20 Tips for IELTS Success

Your IELTS test is coming up soon. You don’t know what to do. You don’t know where to start. You don’t know if what you’ve been doing is right. There are a million and one things to think about. A million and one things to do.

For those who are trying desperately to “get it together” (=get yourself organised), here is a summary of 20 important things that you absolutely must remember to do to ensure that you get your high band score in the IELTS test.

  1. In the IELTS Listening section, try to use the example at the beginning of the recording to orientate yourself to what you’ll need to do. Get yourself familiar with the context: the sound, the speakers, the situation.
  2. You will need to keep listening to the recording until it stops. Stay focussed on the question that relates to what you’re listening to at that moment. Don’t let your eyes stray anywhere else.
  3. There will be pauses between each section of the test. Use this quiet time to look at the questions ahead. Never waste time looking back or you’ll be confused about what to expect and miss important information that’s coming up.
  4. Try to answer the questions in order. The answers usually come up in the same progression as the questions, so if you’ve skipped a part, it may mean that you’ve missed the answer for that question.
  5. In the 10 minutes transfer time at the end, use this opportunity to check for spelling as well as grammar. Also, make sure that the answer number corresponds to the question number.
  6. In IELTS Academic Reading, start off by skimming each passage for information about the main topic of the text, the style of writing, where you think the passage is taken from (e.g. a scientific journal, a travel magazine, an academic article, etc.), the purpose of the writing and who the writer is writing for.
  7. Don’t try to understand every word that you see. You don’t have time for this and you’ll only waste time trying to figure out the meaning of something that you may not be tested on.
  8. Some reading tasks have an example answer. Look at the answer carefully and try to understand why the answer is correct.
  9. Always check the instructions. Are you required to use exact words from the passage? Some tasks require you to do this, e.g. short-answer questions, sentence and summary completion tasks.
  10. Also, check your word limit. Are you required to write no more than two words? Three words? If so, keep strictly to this.
  11. In the IELTS Academic Writing test, you must make sure that you stay on topic. Preparing your answers before the test will cost you your band score.
  12. Keep to the timing for both writing tasks. Stay within 20 minutes for Task 1 and 40 minutes for Task 2. Also, break this further down by allocating time for planning, writing, and checking. Just because Task 2 carries more weighting, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore time needed to answer Task 1.
  13. Link and organise your ideas and sentences appropriately. At the same time, use a wide range of language to “show off” your ability to put forward ideas and opinions. However, don’t try to show off using language that you’re unfamiliar with.
  14. Do not write less than 150 words for Task 1 and less than 250 words for Task 2. At the same time, don’t go over 200 words and 300 words for each task respectively either. There’s no point. You won’t get extra marks for writing extra. Instead, you’ll have wasted time not checking your work for mistakes that could reduce your band score.
  15. Leave some time at the end of your writing to check your work. Not just for Task 2 but for Task 1 as well. Never underestimate the importance of going over your work.
  16. In the IELTS Speaking test, don’t try to use prepared speech. The examiner will know and instead of gaining marks, you may be penalised for this.
  17. Try to make eye contact with the examiner. You will definitely not lose marks for looking away, but looking directly at your listener may increase your self-confidence, especially when there’s a smile on your examiner’s face.
  18. Don’t stop your answer at just ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Try to elaborate on each response by giving more details and explanations. Imagine the examiner asking you “why” each time you finish your sentence. Use the OREO method for Part 3 (What do I mean? Read it here). Aim for 3-4 complex sentences in Part 1 and a minimum of 5 complex sentences in Part 3.
  19. You’re not being tested on your general knowledge so don’t worry if you don’t know much about the subject. Be honest about it and try your best to answer according to what you know. But do not talk about something unrelated.
  20. Organise and link your ideas clearly. Use a wide range of structures and vocabulary, Make sure that you talk at normal speed: not too fast nor too slow. Otherwise, you’ll be penalised under the Fluency and Coherence criterion.

That’s it! I hope you’ve found these tips helpful.

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Until next time!

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