Travel & Tips

Tips for taking IELTS test

Nadja Ebner

15 Jan 18 · 5 min read

At the beginning of December, I decided it’s time to do IELTS test. I was postponing it for months. But if I wish to live and work in New Zealand I need to present an official score of my English knowledge. It was time to stop procrastinating. I selected the date and paid the fee for the academic format. OMG, it’s happening!

I only had less than one month of preparation time. I read, write and speak English anyhow because I am currently located in Malta. But I needed to practice on tests that are in form like on IELTS. When I paid the fee, I got online access to exercises for all components: reading, speaking, writing and listening. They are valuable because you get a direct insight how the test looks.


My recommendations for all who will take this test in the future:

Print out exercise sheets and behave like you are already taking the official test.

That means that you sit down for almost three hours (time yourself) and go through tasks for listening, reading and writing. I think that the most challenging part of this exam is keeping the concentration for such an extended period. Be aware that there are no brakes in between. You cannot go to the toilet, when you, for example, finish listening part and waiting for organizers to deliver reading sheets. They allow you to use the restroom only during the test (not when they explain, give out the paper or last ten minutes of the test), but you are already so tight with time, you probably wouldn’t want to lose a minute of it. So my suggestion is: train your bladder how to hold water for three hours straight.

Listening part:

  • Train how to listen to a conversation and write/read at the same time.
  • Don’t forget to practice spelling. (They will likely to spell the address in the first part, and you need to write it down correctly.)
  • Practice how to write dates. Be careful how you write plural. (I made a silly mistake when I needed to write down the plural of spice, and instead of spices, I wrote spicies.)
  • It is not enough that you recognize the correct word that is missing, you need to write it correctly.

Reading part:

  • Practice your fast reading. That means that you practice how to scan the text with your eyes and you form a basic idea what it is about. Then go through questions and return to the passage to find the answers. With ‘scanning’ the text before you read questions, you’ll get a basic idea where to search for the correct answer.
  • Note the time. It is important that you don’t spend more than 20 min on one text because you’ll run out of time.
  • Don’t be indecisive. Weighing between different answers will take too much of your time.
  • When you read the text, underline essential information, also names of people and companies if they are mentioned. It will help you locate specific information quickly.

Writing part:

  • Start with second part of two writing tasks. You get double points for it, so it’s more important to write it well.
  • Make bullet points for part 2 what you’ll write. Create an idea in your head what you wish to tell - what is your point. Your structure will be nicer if you’ll know from the start where you’re headed.
  • Don’t forget to make paragraphs.
  • Practice how to include words like: however, furthermore, on the other hand, etc. in your writing. They are crazy about transition words :)
  • Don’t spend more than 40 min on the second task.
  • When you go to the task 1, first take a good look at the graph - you need to understand what it shows.
  • Don’t complicate with tenses. To describe a chart, you’ll need present simple or past simple if it’s about events in the past.
  • Memorize different words to describe the graph (decline, incline, grow, fall, rise, decrease, etc.) Try not to repeat.
  • Practice writing at home. Write 150 words and 250 words, so you’ll get the ideas how long they should be. You won’t have time to count the words, but you’ll know when it’s enough if you practice.

Speaking part:

I had my speaking test three days before all others. I was terrified of it. The worst thing I imagined that could happen is to choke when I need to talk. I was practicing my speaking with native English speaker (which was humiliating experience by itself because I started to panic). She suggested (and that is a good one) that I shouldn’t complicate. I need to make my sentences short, clear and simple. I studied philosophy, and if someone asks me a question, a simple answer is the last thing that comes to my mind. But for this test forget how smart you can be and just give simple answers. It’s less likely you’ll make a mistake. That doesn’t mean you answer with yes or no - God forbid! I mean, you just don’t need to make the science out of the question, what is for you a healthy diet. It doesn’t matter what you say. It doesn’t need to be smart. You can talk whatever you want as long as you talk. They are evaluating your language skills, not your general knowledge. Don’t freak out if they ask you something you never even thought about. Imagine what your friend would say.

Pretending to be someone else is actually not a bad idea. Because I was so nervous already a week before the oral test, I decided that I will leave my scared self at home and take with me that outgoing, energetic and courageous fellow. I asked my friend if I can borrow her clothes to wear. She was super excited because she likes to dress people in crazy outfits. She transformed me, and I was glowing with a different attitude (my guy said I was dressed as an elegant hippie). When I walked into the building where I had my oral exam, listening to the sound of my high heels, I was confident.

I am still waiting for the results, but I am satisfied no matter the outcome. I overcame my fears and managed to speak about myself and my ideas with confidence.

Another thing: When you are waiting for your turn to take a test, chat with others who are waiting. It will help you relax a bit. Chat in English of course :)

I wish you the best of luck if you are on the path to rule on your IELTS!

Edited: 4 months ago by Nadja Ebner

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