It is four sections in size and only a few hours long in duration. It’s a big, comprehensive brain twister and covers all of your major areas of language study: listening, reading, writing and speaking. Once you enter the test room, you’re stuck there till the end.
It’s the IELTS exam, and if it sounds tough and intimidating, it really is.
Students that opt to take it know that once they submit to it, they are getting their whole language skill-set tested to the hilt. The goal of doing well on the IELTS exam is to get that great score that will enable them to get the job they want, or to enable them to achieve the particular government credentials they are seeking, often abroad. Any goal of that scope is a huge undertaking for anyone.
Despite IELTS being as tough as it is, test-takers can be successful on it. Any tips and insight are another tool in their test-taking toolbox. Taken from a real IELTS test teacher, here are some key points to remember about the test:
Take as many practice tests as you can
In today’s information age, there is no excuse to not get your hands on as many old IELTS tests as possible. From the Internet, to the local library, or community centre, deep volumes of IELTS tests and resources exist for anyone to access. Test-takers can sign them out, make copies, and see what the IELTS exams actually looks like up close. Note: just be wary that the publications of test banks you access are legitimate and not old or low grade copies.
Do mock tests under exam conditions
It’s good to take time when preparing for the IELTS exam. Slow and steady practice are essential at the beginning. But once test-takers get better, it’s important that they condition themselves to take the test under assumed test conditions. Each section of the test is timed, so speed matters. Students should start doing test questions in their own time, then start timing themselves once they get more comfortable doing questions.
Put skills into practice
Preparing for the test can be done in test-takers’ leisure hours. Past IELTS test-takers have noted that they benefited from reading editorials in English newspapers, listening to television news, or going over short English stories by famous writers like Carver or Hemingway, and then working to articulate the key points of those readings in a short paragraph and speech. This is a good tip for any IELTS test-taker. Finding key points or writing a short critique of what was read can only help one’s IELTS test skills, especially in the writing and speaking portions.
Get your ears ready for listening questions
While writing and reading are important sections of the IELTS exam, many test-takers don't prepare enough for the listening test. They fail to be ready to hear a variety of speakers in different accents, including British and Australian, speaking in detail on certain topics. It's important that when preparing, test-takers also get mock listening exams to both train their ear to understand different speakers and what types of listening questions they will have to answer.
Know the terminology you will encounter
IELTS test papers are littered with more complex English vocabulary than the average General or Business English class. Test-takers have to be ready to know what terms like ‘synonyms’, ‘parallel expressions’, and ‘compare and contrast’ mean or how they relate to certain questions before the IELTS test takes place as dictionaries are forbidden during the test itself.
Get ready for test day
To book an IELTS tests, students have to schedule dates and pay fees ahead of time. This gives them a time bracket to get mentally and physically ready for. Obviously this involves lots of study, but it also involves getting the necessary identification together, getting lots of rest, knowing what to bring on test day, and showing up in advance for entry, bag checks, etc. Do not underestimate IELTS testing centres. They are strict places with tight security so be sure to get ready well in advance so the day can go as smoothly as possible.
Take a preparation class
It goes without saying that while most test-takers are bright, they will unquestionably benefit from taking an IELTS preparation session, either one that covers the whole test or one that focuses on the skills they need specific assistance with. Most IELTS test preparation classes have teachers that are skilled in IELTS exam contents, can give valuable, little-known information, and can simulate tests for students in class so they understand what is expected of them on test day.
You should consider both The Language Gallery’s IELTS Preparation classes and IELTS Exam Preparation electives that are available to students wanting to better their chances on the IELTS exam. Both the classes and electives are taught by knowledgeable IELTS exam teachers that can work with students to show them what they can expect on that most challenging of English language tests.
Many thanks to The Language Gallery Toronto’s IELTS teacher Melinda for her input on this blog posting!