Top 3 strategies from a successful IELTS candidate
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Top 3 strategies from a successful IELTS candidate

What are the best strategies to get the IELTS band score you need? What do a sloth and an ant have to do with IELTS? Is it a good idea to study with another IELTS candidate? These are some of the questions I am going to answer today. In 2011 I was an IELTS candidate, just like you. Although I didn’t really need to sit the exam for any particular purpose, I was very determined to get a high score…and I did it! These are some strategies I used that really made a difference for me. Build self-discipline: be aware of the sloth! You come home from work or school and you’re tired. The last thing you feel like doing is studying vocabulary to describe bar charts for Academic Writing Task 1, even though you know this is what you should be doing as this is an area you need to improve.  You have two options:  You don’t do it. You’ve already worked very hard today. You decide to do a much more relaxing and enjoyable activity such as watching your favourite TV series. You relax for ten/fifteen minutes, gather your energy, have a shower and then start working on those expressions.   Guess which option I would always go for? OK, there are times when you’re really exhausted. You won’t learn very much so it’s better to leave your studies aside. This shouldn’t happen too often, though. I’ve always thought that there are two animals living in our brain: a sloth, the lazy one, and an ant, the hard-working one. It’s extremely easy to join the sloth as it makes you do easy, fun and pleasurable things. But joining the sloth doesn’t give you any rewards in return.    The ant, on the other hand, is the one that will make you sweat and work hard, but has a great prize for you in the end. You definitely want to collaborate with the ant to pass the exam, so be careful not to spend too much time with the sloth in your brain!  Focus on what you’re not good at first I learned this from my drum teacher. He used to tell me, ‘You should practise and work at things you have difficulties with, not the ones you’re already good at. That’s how you will improve your drumming’. This is also valid when preparing for IELTS. It’s easy to do things we’re already good at, but problems begin when you have to do those you’re not comfortable with.  It was writing for me. What is it for you? Look at the picture below. Those are all the writing tasks I did in preparation for the exam.   For various reasons, I had a lot of trouble finishing Task 2 in forty minutes. This was a specific weakness I had, so I needed to improve on this. To solve a specific problem, you need a specific solution and, in my case, this was to practise writing Task 2 essays using a stopwatch. I would start writing and, after forty minutes, I would stop, no matter if I had finished or not. I then counted the words and recorded the number in my notebook. I did the same thing using a lot of other Task 2 questions and the number of words slowly started to increase. I improved, and the more I improved, the better I felt. On the day of the exam, I was confident I would complete Task 2 in time. And so I did. So, ask yourself what you’re not so good at and be as specific as possible in your answer. If you find a specific problem, it’ll be easier to find the right solutions for it. Then make your weakness your priority. Practise with another candidate Practising and studying with another IELTS candidate has a lot of benefits. You can learn from your mistakes, share problems and give advice to each other. It’s also a way to reflect and discuss what you find problematic about the exam. I used to meet with one of my classmates just to practise the speaking part of the exam. He would take the role of the examiner and interview me with a stopwatch. We then swapped roles. We recorded the interview on our smartphones and then commented on our performance. It was fun and we learned a lot from each other. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, you can easily find a candidate on social media (better if they don’t speak your language). A problem shared is a problem halved, right? These were my top strategies I used as an IELTS candidate. They worked for me but they might not work for you. There’s only one way to find out: try them! Fabio

Fabio Cerpelloni

21 April, 2021

Top 3 strategies from a successful IELTS candidate

Top 3 strategies from a successful IELTS candidate

What are the best strategies to get the IELTS band score you need? What do a sloth and an ant have to do with IELTS? Is it a good idea to study with another IELTS candidate? These are some of the questions I am going to answer today.

In 2011 I was an IELTS candidate, just like you. Although I didn’t really need to sit the exam for any particular purpose, I was very determined to get a high score…and I did it! These are some strategies I used that really made a difference for me.

Build self-discipline: be aware of the sloth!

You come home from work or school and you’re tired. The last thing you feel like doing is studying vocabulary to describe bar charts for Academic Writing Task 1, even though you know this is what you should be doing as this is an area you need to improve.

You have two options:

  1. You don’t do it. You’ve already worked very hard today. You decide to do a much more relaxing and enjoyable activity such as watching your favourite TV series.
  2. You relax for ten/fifteen minutes, gather your energy, have a shower and then start working on those expressions.  

Guess which option I would always go for? OK, there are times when you’re really exhausted. You won’t learn very much so it’s better to leave your studies aside. This shouldn’t happen too often, though.

I’ve always thought that there are two animals living in our brain: a sloth, the lazy one, and an ant, the hard-working one. It’s extremely easy to join the sloth as it makes you do easy, fun and pleasurable things. But joining the sloth doesn’t give you any rewards in return.

Sloth

 

The ant, on the other hand, is the one that will make you sweat and work hard, but has a great prize for you in the end. You definitely want to collaborate with the ant to pass the exam, so be careful not to spend too much time with the sloth in your brain!

Focus on what you’re not good at first

I learned this from my drum teacher. He used to tell me, ‘You should practise and work at things you have difficulties with, not the ones you’re already good at. That’s how you will improve your drumming’. This is also valid when preparing for IELTS. It’s easy to do things we’re already good at, but problems begin when you have to do those you’re not comfortable with.

It was writing for me. What is it for you?

Look at the picture below. Those are all the writing tasks I did in preparation for the exam.

Writing Practice

 

For various reasons, I had a lot of trouble finishing Task 2 in forty minutes. This was a specific weakness I had, so I needed to improve on this. To solve a specific problem, you need a specific solution and, in my case, this was to practise writing Task 2 essays using a stopwatch. I would start writing and, after forty minutes, I would stop, no matter if I had finished or not. I then counted the words and recorded the number in my notebook. I did the same thing using a lot of other Task 2 questions and the number of words slowly started to increase. I improved, and the more I improved, the better I felt. On the day of the exam, I was confident I would complete Task 2 in time. And so I did.

So, ask yourself what you’re not so good at and be as specific as possible in your answer. If you find a specific problem, it’ll be easier to find the right solutions for it. Then make your weakness your priority.

Practise with another candidate

Practising and studying with another IELTS candidate has a lot of benefits. You can learn from your mistakes, share problems and give advice to each other. It’s also a way to reflect and discuss what you find problematic about the exam.

I used to meet with one of my classmates just to practise the speaking part of the exam. He would take the role of the examiner and interview me with a stopwatch. We then swapped roles. We recorded the interview on our smartphones and then commented on our performance. It was fun and we learned a lot from each other. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, you can easily find a candidate on social media (better if they don’t speak your language). A problem shared is a problem halved, right?

These were my top strategies I used as an IELTS candidate. They worked for me but they might not work for you. There’s only one way to find out: try them!

Fabio

Fabio Cerpelloni

Fabio took the IELTS exam in 2011 and has been supporting IELTS candidates and English language learners for 6 years in different countries.

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