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5 ways to SMASH your IELTS

student ukce

1. Enrol on an IELTS class. If you haven't already, and you're certain that you want and/or need to do an IELTS exam, i would strongly advise you to enrol on a IELTS course. A teacher will be able to give you a good idea of your strengths and what you need to work on to get the grade you need. They will also provide the materials and strategies that have been tried and tested with other students. The more you engage with the course, the better you will do so be prepared to do a lot of work outside of class as well. Remember, the teacher can only prepare you for the exam! Check the UKCE website for details of IELTS courses or ask your General English class teacher.


2. Take charge of your own learning. As I said before, you'll need to put the work in yourself if you want to get the IELTS grade you need. This means working out what you need to work on most. You might want to organize your time so that you're working on your IELTS for pre-planned times during the day. Restricted vocabulary? An IELTS class will provide vocabulary exercises, but you need to be practicing with the new language at home. Not speaking fluently? Find a conversation class where you can get some practice without the pressure of an IELTS class. Ask your teacher what your problem areas are and how best to fix them out of class.

3. Immerse yourself in the English language. The IELTS test is intense. You'll do all four sections (Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking) all in one day, with only short breaks between. This will feel much more comfortable if you are used to using the four skills, so you need to be doing these things in English every day. I'll make some suggestions on how to do this for each of the four skills but try to avoid anything in your own language during your IELTS study time.

  • Reading: read a little (or a lot if you can) every day. Start with comics or graphic novels as pictures really help with meaning. Ask your teacher some graded reading books and choose something you've read before in your own language. If you really want to test yourself, find something that's new but make sure it's a a genre you like. Grab a free newspaper on your commute or read a translated version of a news site from your country.

  • Listening: at least with this one you get to watch some TV! Start with watching a series in your own language but with subtitles in English, then see if you can watch the same episode dubbed into English. You could also watch a series in English but with subtitles in your language. Audiobooks are great practice too and you can read along at the same time. Listening to songs in English can be a good start but look for a podcast on a subject you're interested in. Listen to each episode at least twice and try to write down any words you don't recognize and phrases you like the sound of. YouTube is a great resource too but as with any media, don’t get dragged into a hole!

  • Speaking: this often an area that students are most anxious about and it's as much to do with confidence as it is with fluency and accuracy. As I've said before, find a conversation group so you can practice speaking on a variety of different topics (good classes will provide vocabulary first). Make sure you are speaking English as much as possible during your study time (and after if this is possible). Join some social programmes and get to know natives and people from other countries where the common language is English. Consider recording yourself speaking at home (and in class but make sure you get permission from anyone else being recorded)


4. Write! Cambridge University (who write the IELTS exam) have quite strict criteria for what they want in a written exam and if you don't have much experience writing essays in English (or in your own language) you'll have to learn. Make sure you put the effort into improving your writing as it's often the area where students score lowest in their tests. An IELTS class will help you with the vocabulary, grammar, and structure and once you have a pattern that works, practice as much as you can. Try to write in English as much as possible in your daily life too: this could be a study diary, a journal, letters to friends and family. Texting and emailing is good but remember the essays in the test are hand-written so you'll want to be used to doing this!

study partner

5. Find a study partner. You don't have to study on your own, in fact you can practice your speaking skills while studying with a friend. Try to find someone who doesn't speak your language so that you're forced to speak in English and if you can't, make sure you're speaking English as much as you can. Go through some past exam papers together and discuss each question, check your answers. Have your buddy check your writing and vice versa: they may have some nice phrases that you can use but be careful about plagiarism (copying). Use the speaking test as a basis for a conversation and record it.

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