A few days ago, I received my IELTS result and here’s what I had: Listening: 9.0, Speaking: 80, Reading: 7.0, Writing: 7.0 and Overall: 8.0. Honestly, I could have done better if I had just practiced well enough but that’s not what we’re here for.
On social media, people have been asking for tips, advice and the materials I used. While I can’t remember all the tips and locate all my materials, I have put together some advice I have, based on my experience and some materials I used in preparation. This is solely my opinion. I was asked for my opinion and that’s what you’re about to read. I really hope this helps you save money and time and you achieve the band score you desire.
That said, let’s dive right in!
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Based on comment section questions that have nothing to do with the tips and materials, I have provided answers that can give you some background knowledge about me. You know, situate this whole thing a bit.
Are you a native English speaker?
No, I’m not. I live in Nigeria where English is widely spoken, was taught in English, and I read a lot of books, write a lot in English, and watch movies with subtitles. I almost consider myself a native speaker.
How long did you study for your test?
When I registered, I downloaded Youtube videos straight away and listened to them in my spare time. I also did some practice test on the British Council website once or twice, just to gauge how good I was. But I actively started practicing extensively three days to the test. Morning, afternoon, evening, night. I hardly slept. Call it laziness or the unforgivable consequences of my longstanding relationship with procrastination, but I have always performed well enough when I study under extreme pressure and conditions.
You should understand how best you study. Don’t attempt to copy my style please. I beg of you. I studied for about two months passively, on and off, then for 3 days intensely. Don’t try this at home.
What type of IELTS did you take?
I took IELTS Academic.
How Long Did It Take To Receive Your Result?
It took about 14 days. I scheduled my test for December 14, I received my result on December 30. Online results were out on December 27, but I couldn’t preview my result for reasons best known to the British Council.
Did You Attend Any Classes?
Nope, I didn’t. I figured I was good with English well enough to just go with self-study and the internet. Plus, I couldn’t afford to pay for classes at the time, so I had to up my self-study game. I.e Procrastinate effectively. Again, don’t try this at home.
How Much Does It Cost?
In my country, Nigeria, it cost 75,000 Naira to register with British Council directly. I didn’t register with any agent, institution or lecture centre. I did a transfer, not bank draft. If you’re from Nigeria, you can transfer to British Council with a First Bank, Zenith Bank, or GT Bank account using the account number provided to you upon registration confirmation. If you find registering yourself a bit stressful, by all means register through an agent or centre.
How Would You Rate Your use of English?
I live in Nigeria but I studied, was taught and raised with English. I can’t even speak my native language all that well. I’m not proud of that, but it is what it is. I try. And I’ve been writing and reading books in English. So yeah, I would say I’m ok with my use of English.
On to the tipsss!!!
When you’re preparing for your IELTS test, there are a few things you should know before registering. I would advice you not to skip this part even if you have registered. If there’s any helpful CONFIRMED tip you think I may have left out in this article, please be kind enough and leave a comment.
Be honest with yourself! How good are you with the English language? How long have you been speaking it? If you make some grammatical and spelling errors, how bad are they? How bad do you need this? What deadlines do you have?
Answering these questions will help you decide how long you think you should study, or if you should be attending any classes. When you have answered these questions, you can then proceed to register. Consult with your friends who have taken IELTS and passed. They can assess your English speaking skills and give you honest advice.
I answered these questions as honestly as I could. I called friends who had taken the test, sought their advice and did some research. I took some practice test just to test the waters of the test. For me, I registered for the test and gave myself two months before the D-day.I then registered in October, and selected mid-December for my test. My latest deadline is around June, so I registered for December in case I had to retake the test.Well, the retake isn’t needed now.
- Be ready to do your own research. I studied on my own so I had to learn all the IELTS tips and tricks myself.
- If you need to attend classes, please start early enough.
- Don’t depend on classes alone. Watch Youtube videos, read articles.
- PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! There are websites that offer free online practice tests. I’ll put some links up later on.
- Don’t fret. IELTS isn’t so hard when you know how to answer the questions. That’s why you should attend classes and do your research. The Reading, Writing and Speaking test all have specific but flexible ways the questions can be answered.
- While preparing and taking practice tests, take note of the test you’re very good at. This would help you. I was good with the listening, so I saved time and studied the other tests more.
- Having one or two tests you’re good at would also help to pull your overall score up. For example, I was good in Listening so I knew I could use my listening test score to pull my overall band score up.
- Take note of what each band score represents and aim accordingly. This is where the brutally honest answers to those questions will also help.
ON THE DAY OF YOUR IELTS TEST
Days leading to my IELTS test, I watched a lot of English movies. I already had a good command of the language, but I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. So I watched movies, read articles, and watched Youtube videos by native English speakers… All that Jazz. I did NOT want to take this test again.
On the morning of my IELTS speaking test, I didn’t engage my mind in any other extensive or intensive study. I just listened to Youtube videos I already downloaded on my Youtube App. My test was scheduled for 2PM, so around 11AM, I went to watch an English movie at a cinema a few minutes away from the test venue. When the movie was over, my nerves were calm, I had even learned some new words in the course of the movie, and I got on a bus to the test venue
Also, calm down. You’ll want to get the test over and done with but CALM DOWN! Watch a movie, sit in a restaurant and eat or drink tea, listen to some music (in clear English) while you take a walk. Anything to keep you calm.
MATERIALS I PRACTICED WITH (ARTICLES AND VIDEOS)
Learn Enlish With Emma (EngVid): https://www.youtube.com/user/EnglishTeacherEmma
(Not many sources but the info in their videos are ground breaking. Watch all Jay’s videos from E2 IELTS.)
ADVICE FOR THE FOUR TESTS
- Read Books written in English, fiction included.
- Learn Synonyms, Antonyms, all the ‘nyms’. This applies to the other tests.
- For this test, you would have to answer questions based on three articles you’ll be given.
- One advice that helped me here is what Emma from EngVid on Youtube gave. ‘Do not make the mistake of reading the passage first before going to the questions. You do not have the time to do this. Instead, read the questions first.’
- Questions are usually asked in the order with which paragraph are arranged. For example, the answer to question one would not be in the last paragraph. It would be in the first. This is where your comprehension skill and your knowledge of synonyms come in.
- For better result, scan the question for the key words first, underline them. Go to the corresponding paragraph and look for either those words or their synonyms. This is what helped save me a lot of time. For other techniques and helpful sources, check out the links in the PREPARATION MATERIALS section.
- This was by far the easiest for me. I always got high scores in all my practice listening tests, so I wasn’t surprised when my result came back with a 9.0 in listening. The audio recordings you have to listen to already provide the answers to the questions.
- Practice concentration! This was a very huge problem for me while preparing, because my concentration was not what I liked it to be. So I decided to practice my tests in the midst of noise and chaos created by little children in my family
- Again, comprehension and concentration are important. The conversations will involve twists and turns, and may confuse you at some point, but you have to listen carefully.
- The audio won’t be played a second time. Everyone in the hall listens to the same audio at the same time. You only get to listen to it once, so you have to answer questions as it plays.
- So listen very carefully, concentrate, and stick with your instincts. You don’t get to rewind, pause or play.
- During the test, go with your instinct! The first answer that pops up is usually always the correct one. I would have scored lower than a 9.0 if I hadn’t listened to this advice. Thank you Emma of EngVid!
- Again, read books, articles, and watch movies. Look at how they are written, how words are used, how sentences are structured.
- Learn about the types of sentence structures. IELTS scores you on how you can use different types of sentence types accurately.
- Learn and practice the structure of writing your essays.
