When it comes to preparation for the IELTS test, there are many different things you need to consider. You have to practise lots of different kinds of skills and there are many different ways to do this. However, one important thing you should do from the start is assess your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you to figure out exactly how to improve.
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Read on if you want to make your IELTS studies more efficient and effective.
1. The Problem with Traditional IELTS Preparation
If you have been studying for IELTS for some time, you probably know that it is a difficult exam and that preparing for it can take a lot of time and effort. There are many reasons for this, but fundamentally it comes down to the fact that IELTS is an English test and learning any language is a long and difficult process.
Traditionally, getting ready to sit IELTS meant revising long lists of vocabulary, learning complex grammar rules, and then sitting practice tests over and over and over… Unfortunately, this is not a particularly effective way to study.
The problem with this is that, whilst you will surely learn a lot, you will not necessarily make good progress. This is because it becomes hard to tell whether you are going in the right direction or not. The result is that people often get stuck at a certain point and feel like it is impossible to progress any further. Perhaps it is easier to visualise this through a simple example:
Wangping wants to prepare for her IELTS test, so she signs up for a local IELTS school. She learns lot of vocabulary and grammar rules, becomes familiar with the ins and outs of the exam itself, and then books her test. She gets a band 6.5, which is lower than she wanted, so she continues to study for another few months and then sits the test again. Once again, she gets a band 6.5. This happens over and over. In the end, she becomes very frustrated.
What is the problem here? Well, Wangping does not know what she is doing wrong, so she cannot make any progress. Without understanding her strengths and weaknesses, she cannot hope to advance beyond her current level.
2. The Importance of Knowing your Strengths and Weaknesses
When trying to learn a language, you will soon reach a point where progress becomes slower and more difficult, and this is often because you do not have proper guidance. Proper guidance necessarily entails constructive and detailed feedback.
Imagine you are sitting the IELTS speaking test. You keep getting the same score again and again… but why? The IELTS result paper will not tell you the reason and the examiner will say nothing to you about it, either. This means you cannot understand how to improve. It seems hopeless.
If, however, they did give you proper feedback, you could immediately plan out a proper course of action. Thankfully, you can instead consult a teacher, study partner, or friend. If this person is sufficiently qualified, they can give you that valuable information and help you solve your problem.
Let’s say they pointed out that your vocabulary was very good but that you were making a lot of mistakes with articles and that you had a problem pronouncing the “th” sound. Well, this would be wonderful information to obtain because then you know exactly what you need to do in order to move forward: fix those problems!
In that situation, you would be able to go online and find a webpage that specifically teaches you the rules of article use. Then you could do some practice tests about articles. If you get questions wrong, you can keep going back to study more and more until articles are easy for you. As for the pronunciation issue, you could look up some YouTube videos to find out how to pronounce that tricky sound, then practice over and over until you can do it perfectly.
The result would be that you have eliminated the two biggest problems in your IELTS preparation! It is a huge achievement and it would set you on a course for success because those problems are likely what is holding you back from a higher score.
But it is also good to learn about the positive aspects of your English skills. Perhaps your teacher would tell you that you have an excellent grasp of verb tenses and that your intonation is quite natural. In this case, you would spend less time revising verb tenses and not worry so much about practicing intonation. Now, you can save time and energy that would otherwise have been wasted practicing those things you already knew. That time can be better spent on other areas, thus making your studies more effective.
Learning English is hard and so preparing for the IELTS test can seem like an arduous journey, but there are definitely ways to make it easier and more rewarding. Perhaps one of the most important things is figuring out what you are doing right and wrong, then using that information to guide your preparation. By doing this, you can target your mistakes and divert your time to much more effective purposes, thereby giving you the best chance of achieving a high band score. This technique should be part of everyone’s IELTS arsenal.