We all know that the IELTS is not the easiest English test out there. Indeed, after taking it twice, I could say that it is one of the most difficult. It is used by governments and academic institutions to prove your English proficiency so you can be sure that the standards are high. I have seen many people repeatedly fail 1 at IELTS because they usually underestimate the test and many times overestimate their knowledge.
Use the following 5 signs to know if you need to take a preparation course before taking the IELTS test.
Sign # 1
Context: During the listening module, you’ll have to provide answers to 40 questions throughout 4 recordings. The recordings will be played only once, and you’ll be required to answer those questions on-the-fly. Typical questions include sentence completion, summary completion, form completion and multiple choice.
Sign: If you feel that you lack the necessary speed, accuracy and focus when multitasking in English, you need an IELTS preparation course.
How the course can help: Before each recording, you will have some time to read the questions. You need to know in advance what information you are expected to supply depending upon the question. Is it a number, a name, an address? You will learn this in the course.
Also, it is not surprising to get lost during a conversation, but you need to recover fast or you will miss all the questions of that task afterwards. This would be a disaster. In the course, you will be taught how to follow a conversation even if you miss something and how you can recover to continue answering the next questions.
Sign # 2
Context: The reading module consists of 40 questions (both academic and general training) spread across three sections. The purpose of this module is to test a wide range of reading skills such as reading for gist, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument, and recognising writers’ opinions, attitudes and purpose.
Test takers have to provide short answers, match information, complete sentences, match headings or complete diagram labels.
Sign: If you are not familiar with these types of questions, or if you are trying to read these texts as you normally read a book, an IELTS course will definitely help you get a higher score in this band.
How the course can help: You don’t have the time to go through the texts several times. There are strategies to help you to avoid this situation. You will learn, for example, how to skim the text and on what kind of information you need to focus.
Additionally, in the course you will practice a lot the different types of questions and you will get used to them. This will save you a lot of time.
I personally found to be very difficult the type of questions that are True/False/Not given; but after doing many teacher-assisted exercises, the difference became much clearer.
Sign # 3
Context: The writing module is perhaps the one that most people struggle with. It has two tasks: in the first (academic training), you will be asked to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process and how something works or describe an object or event. You need to do this in 150 words.
In the second task, you will be asked to write an essay (250 words) in response to a point of view, argument or problem. Both tasks in the academic training must be written in a formal style.
Sign: If you don’t know what a formal style is like, or if you feel like you know the answer but struggle to find appropriate and assertive English terms, you will benefit from taking an IELTS preparation course.
How the course can help: Describing and explaining data requires practice. Even if you are an expert at doing this, you may struggle when trying to do it in English. In the IELTS course, you will learn the most appropriate language to do it. You will also practice the different types of charts (line graphs, bar charts, pie charts, tables, multiple data sources, processes, diagrams) so that you get used to them and will not, therefore, be surprised in the test.
Truth must be told. Writing Task 2 is not easy at all. First, because the topic given can be hard to develop if you are not familiar with it. You might have an idea but remember, you need to develop it in 250 words and you only have 40 minutes. Second, because the essay must have a proper structure, you cannot write everything that comes to mind. In an IELTS course, you will learn what the structure of an essay is, how to develop it, how to write the introduction and conclusion, and so on. You will also learn how to connect your ideas using proper English. Additionally, you will practice writing about topics that are common on the IELTS so you become familiar with them.
Moreover, you will learn and practice the different types of essays that commonly come up on IELTS: Agree or Disagree, Discuss two Opposing Opinions, Advantages and Disadvantages, Problems and Solutions, Causes and Solutions, Causes and Effects.
Last but not least, the main advantage of the course is that a teacher will correct your mistakes and will show you how to improve your writing.
Sign # 4
Context: The fourth and final module is there to assess your speaking skills. This test is less than 15 minutes long and is split into three parts. The first 5 minutes are reserved for introduction and general topics between the test taker and the examiner. The second part assesses the test taker’s ability to speak about a random topic given on a task card. The last part merely adds complexity to the second. At this stage, the examiner will also pay attention to pronunciation, lexical resource and fluency.
Sign: If you lack fluency or coherence in direct communication, you need some practice. This module is all about repetition. Repetition, repetition, repetition!
How the course can help: In an IELTS course, your pronunciation will be improved with the assistance of the teacher.
You will practice under the exam conditions and will get used to the pressure you will have during the test. You will learn how to write down the notes that will help you to talk for two minutes during the second part of the test.
You will practice answering questions when you don’t really know the answer. Remember that your knowledge is not assessed but your English language proficiency.
Sign # 5
Context: The IELTS test has a time limit and you will only have the time given for each module. After that time, you need to leave your pencil on the table and you will not be able to continue. The IELTS examiners will proceed to collect the sheets before giving out the ones for the next module.
Sign: If you cannot finish each module due to the time limitation, or if you cannot concentrate accordingly due to the timing pressure, you need an IELTS course.
How the course can help: in an IELTS course, you will learn how to approach each section of the test to avoid problems with the time limit. If you are having problems with it, perhaps you are spending too much time in the reading section that can be reduced considerable by employing certain strategies. Perhaps, you are spending too much time thinking about what to write in task 2; but if you spend some time planning, you can reduce it. Your IELTS teacher will help you identify all these problems and teach you how to overcome them.
Most common mistakes on IELTS exams include:
● Answering in more words than instructed
● Writing shorter essays than required
● Writing longer essays to score higher
● Not studying the questions
● Leaving blanks
● Overuse of transitions
If you struggle to refrain from these mistakes, you definitely need an expert by your side.
1Technically, you can’t fail at IELTS because the results are reported on a 9-band scale (1 being the lowest, 9 being the highest). However, this is not entirely true because you did fail, for example, if the University you wish to attend requires an IELTS band 7 and you scored 6.5.