The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is a great way to certify your level of English proficiency and to improve your professional and educational prospects in English speaking countries. Over 8,000 institutions in over 130 countries accept the IELTS results. More than two million students take the exam each year.
The IELTS is designed to measure your comprehension and communication capabilities in the English language. There are four sections in the exam - speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The IELTS exam also assesses your understanding of English grammar and range of vocabulary.
The scoring of the exam is done on a scale of 0 to 9, where an IELTS score of 9 indicates that you are an expert in the English language. Most institutions that accept IELTS require a minimum score of 5.5 or 6.5.
You can choose between two IELTS formats - the General IELTS and the Academic IELTS. The general version of IELTS will improve your chances of finding work in English-speaking countries such as the U.K, the U.S, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa. A good grade in the Academic IELTS will boost your chances of admission to Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD courses in universities across the world.
There are other benefits as well of preparing for the IELTS.
Taking the IELTS will give you an objective assessment of your English language capabilities.
Preparing for the exam itself will improve your existing English proficiency skills
It will give you a good idea of the level of English expected from graduate and postgraduate students at international universities, as well as employers in English speaking countries.
A low score in your first IELTS exam attempt will motivate you to study hard and improve your English language skills.
Preparing for the IELTS
The IELTS in India is conducted by the British Council, with tests being held in over 40 Indian cities. There are several test dates each month, and you can check the availability for your location via the British Council Website.
The IELTS test is not cheap; it costs INR 11,300 to register for the IELTS in India. To ensure that get a good score in your first attempt at the IELTS, follow these IELTS preparation tips.
BEFORE taking the IELTS:
1. Visit the IELTS official website to gather information on the test format, types of questions, the time limit for each section, the scoring method, and other important aspects of the test such as ‘when and how’ to register for the exam. You will also find some IELTS sample questions on the website.
2. Approach your local British Council office for more resources such as books and videos on IELTS preparation. Check for IELTS training courses conducted by the British Council.
3. Understand the rules of the test before you attempt the first sample paper. Complete the first sample paper as if it's your actual IELTS exam. Once you receive the score for the first sample paper, analyse which sections and subsections you found the most challenging, as well as the parts of the exam where you felt you had done well but failed to score high points. An honest assessment of your existing level of English proficiency will help in carving out your improvement strategy.
4. Focus on your weakness areas. For instance, if you scored significantly lower on English writing compared to the other sections, then you need to devote more time to developing your writing skills.
5. At the same time understand the scoring methodology. Be strong in your listening and reading skills. The writing and speaking sections are graded subjectively, which means it's going to be difficult to get near perfect marks.
6. As with giving any exam, time management is crucial while attempting the IELTS. Even native English-speakers may find it difficult to attempt all the questions within the stipulated time. Improve your speed of completing the exam by attempting successive mock papers, especially in the weeks leading up to your exam date.
7. Chart a plan to improve your English-speaking skills. Work with a mentor or a private tutor to boost your self-confidence in speaking in English.
8. Connect with others who have taken the exam. Ask them what is the one thing they would have done differently either during their IELTS preparation or while giving the exam.
DURING the IELTS exam
9. Be mentally prepared to have a long day of testing. The Listening, Reading, and Writing Tests, (which last for 2 hours and 30 minutes) are held in one go and usually in the morning. The Speaking Test may be held a couple of hours later in the afternoon at an appointed time. To maintain your energy level through the day, ensure that you get a good night's sleep and eat well before the test.
10. Even if the questions look familiar to the ones you have attempted in the sample papers, read the instructions carefully before answering.
11. In the writing section, use the appropriate writing style. For instance, use formal language for writing formal letters and avoid the use of slang words or abbreviations.
12. There is no right or wrong answer in the writing section. You are being assessed on your ability to express and not your opinion/ideas, so try to complete all the questions.
13. In the speaking section, the more you talk, the higher the score. But ensure that you stay on topic. To avoid deviating from the topic, listen to yourself as you speak.
Preparation and self-confidence will help you as you head for the exam, but this must be matched with attention to detail during the exam. Your main aim should be to answer 'what is being asked' as you complete the various sections within the stipulated time.