Acing an IELTS test on the first attempt is a laudable achievement not just because of the prestige it attaches to your level of English Proficiency but because it saves you a lot of money needing to take the test repeatedly.
I took my first IELTS test a couple of years back and I scored an overall Band score of 8.0 with sectional band scores ranging between 7.0 and 8.5. I am not a graduate of English neither have I lived in the UK before now to justify my excellent performance.
My outstanding performance was down to some tips I worked with. I will be sharing some of these tips in this article and I believe they will be useful for you.
Whether you are preparing for your maiden test or you are intending to retake the test, these tips will help you achieve your dream Band score. But before I delve into the tips, let me briefly explain what IELTS is all about.
What exactly is IELTS?
IELTS is an acronym for the International English Language Testing System and it is the most recognized English proficiency test globally. IELTS is organized by the Cambridge English Language Assessment.
IELTS tests are administered in virtually all countries of the world, Nigeria inclusive. IELTS tests are taken every fortnight and sometimes you may find test dates fixed in successive weeks. A typical IELTS test has four sections namely, Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking and you can choose between taking the computer-based IELTS test or the paper-based IELTS test. IELTS tests are graded in bands from a minimum of 0 to 9.
An interesting fact about the test is that you can take the test an unlimited number of times and your test result is valid for a maximum of two years. As a result, candidates retake the test as many times as possible until they achieve their desired band score.
Due to the rising cost of IELTS test registration in Nigeria and in other countries, it is very important that you know what to do to take the test only once and earn a 7, 8 or even a 9!
How to Prepare for IELTS
What then are the tips you need to ace your IELTS on your first attempt.
- Identify the suitable IELTS test you should take.
There are different IELTS tests, each for different purposes. Moreover, there are peculiar differences in the pattern of each of these steps. So you will save yourself a lot of stress identifying the right IELTS test you should register for.
If you intend to study at a university-based in Europe, UK, Australia or Canada, then the Academic IELTS is suitable for you. However, if your plan is to migrate to work in a country like Canada or Australia, the General IELTS test is the way to go.
There is also the Academic and General IELTS UKVI option for those interested in relocating to the UK through a special UK Visa route. In addition, there is the IELTS Life Skills A1 and A2 which is useful for those that aim to join their relatives who are already settled in the UK.
So it is important that you choose the right IELTS test based on your needs. It is also important because each test type has its own peculiarities which you must get used to while preparing for your main test.
- Confirm the minimum band score you need
In addition to knowing the right test to register for, you must know the minimum band score you require for your result to be useful. Every university and country has its specific IELTS requirements
Though there is no pass mark in IELTS tests, an overall band score 6 of out of a possible 9 may just be insufficient to study in a foreign university for academic IELTS candidates for instance. In some universities, you may need as high 7.0 across all sectional tests to be considered.
However, if you are migrating to work or for permanent residency, a 6.5 in General IELTS may just be sufficient for you. Given these differences, you must research about the minimum band score you need. This is not to say that you should prepare just for the minimum.
But knowing your minimum requirement will help you to set a goal to earn a band score that is at least 1.0 above your minimum requirement.
- Spend at least two to three months to prepare for your test.
As a first-timer, you will be putting yourself under undue pressure if you choose a test date that does not give you adequate time to prepare for the test. IELTS allows candidates to choose their preferred test dates and as such, you should maximize this privilege to choose the most convenient test date that will give you ample time to prepare.
Considering the fact that many IELTS candidates in Nigeria are either working or schooling and also bearing in mind the fact that IELTS tests are not as straightforward as local English exams, I always recommend a minimum of two to three months of preparation.
Except you are not engaged in some work or studying elsewhere and you have enough spare time should you choose to spend less than two months to prepare for your maiden IELTS test. I spent two and half months in preparing for my only IELTS test and the duration helped me to ace the test with an 8.0.
- Get a seasoned trainer either online or offline
A good preparation for an IELTS test requires some level of coaching by an experienced tutor. While you may find several open-source practice tests and ebooks available online on Google and YouTube to practice with, it is vital that you get a seasoned IELTS tutor to train you both online and offline.
Spending an extra 10k or 20K on training apart from your test fee is a worthwhile investment as it may save you a lot of money retaking the test till you get your needed band score. There are several options available online and offline. You can subscribe for online training. You can also look around your locality for quality training centres.
However, before you register with any tutor, be sure of their track record over time. Do not register with a tutor just because he or she teaches the English language. IELTS tests are not just about knowing the English Language. There must be a good understanding of the IELTS question types and how to approach them in the main tests.
- Understand the Question Types in each Test
The next thing you need to do in your preparation is to understand the various question types in each of the four tests in an IELTS exam. The reading test has about 12 question types while the Listening test has about seven question types.
The Writing test has two tasks while the Speaking test has three sections with one question type for each section. You must acquaint yourself with all the possible question types because each IELTS exam is unique. You never can tell the question types you will be tested on in the main exam.
So you will do a lot of good understanding of the skills required for each question type. Your tutor will come in handy here to guide you in understanding the question types. This is why you must get an experienced IELTS tutor and not just an English teacher.
- Practice! Practice!! Practice!!!
This point cannot be overemphasized. You must take as many practice tests as possible. You will find them on various tutorial websites and IELTS blogs and in Cambridge IELTS e-books. Make sure you take a complete practice test at least three times before your main test.
This will help you to identify your areas of strengths and weaknesses long before your main test. It will also calm your nerves as you prepare for your test day. Watch speaking videos and practice listening tests while listening to the audiotapes. These will help you to be familiarized with the diction and intonation of IELTS Listening speakers and Speaking Interviewers.
Also, endeavor to get someone to practice your speaking test with. Your tutor, a friend or relative who is objective in judgment will suffice. If you do not practice adequately before your test, you may struggle during the exam and your chances of scoring a band 7 and above will be slim irrespective of your background in the English Language.
With the above tips, your chances of acing your IELTS tests will be near 100% and you will fulfill your dreams of studying or working abroad.
To learn more, register for my 8-week Online IELTS Training today and set yourself on the path to acing your next IELTS test with ease.
Author: Promise Ayeni