Take Your Time To Get To Know IELTS
IELTS is the only exam in my life that I had to take thrice. I am telling you this so you will not take the exam lightly, especially if you need a Band Score of all 7 in one sitting.
With the first two exams, I spent approximately two week's worth of studying - self review and attending classes via a review center. I was an overconfident examinee, thinking that it would be easy because I have been using and speaking English since pre-school. But then comes the first heartbreak, I was not able to finish the Reading part because I lingered too much on the first passage. I literally scribbled random words on my test sheet just to put answers on them. Come two weeks time, here I am again, hungry as a lion on a hunt, I took the test for the second time. I did very well on Reading but wrote a poor essay, hence failed Writing.
The third time, I reviewed for almost three months. I studied for about 4 hours a day, that includes reading novels, watching English shows and subjecting my friends to speak in pure English whenever I see them. I used every opportunity that I can to practice English, and it did paid off, I finally got what I want - an OBS of 8.
You have to put equal importance to every single test and not play favorites, as you need to get good scores on all four to get a good band. Here are some of the important lessons I learned by doing it over and over.
Listening – Focus is the key. When you hear the audio, focus on the conversation being played while simultaneously marking keywords on the Listening sheet, synonyms and other terms related to the words uttered by the speaker. If you miss a word, do not worry, you will have time to review your answers after the audio is played. Keep moving forward, do not be distracted and focus onto the next item, this way you will answer more items correctly. This is a skill that can only be mastered by doing it repeatedly, so try to review as may listening tests as you can.
Reading – Time management is key. You have to pace yourself. Allot specific amount of time to every passage and STICK to it. Time to read the passage and time to answer the questions. Do not allow yourself to stay one item for too long. Scan the questions first, so you will know what you are looking for when you read the passage. Read at a pace that you are comfortable with making sure that you comprehend it. You can also mark keywords, those that are unique like dates, names and descriptions. Again, this is a skill that can be acquired through practice.
Writing – Be informed about local and international news and happenings. Read newspapers, books, online journals in English. This is the only way that you can create a substantial writing piece. Not only it will improve your vocabulary, but also the give the impression that you do know what you are writing about. Read the question carefully, this is to make sure that you address what is being asked. Write keywords related to the topic that you thought of, immediately after reading the question so you won’t forget it. Think of a good opening salvo, you can try to re word the question to get a clearer glimpse of what you want to discuss. Do not use highfalutin words if you do not know how to use them properly. Everyday normal words are fine just as long as they are not repetitive. This is to showcase the range of your vocabulary and depth of understanding the language. Connect your ideas by using words like furthermore, in addition, moreover, consequently. Or if you want to explain the other side of the story, use on the other hand or however. These connectors are essential so that your writing looks more well put together. Write legibly, avoiding too much erasures and be sure to produce above 10 words per line so you satisfy the criteria of numbered words. End your piece with a strong conclusion summarizing the topic. Also, do not forget to pace yourself to make sure that you finish on time.
Speaking – Stay calm and collected. I know it is easier said than done, but there is no other way that you can ace this part but to be comfortable in speaking English. Focus on the question that is being asked so you will give the right answers, it is okay to pause because it means you are collecting your thoughts. Do not try to speak in an accent that is not your natural one. There is no shame in using your own accent, plus it will look and sound more genuine. Like Writing, you have to read and watch a lot of English shows, news to be able to convey substantial interaction with the interviewer. Most of the topics are personal questions like your favorite car or food. That is why you have to know quite a lot about such stuff to keep the conversation going and avoid dead air. The tip: list as many conversational topics as you can, it could be personal or trivial like politics, education, health, parks, etc. and try to expound on those. Time yourself, making sure you can speak English continuously for 2 minutes. Speak in your natural tone, clear and not too fast. Also, do not forget to smile and try to look at the Examiner once in a while. Try practicing with a friend and get their comments for your improvement. If you are still too shy, practice in front of the mirror. But, remember IELTS is to get yourself out there, so there is no better alternative than having an English conversation with other people.
In conclusion, DO NOT BE HASTY. Take the exam when you feel you are ready – meaning you have mastered the skills noted above. It is not so hard once you have learned how it works, so take your time and get to know IELTS.