Like most IELTS candidates, you probably know which band score you are aiming for. Is it 5.5, 6.0 — perhaps even 7.5? But if you are going to plan your preparation properly, you also need to know how good you are now. How can you find that out?
Being successful with English, in IELTS and beyond, means finding a way to make using the language a regular part of your life. Learners often feel frustrated and lose interest in studying vocabulary when they find study materials rather boring and not connected to their own interests, but more interesting materials can difficult to find and even more difficult to understand.
To do well in IELTS, you need to understand how the test works. This is difficult to do quickly because there are so many task types, and so many sections to the test (Speaking Parts 1, 2 and 3; Writing Parts 1 and 2; and so on). Each part tests different things in different ways. So, there’s a lot to learn.
‘Reading and writing cannot be separated from each other: the more in-depth reading you do, the more in-depth writing you will eventually do.’ The University of Washington points to a clear link between reading and writing. Reading exposes you to different styles; it shows you how grammar is used correctly; and it helps you to build vocabulary and use it accurately. But to get the maximum benefit for your IELTS Writing test, you need to use reading as a source for focused writing activities. Read on for an example of how you can do this.
Many candidates find the True/ False/ Not Given question one of the most challenging tasks in the Reading test. In fact, the biggest problem is the ‘Not Given’ option. Most candidates are not used to having this option and it confuses them a lot. They spend too much time making sure that it is ‘not given’ and this affects the rest of their test.
The best listeners are engaged with whatever they are listening to. This could be a lecture at school or a conversation with a friend. Have you ever spoken to a friend and then thought, 'Oh, what did he just say?' because you were daydreaming? You weren't being a good listener! And this can happen in your IELTS test too.
An IELTS test taker asked me this question: 'In the Speaking test, I know I will be marked on how correct my grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation are. But I don’t understand what this means. Do I have to speak in the same way I would write an essay?'
There is clear evidence that learning the various task types in IELTS is the quickest and most effective way of improving your band score. We recently conducted research on over 100,000 British Council candidates using Road to IELTS (our official IELTS preparation product) to do just this. We found that after using the program for just six hours, candidates’ scores in the Reading module activities improved by, on average, 64%.
Clearly, in six hours there can be no significant change in their level of English; their improvement came from learning how to answer the questions. This can be achieved in a relatively short period of time.
For some candidates, it’s very tempting to write as much as they can in the one hour given in the Writing section — they want to really showcase their range of vocabulary and their ability to write long sentences. But do long essays really get you a better band score?
Will your culture affect your performance in IELTS Reading?
Back in 1978, researchers at the University of Illinois conducted an experiment in which they asked subjects from India and the US to read two passages: one about an Indian wedding and the other about an American wedding. They then tested their reading comprehension. They found that ‘Subjects read the native passage more rapidly, recalled a larger amount of information from the native passage, produced more culturally appropriate elaborations of the native passage, and produced more culturally based distortions of the foreign passage.’
In other words, they found that your culture does affect reading performance and the way you interpret a text.