I received the result of my IELTS test taken on the 13th of February, 2020 last week and to say I was overjoyed would be understating the emotions I felt. Besides joy, I felt gratitude – a big one – to God, my friends who believed in me (especially the one that gladly reviewed my writing until it was perfect), and the friend whom I both studied and passed the exam with. Above all, I was glad that I was a testament to all coming behind me that success – not merely in IELTS, but anything they set their mind to do – is achievable with determination and hard work.
Prior to taking my test, even when I was unsure about towing this present path, my friends had communicated to me their belief in my command of the English language; most had no doubt that I would ace the exam. I could see why. The writing section of IELTS often poses an impediment to most persons. By their judgment, my writing would easily scale me past this. Even though it felt good to receive such feedback, it made me a bit uneasy – I didn’t want to disappoint them. I had heard tales of many persons, the skilled ones inclusive, retaking the test. That notwithstanding, I was committed to being both diligent and humble to put in the work and learn, and I am glad the way things turned out.
This is the first step for any prospective IELTS test taker. After deciding to take the test, I contacted a friend who had sat for the test and asked him to put me through. He told me about the different sections and made study recommendations, including website links, Youtube pages and a Telegram group that had a bunch of materials in their media. I found it overwhelming and perplexing, and for a moment I thought, ‘It’s so confusing. Why bother?’
I reverted to his messages a number of times and when I finally picked up a Cambridge text to practise, the nature of the exam was explained in the introductory part of the text, and I was able to understand the test better.
So, my advice at this stage is simple:
- Ask; ask a friend who has written the test or google what the test entails.
- Start; pick up any study material of your choice and start looking through.
- Keep going; things will become clearer and easier as you go. Keep going.
Choosing Your Study Material
There are a ton of materials, tips, tricks, and guides for passing the IELTS test available online. Some come at you unsolicitedly. Finding the best resource – one that suits you best – will prove helpful in the end.
I started practising for the reading and listening sections using the Cambridge text proposed by my friend but later ditched it for ieltsonlinetests.com website. This was because the tests on the website are automatically timed, unlike the situation where I set the time myself and I am able to pause and start the timer at will. In addition to this, the results at the end of the test are shown as band scores. Before then, I marked myself and didn’t know the equivalent of my score in bands, not adding the prejudice that marking myself brought into the mix. Close to the time of my exam, I started joining their online classes on Zoom, which can be registered for on their home page, and watching their Youtube videos when I missed a class or a class I would have loved to join that held earlier.
Another helpful website was ieltsliz.com. I read as much of her articles as I could and watched a few of her videos. Over the years, she has written different articles that provide an answer to any question you might have. On her site, I learned about the marking criteria for writing. Also, I found the speaking part 1 and 2 topics listed helpful. I prepared using them and occasionally read the Makkar book. Additionally, I practised with friends who gave me feedback and by myself, recording, listening to the playback and noting areas for improvement. I took note of the marking criteria for speaking and tailored my preparation along the line.
IELTS Buddy step-by-step guide to writing a task 2 essay and Kenny’s writing task 1 and 2 ebook were other wonderful tools. On some days, I felt overloaded with information and merely glossed over, but I would find myself applying the knowledge gained from it in the subsequent essays I wrote. As a result, and with the corrections and suggestions my friend made, my essay writing became easier and read better.
When To Book Your Test
I will say this: Book your test when you are ready. There is no need rushing only to get less than your desired band score and writing again. It can be demoralising and saddening and take you a while to start studying afresh. Nevertheless, don’t wait until you are perfect to book.
It typically takes 4 – 6 weeks to acquaint oneself with the exam and be ready to pass the exam or less, depending on the individual’s level of proficiency. Also, it is a wise thing to sort out your international passport early enough as that can cause unplanned delays; it is the only acceptable identification means for registration and access into the test hall.
For me, once I started getting 8/8.5 consistently in my reading and listening, I knew I was ready. I could also have booked my test a week earlier than I did, but I knew my writing needed some improvement. I was yet to master writing the IELTS way. The extra days gave me time to boost my performance.
My friend who assisted with reviewing my essay replied this way at one time, ‘You know what delights me most? You take corrections and surpass my expectations.’ The remark lifted my confidence and I knew I could write a good essay on any topic.
To sum it up, I would say, “Practice! Practice! Practice!” Practise different essay types both for task 1 and 2. IELTS is easy to pass when you study rightly.
To pay for coaching or not?
The decision to join a paid class or have a paid review of your writing and or speaking is up to you and depends on your level of mastery. While you can prepare on your own for the reading and listening tests, you often need a friend or a coach to review your essays and practise your speaking. You should go for it if you need it and have the time and money.
I wish you success in your exam. Please, share this post with someone who might find it helpful. Moreover, feel free to ask me any question you might have in the comments. If you need any further assistance, I will be happy to help.