For the past two months, the world has been convulsed by the story of Covid-19, a deadly virus from China that has quickly swept around the world and brought our planet to a standstill. From a market in Wuhan, this virus has moved into almost every country of the globe and changed people’s lives. The effects have been devastating. The economy is in tatters and people are losing their livelihoods. Will we ever return to normality?

We probably will, even if it is going to be a difficult few months or years. This coronavirus problem should hopefully go away in the near future and, even though much damage has been done, life should start returning to normal.

But what about IELTS? What about learning English? Let’s explore how IELTS is affected and what you can do to keep practising during these dark days.

How has IELTS been affected by Covid-19?

As many of you know, some IELTS tests have been cancelled. This is not (yet) a worldwide IELTS policy. Rather, the organisers of this test are responding to calls from local authorities. In places where there are strict curfews and where public gatherings are now banned, IELTS tests are of course cancelled. However, in many places around the world, they are going ahead more or less as normal.

If you are unsure, you should get in touch with the British Council or IDP. You can easily find their contact information on Google.

There is also a frequently updated webpage on the official IELTS website that you can check for daily information.

In most test centres that are not yet affected, you will find that there are some small changes. For one thing, the IELTS speaking examiner will be wearing a mask. This might seem strange or off-putting to you because you will no doubt expect someone sitting opposite you whose face you can see. Alas, this should not impede communication.

If you suspect that you may have coronavirus, you can get in touch with your local test centre to either reschedule or request a refund. No matter how desperately you want to do this test, you should not attempt to do it while you are ill.

Should I keep preparing for IELTS?

Yes, you absolutely should keep preparing! I have many students on my writing correction programme whose exams were cancelled. Despite this apparent setback, I have tried to explain to them that this is actually a positive thing. They now have much more time to prepare!

I made this video about what happens when you take your IELTS test too soon:

One day in the near future, this pandemic will be over and you will go back to your normal life. When that happens, things like IELTS will seem important again and you will wonder why you didn’t do more during this enforced break.

A global pandemic is an opportunity for additional preparation. No matter who you are, you should set aside plenty of time to work on your English and IELTS skills. This will give you a big advantage when you go to do the test after the pandemic. You will be better prepared, and that means you will get a better score.

How can I prepare for IELTS during a pandemic?

Wow, that’s not a question I thought I would ever have to write…!

Honestly, most of your IELTS preparation is going to be the same during this period of quarantine. You will do things like:

  • Reading textbooks
  • Writing practice essays
  • Watching YouTube videos
  • Speaking with people on Skype

The only things that you need to cancel are the ones that require going outside and meeting other people, and honestly, for IELTS most of what you do is pretty solitary, anyway.

So here is a list of stuff you can start doing today to get ready for your post-pandemic IELTS tests!

1.      Pronunciation practice

Yes, it’s true. You don’t need to sit down with a teacher in a school to work on your pronunciation skills. You can do this just fine at home on your own. Grab a mirror or use your phone’s camera to look at your mouth while you are talking to yourself. Don’t worry about acting weird… it’s a pandemic!

Here’s a video filled with suggestions about improving your pronunciation when you are stuck at home alone.

There are so many ways to practice your pronunciation skills for IELTS and many of them can be done from home, making this a perfect English exercise for quarantine.

2.      Read some books

Reading books in English is great for improving your vocabulary, grammar, and of course your reading speed. You can pick up a novel or non-fiction book. Whatever is useful for you is going to help.

In addition, you can also try some IELTS books. I have a guide to some books that I really recommend here and I even have a few books of my own that you can see here:

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Being stuck in quarantine or forced to go through social distancing means that you are in a perfect place to spend time reading. This is a real benefit and you should not let this chance slip away.

3.      It’s time to write!

Everyone hates practising writing in another language. I know, I know, it’s so annoying…! But honestly, it’s also important. When you are stuck in your home for a few weeks, this might be the perfect time to get our a pen and paper and start working on some IELTS writing questions.

With no one to bother you, you should be able to sit down and spend time working through many questions. This practice will help you boost your writing speed and accuracy, and you can also practice things like analysing questions, structuring answers, and proofreading your words to find errors.

If you want expert assistance, you can try my writing correction service. I will send you detailed feedback and even a sample band 9 answer. Don’t worry – there are no viruses in my e-mails! 😆

4.      Get a speaking partner

You might be wondering… but how I can get a speaking partner? All my friends are stuck at home…

Well, this is 2020 and thankfully we have the internet to help us! You can take a look at this Facebook group (with currently 45,000 members) and find a perfect speaking partner. Then, you can arrange to talk with them through Skype, Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, or whatever else you prefer.

This is great because it lets you practice your English with someone from another culture… but it’s also really important at this time because people are feeling a great sense of social isolation due to the quarantine measures. If you can communicate with another human being, you will feel much better.

5.      Practice listening

This is probably the easiest and most fun way to practice your English listening skills from home. Basically, you can choose almost anything that you want to listen to and then listen to it! From movies to TV shows to podcasts, it’s up to you.

Of course, just passively listening is only of minimal value. In order to really get a lot of benefit out of it, you should try to listen actively. This means focus on what is being said and ask yourself questions about it. The more you pay attention, the more you will learn.

I’m currently learning Japanese by watching Miyazaki movies on Netflex. 😄 It’s a really fun way to pick up some language skills.

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Of course, if you want to use TED talks to learn IELTS, then this website is the perfect place. I have so many TED videos with different questions for each one, and most of them also contain some useful vocabulary, too.

Summary

It can seem like a scary or depressing time right now, but we are all in this together. The whole world is suffering from this Covid-19 outbreak and everyone is having to persevere in order to get through the pain. But please don’t let it affect your plans for the future. One day soon, this will all be over and we will need to continue. Having a great IELTS score and fluent English skills will help you to get a new job in this troubled economy.

As such, you can follow the advice above in order to continue with your IELTS preparation. Remember that you are not alone. You can work from home and still communicate with the world. Drop me an e-mail if you are struggling with it, or reach out on Facebook.

Stay safe.

David