IELTS Preparation Tips

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Every aspect of life, which is new for us, attracts our sensibilities. May it be a new cuisine, a new flavour, a new country or a new culture. This tendency of magnetism towards everything new is giving rise to a phenomenon of finding one’s foot in foreign nations. But not everyone gets a chance to fulfill their ambition, courtesy the competitive forces buzzing all over. The developed nations look out for the cream of the talent while considering foreign applicants for both jobs and migration to their countries. They, thus do that with the help of a qualifying exam, called IELTS.

IELTS, an acronym for International English Language Testing System is a two-pronged ability test, meant for:

Aspiring students who are looking forward to admissions in universities and institutes of higher education, and doctors, nurses among other professionals who want to practice in English-speaking countries, and

The other alternative is the general Training version which is meant for aspirants looking for non-academic training, professionals and for immigration purposes.

IELTS is managed jointly by University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, the British Council and IDP Education, and was established in 1989. It is recognized by many well-known universities across Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada, various other commonwealth countries and USA.

The IELTS test consists of four basic aspects to test a candidate’s proficiency in English language. These are:

· Reading

· Listening

· Writing

· Speaking

An applicant’s capabilities are tested in this exam on a scale of 9, known as bands. It means that if a student gets 1. It implies no knowledge, whereas 9 on the scale connote an expert in the language. No minimum score is set as a passing mark in the test. Different institutions maintain different parameters for selection. Institutes are apprised not to consider scores older than two years unless a student proves that he/she has been working to improve his/ her levels.

The exam is structured in the following manner:

IELTS Reading Section

This section is different for the general and the academic tests. This lasts for 60 minutes and asks around 40 questions. The academic section includes journals, newspaper articles, magazine articles, etc., Each article presents a detailed logical argument. The general section, on the other hand, can include advertisements, notices, booklets, passages, etc., which focus on day-to-day survival and general reading. The comprehension passages can depend on a variety of topics, as general as dung beetles or something like newspaper production process.

The kind of questions asked in the general and the academic variant are the same. They are:

  • Multiple choice questions
  • Fill-in-the-gaps questions
  • Short answer questions
  • Matching questions
  • True/ False/Not Given questions

Reading Tips

Reading is considered to be the most difficult section of all. Most of the times, applicants have problems in understanding the contents of the passage or evaluating the relationship between different subjects in the passage.

In the academic module, the passages are lengthy and difficult to crack as compared to the general module.

It is generally believed that the first passage is easier than the second, and the third. But, sometimes even this doesn’t hold true. Thus, it makes good sense to take an overview of the subject matter of the passages and then decide on the strategy to solve the passages. These strategies can be a banal one as the skim-and-scan method, or a legitimate method like intensive reading.

Skimming the passage means just reading the main headlines and the first few lines of each paragraph. This also involves noticing the repetition of the words in each paragraph. The main purpose is to get the crux of the passage.

Intensive reading, on the contrary involves reading each and every sentence of the passage carefully, underlining what’s important and trying to deduce the meaning by the means of this consistent process.

Selection of a strategy out of these two depends thoroughly upon the difficulty level of the comprehension passage. Thus, it’s important to:

· Evaluate the relationship between various subjects,

· Trying to find the meaning of difficult words by relating it to the rest of the sentence and while doing all this,

· Be well defined within the time limits.

· Be extremely careful with spellings. Those are the silliest of mistakes you can make.

· Don’t leave any question unanswered as there is no negative marking. But remember not to cling on to one question as it will waste your precious time. Leave a question if you are stuck and return to it when you are done with the rest of your exam.

· Write your answers directly on transfer sheets as no extra time is given to materialize this process.

IELTS Listening Section

This is the first section in the IELTS examination. In this test, applicants are made to hear a tape and they have to answer questions based on that. The duration for this section is 40-45 minutes. The tape is a pre-recorded one and is played only once, with pauses wherever required. Applicants are provided with question sheets where they have to write their answers. In the last 10 minutes, they are required to transfer their answers to the answer sheets.

There are a total of 3-4 sections, which adds up to 40 questions. The following can be the probable conversations:

· Section 1: Two speakers conversing about a social/semi official topic.

