You perform well in class. You understand the IELTS question types. You’ve worked through the IELTS prep books. But studies show that this doesn’t mean you will do well in the IELTS test itself. Why is this?
Dr Sian Beilock, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, studied why people perform badly in stressful situations such as exams. She found that exam stress takes up your working memory — the part of your mind you use to focus on the questions. As a result, you perform worse than you would in a less stressful environment, such as the classroom or at home.
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.
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?