If you are approaching the exam for the first time, you have probably asked yourself: “Where should I start with IELTS?”. You may have asked people online, too, and received conflicting answers. It’s an important question and the answer can have a real effect on whether you succeed or not. Thankfully, you don’t have to figure any of this out on your own. Many people have successfully cleared IELTS. A few thousand of them have done so with our help, so we’re going to clarify this issue for you. In this post, we are going to:
- establish what IELTS does and does not require
- discuss why people fall short of their goals
- define a step-by-step approach to the exam, from beginning to end
We strongly recommend that you take the time to read this article and consider all the information it contains. It’s no secret that IELTS is a high-stakes test. It takes time and effort on your part, and it also costs money. You should aim to do things right from the beginning, so that you don’t have to do it a second time.
Getting Started with IELTS: What is it?
IELTS is a test of your ability to communicate in the English language. It’s important that you remember this throughout your IELTS journey. The exam will test you in four domains: Speaking, Listening, Reading and Writing. In each of them, you will achieve a good score if you are able to interpret, follow and implement instructions. You will receive these instructions in written and spoken English. IELTS is not a test of your knowledge of any particular subject. You will face texts and listening scripts on a variety of topics.
Thankfully, you can answer all of the questions without specialist knowledge. This is because, when it comes to the Reading and Listening tests, all of the answers are in the text or audio. You just have to use your command of English to find them. For Writing and Speaking, you are not assessed on the correctness of your views, but simply the language with which you express them.
Many people find this surprising when they start out on their IELTS journey. They believe, mistakenly, that IELTS is like a high school language test. It is not like that at all. And the test is even indifferent to your knowledge of the English language itself. In other words, you don’t need to know how to identify the verb in a sentence, or give the superlative form of an adjective. You just need to communicate clearly about a variety of topics (speaking) and write clearly in two different genres (writing). To do that, you need to have a good command of English, of course. But you don’t need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of grammar.
Why do People Get it Wrong?
Different people fall short of the IELTS scores they need for a variety of reasons. But quite simply, many people underestimate IELTS. Once you start with IELTS preparation, you realise fairly quickly why this is a mistake. Nevertheless, it’s quite common for people to claim that English is “easier” than other languages, before they go on to get a low score on IELTS. To be fair, there are reasons why this impression exists. English is a language famous for its no-frills approach to meaning. The great linguist Otto Jespersen loved the English language for this reason. English verbs in particular are quite terse, in comparison to other languages. Nevertheless, it takes skill to be a really good communicator in English. Like any other skill, this one comes from practice.
A Road Map to Success
The good news is that this millions of people have gone through this experience. As with any process, it gets more clearly defined over time. Now that we are decades into the life of IELTS as the gold standard in English language proficiency testing, it’s possible to distill a great deal of data into a simple series of steps. Here they are:
1. Research the Test
Success in IELTS begins with understanding what the test is all about. To start your IELTS preparation, we recommend you establish exactly what the test is and is not. We’ve touched on this in this article but of course there is much more that could be said. You need to know the structure of each of the four tests: speaking, writing, reading and listening. You also need to know about all of the tasks. Finally, you need to find the nearest IELTS centre to you and check availability for booking your test to establish a time frame.
2. Reach Out
Once they start with IELTS research, most people realise that there’s a lot to do. It’s a good idea to seek guidance. You shouldn’t try to tackle IELTS on your own and thankfully, you don’t have to. Our team of experienced IELTS experts is ready to help you plan your journey, organize your studies and advise you on booking and administrative issues. Highway IELTS is a complete solution.
3. Discover your Weaknesses
IELTS will challenge you in many ways. You need to know which of your skills require development. The only way to find out where you need to invest your time and energy is through consultation with an expert. People are different and have different skills profiles. For example, many people cope well with speaking and reading, but find writing very difficult. There may be many reasons for this. In our times, it’s not very common for people to spend time writing their thoughts in prose, unless they are in the legal or journalistic professions. On the other hand, some people are able to write better than they speak, and this involves a totally different set of priorities from the point of view of training. Don’t waste time on tasks that are easy for you. Together, we will identify and solve problems.
4. Develop Skills
It takes time and effort to develop language skills and exam technique. Make sure that you have enough time at your disposal to work on your skills. This part of the process can’t be rushed. With programs tailored to your specific needs, our IELTS coaches can take you from where you are to where you need to be. In general, though not always, weaknesses in reading and listening take longer to address than weaknesses in speaking and writing. This is because the writing and speaking tests require you to actually produce something. They are sometimes called “productive skills tests”. Because of this, you can improve your performance by deepening your understanding of the test. People whose reading and listening are weak will generally need to spend time developing their language skills specifically before they are ready to attempt IELTS.
5. Take a Readiness Assessment
In order to approach the exam with confidence and peace of mind, you need a simulated trial run. It’s best to do this once you have spent time developing your skills, so that you get the most realistic prediction of your performance on the day. The Highway IELTS Readiness Assessment provides this. It provides a basis for tutors to make recommendations about whether you are ready for the exam. Because everyone has different circumstances and priorities, this might take longer for some than others. There is no point in rushing the process, because falling short of your score will mean booking a new exam. You can’t take any of the four tests in isolation, you have to take them as a set.
6. Ready for IELTS
Congratulations on making it this far! If you have taken all the steps above, you will increase your chances of success greatly. All of the effort and energy will have been worth it if you achieve the scores you need. However long your personal journey may be, and where you may start with IELTS, this is the final destination. You can now make your best possible attempt on IELTS, so that you won’t have to try a second time!