IELTS Tips from an Examiner
Below are tips from an IELTS Examiner – he is currently the longest running examiner in South East Asia with over 25 years of experience!
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IELTS Tips #1
Listening: The Listening Test is a reading test—improve your reading skills.
Many students do not realise that reading skills are essential for the Listening Test, and therefore they need to improve their overall reading skills to achieve a higher score. When asked “I do not understand what you mean by that” by my students, I simply reply “How can you answer the questions without reading them?” Use skills like skimming to find out what each section is about, try to deduce the meanings of unknown words, read the instructions carefully, and so the list continues.
Reading: Read the heading or the title, and try to think about what the passage is about.
In the Reading Test, read the heading or the title of the passages and think about what the topic of each passage is before you actually read the text. If the title is “Outer space exploration”, think carefully about everything you know about the topic: NASA, other planets, landings on Mars, scientific discoveries, black holes, aliens or other life forms, and so on until you have though carefully about all possibilities. This will prepare you far more fully to answer the questions once you start answering them.
Writing Task 1: Do plenty of writing practice and get it checked.
It is, obviously, very important to get your writing checked by a competent teacher who is fully conversant with the test and can guide you to improve your writing. If you are fortunate enough to have a teacher who is an IELTS examiner, he or she can give you really good tips on what NOT to write, as well as what to write. Oh, and another tip—edit your writing at least twice to improve on your style.
IELTS Tips #2
Task 2: Always write four paragraphs.
Many candidates write five paragraphs, which means that they write more about one side of the question than another, and get a lower score.
Speaking is Listening
The Speaking Test is a listening test, too—listen carefully to the questions. Many candidates do not listen carefully to the examiner’s questions, and give a reply that is off topic, or irrelevant. If you want to get a Band 7 for the Speaking Test, you will find it difficult to achieve that score if you give some irrelevant answers. For example: “What is the area like where you live?” Answer: “Yes, I like the area where I live because…” See how that can lower your score?
Read ahead when the script says “You now have half a minute to check your answers” if you do the Paper Based Test.
Do not try and check your answers because you only hear the script once and, basically, cannot check your answers. Use this time to read the next section and in this way you will be more prepared when the new section begins.
IELTS Tips #3
Practice Makes Perfect
When you are taking lessons (hopefully at BRIT!), you will be given lots of constructive feedback on how to improve your written work, which will improve your accuracy. However, speed is also something you will need to work on as you only have 60 minutes to complete two pieces of writing. Therefore, in order to work on getting faster, practice answering the same question that you previously had corrected, but without looking at or copying from your previous work. Afterwards, check your new essay against the previously marked essay. Did you use the correct set phrases? Did you incorporate the corrections? Do you improve your accuracy of tenses? Was your writing that little bit clearer? Regular speed practice will help you recall useful phrases that can be used time and time again in different tasks to get you more comfortable writing a sufficient amount of words.
For the listening section, part 2 especially, students often write down the wrong answers when they hear the words spoken on the audio. However, more often than not, this will be a distractor and will mean you choosing the wrong answer. Therefore, make sure you listen to what is said beforehand and carefully to what is said afterwards to avoid being tricked by a distractor. Typical distractors are when the speakers says one of the answers in the question but then changes their answer or they mention one of the answers but in relation to something different than the question.
When you drive from Bangkok to Phuket, you get there by following the road signs, the signposting, as they will tell you where you are heading; this is also true with extended speaking tasks, such as lectures. When listening to extended talks, such as listening sections 3 and 4, pay attention to the signposting language that the speaker uses as, more often than not, this will lead you to the answer. If you are listening to audio on, for example, the history of something, the examples of signposting language that you might hear are: “It all started when…”, “The person who first started it was…”, “The next development happened because of…” etc. However, the signposting may not always come at the start as it also can come after the information: “...,which resulted in what we see today.” “…, was the first problem the owners experienced” etc. Remember – if you can hear the signposting language, you can hear the answer.