  • Section 2: One speaker talking about any social or non-academic topic, also known as a monologue.
  • Section 3: Two to four speakers conversing about an academic topic.
  • Section 4: Single speaker making a university style presentation about an academic topic/news item.

Listening Tips

The cassette shall start by an announcer who will introduce the situation to you. The next 30 seconds involve going through the questions so that you know on which information to concentrate once the tape starts playing.

Following things should be taken care of in order to qualify this module in flying colors:

· You should read and listen to the instructions carefully.

· Try to guess the requisite answers while you are reading the questions, and underline important words from the text.

· You should make sure that you continue to listen to the conversation while you’re writing the answers.

· You should try and stay ahead of the recording so that you know the questions asked and are able to extract the essential points.

IELTS Writing Section

This section tests your writing skills. The writing skills are tested through the following areas:

Ø Handwriting which is legible

Ø Proper presentation and organization

Ø Grammatically correct sentences are formed

Ø Effective use of vocabulary

The section has duration of 60 minutes. The following are the tasks included in the module:

· Academic (essay and graph)

· General (essay and letter)

It comprises of two tasks:

  • Task 1: Different for Academic & General.

Word Limit: 150-180 words. Duration: 20 minutes

Academic:it usually asks you to describe and interpret a graph or a chart in your own words. You are usually asked to describe and interpret a graph or a chart in your own words.

General: candidates are asked to write a letter describing a situation.

  • Task 2:Same for Academic & General. (Topics are different)

The essays can be an agree/disagree one, wherein the candidate has to agree or disagree with a thought as given.

Or it can be a comment/opinion one. Here, you are required to examine both the negative and the positive sides of the issue and give reasons for your leanings towards one of them.

Word Limit: 250-280 words. Duration: 40 minutes

The writing section is one section which demands the most of your attention and the intricacies of your intelligence. It should start with reading the tasks carefully.

After you are done reading the tasks, decide how you plan to approach the task and what elements are you going to include in your answers. Reading and planning should not exceed 5 minutes.

After you are done planning, proceed with the writing part. Remember not to repeat the question in what you write. In Task 1, writing should take about 10 minutes, whereas in Task 2, this should extend to about 25 minutes.

After you are done with the whole thing, check your thoughts. Checking should take maximum five minutes in both the tasks. Even if you can’t complete Task 1 in the designated time limit, move on to Task 2 as it will fetch you more marks.

Writing Tips

· . Do a brain storming session, note down all the important points.

· . Divide the essay clearly into paragraphs.

· . Frame an organized map of the essay as you are going to approach it.

· . Try giving examples, as per your personal experiences and knowledge.

· . Use simple words and stick to the original topic.

IELTS Speaking Section

The speaking test is basically an interview session. It tests a candidate’s composure and ability to speak proficiently. It consists of the following parts:

  • PART 1 :Introduction and interview (4 to 5 minutes)
    The interviewer invites you to sit down,and your ID is checked. General questions about your life, background, family etc., are asked so that you feel relaxed and find it easy to settle down. This is done to basically test the body language of the candidate. It also helps in maintaining a particular rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee.
  • PART 2 : (3 to 4 minutes)
    You are provided a card with a topic written on it, you get one minute to think about the topic and get prepared for what you have to say. After you are done with speaking on your topic, the examiner could ask some follow-up questions. This, again, tests your composure.
  • PART 3: (4 to 5 minutes)
    This is a discussion wherein you have to engage yourself with the examiner about the similar general themes as discussed in Part 2.

The whole session would be recorded in an audio device to ensure that the whole process was accountable and up-to-the mark.

Speaking Tips

· Never use ‘NO’ for an answer.

· Keep your answers short and crisp. But, they should not sound inadequate.

· In the cue card session, don’t stop until you are asked to.

· Speak clearly, as your voice would be recorded in an audio device to ensure that the interview has taken place in a correct manner.

· If you are making a grammatical error somewhere, do not hesitate to correct it immediately.

· Proper body language is the key to success in this session. Good eye contact, minimum hand movements and appropriate body posture are all indications of a good body language.

· Do not let your calm lose even till the end of the interview. Do not rush out of the room.