Four traps to avoid in IELTS test preparation

By Hoang Ngoc Quynh   April 15, 2024 | 04:41 pm PT
Four traps to avoid in IELTS test preparation
A person writes in an IELTS application form. Photo by British Council
Spending too much time practicing exam sample questions while lacking vocabulary, or applying too many tricks from the internet seems to not work for those studying for the IELTS tests.

Dr. Hoang Ngoc Quynh, a lecturer at Leicester University in the U.K., shares 4 things that IELTS learners should avoid:

Too hasty

Whenever I receive questions like "How to score 6.5 band or higher in the IELTS test?" I usually ask: "Have you spent enough time to build a solid English foundation for yourself yet?"

The IELTS reflects the ability to use English. The first mistake in IELTS practice is being hasty, and trying to shorten the length of time spent studying.

To study for IELTS, you should have a solid foundation in vocabulary, grammar, basic listening and basic speaking skills. Getting used to the test format may take just a month, but it takes many months to gain a solid language foundation. Therefore, IELTS learners should spend time focusing on 4 main skills.

You can create your own English environment through listening and reading on a daily basis, starting from your current level. To prepare for the IELTS test, you should combine reading vocabulary books and studying grammar, or use an IELTS study guide that adheres to a strict roadmap for the exams.

The drawback is that you will easily get bored. Therefore, you should study English through various sources, including podcasts, movies, books, magazines, clubs, etc.

TS Hoàng Ngọc Quỳnh, giảng viên tại Đại học Leicester, Anh. Ảnh: Nhân vật cung cấp

Dr. Hoang Ngoc Quynh, a lecturer at Leicester University in the U.K. Photo courtesy of Hoang Ngoc Quynh

Giving too much priority to practice exam samples

Practicing exam samples too much will create more pressure on scores, affecting the natural process of language absorption. Let's try to study English comfortably, which will thereby make taking the tests easier.

For example, if you are struggling with your listening score even though you have practiced all kinds of practice tests, try to spend 1-2 months watching or listening to English podcasts on your favorite topics. From my experience, I consider the method more effective than relentlessly listening to exam samples for hours to hours.

Too worried about tips

There are a lot of tips and tricks on the internet, and many even given in IELTS classes. This can make learners confused and forget to acquire real-life English skills.

I do not deny that you should "pocket" a few tips on testing day, but this should be a secondary tool. On the day I took the test a long time ago, I didn’t use any tips or tricks. I basically focused on listening and reading each section.

Regarding the speaking and writing sections, I spent more time speaking before the test and writing essays every day. Actually, I spent a lot of time studying English myself. I entered the exam room with full confidence, and didn't pay attention to "tips."

Studying only the topic you think you’ll be asked about

Many IELTS centers teach students to predict exam questions and learn them by heart. Some only study the predicted speaking questions, and they even write scripts for themselves to memorize. But writing scripts is not effective because it prevents you from speaking fluently.

Studying only the topic that you’ll be asked about can benefit those who need to take the exam urgently to get scores immediately, but this is not an effective method to study in the long-run. The importance of the tests is helping students use English confidently, thereby achieving long-term goals.

In the U.K., most people know nothing about IELTS. But when you communicate, they recognize your confidence and ability to use language.

Let's set some long-term goals to motivate yourself on the road to English learning. And when you can maintain such motivation, achieving your dream IELTS target seems to come without the least bit difficulty.

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