Recently, I have taken the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test. The official result is not out yet, but I think it went quite smoothly. During my preparation, many friends have shared their learning resources and experience with me. So, in turn, I would like to help those who are going to sit the test by sharing my own resources and experience. I truly hope that you will find post useful.
Test format and preparation course:
First of all, test candidates should at least be familiar with the test format. Check out http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/exams/ielts/test-format/ for details about test.
In addition, there is a free “IELTS Academic Test Preparation” course on Edx that you can enroll. I took the course and it was a big help.
Excerpt from the course’s intro:
Each section of this course includes engaging multi-media presentations reviewing key test-taking skills, strategies and techniques. These are accompanied by a wide variety of authentic IELTS-style exercises and interactive activities that provide focused practice of the skills, strategies and techniques that you need to perform at your best.
The next most important factor when learning a new language, in my opinion, is vocabulary. In all four of the IELTS tests, “Lexical Resources” is listed as an assessment criteria.
If you are at beginner to intermediate level and want to increase your “lexical resources”, I recommend taking notes of the words that you see or hear most often; and then review them regularly. In my early days learning English, I paid close attention new words that are in the Oxford 3000 common word list.
Please also note down the sample sentences in which you found the vocabulary. Learning a vocabulary without knowing how to use it is useless. Learn its pronunciation, too. Otherwise, you won’t recognize the word when you hear it. Check out youglish.com. It searches YouTube for videos that contain a certain word. With this, you learn not only the pronunciation, but also how the vocabulary is used by native speakers.
For more advanced learners, I heard that Verbal Advantage is quite decent.
Speaking has always been a challenge for us ESL (English as a Second Language) students. There are so many aspects that we need to pay attention to in order to speak well: pronunciation, grammar, stress, fluency, and more. I believe the reason why speaking is so challenging for us lies in how we learn English. While children learn their first language by listening to and mimicking the adults, ESL students often find themselves stringing words together to form perfect sentences. This impedes our ability to speak naturally.
For people who can speak English somewhat fluently, but still want to improve their accents, take a look at Ben Franklin exercises.
Finally, for those who are going to take the IELTS speaking test soon, check out https://www.hearmetalk.net/ielts. This website contains some practice speaking tests that you can do. It also allows you to record your own answers and playback for self-evaluation.
My exam tips :)
- Practice sample tests before sitting your IELTS test. Try to mimic the real test environment as much as possible. Time yourself. You can find test samples from the Cambridge IELTS series.
- For reading and listening, remember that answer keys will appear in the same order as the questions.
- For reading tasks, read the title first, then the questions, then scan the text for answers.
- For writing, time yourself well. 20 mins for task 1, 40 mins for task 2. In task 1, 15-17 mins for writing and 3-5 mins for reviewing. In task 2, 5 mins outlining, 30 mins writing, 5 mins reviewing.
- Extend your answers in speaking and writing with PREP (Point: state the point, Reason: give reasons, Example: give examples, Point: rephrase the point).