Planning to take the IELTS in 2023? In the middle of your IELTS Exam Preparation or taking IELTS coaching from somewhere? Get ready for a great IELTS experience with the Unifees top 10 IELTS Preparation tips! We have compiled this list from our experience of the last 18 years teaching IELTS students who are from diverse backgrounds.
1. CDT or Paper test- make the right choice
Before you start your IELTS Exam preparation or enrol in IELTS classes, choosing whether to take the IELTS on a computer or on paper is one of the most important choices students have to make. The IELTS is now also being delivered on a computer. The computer delivered test is no different from the paper-based test and is delivered on a seamless platform as any test taker will tell you. If you have good typing skills and find a screen easier to read from, then the computer delivered test is for you. Usually, younger people, millennials and Generation Z, prefer the computer delivered test.
Older people, however, prefer taking the paper based IELTS because they are more accustomed to reading from a book and find the prospect of taking a computer-based test a little intimidating.
There is no ‘better’ platform for taking the IELTS. I often hear students saying that the computer-delivered IELTS is ‘better’ or vice versa, but it really depends on the individual. You may be either ‘computer-friendly’ or ‘paper-friendly’, but the bottom line is that it depends on you!
If you are not sure about which test to take, try both. Do a full-length computer delivered test first and then try a traditional paper-based test. You will not take long to figure out your comfort levels on both tests with extensive exposure to both platforms. This is one of the most essential IELTS exam preparation tips because if you go wrong here, it is a recipe for disaster.
Lastly, choose IELTS online or in-person coaching that instructs you on the nuances of the paper based and computer delivered test and stresses on the best ways to approach both tests. IELTS tutorials are the same for both tests but the delivery platform is different and it is important that you understand the differences.
IELTS online coaching is becoming more and more popular these days. Great IELTS online coaching has all the elements of an in-person class except for the physical proximity of an in-person class. There are numerous platforms that provide a great IELTS online coaching experience.
2. Self-study or professional guidance?
Should you take IELTS online coaching or in person coaching? Again, this is a basic question that has to be answered before you begin preparing for the IELTS. Taking IELTS Tutorial classes formally is, for many students, an integral part of their IELTS Exam preparation. The big question is, ‘should you take IELTS coaching or should you prepare by yourself.
The first thing you need to do in this regard is to evaluate your own English. Ask yourself the following questions: ‘did you find English easier in high school?’, ‘do you use the English language (speaking, reading, writing and listening) more than average people?’, ‘do you find conversing in English comfortable?’, ‘do you watch a lot of English movies or news or read English novels?’, ‘are you used to an environment in which English is used on a daily basis?’. If the answer to most of the above questions is ‘no’, then it is better to take professional guidance at a good IELTS coaching centre.
Deciding to take professional guidance for your IELTS Exam preparation is the easy part, but choosing a IELTS coaching centre is not easy. You will need to find a centre that gives you the best IELTS coaching with high-quality IELTS Tutorials, and the most comprehensive IELTS Resources. Many such IELTS coaching centres provide IELTS Online coaching also and this is a good option if you are a working professional or prefer to take classes from the comfort of your home.
A good IELTS coaching centre will have very comprehensive lesson plans for their students’ IELTS exam preparation that address all the IELTS skills tested. Check out the qualifications of the teachers too because CELTA (Cambridge English Language Teaching to Adults) qualified teachers usually do the best jobs in a market in which just about anyone can become an IELTS teacher. CELTA qualified teachers share the best IELTS preparation tips and impart the best IELTS exam preparation and are better equipped to help their students succeed.
The best IELTS coaching centres provide IELTS online coaching and in-person classes along with a hybrid model.
3. Get writing Right!
One of the best IELTS exam preparation tips is to give extra emphasis and effort on your IELTS Writing band. Writing is one band in which students underperform. Most students will achieve their lowest band scores, among the four bands, on the writing test. This is not because IELTS writing is tough, but because test takers often do not take the writing band descriptors into consideration while attempting IELTS writing. I have seen ever excellent writers underachieving at writing because they treated writing in the IELTS as one would a writing task in school or college and also because they did not get really good IELTS Coaching before they appeared for the test.
