If you’re reading this blog, you are probably aware that you need to practice before the IELTS exam. We are all familiar with the adage “Practice makes perfect.” We’ve heard it from parents, grandparents, teachers and even colleagues, usually when we’re trying to perform a new task or learn a new skill. You might be wondering how this relates to the IELTS exam. “A test of speaking, reading, writing and listening” doesn’t sound very alien or even challenging. These are all things we do every day, so why would anyone need to practice for the IELTS exam? We’re going to answer that here.
1. The IELTS exam is not like school
While it’s true that speaking, listening, reading and writing are all things that you do every day, the IELTS exam is unique in a number of respects. Consider a job interview. In the course of a job interview, you will probably have to listen to some questions and you will certainly be required to speak. You might even have to write things down, or read a piece of text, depending on the job you are seeking.
However, you will be doing all of these everyday things in a unique situation. You will be keenly aware of the fact that you are being watched closely. You will prepare in advance by learning as much as you can about the company and if possible, your interviewer. The IELTS exam is not very different to this. You need to learn as much about the test as possible before you enter the exam room.
In the speaking exam, you will be speaking on a variety of topics. You cannot predict or preempt these topics in any way. A recording device captures everything that is said in the exam room. Your interlocutor (the person you’re speaking with) is specifically instructed to be somewhat aloof and clinical. At one point, you will have to speak for an entire two minutes, uninterrupted. It’s well worth practicing this with a knowledgeable person.
In the IELTS listening exam, you have to listen to a recording and answer questions. This sounds very straightforward. In one sense it is, but bear in mind that you will not be able to listen to the recording more than once. You will also have to listen intently for the correct answer, and then follow instructions meticulously when it comes to writing these answers down. Add the pressure of a high-stakes exam environment and you have what can be a stressful experience. Prepare now, so that you can reduce anxiety and risk later.
In an academic setting (high school or college), you may have taken many tests of reading comprehension. Usually, you would have a large amount of time and you could expand on your answers. You could substantiate your answers with detailed argument. This is not the case in the IELTS reading exam. You will have one hour to read at least three texts. Some of these will be challenging. They will also relate to subjects you have no particular knowledge or experience in dealing with. You will receive one mark per answer, so keeping your answers short, succinct and to the point will help you to stay within the amount of time allocated to the exam. It is essential that you go into the exam knowing what to expect. You also need to develop time-saving strategies and learn which strategy to use for which question.
The IELTS writing exam is formidable. You have to write a fairly large amount of text under pressure, in a relatively short space of time. Of all the tests in the IELTS exam, writing seems to be the one that trips people up the most. This part of your exam is assessed by a dedicated examiner with a very specific rubric, so you have to satisfy many different requirements simultaneously. Vocabulary, grammar, spelling, punctuation, structure and handwriting all play a role.
2. Knowing the Structure of the IELTS Exam is Vital
Another reason that candidates should practice before the IELTS exam is that IELTS has a unique structure. Before entering your exam venue, you need to know what is ahead of you, how each paper is structured, and how you should allocate your time. This is crucial for the writing and reading tests in particular. Very often, test-takers spend too much time on one section, unaware that the following section may require more time and effort. This can compromise performance and result in failure to achieve the necessary band score. Problems like this occur when people do not practice before the IELTS exam.
The speaking exam also has a unique structure. It is a good idea to become familiar with this beforehand, so that you don’t end up fumbling for answers on the day. Your goal should be to speak coherently and confidently, regardless of the topic you receive.
The Highway IELTS Preparation Workshop provides a comprehensive overview of these issues, equipping participants to anticipate each element of the exam.
3. You Need to Understand IELTS Exam Critera
The IELTS speaking and IELTS writing tests are assessed on a unique and highly specific set of criteria. This is what ensures the objectivity of the test, and is the main reason that academic institutions around the world trust the IELTS standard. Before taking the IELTS exam, you should get to grips with these requirements so that you know exactly what you need to do to achieve the band score you are seeking.
Our seasoned IELTS coaches can help you to grasp the requirements of whatever band you require. Remember, you receive a score out of 9 for each of the 4 tests, and then an overall score out of 9 based on the compilation of those 4. 0 is the minimum score and 9 is the maximum. Whatever score you are looking to achieve, make sure you know what it takes.
4. Advice can be useful
You will know from your own field of expertise that you carry with you a reservoir of knowledge that you cannot unpack in one conversation. In fact, you will only become aware of the depth of your own knowledge if you try to explain it to an interested novice. In the same way, we at Highway IELTS have accumulated a great deal of knowledge over time. Whatever your particular strengths and weaknesses, speaking to knowledgeable and experienced people will sharpen your awareness of the test, its requirements and pitfalls. If you don’t practice before the IELTS exam, you risk overlooking important aspects that could have been clarified for you.
5. Voicing Your Questions is Integral to Preparing for the IELTS Exam
Depending on how far along your IELTS journey you have come, it is likely that you have unanswered questions. It’s also likely that you have encountered a great deal of information about IELTS, much of it contradictory and confusing. Our in-person workshops are an ideal forum for raising your concerns and getting your questions answered before you face the exam. The workshops have the additional advantage of bringing people together. Very often, the experiences of a fellow test-taker can be useful to others. Under the guidance of our IELTS coaches, this creates an enriching and high-impact forum.
The IELTS exam is a taxing endeavour. It will challenge your command of the English language and demand a great deal from you. Make sure that you put your best foot forward. Book one of our in-person workshops, or an online consultation and meet your test with confidence.