Why are the IELTS exams so difficult
A master plan for the perfect IELTS preparation
Preparation for the IELTS usually starts when you find out that you need a certain IELTS score for a visa or university application. Many students spend months taking turns worrying about and preparing for the test. But if you think about it, you started preparing for the IELTS years ago when you started learning English. It feels good to know that you are already on the right track.
The goal of the IELTS is to accurately measure your English level, so in a perfect world that would mean that IELTS preparation is only for improving your English language skills. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. Here you can find my 4-step master plan so that you don't lose your way when preparing for the IELTS.
LEVEL 1: FIND OUT WHERE YOU ARE STANDING
If you don't know what level of English you are currently at in terms of the IELTS assessment, then you don't know how far you are from your goal. So the first step in any IELTS preparation should be to determine your current language level. There are a lot of practice tests out there, but the easiest way to find out your current IELTS score is to take the EF SET. This test takes two hours and since you will get an EF SET score and an IELTS equivalent score for both reading and listening, those 2 hours are guaranteed not to be wasted. Unless your speaking and writing skills are on a completely different level, you now know where you stand.
LEVEL 2: IMPROVE YOUR ENGLISH
You knew this was going to be one of the stages, right? Improve your English using online tools, books, whatever method you choose, or you can take a class. You need to work on all aspects of your English proficiency: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. You can use IELTS-specific learning tools, but you don't have to right now. Any English learning technique that you find appealing can be effective in IELTS preparation, for example:
- Read in English about things that interest you and force yourself to look up words you don't understand. Daily newspapers and magazines are a great way to start building up your vocabulary.
- Reading will help you write, but practice writing too. Don't limit yourself to a single style of writing. Keeping a journal in English, writing short stories, and trying your hand at essays are all good practice opportunities. Correct your own work or find someone to go over it with you.
- Watch English-language films or listen to the radio in English. Play back the parts that you did not understand until you understand them.
- Getting enough practice in speaking can be tough when you are on your own. But with a little effort, you can find a language exchange friend online or in your city. Try having conversations on more advanced topics than "Hi, how are you?" And the like.
- There are also good IELTS preparation courses online and abroad, as well as in schools near you. If you have the money to invest in an IELTS prep course, this can take you a big step forward and catapult you straight to Level 3.
LEVEL 3: EXPERIENCE THE IELTS TEST FORMAT
Improving your English skills is not enough to get a great IELTS score. Even a native English speaker who takes the test would not get a perfect result if he did not study the test himself beforehand. You have to know how the scoring works, how long the required text has to be for each task and when you will be given additional points and when some will be deducted. There are important details to note such as:
- Should I just guess because I'm not sure, or should I leave out the question entirely?
- How often will I be allowed to listen to a recording during the hearing test?
- What if the examiner can't read my handwriting?
While level 2 was all about improving your English, this level is about using your skills to get the best possible score on the day of the test. There are websites and IELTS prep books to help you understand the IELTS test structure better. Start with a careful look at the official website. Your goal at this level is that you take the IELTS test and that you are already very familiar with the type of questions that you are asked, that you know how they are graded and which strategies you need to optimize your score .
LEVEL 4: TEST YOURSELF AGAIN
Once you are sure that you have improved your English and are familiar with the IELTS test, there is still a level before you sign up for the exam. Test yourself again. If you did the EFSET Plus at level 1, do it for the second time to find out how much you have improved. If you have the opportunity to take an IELTS speaking and writing practice test, do this too. Whatever it is, don't skip this final stage. It's the only way to find out if you're ready to spend your money and take the official exam. There is no point in signing up for the IELTS if you are not ready to get the required number of points.
With this 4-level IELTS preparation you can confidently start the test and although it will be difficult, you will be ready to get the necessary score. The moment you find out your IELTS score, you will know that the IELTS preparation was worth it.
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