IELTS (The International English Language Testing System) is an international standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. Established in the year 1989, the IELTS is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP Education and Cambridge Assessment English. The IELTS exam is one of the major English Proficiency Tests the others being TOEFL, PTE and TOEIC respectively. Universally accepted by more than 3000 academic institutions in the United States and many professional organizations in the world, the IELTS is conducted across the globe in more than 140 countries. Regarded as the only secure English Language Proficiency Test that has received approval from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for customers applying both outside and inside the UK. The exam also serves as one of the criteria for immigration to Australia, New Zealand. and Canada.
CHARACTERISTICS OF IELTS EXAM
Before we decide the most effective way to prepare for the IELTS examination, it is essential to understand what the IELTS exam is all about, the various modules and their purpose and scores interpretation.
IELTS examination consists of two modules which are:
- IELTS Academic
- IELTS General Training
Both the exams are designed in such a way that they cover a complete range from the non-user to that of an expert. While the Academic version is for test takers who intend to enroll in colleges or Universities in an English-speaking country or to seek professional registration. The General Training version is mainly for test takers who wish to work, train, study at a secondary school or desirous of migrating to an English speaking country.
Though both the modules are similar in the timing allocation, length of written responses and reporting of the score, the difference lies in the content, context and purpose of the tasks.
IELTS Academic and General Training modules incorporate the following features:
i) The IELTS exam tests the candidate’s proficiency in his ability to listen, read, write and speak in English.
ii) One of the key components of both the modules is the speaking module which is a one-to-one interview with an examiner. The test-taker is evaluated by the examiner during the conversation. The speaking session is also recorded to be reviewed later on in the event there is repeal by the candidate
iii) A variety of accents and writing styles have been presented in test materials in order to minimize linguistic bias. The accents in the listening section are generally 80% British, Australian, New Zealander and 20% others (mostly American).
IELTS SCORES AND INTERPRETATION
The scores format used in the case of IELTS is the Band Score. The scores for each language sub-skill i.e. (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking) varies from 0 (“Did not attempt the test“) to 9 (“Expert User“). The individual scores are then averaged and rounded to produce an Overall Band Score.
Although there is no pass or fail score in the IELTS examination, however, a higher band score increases one’s probability of achieving his target goal.
PREPARATION FOR IELTS
Whether one is proficient in the language or just a beginner, it is always advantageous to be fully prepared before facing any examination. For a person who is not familiar with the language, we strongly recommend an English course from a reputed institution. The course would enable the candidate to understand the language in detail such as format and rules. We encourage the candidate to practice the tests and watch the news to get a better understanding of the language. The above are some of the many strategies that go a long way in improving the English proficiency of the individual and thus putting him at a better standing in the IELTS exam
Below is a 5 step approach in order to prepare for the proficiency exam
STEP 1: ADOPT ENGLISH SPEAKING AS A PART OF DAILY ROUTINE
Once you have joined the English course, we recommend that you follow the instructions of your teacher carefully and possibly writing them down for your future reference. The constructive feedback from the teacher shall help you improve the specific skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing English. Follow these instructions and incorporate them as a part of your daily routine of using English every day. Make it a habit to converse as frequently and this is the idealistic way of improving your English and therefore your IELTS score. Some of the ways that one can gain proficiency in the language are:
i) Communicate with your friends and family on a regular basis.
ii) Listen to English language radio, television and film. One is likely to encounter various accents in the actual examination and thus it is important that one listens to a variety of English accents including American, Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand.
iii) Try to read English Magazines, Journals and publications. The process not only increases a person vocabulary but helps him to score high in the exam as well.
iv) Practice writing letters, Essays and Emails which further leads to the improvisation of an individual written skills.
STEP 2: FAMILIARIZING WITH TEST FORMAT AND RULES
- As mentioned before there are two modules of IELTS tests i.e IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training. The Listening and the Speaking components are the same for both tests but the Reading and the Writing components are different. In order to perform well in the examination, the candidates should pay attention to the format carefully. It is always a great habit to go through the instructions booklet handed to the test- takers in order to respond correctly to the questions asked in the examination.
