IELTS is one of the most prestigious English language tests in the world for non-native speakers. Designed to provide the takers with essential writing, speaking, listening and reading skills, it is an outstanding means through which one can prove his/her level of English. More importantly, it is a tool that alongside perfecting communication proficiency also helps with immigration to an English speaking country – an advantage hard to ignore. This article focuses mainly on two key areas of the test – writing and speaking.
The IELTS test is separated into two types – IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training, which correspond to preparation for a university programme or a professional English-speaking organization in the first case or working/ emigrating to an English speaking country for the latter.
The writing section consists of two tasks – Task 1 and Task 2, with 20 and 40 minutes allotted to each, amounting to a total of 60 minutes. IELTS Academic asks you to write about a chart, diagram, graph or table, explaining, summarizing or discussing it in your personal style, whereas the second task consists of writing an essay as an answer to a question or point of view. It is highly recommendable to write your responses in a serious, formal style. IELTS General Training will instruct you for the first task to either explain a certain situation or write a letter, while for Task 2 an essay will be given. Here, the style is more relaxed, as takers are allowed to write in a semi-formal style. However, it is advisable to keep a certain level of formality, in order not to fall in the other direction – informality, which is undesirable, as it will cost you valuable points in the assessment stage.
– Don’t come unprepared to this major test – The British Council and various web sites offer free tests or test samples. Take advantage of those and practice as much as you can!
– Learn to manage your time! A vital component that will help you enormously is time management. Practice; see how much it takes for you to complete the given tasks and schedule your answers in such a way that they correspond to the time requirements. This way, during the test, you will have no problems solving the tasks and will be less pressured by the time limit.
– Use clear formatted paragraphs; do not repeat your ideas and make sure you pay attention to the spelling, punctuation and grammar – you will be penalized for your errors!
– Do not forget about the word count! Make sure you write at least 150 words for Task 1 and 250 for task 2! A simple, effective tip for getting an approximate word count is writing around 10 words per line. This way, you won’t have to count all the individual words to make sure you fulfilled the requirement. You just need to count the lines – around 15 or 25, depending on the task number and you’re on the right track!
– At the end, read your production once again to check for errors and make sure you have used the proper, formal style of writing. This way, you will have an advantage over others who disregard this advice. Remember, every point matters!
The Speaking section consists of a discussion with an examiner, split into three parts, lasting a total of 11 to 15 minutes. The first part (3 to 5 minutes) is an introduction/interview – here you may be asked to speak about your home, studies, family, job or your hobbies. Part 2 (3-4 minutes) is called the Individual Long Turn. The examiner will offer you a card with a certain subject – a person, object or event and you will have 1 minute to prepare and 2-3 minutes to answer, during which you will only be observed. After you deliver your answer, some questions may follow. The Two-way discussion is the third and final part, lasting about 4-5 minutes, where you will be asked about something related to the topic on the card presented to you in Part 2.
– Make sure you prepare beforehand for Part 1, as a solid introduction may be favorable in your interviewer’s eyes. It is also a sign of confidence and self control, so do not neglect it!
– Practice your fluency with a friend. This and the coherence of your ideas will weigh heavily in the assessment stage.
– Read and improve your range of vocabulary. The more diverse and rich it it, the better are your chances of acing the test!
– Ask a friend to listen to your pronunciation. Is it clear and natural? Make sure you don’t over emphasize sounds and focus on the correct and recommended pronunciation. If needed, take a dictionary and look how the word in question is written phonetically.
– Learn to relax and have a confident attitude. Do not prepare answers from home; your examiner might notice and modify the question.
– Try to speak more that the interviewer does and present your answers in a clear structure, without going astray from the topic.
If you follow the above given tips and practice as hard as you can, the results will show. Be confident, give all you’ve got and in no time, you will be holding a IELTS high bands score card in your hands!