Improving your IELTS Rating: Tips for Test-takers from India
In almost every corner of the world, you can find IELTS. Many of the top universities require it for acceptance. Many countries require it for immigration. And many employers require it for their workers. Considering this, it’s no surprise that this test is important for a lot of people in India. Although the English language is well established in India, there are still a lot of challenges for people who need a high IELTS rating. India has hundreds of local languages, the common use of Hindi, and a wide variety of educational approaches. With such diverse language backgrounds, many Indians still need to improve their English. When it comes to writing the perfect essay, responding to an academic podcast, or speaking about a sophisticated topic, it can be a real challenge.
Throughout my decades as an English language instructor and IELTS expert, I’ve come across many Indian nationals who are working hard to score a 7+ on the IELTS. Some students have no problem and can rate an IELTS 7 on their first try. Other students take years of preparation to reach this score. Unfortunately, many of the IELTS preparation materials don’t focus specifically on Indian students. Most materials are made for any student from any country. As you can guess, the more focused the preparation materials are for specific students, the more successful they will be.
So, what are the specific challenges Indian students face when preparing for their IELTS? There are many to include, but I will focus on three that I find can best help improve ratings on test day.
More content in speaking and writing
A common problem I see in both the writing and the speaking tests is that test-takers are not giving enough content. When they answer a question, they are short on explanations, short on examples, and short on justifications. Students do poorly by repeating themselves, giving simple responses, or just not giving enough information.
Remember, the IELTS test wants you to show your full English language ability. You need to show off your English language skills. To do this, you can ask yourself three questions:
Can I explain more?
Can I give examples?
Can I give reasons?
Imagine the question is “What kind of desserts do you like?”. Don’t just say “I like ice cream.”. Explain it. Give examples. Say why. In other words, you can say “I like ice cream that is from the local markets in the summertime. I particularly enjoy strawberry and mango ice cream. The reasons these are so delicious is because they are both tangy and sweet.”.
When you make your answers longer, you are showing more vocabulary, more grammatical structures, and more fluency. These are all important on your path to a higher score.
Avoid using the “-ing” too much
Another common area I see Indian students having trouble with is their overuse of the “-ing” verbs. Although “-ing” is regularly used in English, if it is used too much or incorrectly, it can lower your IELTS score. This blog is too short to explain all the issues but try and review ones I see often
First, let's talk about truths and facts. If something is true all of the time, don’t use the “-ing”. So, don’t say “I’m loving strawberry ice cream”, say “I love strawberry ice cream”.
Another common one is with daily routine. Don’t say the “-ing” if you are speaking about something that regularly happens. For example, don’t say “Every day I’m waking up at 7 a.m. and drinking coffee at 8 a.m.”, say “I wake up at 7 a.m. and drink coffee at 8 a.m.”.
English sounds different
The final point I’ll make is about pronunciation of sentences. There are two particular issues. First, some Indian speakers can sound too ‘flat’. If you say every word at the same volume and every syllable equally, it lowers your communication success. English is different from other languages when speaking. Key words need to be pronounced clearer and louder. Make sure you emphasize the nouns and verbs that are important in your discussion.
My second point is the opposite of speaking too flat. Some Indian speakers “sing” too much. The ends of sentences sometimes finish in high pitches and are spoken too quickly. When you are practicing, try and copy the sound of native speakers across the whole sentence. Listen to how the whole sentence sounds, not just individual words. Try recording yourself speaking and compare it to a native speaker. Are you making these common mistakes?
There is no perfect solution and no perfect preparation plan for Indian IELTS students. However, it’s important that you find the best resources for your specific language needs. Try analyzing your English for the errors found above. This might help you find more strengths and weaknesses you have. Knowing what you need and knowing what you don’t need will make your preparation more successful. Best of luck on test day!
By Tony Rusinak, IELTS Expert