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Preparing for IELTS During the COVID-19 Pandemic


COVID-19 has changed our world as we know it. One thing hasn’t changed though - we still need to take the IELTS. Before COVID-19, those preparing for the IELTS would go to schools for test-prep classes, meet study groups at the local library, or visit a teacher’s house to get 1-on-1 test tutoring. To stay safe, these normal preparation pathways have almost all shifted online. Whether it is Zoom classes, online self-study courses, or social media chat groups, in-person studying sessions have paused.

With these significant changes in how and where we study, some of us have had a difficult time adjusting and adapting. Because almost everything is online, our home has become the new classroom. We see our family, our roommates, and our pets instead of our classmates. The whiteboard, note-book, and teacher are now digitized and completely onscreen.

Preparing for IELTS in the COVID-19 world has positives and negatives. The more we focus on the positives, the better we’ll be at improving our language skills for the test. So, where to start? Here are four tips I’ve gleaned from my students for what works and what doesn’t.

Re-design your study space

Now that we are doing almost everything at home, our desk can get really cluttered. Papers, clothes, dishes, and all sorts of other stuff from around the house tend to pile up in our workspace. This kind of space doesn’t work well for studying. It’s uncomfortable, disorganized, and distracting.

Try and keep your work area clear when you study. Move the clutter away and wipe down your desk space with a damp cloth. To make the environment more natural, try to open a window for fresh air and daylight and put a houseplant nearby. We also need to be aware of ergonomics – the practice of improving our workspace design. To do this, get a warm, soft desk light and make sure your chair is comfortable and at the correct height. Some people also recommend using a standing desk device. Studies show that using standing desks improves posture, gives us more energy and helps us stay focused. 

Overall, your refreshed and revived workspace will lead to higher motivation, a better study experience, and hopefully, a better IELTS score.  

English-only Zone 

We just talked about creating an effective study space at your home. Why not also make this an “English Only Zone”? Make yourself a rule stating that everything you see and do when you are in this area is in English. If you use sticky notes, write them in English. Change the OS (Operating System) of your computer to English. When you text your friend from this space, do it in English. If you want to play some study music, choose English songs. Need to check something on Google, do it in English. Many scientific studies have shown that “English only spaces” really help us improve our English language fluency, vocabulary, and other key skills used on the IELTS.

Go old school – Paper only 

DISTRACTION! This is one of the main goals that online businesses aim for. When we try to study online, it’s easy to lose focus. Social media, online shopping, news updates, email notifications, text messages, TikTok likes, the list goes on and on. One minute you’re checking an online dictionary for new vocabulary, the next minute, you’re playing video games. 

A sure way to avoid online devices distraction is to get rid of them. Your laptop, phone, tablet, and computer… turn them off, and put them in a different room! 

Prepare enough IELTS materials on paper to keep yourself busy and focus on that. You’ll be surprised how much more you can do and how much easier it is to focus.  

Go to the Woodshed!

A woodshed is a small building that is used to store wood. In Canada, when someone says “go to the woodshed to practice”, it usually means to go somewhere where you can be loud and free from interruption. For example, a piano player will have a small room with thick walls and a heavy door where she can practice. Nobody hears her, and she can’t hear anyone. A high school rock band might use a garage for their “woodshed”. They can be loud and free, and nobody will bother.

For IELTS, it is important to practice speaking and listening in English. If you can, find someone in your -safe bubble or someone on Zoom and practice in your “woodshed”. Find a room where you can speak loud and clear in English and not worry about disturbing people. Some apartments have a study room. You could also try a park, your garage, or the lobby of your building. The best way to improve your speaking and listening is to have interesting and uninterrupted conversations, again, again, and again. Where will your “IELTS woodshed” be? 

So, there you have it, just because COVID-19is here doesn’t mean you have to stop studying for IELTS. With the right attitude, some creativity, and a good plan, you’ll get the rating you need. 


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