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IELTS Preparation Tips

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IELTS tests your English language ability, but to achieve higher scores, it is not enough to have great English Language skills. It is also important to have IELTS test knowledge and spend enough time preparing specifically for this test.

First of all, make sure you understand the test format. Download the Information for candidates booklet from the official IELTS website as well as Notice to IELTS Candidates from British Council to understand more about the IELTS test.

As a general advice, strengthen your English listening skills and increase your range of vocabulary. Reading speed is also important. A good knowledge of synonyms and idioms is valuable. Don't forget to devote more time to your weak areas.

Use English language in your daily life as much as possible. It is helpful to do one English activity every day - listening to the news and watching films, reading English newspapers and magazines, and having conversations in English.

Different accents are used in the IELTS, including British, Australian, New Zealand and North American. You must also recognize the nuances of the British accents and be familiar with the differences in British and American vocabulary. Spend plenty of time listening to British radio stations and watching British TVs.

Look at the free practice IELTS tests to see the types of texts and questions.

You can also use IELTS preparation books and study guides and take IELTS courses at your local test centres. To practise online you may go to Road to IELTS: e-learning and online practice assessment.

Here are some useful IELTS preparation tips, regarding each of the four modules. The Listening and Speaking modules are the same for both Academic and General Training versions.

Listening tips

The Listening module contains four sections and there are 10 questions related to each section. You will have to listen and answer simultaneously 40 questions in 30 minutes. Additional 10 minutes are given at the end to transfer your answer from the question paper to an answer sheet.

The first section is a conversation between two people on a general or everyday social topic (e.g. a conversation in an accommodation agency). The second section is a monologue - one person speaking on a subject of general interest (e.g. a speech about local facilities). The third section is a conversation between up to four people, concerning education or training process (e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment). And the fourth section is a monologue on an academic subject (e.g. a university lecture).

Follow the instructions very carefully and pay attention to the the example question at the beginning. The questions on the question paper appear in order of the information you will hear in the recording.

Listen for the general idea, not particular words and phrases. The recording will be played only once.

The Listening module contains different types of questions: multiple choice, matching, labelling diagram/plan/map, completing form/note/table/flow chart/summary, completing sentence, and writing short-answers.

In multiple choice questions the speaker usually uses vocabulary (or similar vocabulary) from all of the choices. Don't concentrate just on vocabulary, because you may choose an incorrect answer.

Follow the instruction. If it states, that you must write "no more than three words", keep to this strictly. Othewise, you will receive no marks for your answer.

Correct spelling is very important. In the Listening module you may have the task to write down name, place, or address.

Reading tips

There are three sections in the Academic Reading module. The instructions indicate how much time you should spend on each section. Each passage is followed by 11 to 15 questions. You have 60 minutes to read them and answer 40 questions in total. The reading passages are authentic and are derived from books, journals, magazines, and newspapers. At least one text presents a detailed logical argument. One text may contain a chart, diagram or illustration.

Reading module in the General Training has three sections of increasing difficulty. In the first section, you may see two or three short texts, or several shorter texts. The second section contains two texts. In the third section, there is one long text. The extracts are taken from newspapers, advertisements, instruction manuals, notices, magazines, books, etc.

In the Academic Reading module texts are more advanced, academic oriented, while in the General Reading module texts are easier.

A variety of questions are used in the Reading module: multiple choice, identifying information (true/false/not given), identifying writer’s views/claims (yes/no/not given), matching information, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary/note/table/flow chart completion, diagram label completion, and short-answer questions.

Look at the questions first and then skim each passage, to identify the subject and the place. Look for specific information by scanning.

Underline or circle key words or phrases in the questions. This will help you to understand the main idea of the text.

Some tasks have a requirement to use words from the text in the answer, while in others you should use your own words. Check the instructions carefully.

The instructions may also include a word limit. You should keep to this by avoiding unnecessary words in your answer.

Unlike the Listening module, no extra time is given to transfer your answers from the question paper to an answer sheet. So, the best decision is to write your answers directly on the answer sheet.

Writing tips

In the Writing module you have 60 minutes to complete two tasks: Task 1 (using at least 150 words) and Task 2 (using at least 250 words). If you write less than needed number of words, you will lose marks.

You must complete both tasks. There are more marks for Task 2 (2/3) than Task 1 (1/3), so do not spend more than 20 minutes on Task 1.

Writing task 1 (Academic version) requires you to describe a graph, pie chart, diagram, map or table. Interprete the information in your own words.

For the Writing task 2 (Academic version), you should write a short essay in response to a point of view, argument or problem. The essay question includes a sentence that will tell you exactly what you are expected to do (discuss, give your opinion, analyze, agree or disagree, etc.) Pay attention to the instruction sentence, and if you have to express your opinion, provide some reasons for it and include any relevant examples from your life.

In Writing task 1 (General Training version), you are asked to write a letter in response to a given problem or situation. The type of letter may be formal, semi-formal, or informal. It means that you may have to write a business letter, job application letter, personal letter, thank you letter, complaint, enquiry, etc.

In Writing task 2 (General Training version), you should write an essay in response to a statement, which presents a particular point of view or issue. The essay can be slightly more personal in style than the Writing task 2 essay in Academic version.

Use rich vocabulary and show your ability to discuss ideas and express clear opinions (in Task 2).

Plan and write your writings carefully, but allow enough time at the end to check them for spelling or grammatical errors. Make sure that you have followed the instructions.

Speaking tips

The Speaking module lasts 11-14 minutes and has three parts. The first part is a face-to-face interview with a certified examiner. You have to answer general questions related to your town, family, education, job, interests, hobbies, etc. This part lasts between 4 and 5 minutes. In the second part you are given a card which asks you to talk on a particular topic. You will have 1 minute to prepare before speaking for about 2 minutes. Finally, the examiner may ask you 1 or 2 short questions related to the topic. The third part includes a two-way discussion with the examiner, based on the topic of part two. This part lasts between 4 and 5 minutes.

Remember, that the speaking module does not test your general knowledge in English but your ability to communicate effectively.

Talk strictly about the topic you are asked to discuss and whenever you reply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the examiner’s questions, always add more details to your answer.

Express your ideas and points of view clearly, using a wide range of words and phrases. It is important not just to have a good vocabulary, but also to know how to use them appropriate.

Keep in mind, that your fluency and coherence are essential, not an accent.

Note: During the Reading and Writing modules it is your responsibility to manage your own time.

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