Both writing tasks have to be written according to the band descriptors. Research the band descriptors to understand how best to succeed in writing. The band descriptors detail what areas are used for marking essays. Task achievement, Coherence and Cohesion, Lexical Resource and Grammatical Range and accuracy are the four band descriptors in IELTS writing and you have to write your essay exactly according to them. The best IELTS preparation for writing takes all band descriptors into account and students should practice writing according to these band descriptors and get constant feedback on their efforts from the IELTS coaching centre they have chosen. The best IELTS tutorials teach students how to formulate their writing tasks as per the band descriptors.
To get a good score in task achievement, students have to answer the question completely and explore an issue holistically. Off-topic essays are heavily penalised. In writing task 2, make sure you understand the various topics that recur in both types of IELTS tests and the best ways to respond to each task. In writing task 1, understand the difference between the 3 types of diagrams you could get in your test and how to respond to each.
Your writing must have an overall order because coherence is an important marking criterion. In addition, you have to sue ‘joining words’ like ‘because’, ‘therefore’ etc. judiciously to score well in cohesion. Your IELTS exam preparation is incomplete without understanding the band descriptors, so the sooner you do this, the better.
4. Master the difficult question types in Reading
After writing, Reading is the band that students score the least on. There are several reasons for this, chiefly among which are the facts that students are used to reading bite-sized passages, most students have not really cultivated the reading habit since childhood, the eclectic nature of the topics in IELTS, and finally the difficulty level of the IELTS Reading test itself.
Any great IELTS coaching centre must give you a great foundation in tough ‘yes-no-not given’/’true-false-not given’ questions and paragraph heading, as, in my experience, these are the two questions IELTS students dread most on the IELTS Reading test.
These are 2 question types that you probably have not encountered before and a great IELTS preparation tip is to concentrate more on these question types. IELTS tutorials should focus more on these two questions because students are unanimous in stating that these are the 2 most difficult IELTS reading questions.
5. Read up to excel in Reading.
Other that the stuff you do for your IELTS exam preparation or at an IELTS coaching centre, reading a lot of material that is not directly connected to the IELTS is also important. The last several IELTS reading passages I have seen were on a diverse range of topics. I remember one passage on volcanoes, another on airports being constructed in Asia, another one on a construction company in China, yet another one on bee behaviour and finally, one on human conversations. Topics on the IELTS come from diverse fields. You are not required to have a specialist’s knowledge on these topics because they are written in such a way that a layman with good reading abilities will understand them.
Students must also read up on different topics that are most common in the IELTS. Animal Science, Environmental Science, Health and Fitness, Trade and Commerce, Tourism, Space Exploration, Inventions and Discoveries, Agriculture, Biology, Engineering etc. are the most common fields from which IELTS reading passages borrow. Read up on these fields; there are plenty of resources online to do so. Even though IELTS reading does not require you to have qualifications in these fields and also there is the fact that any well-educated layman should be able to understand the passages, you will find it easier to attempt passages from fields you know a little about. Some of the best IELTS resources in the world are collections of readings from diverse areas.
There are some great IELTS resources on the internet to widen the scope of your reading. Read research papers, articles from online encyclopaedias, articles on portals and popular websites and of course, Wikipedia. This is an IELTS preparation tip that teachers and students often ignore, but reading up, as seen above, is really important.
6. Go the extra mile for Listening
Another thing not directly connected to your IELTS exam preparation or IELTS coaching is all the additional listening you can do which benefits you greatly. Don’t neglect your Listening even if you’re doing well at it. One of the best IELTS preparation tips is to go the extra mile to score even higher in Listening. Listening is the highest scoring section of the IELTS, but that does not mean that you can get complacent about it. Aim for a higher listening score to boost your overall band. Practice Listening every day, but also do other things that will improve your listening skills like watching the BBC and watching British and Aussie movies. BBC News is one of the most respected news organisations in thew world and available on any TV connection. The accents BBC presenters and anchors use are very reflective of many of the accents you will hear of IELTS Listening. British and Aussie movies are also great fun though not as well known as their Hollywood counterparts. YouTube is also a great IELTS resource with hundreds of documentaries and programs that you will also find interesting.
