Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How to Prepare for IELTS Test

The other day, I received a phone call from Cambodian Mekong University asking me to take the IELTS test. I got the call 12 hours before I took the exam. The night before the test, I had to teach a new class in another school. I've got no time to prepare for the IELTS test. However, before I went to bed that night, I tried to surf on the web what IELTS exam is about. I've got some ideas what it is but no time to prepare. Because I've been speaking English for the last 20 years, I am confident that I would do well on the test. 

Yesterday, I took the test with confidence along with two other nationalities. While the test was not as difficult as I thought it would be, the allotted time given was pretty limited. I think I did pretty well on the Listening and Writing parts, but I probably did not do well on the Reading. Although, I read tons of books and articles in the last 20 years, I read them for pleasure, information, etc. The IELTS reading test is different because there are questions to answer and the allotted time is limited. The reading is not just for comprehension alone; your comprehension is not the only thing being tested but also your reading speed. If you read fast enough to find the right answer to the questions, you will do well. Even if you understand the the text well, but if you cannot find the right answers fast enough, you will not get a high score.

On the listening module, you have to listen carefully and answer the question at the same time. Pay attention because you will hear it once. Once you missed it, it’s gone; it won't be repeated!

As I was cramming, trying to find the answers, the examiner announced, "Time is up"! Up to now, I am curious what the result would be! 
The funny thing about IELTS is I've never heard the word not until 3 months ago when Mr. Norng Sokha, the director of Mekong School of English, have asked me to teach an IELTS Foundation course at Cambodian Mekong University. I declined due to my busy schedule. What is IELTS by the way, it is an acronym for International English Language Testing System. Depending on your purpose for taking the IELTS, you have a choice either to take Academic or General Training.

To those who are preparing to take IELTS test, here are some I-E-L-T-S tips for you....

I-Interview others who have already taken the IELTS test. Get as many information as you can from them to help you on your preparation. 

E-Expect the unexpected and the expected. On your preparation, it is important to prepare what to expect. Never take things for granted. Don't assume, for example, that graph or chart will not come up on the test. When I took the writing part of the test, there are two parts to it. One is to write a report by summarizing and contrasting a given chart about something (150 words), and the other one is to write 250 words on a given topic. Prior to the test, I didn't know there are two sets of the writing task on the test. 

L-Listen to English speakers on TV, radio, internet, or in person. Try to listen mostly to British or Australian accent. The IELTS test is administered by British and Australian organizations, thus the English accent on the listening part of the test is 'pretty British' I'd say. 

T-Test yourself before the actual test. Do some practice exam. There are available tests on the internet; try some of them. I wish I had time to do this before the exam. Furthermore, try to learn the mechanics of the test from online resources. There is tons of information on the web about IELTS. YouTube alone has more than enough videos about IELTS. Use them for your preparation. As part of your preparation, spend time on reading difficult articles. 

S-Speak English often. As you probably already know, there are four modules of the IELTS test: Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking. This is why fluency is important to get a high band score. However, don't worry about the speaking part of the test if you are already fluent in English. Fluency and grammatical accuracy is the key in getting a high mark on the speaking part. 

This is enough as there is more important information out there you need to read. I've given this tips not because I've done it myself but because I didn't do it due to time constraint. 

For a concluding thought, nothing can take the place of preparation, and to have a high mark, preparation is not done overnight. Preparation is a process-done in a long time!