This is a question I so often get asked not just by my readers and followers, but my students as well. Asking this question does not only show some curiosity in understanding in trying to pinpoint which areas the candidate need to work on to perform better, but it also shows a genuine interest and keen motivation for self-improvement. Apart from the usual “Practise! Practise! Practise!” answer, students who work with me are able to easily address specific tasks they need to work on to do better in the IELTS test.
So, in answer to this question for those who are preparing for the test on their own, these are the steps you’ll need to take.
First of all, you’ll have to identify which area you are having issues or problems with. If it’s in IELTS Speaking, are you able to tell if it’s your fluency, your vocab, your grammar, or is it your pronunciation that is giving you headaches? If it’s all four, then you’ll need to focus on one specific area at a time and work on that. If you can focus on two or three, that’s great. However, do not overload yourself and try to concentrate on too many things at one time. For example, when you do IELTS Speaking practice and listen to your own recording, don’t focus on all four criteria when you evaluate yourself. If fluency is a problem, work on that. If you’re speaking too slowly, try speaking a little faster. Find out how many sentences you can squeeze in 2 minutes. Then, see how many in one minute, and so on.
Do the same with writing. If you are practising on your own, ask yourself: “What am I struggling with here?” If you are taking too long to finish your letter, graph, or essay, then perhaps you should focus on completing your practice test with a timer. You will need to be strict with this because remember, you will not be able to extend your time during the actual test, so stop writing immediately when time is up. A word of advice: it is always a good idea to have a second (or third) pair of eyes to look over your writing for any errors or slips, preferably someone who has had experience of grading IELTS papers. This is because the IELTS marker would be able to give you more relevant feedback that is aligned to IELTS assessment standards than a proof-reader who could only offer you advice on your general writing skills.
In the next post, we will be going over tips on what you will need to do to prepare for your Listening and Reading skills.
Until next time!