The IELTS test is difficult and frustrating for many candidates, but part of the problem is the number of misconceptions floating around. People simply don’t know what they should and shouldn’t do in this test, and so they make lots of mistakes. When the examiners see these, they give the candidate a lower score.
In this article, I’m going to share with you 5 common mistakes made by IELTS test takers. Read these and then apply them to your IELTS preparation for the best chance of a great score.
1. Trying to learn “magic words”
One of the biggest problems with IELTS General Training and Academic is the unqualified advice by many that use of exotic words ensures score higher bands.
But could that really work?
Imagine someone speaking your native language. Now imagine that they have no grasp of grammar but keep repeating several strange words… It wouldn’t make any sense! Yet somehow people think that they can ace the IELTS test by simply memorising a few random words.
This is perhaps the biggest problem with IELTS and it is something that you need to avoid right now. If anyone tells you to learn a certain group of words in order to get a better score, they probably do not have in-depth knowledge of the IELTS exam and you should avoid them.
2. Taking shortcuts
Related to the above mistake, people often try to learn too quickly. They speak a little English, so they think “I will learn some tips and tricks to help me pass my exam!” and then they go into the IELTS test totally unprepared.
The reason why IELTS is so popular around the world is that you cannot fool the examiners. You simply can’t pretend that you speak English well when you really don’t. No “magic words” or “amazing tricks” will catapult you from a band 5 to a band 8 overnight.
Learning a language takes time and effort. If you are willing to invest these things, you will definitely succeed in the long run, but it takes patience too. When you try to take shortcuts and avoid the hard work, you will just waste your money by sitting the exam when you are not ready.
3. Taking the test over and over
All around the world, people book their IELTS test when they are not ready for it. They sit the exam hoping to get a band 7 or 8, then score just band 6. Their immediate reaction is to book another test date and try again.
This is crazy! It is a really, really bad idea.
Imagine you want to lose weight because you have gotten a little fat over the holidays. You weigh yourself but your weight is too high. Do you think that weighing yourself again will help? Not unless you have spent a long time dieting and exercising!
It is true for language as well. If you got a band 6, it could take a long time to increase your score to a band 7 or 8, so don’t just book another test and try again. It is purely a waste of money and could not possibly result in success.
4. Obsessing over accents
In many different parts of the world, people fixate upon learning English with a British or American accent. They struggle for years to adopt this accent, yet they are simply wasting their time. It will not help them and they will probably never succeed.
There are two things to consider here:
- You do not need a certain accent in order to do well in the IELTS speaking test. In fact, accents are not really considered at all. The only important thing is that the examiner can easily understand what you are saying. Even if you have a noticeable accent from China or Mexico or France, it doesn’t matter as long as you can convey a clear meaning.
- You probably will never learn to adopt a new accent. Our accents are the result of speaking a language over many years. Children invariably learn the accent of their region and then carry it throughout adulthood. It may shift over those years, but it will not change much after age of twenty. If you try to adopt an English or American accent, it will just sound fake and silly. It might even make you harder to understand.
As such, you should not worry about learning an accent and instead concentrate on speaking clearly and precisely.
5. Writing too much or too little
When it comes to the IELTS writing test, there are many challenges to deal with. There’s spelling, structure, grammar, and punctuation… It can be overwhelming!
People who are very confident in their English skills tend to write vast essays filled with lots of detail. They are subscribed to the viewpoint of “More is better.” However, this is actually not true for IELTS. You should be aware that your mistakes add up and thus writing more will result in a larger number of mistakes. This will cause your score to decline.
On the other hand, some people take the opposite approach. They realise that in a long essay they will have too many errors, so they write a very short one. This can backfire because their ideas will not have enough development to get a high score for Task Achievement.
So what is the best practice?
You should aim to write about 260-290 words for IELTS writing task 2. This will allow you to develop your ideas sufficiently without going completely overboard. It will let you have some time at the end for checking your essay, which should help you to find and change some mistakes, too.
The IELTS test is difficult but you can give yourself a better chance of success by avoiding the 5 common mistakes that I have listed above. Please ignore terrible advice that you find online about shortcuts and essential vocabulary. Instead, focus on a common sense approach that requires extended periods of effort to systematically improve your language abilities over time. There are no such things as quick fixes when it comes to learning a language.