IELTS is growing in popularity and many people are required to get a very high score in order to work or study abroad. For example, doctors who wish to work in the UK must now obtain a minimum overall score of 7.5 and no less than 7.0 in any one part. That means that if they score 7.0 in two sections, for example, they will have to compensate for this by scoring 8.0 in the other two sections.
To achieve such a high score you need to understand the exam well. You need to understand what they are looking for in each section and how the scoring system works.
We’ve put together some advice on how to improve your score for each part of the exam.
Improve your IELTS Listening score
The Listening part of the exam can be difficult because of the lack of exposure to spoken English and the fact that in the exam you only have one opportunity to listen to the material. Here we look at various areas to help students with this part of the exam:-
- Passive and Active Listening. To improve your listening skills you should be actively listening to English. This means listening closely and trying to understand passages in depth. This will increase comprehension and depth of vocabulary.
- Familiarization with questions. It is important that you are aware of exactly how the how the questions work in relation to the passages as there are different styles of question, for example, some require you to choose the appropriate answer and others to find a word or phrase to complete a sentence.
- Accent familiarization. It is very useful to incorporate into your studies some listening to accents from other countries and from areas within those countries.
- As with all of the exam preparation some kind of study should be dedicated to the improvement of vocabulary in general in order to be more prepared for the exam so that you can obtain a better mark.
- Grammar. The grammatical structure of the texts you have to complete will give you some indication of the form of the answer. For example, whether the noun is plural or not. Sometimes it is easy to miss this in the listening.
- Spelling. This is important, as misspelt words will be considered incorrect. Some practice is required in this respect.
- Handwriting. If your handwriting is illegible, the examiner is not going to spend time trying to decipher it. Writing in capitals only may be a solution.
- Practice. As with all the parts of the exam, you must practise the listenings.
Improve your IELTS Writing score
The Writing part of the exam, especially in the Academic exam, can prove to be difficult for students. Here we focus on areas which you need to be aware to improve your score:-
- Score criteria. The Writing score is based on coherence and cohesion, lexical resource and grammatical range and accuracy.
- Coherence and cohesion. What you write must be understandable and relevant to the topic. The information or argument must be organised into well-ordered paragraphs. It must include linking words and phrases and referencing devices (pronouns, determiners).
- Lexical resource. You must show a wide range of vocabulary (phrases, collocations, fixed expressions). The ability to paraphrase is very important. You must be able to show different ways of expressing the same things.
- Grammatical range and accuracy. The Writing must include more complex grammatical structures, such as inversions, for the score to be improved. These structures should also be used as correctly as possible.
- Scoring. It is useful to be aware of the scoring spilt between the tasks. Part 1 30% and Part 2 70%. You must take this into account when planning the time to be spent on the tasks.
- Academic Writing Task 1. Attention must be paid to structure, the ability to summarise and the focus on data and the detail in the data.
- Writing Task 2. Focus on the instructions, on expressing ideas, on giving examples and on supporting arguments.
- Word count. As there is only a minimum number of words required, you must be careful not to write too many words. An examiner is less likely to pay so much attention to a long piece of writing and you are giving yourself an opportunity to make more mistakes.
Improving IELTS Reading score
The Reading part of the IELTS exam is varied in context and in style of question. To help you improve your Reading score you need to look at the following areas:-
- Skills for each type of question. There are 14 types of question in the IELTS exam. They all require different approaches to answering. For example, the True False Not Given question requires a certain strategy – it is important not to make assumptions about the subject, read the text closely to identify certain words that affect the meaning and concentrate on matching meaning and not words.
- Skimming and Scanning. The ability to look over a text and obtain information without reading the text in detail is helpful for extracting information to answer IELTS questions.
- Speed reading skills. This must be practised to cope with the amount of reading required in the exam.
- Develop vocabulary. A wide range of vocabulary is important. It is useful to develop some strategies to improve your general vocabulary in order to improve your chances in the exam.
- Key words. Identifying key words is a useful way of focusing on what the question is asking for.
- Grammar. The grammar of a sentence will often help you when trying to find an answer. For example, articles will help you regarding nouns being plural or singular.
- Know your weaknesses. This will help you focus on what to improve in order to help you in the exam. For example, if you find you don’t have enough time, you will need to improve your reading speed.
- Training plan. You should be considering some organization to help you with your study. A plan for you to follow would help you improve in the areas in which you have difficulty.
- Practice. Exam practice will familiarize you fully with the exam, allow you to practise your timing for each exercise and improve your vocabulary.
Improve your Speaking score
The Speaking part of the exam is often the part that most students fear. It is the skill that most people feel less confident about and this affects their performance. In order to improve your speaking for the IELTS exam you need to concentrate on the following areas:-
- Range of vocabulary. Making your vocabulary range wider is important. There are certain phrases you can incorporate to make your spoken English sound more natural. Phrases for thinking time or difficult questions. You can expand your vocabulary through some study and reading of the typical topics that come up in the exam.
- Sentence structure. Some more complex grammatical structures used in the speaking will be reflected in a higher score.
- Practice. Getting into the habit of thinking and talking about the typical topics in the exam will help you prepare and finding someone to speak to regularly will also improve your fluency.
- Extending answers. The examiners will expect you to develop your answers as this will give them an opportunity to fully evaluate your spoken English.
- Concentration. Focus on the subject. If you start talking about other things not related to the question, you will lose marks.
- Test structure. You must be fully aware of the format of the test and know what you are expected to do.
- Marking of the exam. You should be familiar with what the examiners are listening for.
- Fluency – length of answer, hesitation, periods of silence
- Vocabulary – range, paraphrasing, mistakes
- Grammar – Range of tenses, structure, mistakes
- Pronunciation – words, sounds, intonation