7. Speaking according to the band descriptors
One of the most enjoyable parts of your IELTS exam preparation or during IELTS coaching is the speaking section. However, speaking, for many students is the most intimidating section of the IELTS because you have to sit face-to-face with an IELTS examiner and participate in an interview for 10-15 minutes. I’ve heard many stories in which ‘exam nerves’ got the better of may nervous students.
Like writing, speaking toom is marked using band descriptors. The four speaking band descriptors are Fluency and Coherence, Lexical Resource, Grammatical Range and Accuracy and Pronunciation. The rate at which you speak, your articulation, inflection and enunciation and lack of hesitation will help you to score well in fluency while maintaining a well-structured discourse will get you marks in coherence. Using advanced vocabulary, good collocation and replacement will help you to score well at Lexical resource while speaking in a variety of structures (sentences and phrases) will help you to score well in Grammatical Range and Accuracy. Pronouncing vowel and consonant sounds correctly, correct stress and being easy to understand will get your marks for pronunciation.
One last IELTS preparation tip regarding your ‘accent’ in the IELTS speaking. Don’t pretend to speak like a native speaker form the US or the UK. A fake accent won’t get you any extra marks, on the contrary, it could actually lose you some marks if your ‘acquired’ accent is hard to understand.
8. Give lots of tests!
Full-length tests are the most important IELTS resource. A crucial part of your IELTS exam preparation is full-length mock tests. Most IELTS test takers lack in this crucial area. There are hundreds of sample tests available and one should attempt as many as possible before appearing for the real test. In this regard, IELTS is just like any other test. Giving just 3-4 full-length tests before the real IELTS test is not enough by way of preparation.
Attempt as many IELTS tests as possible. Test fatigue is a real thing. The IELTS is a long and gruelling test and you need to build up testing stamina by taking as many full-length tests as possible. You also, as an additional benefit, get used to the format and progression of the IELTS. It’s a great IELTS preparation tip to plan for at least 20 IELTS full-length tests before you appear for the real test.
Ask your coaching centre before you enrol in IELTS, whether they have a computer delivered test bank. Your IELTS coaching centre should have a test bank of at least 20-25 computer delivered tests for you to be able to do this.
9. Keep working on your vocabulary and grammar
I can’t stress this enough; cultivating a good vocabulary is very essential throughout the IELTS test. In section 3 and 4 in the listening, often difficult words are used, while in reading passages 2 and 3 often use advanced words. If you have developed your vocabulary enough, it will work to your advantage in Listening and Reading. In the writing section, Lexical Resource, as discussed earlier in this blog, is a marking criterion. You get marks for being exact with your word choice and using advanced words correctly. In speaking too, you get marks for using vocabulary precisely.
Grammatical accuracy is very important in the IELTS. You have to be correct while speaking and writing. Identify the most common errors you make. Students from this part of the world often go wrong in using prepositions and articles. Takes time to master how to use these words. Other errors students make, like agreements, dangling particles, diction etc. are also a concern. Get your writing evaluated by an expert for grammatical accuracy and find out which errors you are prone to making.
Grammatical range means being able to use different structures in a harmonious blend to communicate ideas. There are several kinds of sentences in the English language. Most non-native speakers are comfortable using simple sentences but not that comfortable while using compound and complex sentences. Learn about these sentences, their structure and purpose and start using them. Also learn non-essential phrases and clauses to enrich your writing.
10. Select the best time to take classes, study and practice.
There is no one best time to study. If you are a morning person who wakes up early and is full of energy in the mornings may the best time to take classes and engage in self-study. A good night’s sleep followed by a nutritious breakfast is a sure-fire formula for morning people. I know many students who are taking IELTS online coaching and in-person coaching and enjoying and benefitting from the experience.
However, some of us are night owls. Our energy levels are higher in the evening and we are more motivated to study in the evenings and actually benefit more from studying into the night.
Find out if you are a day-studier or a night studier. Day studiers are morning people and have more energy during the day. Night studiers have greater energy levels after dark and need the solitude and peace of the night to study.
So, consider all these 10 things before you enrol in IELTS and all the best for your IETS experience.