- One is advised to carefully read the notice or the information provided to the candidates.
- The beginners should be able to understand how the exams are evaluated and how the scores are interpreted. The requirement of the score varies with each candidate. As earlier mentioned, there is no PASS or FAIL Band Score but the higher score would increase one’s probability of achieving his desired goal. Thus we advise the candidates to know the level on the IELTS band score table what he requires.
- It is always a great idea to go through the assessment criteria to understand what actually the examiners are looking for in the Speaking and Writing tests. This would not only provide direction to your preparation for the exam but also help you achieve a higher BAND SCORE.
STEP 3: STRENGTHEN YOUR CONCEPTS WITH PRACTICE
Without practice, all the efforts seem to go in vain. The more you practice, the chances of getting a higher band score increases. There are lots of books available some of the popular ones are Barrons Guide for IELTS and Cliffs Guide to IELTS. Besides the study material, the guide has test-series for a candidate to practice. Constant attempting of the series enables an individual to know his weakness and strengths and accordingly can pay more attention to the areas of improvement. Also:
- Use the Official IELTS Practice Materials (two books available) which can be purchased either locally or online.
- One can also subscribe to the preparation course for IELTS which can become helpful in the ways mentioned below:
a) Practice sincerely the tasks that are included in the test series of IELTS.
b) Receive constructive feedback on your answers from the teacher.
c) Attempting a regular test series makes one confident to face the actual exam.
d) Makes one prepared to face the D-Day.
STEP 4: TAKE IT EASY
It is always advisable to relax a day before. The advantage of the relaxation is that it takes time to not only refresh the concepts learnt but also elevates your productivity in the final examination. Some of the important points worth mentioning here are:
- Read the information booklet, it also contains a section on how to give one’s best.
- Relax a night before the exam.
- Ensure that one knows the location of test venue and the means to get there.
- Be confident as it helps the individual to relax and get a better score in the final IELTS exam.
STEP 5: SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR THE PROSPECTIVE IELTS CANDIDATES
- Browse the official IELTS website for information on the test, format, how many sections and scoring to name a few. It is also advisable to seek the consultation of the nearest British Council (britishcouncil.org), for any additional help regarding the test.
- Work on your weaknesses and improvise through regular practice. For instance, if you have difficulties in the speaking section then the best way is to start speaking with friends and family.
- It is a great habit to read the newspapers and magazines on a daily basis as it not only increases one’s General Knowledge but also increases the individual’s vocabulary which is helpful in the IELTS examination.
- Watch AND Listen to BBC and CNN, or watch movies, shows and music. Spending even half an hour listening to BBC news considerably helps you in the improvement of vocabulary.
- Speed becomes a critical factor in the IELTS examination, especially the Listening section with most of the students completely losing track of the essence of the comprehension owing to the high speed of the tape. To be honest, in IELTS time is in fact not on your side. To begin with, do not worry if you do not finish the tests. Remember, the test is designed to measure candidates over a range of scores from 0 to 9 (0 indicates the test was not attempted). Candidates whose English is near perfect can expect to score 9, but even native English-speaking people would be unlikely to complete every Listening Test answer perfectly or finish the Reading Test a long time before the examination ends. The combined length of those three tests is 2 hours and 30 minutes. (The Speaking Test is conducted at an appointed time in the afternoon.) Also, a small break is given to the candidates between the reading and the writing tests.Meditation and other relaxation activities can help to increase memory which is a very critical factor in the reading and listening comprehension. Great memory helps one retain the essence of the comprehension in the reading section and enables a person to answer the questions in less time. Also in the listening section, the memory plays an important role as the tape is played only once and the test-taker relies only on the memory to answer the questions :
- Some of the other strategies that you can follow in order to prepare for IELTS are:
a) “EXAMINATION PAPERS CAMBRIDGE IELTS” so that you can practice by yourself.
b) Make discussion groups with like-minded individuals.
c)YouTube and Facebook are also some of the other learning sources for the IELTS exam.
We believe that following with dedication the above 5 strategies can help you strengthen your confidence for the IELTS exam and help you attain a GOOD BAND SCORE.