perfect-studentI was speaking to a student today and we were joking about putting together a perfect IELTS student for band 7/8 and then making every IELTS student into this character. I could picture my best listening student, my best reading student, speaking and writing students and I said that if I were able to combine all these elements into one person I would have the perfect band 8.5/9 candidate. The reality, of course, is that sadly life is not like this and each IELTS student has different strengths and weaknesses.

The student to whom I was speaking is excellent at speaking and always gets a really high band for this practice and he felt that this was not an advantage as what he really needed was better reading skills. I thought about all my students who would LOVE to have his speaking ability! I was working with another student last week who got a 40/40 score in one of the reading tests we did – this is a really amazing achievement but she was much more worried about her listening so wasn’t overly excited.

Continue reading

improve-ielts-scoresI once received a comment from a student who had asked me for the best way to improve their IELTS score which made me laugh but was at the same time quite tragic.

I had told him that the best way to get a higher band was to focus on his English language skills and he write back:

“I know that this would really help me but I don’t have time to do this as I am too busy with my IELTS”

Do you sometimes catch yourself thinking like this when your teacher tells you to go and practise your present and past tenses or to check out vocabulary for numbers?

Continue reading

myths-about-ieltsI have worked with IELTS students for many years and over this time students have told me many things about the IELTS exam that I term ‘myths’.  This means they are methods or ideas that are false and don’t work.

The reason I consider them to be mythology is because they are mostly not true and secondly they can become a huge distraction to students who are preparing for the exam. At best they are harmless pieces of  ’folklore’ but sometimes they can actually be detrimental and act against good performance in the exam.

So here are 10 IELTS Myths (there are plenty more) all of which have been said to me by my students quite recently. I want to explain to you why you should ignore these and stick to the real work of preparing successfully for your exam!

In this post I would like to explode some of these myths and explain why IELTS candidates should ignore them.

Continue reading


I received this testimonial today from a student on my IELTS Step By Step programme who has just taken the IELTS and got a fantastic score. This what Luciano wrote:

“This course (IELTS Step By Step) is really helpful if you are looking for band 7 or higher. It covers all the areas (listening, reading, writing and speaking) in depth and offers you a lot of material to study. This journey is not easy and requires determination and discipline, but (IELTS) Step By Step course also helps with these.

With the help of Berni and her course, I was able to get band7 in all the skills (and 7.5 in speaking) in my first attempt!”

Continue reading

ielts-writing-aIf you have ever worked with me or come to a webinar you will know that my one mantra when it comes to IELTS writing is plan and plan and plan. I insist on it from my students and I encourage ALL IELTS students to really practice their planning seriously.

I often hear these comments from students:

  • I haven’t got time to plan
  • I write better straight from my head
  • I don’t like to be restricted in my ideas
  • I want to let the language come as I think about the ideas
  • I like to get straight into the writing before I forget my ideas and vocabulary
  • I don’t know how to plan effectively

Continue reading

ielts-final-preparationA huge number of students prepare for the IELTS test by going through endless practice tests.  This method of IELTS exam preparation is very limited and will not help you to achieve your band easily or quickly.

Here are the reasons why:

  1. Practice tests are normally the final stage of learning for any exam – it is assumed that you already know all you need to know and this stage is exam preparation – under these conditions the tests are effective. If you are a native or near-native speaker (i.e. at band 8 or 9) then you may be able to prepare for the test simply using the practice tests as you already have all the English language knowledge that you need.
    Continue reading

practice-ielts-examI was speaking to an IELTS student today and she told me that because she had got a low score in the listening test last time she was now concentrating just on listening and would review the other parts of the exam the week before the exam.

This is a high risk strategy and shows a lack of understanding about how language learning works. Basically if you don’t use a language you will forget it. Just because you reached a band 7 in writing 3 or 4 months ago does not mean that that band 7 will be set in stone.

Continue reading

grammar-ieltsThe short answer is ‘yes’ of course it is. Grammar is the foundation for any language and in order to be flexible in your usage and create new sentences in writing and interesting and varied phrases in your speaking you need to be able to use grammar. Grammar is, however just as important in the reading and writing tests. It is unlikely that you will have got to band 6, band 7 or 8 if you don’t have a reasonable command of English grammar so now it’s just a case of remembering to check it before you submit your answers.

Here are some places where you will need to check your grammar:

Continue reading

ielts-vocabularyI often get asked by students how they can improve their vocabulary for IELTS.

Vocabulary is an area of English that can constantly be added to and the wider your vocabulary is the more you have to offer in your IELTS speaking and reading.

Vocabulary is also important in listening and reading – it will help you understand and find the right answers.

I am addressing the higher bands here in particular (6.5 to 9) but here are some ways you can add to your vocabulary.

Continue reading

Free Webinar


The 5 biggest
IELTS mistakes and
how to avoid them.

Get Instant Access