Don’t roll your eyes just yet. This piece is no way intended to imply that there is some holy grail band you must aspire to. I mean most universities would accept a 6.5. But to be banal, if you aim for the stars, hitting the moon wouldn’t be so bad no?
I wrote my IELTS academic test in November 2017 and I had the following scores
Listening – 9
Reading – 9
Writing – 7.5
Speaking – 8.5
I found the overall structuring of the test to be much less intricate than a typical WAEC English examination. My opinion is that just about anyone could hit a perfect band score with the right dose of motivation and self application to the fullest compliment of one’s ability.
Below are some tips, nuances and subterfuge I found to be hugely beneficial.
1. Preparing Well In Advance of the Test
This is probably the most obvious of them all but quite often people undermine the criticality of sufficient prep time and opt for the less reliable fire brigade, hell for leather approach. The IELTS test is not, in principle, a measure of your ability to speak or understand the English language but how effectively and efficiently you can communicate with English as a medium. So it has got less to do with proficiency than it has to do with effectiveness and efficiency.
You should know the difference between those three terms though. If you do not, you probably need to pay close attention to this tip.
TIME TIME TIME.
Give yourself as much time as is pragmatically tenable to prepare for the test. I used three weeks, practicing for two hours, three days a week. That amounted to 18 hours of preparation. You may need 12 hours, another might need 120. The bigger picture is the capstone moment of finding out you crossed the band threshold for your visa or school application.
Picking a date for your exam should not be an arbitrary process. The decision must be informed by your level of effectiveness and efficiency in the use of the English language. It is probably much safer to underestimate your ability by some margin in order to add more hours to your preparation schedule.
2. Practice under standardised examination conditions
While there are no past question references for the examination, sample questions are available for all categories: General, Academic, UKVI.
Practice indeed makes perfect. Trust me, I was never a bad English speaker, well above average but if I had not practiced as much as I did, it is unlikely I would have gotten anything close to an 8.5. Why?…because the test is not, strictly speaking, a rigid measure of linguistic and semantic proficiency. It evaluates much finer, nuanced details such as your capacity to disambiguate subtleties in the use of the language within a conversational, academic and professional setting.
I used the sample questions to practice, timing myself for each written test section. A lot of my practice time was committed to the Listening and Reading sections of the test. I practiced the same set of sample questions with iterative regularity till it became impossible for me to fail any question. That is precisely the reason I got perfect scores in both bands, if I do say so myself. Time your practice runs and score yourself honestly.
For the writing section, I relied on examiner evaluations of previous IELTS candidates paying attention to what said candidates did right, and even more attention to what they did wrong.
I prepared for my speaking section by voicing out my responses with the same anticipated level of prosodic efficiency and articulation as would be in the actual test. I watched YouTube videos of mock interviews and knew exactly what to expect from the time I walked into the room.
The idea of intense and consistent practice is to mitigate and possibly eliminate errors while also stifling the element of surprise. I was so ready that nothing, absolutely nothing could surprise me on test day.
Practice makes Perfect. Do not practice till you get it right, practice till it becomes impossible for you to get it wrong. A tenuous practice is untenable, the minimum requirement is maximum effort.
3. Focus on your weaknesses, deprioritise your strengths
The only mistake I made in my preparation was spending way too much time on the listening and reading sections. I was consistently acing the sample questions at some point but I kept going at them. I spent little time preparing for the writing section. This section is the trickiest of all four, because the evaluation is subjective and the rules of engagement are not quite set in stone. It is a bit of a quagmire. It is the nature of the beast though, so no complaints.
My advice is that you find out the chunks in your armour and establish a preparation routine that focuses on strengthening those areas. I know I said you need time but no one has all the time in the world, so utilise it sagaciously.
4. Arrive early on test day
This eliminates panic as it gives you ample time to settle down, soak in the atmosphere and engage your game mode.
I lived at Lekki, Lagos and my test centre for the written sections was at Gbagada. I was up and out before the brightness of Venus faded amidst the first light of dawn.
This is no day for bathroom emergencies. Eat reasonably the night before, hydrate properly. Have all the required items in place the night before. On game day, it is full steam ahead. No room for half measures.
5. Everything rises and falls on the Listening section
Listening comes first so pay close attention. I mean this literally. Ensure your headphones are working and when the test begins, you must be in your element. No distractions should be entertained.The confidence emanating from a solid start would provide adequate momentum for the rest of the test.
Enough said. Fell free to reach out to us via our whatsapp link for personalised IELTS coaching. You are going to do great. JAPAFORA has got your back.
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