Last year, two million people took the IELTS exam with the hope of achieving the score they needed to work in an English speaking country or study at university. Nowadays, many universities in non-English-speaking countries also require students to take the academic IELTS exam. While the title of this blog is slightly misleading in that there is technically no pass or fail score for the IELTS exam, it does not detract from the fact that individual institutions set their own requirements according to the specific language needs of the course or profession.
The IELTS exam is an evaluation, so whatever score a person achieves is supposed to be a reflection of their ability. Not achieving the score you need is not technically a fail, but an indication that perhaps you are not ready for the exam or that you need to develop your language skills further.
This article outlines some of the main reasons why people do not achieve the score they want.
1. Trying to prepare for the exam without improving their English
Perhaps the most common mistake that I have come across is from students who want to fast track the learning process and just ‘prep’ for the exam. Exam prep is a necessary thing, but it is not the only thing. This practice is comparable to trying to bake a cake by mixing all the ingredients into a bowl at the same time, turning the temperature of the oven higher to speed up the preparation time, and then adding plenty of chocolate to the finished product.
Prepping techniques are most effective when you already have a good command of the language and you want to add some advanced vocabulary or make sure you can write an essay with the time limit. However, the fancy use of conjunctive adverbs and paraphrasing questions will not enhance your score if the essay is riddled with basic mistakes.
Those students who don’t see the need for practicing and improving their English language is a skills generally don’t improve their English. Take the time to improve your sentence structure and use of tenses.
2. Not learning from their errors
Everybody makes errors when they are learning a new language. The key is to acknowledge this and expect to make errors. This requires a mindset of humility and honesty. You cannot be sensitive to constructive criticism if you want to get the best out of your teacher. You must be aware of the errors you make and constructively analyze your mistakes and review them.
It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. This is also a continual process, which is why it has to be a mindset rather than a ‘temporary fix’. Before long you will have made significant progress and will be drawing compliments from your teacher.
3. Not studying outside the classroom
This is particularly important if do not live in an English-speaking countries. It is crucial to expose yourself to practical, real-world situations. Read current affairs journals such as Time and Newsweek. Choose a few blogs based on your interests and read them regularly and consistently. Listen to native speakers on TV, the radio, YouTube or in person if you can. Somehow, you must make sure that the rules and principles that you learn in the classroom are being embedded in the subconscious part of your brain so that you can apply them effortlessly. This can only come through practice, and the more realistic the practice the better.
Remember that the IELTS exam is an evaluation that is trying to simulate your ability to perform in real-world situations, so practice your English in real-world situations.
4. Not addressing the question
Making sure that you fully understand the questions being asked of you is key. A slight misunderstanding can lead to you giving a completely irrelevant answer. A good way to practice this is by taking a list of questions, have your teacher read them to you one by one, and then ask the same question back to your teacher using different words.
In the reading section, be careful not to confuse the instructions. A common area is regarding the ‘not given’ option, which can easily be mistaken for a ‘no’ answer in some questions. This is an example of a situation in which exam prepping can be useful, but not as a replacement for improving your basic skills.
5. A lack of confidence
This is perhaps where exam prep is at its most effective. Once you are confident that you language skills are up to par, the next step is to make sure that you can perform at you best during the exam. That same confidence must accompany you to the exam if you are going to perform at your best. Going over as many sample exam questions as possible with your teacher is a huge confidence booster. You will probably find that questions sound very familiar to you once you.
Another tool that is only effective after sharpening your language skills is visualizing success. Visualize yourself thinking clearly, answering the questions confidently, planning your essays and finishing within the time limit and, most importantly, maintaining your composure.
At Speakeasy, your native-speaking teacher will tailor your classes to help you achieve your goals and stay motivated. Learn from the comfort of your own home, take lessons during your lunch break or even while travelling abroad. As long as you have a Skype account and internet access, you can attend classes and study in an environment most convenient for you.