Tips to Keep in Mind Before Taking the IELTS
After several years of being a certified IELTS examiner, there are many things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind before taking the IELTS test. Here is a list I have compiled of my top tips and suggestions to consider:
Take a prep class
As you may be aware, there is an abundance of IELTS prep courses (both online and in-person) to help you get ready for your IELTS. Some prep classes are free, some you pay for. I cannot stress enough the importance of these in helping you get ready for your test. Be sure to check your options for prep classes online and/or in the area where you live. Check here for details about IELTS Masterclass Webinars, which are live, 90-minute sessions with an IELTS expert. These sessions are an opportunity to get answers to any questions you have about the IELTS test.
Know the format and timing
It is important to remember that the IELTS is a standardized test. This means that the timing, format, types of questions, etc. are the same no matter where or when you take your test. An important part of preparing for the IELTS is knowing the nuts and bolts of the test; that is, knowing the format and timing. I suggest taking some time to familiarize yourself with how the test is structured so that you are not surprised when taking the test. Also, be sure you know the timing of each section of the test. Why are these things important? I believe that having this information can provide some level of predictability and comfort. Check here for details about test format and timing.
Use practice tests and online information
As mentioned above, I highly recommend that you prepare and practice before taking your IELTS test. One way to do this is to take advantage of the heaps of information you can quickly and easily access online. There are many sites with practice tests, sample questions and answers, and much more. Check here for downloadable practice tests.
Know the descriptors
It is very useful to know what your IELTS examiner will be looking for when marking your speaking and writing tests. Thankfully, it is easy to find an online public copy of the descriptors used for the speaking and writing tests. As mentioned above, this is a standardized test, so all IELTS examiners will be using the same descriptors to evaluate your speaking and writing. Looking at these public versions of the descriptors will help you get a sense of what your examiner is listening for when you speak, and looking for in your writing. Click here for public copies of the descriptors.
Practice, practice, practice!
I cannot stress enough the importance of practice before taking your IELTS test. You can practice by answering questions (for speaking and writing), and then looking at sample answers. You can also practice your pronunciation, organizing your ideas and answers, using connecting words, using different verb tenses, skimming, scanning, listening for details and main ideas, and much more. We all know that practice makes perfect, so take some time to practice your language skills before your IELTS test.
My final tip is related to timing. Specifically, I strongly suggest you time yourself when speaking and writing. For speaking, time yourself to see if you can provide a well-organized and complete answer. Also, practice answering sample writing questions to see how long it takes you to write a short description/letter (for Task 1 of the writing test), and an essay (for Task 2 of the writing test). Remember, everything on the IELTS is timed, so you need to get a sense of how long it takes you to formulate your thoughts, and then share them verbally and in writing.
These few tips should help you prepare for your IELTS test before you take it. I strongly believe that spending some time beforehand to prepare yourself will go a long way in helping you reach your IELTS goals.
I wish you the best of luck!