I would like to share my profile so that things are clear in the very beginning. I gave my IELTS – ( Academic module ) on 26th Sep 2015. Following is the breakup of my score:
Listening – 8.5 , Reading – 8.5, Writing – 7.5 , Speaking – 6.5 [Overall an 8]
I am no expert in teaching or guiding but this post is just to share my experience about IELTS. I intend to give some helpful tips (or suggestions you may call it) to those who opt not to consult any specialists or coaching institutes for that matter.
IELTS is no rocket science. All we need is some practice and we ready to roll. I hope some of what I write in the sections below would make sense to you.
What is IELTS ?
English proficiency test. Tests if you are literate in English.
If it’s a test, What does it Test ?
Tests four different attributes of communication in English i.e. Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.
How do I start about preparing IELTS ?
First and foremost, book the test. You’ll receive a booklet with practice tests sent to you by IDP ( the agency that conducts IELTS) . Attempt these practice tests once you are aware of the test format. Give 2 tests every weekend so that you can attempt all the tests within a month.
How important is knowing the test format ?
Trust me, all you need to know for IELTS is its pattern. Since it is a standardized exam, its format more or less remains the same. Be sure about the format of the exam ( duration of each section and question patterns to be precise). I ll try to list few points about the test format but for details visit the IDP website or maybe buy a book (Any book would be fine. Barron’s or any other. No favorites here!)
What’s the format ?
The Listening, Reading and Writing (LRW) tests will be conducted on a single day. The speaking test will be scheduled few days later. The LRW would last 2 hrs 45 mins (2 hrs 30 for the test and 15 mins for instructions). There would not be any break in between. Make sure you are ready for it. The speaking module would not last for more than 20 minutes.
- Imp: There is no negative marking. Answer everything !
- You might be asked to fill in the blanks or match the following or suggest titles to paragraphs. It ll be like doing your school exercise.
I have tried to list down few points which I feel are most important in individual section. Here they are:
30 minutes, 40 questions, 40 marks
- The recordings in IELTS once begun cannot be paused or re-played. So give undiverted attention when the recording is played (Use headphones even when you practice at home just to get the feel of the exam).
- For habitual Hollywood movie or sitcom viewers, this section should not be a problem. The accents would either be British or American (rarely other).
- If you struggle with understanding English accent, please make sure you give special attention to this section. Watch English movies or stuff like that. Lot of audio tests are available on YouTube. Take them and keep a track of scores you achieve. Try to beat yourself.
- The audio recording will surely test your skills to understand the directions (left, right or NEWS). Make sure you practice them well.
3 passages, 60 mins, 40 questions, 40 marks
- Just glance through the questions quickly before you attempt at marking or writing answers.
- The passages are in increasing order of difficulty . So, recommend you to finish accordingly.
- Don’t get stuck on a question. Mark it and move to the next one. Come back once you are done with all others.
2 Essays (or Tasks), 60 minutes
Task 1 ( Recommended Time to complete: 20 mins)
- To analyse a graph or a process and write a report.The graphs would be simple but make sure that you do not make it too mathematical.
- Try to find out if there are any common patterns like steady increase or steady decline in the quantities given and emphasize on it. Do not make it complex or show your mathematical skills here. You are tested on English, not maths.
- Make sure you reach minimum word criteria ( 250 words for this section)
Task 2 (Recommended time to complete: 40 mins)
- A generic statement would be given and you would be asked to share your views about the same. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the statement. Choose a side for which you can write the maximum since at least 400 words are required.
- Task 2 carries more marks than Task 1. Plan it well on a rough sheet (maybe 5-8 mins) and then start writing.
- You can also include instances or examples from your personal life or anything that you have observed. In my opinion, a personal touch makes the essay more lively. But do not just do that for the sake of it.
- Read some samples of essays online that have been graded well (Like 7 or 8 0r 9). Also read the ones that scored very low and shortlist things that might have caused these samples to score high or low. Keep in mind when you attempt your essay.
Around 20 mins, 40 marks
It would start off with your introductions and then you will be given topics to elaborate (Felt like Extempore but without the audience). Since I had scored very low in this section, I would be the wrong person to recommend the right things. However, I can tell you what not to do:
- Do not use abbreviations or slangs. It freaks them out and you ll be interrupted to explain about the slang used.
- Do not directly jump at speaking. You ll be given time to think about the topic and solidify your thoughts. Utilize it well.
- Your voice samples will be recorded. So make sure you speak once or twice on a mobile recorder and check if you are audible and understood.
- No worries if your grammar goes wrong. Correct it and proceed.
What is a good IELTS score ?
There is no good or bad here. If the score you get qualifies you to the universities you aim, its doesn’t matter. To quantify and generalize, try to maintain a minimum of 6.5 in each section so that IELTS score does not become a matter of worry when you hit the apply button on college websites. Having said that, why score less when you can score more. Aim for the sky !
Now that you know the format well and have practiced each section, go ahead with the tests provided by IDP. Make sure you keep track of scores. The aggregate in each section would be your final band.
Let me know of your suggestions about the post. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong on anything. Please refrain from pointing out at grammatical mistakes (as someone rightly said- “Bhavanao ko samjho, shabdon mein kya rakha hai”).
All the best. Cheers!!!!