- NEVER EVER start your essays without planning first. You may be tempted to do this. I was too. I have never sat down to plan my articles before writing until I started studying for my IELTS. I had to unlearn just jumping in and assuming it would sort itself out.
- You need to plan your essays so you know what points to use, how many points your time can accommodate, and where to put what paragraph.
- You spend less time writing by planning first. Don’t attempt to ‘save time’ by jumping right in. PLAN before writing.
- I discovered this tip the night before my test. So I practiced just two essays, and set out a structure for every type of essay IELTS has.
- When I realized that IELTS has different type of essays, it was too late to start practicing on all of them. Instead, I searched out the different structures and expectations of IELTS for each essay type.
- I noted them down, and committed them to memory real quick. So on the test day, I could spot what type of essay I needed to write from the question, quickly write down the structure, and attach points and topics where necessary.
- Plan for about 10 minutes, and fill up your essay with the remaining time.
- Learn vocabulary from all essay topics before the test. Environment, Education, Technology, Food, etc. Luckily for me, Topic 2 was on food and I’m crazy about food. The nature of the question was also something I felt strongly about.
- PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! Can’t say this too much.
- Look up sample questions and model answers. Practice those questions on your own and compare your answer with the model answer.
- By the time you follow the structure needed to answer the essay type provided in the question, you won’t need to count your words to check if you meet the minimum word count.
- Practice writing over 150 and 250 words, just so you know how they should look on paper with your hand writing under pressure.
- When practicing, always time yourself.
- I recommend practicing at least one question from every chart and essay type.
- When planning your answers with the structure, think of every sentence and the next that follow before writing. That way, you won’t miss your way and forget your ideas.
- Write with a sharp pencil, not a pen. You can easily erase and correct whatever you want with a pencil.
- CALM DOWN! Can’t stress this enough. Too many people go into the room shaking and end up fumbling through it. Follow my previous advice. Before going for your test, listen to music, watch a movie, eat some ice-cream (not coffee or energy drinks please).
- The first set of questions are selected to calm you down and ease you into the other set of questions. ALLOW THEM!
- DO NOT give one word, one sentence answers. ‘No, Yes, Maybe, Sometimes’… Dump them in the trash!
- If you want to use them, back them up with further explanation and an example. For instance, Examiner asks, ‘Do you like tea?’. You answer, ‘Yes, I love tea because it helps me calm down. Chamomile tea, for example, is my best so far.’
- That’s how you should answer questions. Give a direct answer in the first sentence, continue with why in the second or same sentence then close with an example. This applies to the writing test too.
- The section where you would need to speak for two minutes, you HAVE to speak for two minutes.
- Fill up those seconds dude! That’s it. That’s the whole tip. But don’t ramble and babble.
- During my test, I stopped before two minutes, and my examiner was kind enough to signal me to keep talking. I did, and basically gave a recap of what I said before because I was hungry, had nothing else to add and just wanted to go home.
- Be confident. Appear confident, sit confident, speak confident, feel confident and look confident.
- Smile, make a little joke here and there. I made myself and the examiner laugh at some point when I chipped in a common Nigerian scenario as an example. Added some sarcasm in there too.
- Get in tune with the answer structures. Questions that require long answers follow the same basic structure with the writing test.
- The Speaking test is much like a conversation with a friend. Act like it. Picture your best friend across that table and discuss. Have some fun with the test.
- How can you use English in every day conversation? That’s what they are testing. Go for it!
- Practice with someone. The person doesn’t have to be face to face. My friend helped me practice…. over Whatsapp. I sent him a link with practice questions and sample answers. He asked questions at his discretion, and I sent in my answers as a voice note. We then analyzed my answers and tried again.
- Recording your practice answers helps you track progress and make corrections where necessary.
I can’t give you all the tips you need to know. I’ve attached Google Drive and Youtube links for my study materials to this article. Always remember: STRUCTURE, PRACTICE, STAY CALM, BE CONFIDENT AND ACE THAT TEST!