Today I want to talk to you about why you need to stop taking the IELTS test… until you are ready.

What’s the problem with taking IELTS?

One thing that I hear all the time is:

“Please help me pass my IELTS test. I’ve got an exam this weekend and I need a band 7. I’ve taken the test 5 times already and I keep getting 5.5…”

Well, I have some bad news for you: If you keep getting 5.5, it’s because your English isn’t good enough to score a band 7.

I know that’s hard to hear. People often think that they can get a band 7 by learning some magical words or adopting a perfect essay structure. And it’s true that a good vocabulary and a good essay structure can help you. But until you’re ready to get a band 7, you won’t get given that score.

It’s not a puzzle that you can solve. There is no secret to it. Remember that IELTS is a test of your English skills. That’s all. For the speaking and writing tests, in particular, you are just judged on your English skills and there is nothing you can do to make yourself sound better except… just getting better.

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Look at the marking rubric: There are so many areas that you are being assessed in that even using big words or an impressive memorized phrase could not get you an overall band seven. The test has been designed by experts to look at many different areas of English ability.

Listen, I know you want to score a band 7 so you can go work or study in another country. But honestly, if you keep booking IELTS tests when you aren’t ready, you will waste your money and set yourself up for disappointment.

IELTS is difficult. It’s difficult because it’s assessing your language skills in a way that is honestly quite fair and reasonable. If you are really good at English, you will get a high score; if your English sucks, you will get a low score.

It’s that simple.

There is an idiom in English: “A hard pill to swallow.” It means receiving some bad news that you don’t want to hear and which is difficult to accept. That’s what this is.

Video about IELTS

If you are enjoying this article, you may want to check out the video version below. I made the video first and then adapted it to this article for your convenience.

Don’t forget to leave a LIKE and hit SUBSCRIBE if you found it useful. I try to post videos regularly (once per 2 weeks) and subscribers should be notified of new ones. Remember that regular study will give you better results.

What should I do instead of taking IELTS?

But you can make it into good news. Stop taking the IELTS test over and over again. Just get better at English until you are ready to get the score that you need. If that score is a band 7, it might take a long time. But spending hundreds of dollars to take the test when you are realistically at a band 5.5 or 6 won’t help you.

Is there anything you can do to speed up the process? Well, you need to study hard, of course, and make sure to practice your English every day. But you knew that already. I always recommend a two-pronged approach to IELTS. That means:

  1. practice your general English skills like vocabulary and grammar
  2. work on IELTS skills like analysing questions and learning the topics that are likely to appear

You can sign up for courses, find a great textbook, meet a speaking partner, get yourself a tutor, or have an expert mark your writing. You can find information about my own writing correction service here.

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In short, there are many things you can do, but don’t go looking for shortcuts or you will soon be disappointed.

Are you ready for IELTS?

So how do you know when you are ready for IELTS? It’s hard to say without expert feedback, but there are some things you can do. You can take practice tests, but this only really helps you for listening and reading. You can look at the marking rubric but it’s a bit difficult to understand and especially difficult to apply to yourself. Really, you should find a teacher to assess your abilities and tell you what score you are likely to achieve. When you repeatedly get the score you want to get in IELTS, then you are ready for the real exam.

Of course, when you do the real exam, there are some things you need to remember:

  1. Stress always causes you to make more mistakes
  2. The examiners will be stricter than your teacher

Now the examiners are not trying to catch you out or punish you for mistakes, but they do tend to be quite strict in their grading, and what your teacher thought was a 7 might actually be a 6.5 for an examiner.

Therefore, you really need to be prepared. Unless you are fantastically rich and actually enjoy the stress of exams, then I highly recommend you wait until you are confident that you can get your desired band score before you book your next test.

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