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How to achieve your IELTS target scores

IELTS consists of three written tests (Listening, Reading, and Writing; 2 hours and 40 minutes in all) and a speaking test.

education Updated: Nov 28, 2018 15:00 IST
Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri
Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
International English Language Testing System,IELTS,IELTS scores
IELTS offers you two options: the Academic module and the General Training module(Hindustan Times File Photo)

Most people who take the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam do not get more than two months to prepare. IELTS consists of three written tests (Listening, Reading, and Writing; 2 hours and 40 minutes in all) and a speaking test, where you face an interviewer for 11-14 minutes. Also, IELTS offers you two options: the Academic module and the General Training module. If you weren’t sure which one to take, check with the authorities who you are interacting with in your quest to study / work abroad. Make sure you do not prepare for the wrong module!

Second, IELTS results are given in Band Scores from 1 to 9 for each test, besides an overall score. A candidate who scores 9 is an expert user with “fully operational command of the language.” For lower bands, the requirements are progressively lighter. Often, a university stipulates that candidates should score say, 7.5 overall, and minimum 7 in each test. Therefore, you must find out what scores you should aim at.

Next, do some research online. The IELTS is jointly owned by Cambridge University, the British Council, and IDP Australia. Go to their websites and check the band descriptors for Speaking and Writing.

That brings us to the fourth point. The Internet is overflowing with study / practice materials for IELTS. Go to a reliable site like the ones I have mentioned. Or better, get an authentic guide (textbook) published by a reputable international publisher. Go through the relevant pages of the book / website and thoroughly understand the patterns of each test. Next, simulate an exam-like atmosphere at home and take a (diagnostic) mock test from the book. (You get free tests online too.) You won’t be able judge your own writing, but you will get a feel of the task ahead. With regard to the listening and reading tests (each with total marks of 40), you can find out where exactly you stand. Refer to the key at the back of the book and check your score in the mock test. Then convert this raw score into band score by referring to: https://www.ielts.org/ielts-for-organisations/ielts-scoring-in-detail

This exercise will give you another opportunity to check if you are ready for the test. If you believe you are “somewhere there”, follow the advice given below. However, if you are far away, do not rush to the exam hall. For example, if your aim is to score 7, and your speaking ability and listening / reading scores match what is required for 5, it will be a tall order to improve your language by two levels in a few months. In that scenario, work on your basic language skills and take the IELTS when you are ready. This suggestion may not be pleasant, but it is good. If you decide to go ahead, follow the lessons in the authentic IELTS guide and learn the techniques that help you score better. Equally importantly, practise extensively. To practise speaking, get an interlocutor to work with. For the rest, use the exercises and test papers in the book. For more practice, procure question papers published by Cambridge University Press or IDP Australia.

(The author is an IELTS trainer and has co-written IELTS Academic: Preparation and Practice, published by Oxford University Press)

First Published: Nov 28, 2018 10:57 IST