At the beginning of August my youngest daughter Imogen performed at a Proms concert in the Albert Hall in London. She was part of the National Youth Choir. The Proms is a big deal, music concerts performed by some of the world’s greatest musicians in one of the best and most famous music venues in the world.
Not many people who have to write are able to do this automatically and without much thought – even professional writers. I am talking here about native speaker writers. So for those who have English as a second language think how much more difficult it will be to just sit and write.
How easy it will be to go off the topic, how hard it will be to see an overall pattern to the writing, how easy it will be to make many mistakes and how easy it will be to forget the time and not have enough spare minutes to check at the end of the test.
Here’s a preparation system that should deliver good results if you stick to the spirit of it and adapt it to your situation.
Set aside some time regularly to practise – preferably each day but as a minimum 3 times a week. This does not have to be hours and hours (language is not like chemistry or history –it’s skills-based so little and often works better). Make sure that you can really focus during these times with no distractions.
I know this may sound harsh but I do have a good reason for suggesting this and that is that at the end of the day getting the answer right or wrong often comes down to grammar. Many IELTS students do things upside-down; they start by practising IELTS test papers. They do hundreds of these, every one they can get their hands on. They get a range of scores in listening and reading – they practise their speaking a bit on their phones or with friends (they may use some English at work) they check out model essays and then try to repeat these in their own practice and if the vocabulary and linking words are the same then this will get a good band.
So here is my IELTS 10-step Writing Strategy.
The Ultimate Strategy for Moving your IELTS Writing from Band 6.5 to Band 7
One – make sure that you practise writing regularly. This doesn’t mean that you have to write lots of complete tasks every day. You could just begin by working on your introductions – use the question to do this. If you leave your writing practice to just before your exam your chances of producing a task that will hit band 7 or 8 are much reduced. Writing takes time to develop. Brainstorm the topics for task 2 and the letter or analyse the data for task 1 and write down some ideas that are connected. Look at the ideas and see which ones you can develop or write about well.
I have a course called IELTS Writing Bootcamp which helps you to improve your writing to band 7 and it lasts for 4 weeks. People often ask me how many tasks they will have to write – the answer is 15 but that is not the point. Your writing needs to develop into a style and format that will allow the examiner to give you band 7 or 8 and this for some people may only take 2 or 3 tasks to achieve and for others it might be 20 or 30. The issue is not how much you write but how well.
Question: Do I need to skim and scan in IELTS reading? Answer: Yes you do. These are important reading skills which will help you to extract information quickly from a large body of text; this is exactly the skill that is being tested in IELTS reading.
It’s important to understand the difference between them and use each one to best effect. So here is an explanation and also not only how you can use these skills to help your IELTS reading but also how you can improve them to make your skimming and scanning faster and more effective.
With the vast majority of band 7 and 8 IELTS students, speaking is generally at a good level. However, what can happen is that the general good level of speaking is not always reflected in the exam result and students who are fluent and confident can sometimes score 6.5 and then have to re-take the exam. It is a great shame when this happens as it is completely avoidable by practising.
When you focus on things they improve – this is a fact and for anybody who needs an overall score of say band 7 or 7.5 or an overall score with a minimum of 7 in each part (which is commonly asked for from medical professionals) then the listening part is probably your best bet for a higher band. So here is a strategy that will get your score to a very high band such as band 8 or even band 8.5.
There seem to be lots of IELTS myths going around about IELTS writing. Let me tell you that in my experience (and I’ve been teaching IELTS at bands 7 and 8 for well over 20 years) there are no short cuts, tricks or quick solutions to writing. The best way to improve your IELTS writing is to do it! You can read, watch YouTube videos, speak to teachers, ask friends and even contact examiners and they will all give you lots of advice all of which might be very good BUT unless you put your pen on to a sheet of paper and write that task none of it will make the slightest bit of difference to your writing. It’s a fact. It’s rather like trying to learn to drive from a book or manual and then expecting to take a driving test having never been inside a car.