By Audrone Raškauskiene
The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is a standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers.
IELTS Exam Format
The IELTS Academic module tests the language skills of non-native English language speakers who want to study at a college or university in an English-speaking country where the medium of instruction is English. IELTS is recognized by most academic institutions and professional organizations in Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
The IELTS General Training module tests the language ability of non-native English language speakers who intend to go abroad, especially to English-speaking countries for vocational training programmes (not for degree), work or immigration. Employers, professional bodies and immigration departments in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, the USA and more than 140 other countriesrecognize IELTS exam as proof of English language pro?ciency level. Read:IELTS Academic vs IELTS General?
Both the modules consist of four parts: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Listening and Speaking are the same for both modules.
Score / Grade Range
You can receive a score from 1 to 9 in each part of the test (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking). Your overall band score is equal to the average of the scores of the four parts. You can receive a whole (e.g. 6.0, 7.0, 8.0) or a half (e.g., 6.5, 7.5, 8.5) bands in each part of the test. Read: IELTS Results & Scores
Tips to Achieve a High Score in IELTS
Before the IELTS Listening test:
- Listen to radio programmes, news, and lectures; watch films and online videos in English.
- Familiarize yourself with each listening test question type such as multiple choice, matching and labelling.
During the IELTS Listening test:
- Listen to the audio instructions before each section carefully. These instructions are not printed in the test booklet.
- Read the instructions in the test booklet carefully for the number of words you need to write on the answer sheet. If you write more words than required, you will lose marks.
- Read the questions before listening. 30 to 60 seconds are given for reading the questions and instructions.
- Underline the key words in the question. However, listen to the synonyms and paraphrases too.
- Visualize the situation and try to predict the answer.
- Pay special attention to negatives (not, never, none, no one, barely, hardly, scarcely, etc.)
- Check your answers during the 30-second pause time after each section.
- During the 10-minute time, transfer the answers from the test booklet onto the answer sheet.
- Make sure you have transferred all answers onto the answer sheet. Do not leave empty spaces even if you don’t know the answer; make your best guess
- Make sure you have used correct grammatical form and correct spelling of the word(s) in your answer.
Before the IELTS Reading test:
- Read newspapers, magazines, journals, and books in English. While reading, underline or highlight less common words.
- Practice guessing the meaning of an unknown word from the context. If you still do not understand the meaning of the word, check it in a dictionary.
- Keep up with the news. The topics of the reading passages often deal with current affairs.
- Be familiar with each Academic or General Training reading test question type.
- Practise reading within a time frame. You need to be able to read fast in order to be able to read all three passages and answer 40 questions in 60 minutes.
- Practise reading techniques such as skimming, scanning and intensive reading.
During the IELTS Reading test:
- Read the instructions carefully during the test as they may slightly differ from the ones you got familiar with while practicing the test.
- Underline key information and/or make notes in the reading passages in the test booklet.
- Divide your time wisely: if you spend more than a minute answering a question and still do not have an answer, leave it and proceed to the next question. If you have some time left after you answer the rest of the questions, you may return to the question.
- Make sure you have transferred all answers onto the answer sheet. Do not leave empty spaces even if you don’t know the answer; take your best guess.
Before the IELTS Writing test:
- If you plan to take the IELTS Academic module, look for model graph/chart/diagram descriptions (model Writing Task 1 answers) online and analyse them in terms of organization of ideas and vocabulary.
- If you plan to take the IELTS General Training module, look for model letters (model Writing Task 1 answers) online and analyse them in terms of organization of ideas and vocabulary.
- Find model IELTS essays online and analyse them in terms of task response, essay structure, coherence, vocabulary, and sentence variety.
During the IELTS Writing test:
- Analyse each task carefully and underline the keywords.
- Do not use the task words in your writing; use your own words and sentence structures.
If you plan to take the IELTS Academic Module:
- Make sure you understand the ‘essay question’. Are you asked to give an opinion, to compare or contrast, to discuss causes and/or effects or to present solutions to problems?
- Try to limit your essay to 350 words. Your priority should be quality not quantity.
- Keep track of time. Leave about 3 minutes for revising Writing Task 1 and at least 5 minutes for revising your essay.
If you plan to take the IELTS General Training Module:
- Do not start writing your letter and your essay without planning them first.
- Write at least 150 words but try to limit your writing to 200 words in Writing Task 1.
- Keep track of time. Leave about 3 minutes for revising Writing Task 1 and at least 5 minutes for revising Writing Task 2.
- Write at least 250 words but try to limit your essay to 350 words in Writing Task 2.
Before the IELTS Speaking test:
- Practise speaking as much as possible.
- Read books, watch movies and TV, listen to the radio, preferably in English. While reading, watching or listening, think why you like or dislike it.
- Speak in English with other students before entering the exam room. It will help you to switch to English more easily.
During the IELTS Speaking test:
- Keep calm. If you are relaxed, you will be able to give a better performance.
- Say as much as you can when speaking; give extended responses.
- Don’t think about grammar or vocabulary. Concentrate on answering the questions to the best of your ability.
- Correct yourself if you make a mistake.
- Ask the examiner to clarify or repeat the question if there is anything you do not understand.
- Pay attention to your body language; do not overuse gestures.
- Keep to the topic.
- As the exam is a formal situation, use neutral or semi-formal language.
Preparation for any exam is a continuous process that requires time and effort. Every practice test you do, every listening, reading and writing activity you complete and every speaking practice you undertake improves your language skills and adds to your confidence during the exam.
About the Author:
Audrone Raškauskiene is a co-author of the new titles, The Definitive Guide to IELTS Academic: Preparation and Practice. Oxford University Press, 2018 and The Definitive Guide to IELTS General Training: Preparation and Practice. Oxford University Press, 2019.