Test practice is an essential part of your IELTS preparation if you want to give yourself the best chance of getting the band score you need.
But to make IELTS test practice effective, there are three common mistakes you’ll need to avoid:
Not using authentic IELTS test materials
Not reviewing your performance properly
Not planning your IELTS test practice
Read on to find out how to avoid making these mistakes and how to make the most of your test practice.
Mistake 1: Not using authentic IELTS test materials
Not all IELTS Practice tests contain the types of questions that you’ll get in your real IELTS test, and so it’s important to use test materials from trusted websites/books.
Here’s an example of some IELTS Speaking Part 1 questions from IELTS Trainer Academic 2 that are based on the types of questions you may get in your IELTS Speaking test.
Let’s talk about what you do. Do you work or are you a student?
What’s your job?
Why did you choose this kind of work?
What do you like most about your job?
What are you studying?
Why did you choose this subject / these subjects?
What do you like most about your studies?
If you do a search online for ‘IELTS Speaking questions’ (as I just did), you may well find examples that look like authentic questions but are not.
I found examples of IELTS Speaking questions on topics you wouldn’t get in a real IELTS test and examples containing grammar mistakes! If you use these to practice, you may get the wrong idea about possible IELTS Speaking topics and become confused about what grammar to use in your answers.
So, how can you tell if a practice test is authentic or not? The bad news is you may not be able to, and that’s why it’s very important to check who the test was written by.
These authentic practice tests are from Cambridge University Press.
Mistake 2: Not reviewing your performance properly
After doing an IELTS practice test, you’ll obviously want to check how many answers you got right and/or get an idea of your IELTS band score.
But if that’s all you do before doing another IELTS practice test, you’re missing an opportunity to improve your performance.
To make your test practice more effective, it’s important to think about what you did well, any problems you had and what you can do differently next time.
After doing an IELTS Speaking practice test, for example, you could ask yourself the following questions and then make a plan for next time. (I’ve included some examples of what your plan might involve below).
Why not practise now by recording yourself answering the IELTS Speaking Part 1 questions above, and then answering the reflection questions when you listen back?
Mistake 3: Not planning your IELTS test practice
Let’s say you practised the IELTS Speaking Part 1 questions above but didn’t review your performance, how would you know what you can do better next time?
If, on the other hand, you reflected on your performance, you’d have a better idea of how to improve and could then plan what to do when (or before) you practise again.
if you noticed that your answers to the speaking questions were very short, arrange for someone to practise with you and ask you follow-up questions to help you give longer answers.
if you didn’t understand a particular question, plan and practise what you’re going to do in your Speaking test if this were to happen again (i.e. learn and practise how to ask the examiner to repeat a question or explain what a word means).
if you realised you didn’t know enough vocabulary to talk about your work or study, learn more words/phrases to talk about the topic before practising it again.
So, now that you’ve seen how to avoid some common mistakes with test practice, you’re ready to do some IELTS test practice and get better results!