IELTS Exam Tips

Philip D
Ten practical tips about preparing for and taking IELTS

1. IELTS Exam Day Punctuality and Preparation
Make sure to arrive on time at the exam center – remember that you will need to bring proper ID, such as a driver’s licence. Think about various routes to the exam center, in case there is a delay with your preferred option and try to arrive early. Remember, that the more sleep and fresh you feel for the exam, the better possibility you might have for passing the exam. Some people book a hotel in another city – in that case see if you can find somewhere close to the center and also preferably somewhere quiet: be on time, prepared and as fresh as possible.

2. Understand the IELTS Exam
Try to have a good understanding of the exam – through understanding the exam format, that can help you be prepared about what types of questions to expect. Have a good look through the IELTS band descriptors for the exam, so that you understand about the speaking and writing grading methods. Also check out the grading system for the reading and listening exams. Think about how many questions you would need to answer correctly in order to achieve your goal for the IELTS.

3. Answer the IELTS Exam Questions
Try to answer the questions directly for the IELTS. Think about what is required. For instance, for the speaking part 2, make sure to answer all questions. Also, follow the instructions carefully, so that for the IELTS reading, you answer with the correct amount of words and for the IELTS writing that you write at least the minimum amount of words required.

4. Keep an Eye on Time During the IELTS Exam
A key feature of the IELTS exam is time management. Remember that for the writing you will need to think of the answer, make any synonyms, write and check for 20 minutes for the task 1 and 40 minutes for the task 2. It is very important, that you are therefore able to answer all the questions completely in the required amount of time. Of course, if you do run out of time that might not mean failing the exam, but presumably much better is to carefully schedule your time, so that you are not overly rushed.

5. Practice for the IELTS Exam
Make sure that you do enough practice for the IELTS exam. Some, like native speakers, might not need to do much more than familiarise themselves with the exam and perhaps do a complete practice exam. However, for others who are not native speakers, it might require a lot more preparation in order to achieve your goal required. Think about the amount of time you have before the exam, and how much improvement you need.

6. Failing the IELTS Exam
For some/many people the IELTS exam can be very expensive and also take a lot of time to do. Therefore, try if at all possible to pass on the first attempt. Moreover, through repeated failure this might not be so good for general confidence. Therefore, try to make sure that you are sufficiently ahead in your practice tests for the IELTS, to be reasonably confident that you may pass – of course, that is not a guarantee, however even if you fail you still might be able to get a regrade although that might perhaps take quite a few weeks to process and you still might fail even still.

7. What Are Your Weak Areas for the IELTS Exam?
Try to make sure that you are able to focus in on your weak areas. It might seem nice to continue to build on strengths, such as more vocabulary, however also make sure to focus on areas like grammar that might be lacking. For instance, for the writing it is based on 4 grading criteria, including vocabulary and grammar. Keep examining your weak areas and see how they are improving – even if you are very good at vocabulary for example, you might still fail, as the examiner could not properly understand your writing.

8. Is a Tutor Required for the IELTS Exam?
Certainly for some students, like native speakers or high-level non-native speakers, a tutor might not be required, although it would certainly be advisable if possible for them to read about the IELTS before taking it, to make things easier. For others, it is not an easy question to answer, as every student is different – some students may still be able to pass, just by reading books and practising speaking with non-native speakers, etc.. However, perhaps with a teacher it is likely to increase a student’s skill and also may mean that the amount of overall time required is less and that the possibility to pass may increase, with a lower risk of failing.

9. Keep Your English Regular for the IELTS
For the IELTS exam speaking, some students may think that if they speak fast, that this might impress the examiner. I would say that although it is good to speak at least at a regular speed, speaking too fast might actually be counterproductive, especially if there are a number of mistakes in the speaking and thus the errors will be produced even more quickly. For the writing, certainly, it is good to have impressive and nicely structured sentences, however also be aware that it should look sufficiently natural and not appear to be overly unnatural wording.

10. Remember That It’s an English Exam, Not a Science One, Etc
Try not to worry too much about having some “amazing” ideas for your speaking and writing answers. Remember that the primary reason for the exam is to test your English. For sure, your answers should be well structured and reasoned, however do not spend too much time trying to think of some very unusual answer. The primary goal is to focus on your grammar and vocabulary, as well as “coherence and cohesion” and the task response – the idea, whilst important, should not be the main focus of the examiner, so long as it properly answers the question.

Written by Philip D for EnglishClub June 2015
Skype IELTS teacher Philip from the UK – download his free IELTS advice ebook (104 tips):

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