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IELTS Reading: Retaking the test

IELTS Reading: What to do when retaking the test

Many candidates say that they find it very difficult retaking the IELTS test — they cannot figure out what went wrong in their last test. Re-sitting the test can be a stressful experience, particularly for candidates who take IELTS for immigration or college applications. Take a look at these three tips to achieve the best possible band score.

Be mentally prepared

Stress can be your worst enemy in exams if you do not know how to handle it — uncontrolled stress will eventually turn into fear and stop your brain from thinking critically in the test. Stress, however, can be turned positive, keep you on your toes, sharpen your senses and help you stay focused. In this TED talk, psychologist Kelly McGonigal says moderate stress may help with learning.

When you are retaking the test, instead of thinking about the consequences of failing to achieve your desired band score, try to pay attention to your time management and think about the strategies that you have prepared for the test. Making your stress work in your favour is actually quite similar to how a race car driver pushes their limit: you cannot slow down, and you cannot let your fear interfere with precision.

Give it time

If possible, it is always better to give it at least six months before retaking your IELTS test, especially when your actual band score is significantly lower than your expectation. Although there are some ‘quick fixes’ that can help you in the short term, some skills, such as vocabulary, take a lot of effort to improve. More often than not, candidates are well-prepared in terms of exam strategies, but they overlook the importance of good grammar and vocabulary. You’ll want to enter your next test with plenty of new and useful words — identifying, memorising, and understanding new words takes time.  

Make the most of your last test

We have said this many times, but do allow me to remind you again: the experience of taking an IELTS test already gives you a very big advantage. You are now familiar with the test formats, the question-types and, perhaps most importantly, your weak areas. Think about the three sections in the Reading test — did you have enough time to complete all three sections comfortably? Was there a topic (e.g. science, history, etc.) that was significantly harder than the rest? Think these over, and you should have a clearer idea of what and how to prepare for your next IELTS test.

Need more suggestions? Take a look at seven other tips to improve your IELTS band score.


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