What Are the Common Mistakes when Taking IELTS?

Even though IELTS is a test which determines your English proficiency, it also checks how well you know the test itself.

Common Mistakes to Avoid when Taking IELTS

Students can be really good at English and still fail IELTS. Even native English speakers find it hard to pass the test with flying colors. So, it is important not to rely on your fluent language skills and actually familiarize yourself with the test and its typical pitfalls.

Speaking

Let’s cover the most feared part of the IELTS examination. Even though speaking lasts no longer than 15 minutes, it is definitely the most intense and nerve-wrecking test component. However, once you learn about the common mistakes students like you make, you will, hopefully, become more confident.

First of all, do not memorize answers in advance. Even if you are a good actor and can pass it off your own speech, there is a high probability that the experienced IELTS teachers heard it before. So, better do not risk it and talk naturally, even if it is going to be imperfect.

Secondly, control your intonation. It will be hard for teachers to discern what you are trying to say if you are being monotonous. Finally, work on your pronunciation. Even if your answers are perfectly coherent, the teacher may not be able to appreciate it, if they cannot understand you.

Listening

This is usually the first part of the test, and I honestly wish it would come later. Students do not have time to calm down and focus, which leads to them failing this bit. In TOEFL listening comes after reading, which is a much better strategy in my opinion.

So, how do you do well on listening despite still being shaky with fear? First of all, focus on the task and not on your feelings. Ignore your trembling hands and listen to the audio recording. Fear does not mean you cannot do it – it’s just a natural reaction of your body to stress.

Secondly, read the questions at the start and look for cues in the recording. Usually it is possible to give answers one by one as you listen. Finally, do not get stunted by too hard questions. Those may be too advanced for you, and if you only need the 6th band, it makes sense to focus on the ones you can tackle.

Reading

First and foremost, remember – your time is extremely limited. I know very advanced students who barely managed to answer all the questions. So, you need to be very stingy with your time. Your task is to answer concrete questions and not to enjoy the intricacies of the author’s style.

I advise you to master the techniques of skimming and scanning which will help you succeed in the reading task without having to delve deep into the texts. You should start practicing early, especially if you tend to be a perfectionist, who usually strives to pinpoint every shade of meaning.

Do not let difficult questions stop you. If you do not know the answer, move on and try it at the end if you still have time. Remember, you may not even need a perfect score, so, attempting to fill in every single gap can be rather counterproductive.

Writing

This one is tricky, as many students assume that the fancier their vocabulary and sentence structure, the better their score is going to be. However, you may write like Neil Geiman and get a terrible IELTS writing result if you fail to comply with the basic guidelines.

First of all, you need to be coherent and cohesive. Forget about intricate syntax and elaborate words. Those are more likely to detract points rather than impress the examiner. It is better to use simpler sentences which flow and varied vocabulary which fits the context than be fancy and out of place.

Secondly, state your opinion clearly in the thesis and have relevant topic sentences. Remember – it is not your ideas, but the way you present them which counts. Finally, write as much as required, but not too much. The more you add to your essay, the higher the probability to have errors.

Conclusion

Do not get discouraged if you get a bad score. All those exams often fail to assess the language proficiency properly as your result heavily depends on the familiarity with the test itself. So, take pains to learn the test structure, and you will greatly increase a chance for getting a perfect score.

Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel. He has worked as an IELTS tutor since 2010, has completed both TEFL and CELTA courses, and has a certificate from Cambridge for Teaching Writing. In 2018, he wrote the popular IELTS handbook, Grammar for IELTS Writing. His other IELTS website is called IELTS Teaching.

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