapp number on +6282266232870. Also, below there are some IELTS books that I used during my training and self-study activities; you may use them as your additional references.
- Focus on IELTS by Sue O’Connell
- Speaking for IELTS by Collins English for Exams
- Listening for IELTS by Collins English for Exams
- 15 Days’ Practice for IELTS: Speaking By Wang Hong Xia
- The Complete Guide to Academic Reading by Phil Biggerton
- New Insight into IELTS
- Check Your Vocabulary for English For The IELTS Examination By Rawdon Wyatt
- How to Master the IELTS by Chris Tyreman
- IELTS Made Easy By IELTS Buddy
- Cambridge IELTS Ed. I-XI by Cambridge University Press
- IELTS Practice Tests Plus By Vanessa Jakeman and Clare McDowell
- Oxford IELTS Practice Tests by Peter May
Want more? Catch Albert's reflections on his IELTS experience