How to Improve IELTS

Some years ago I lived in Indonesia. While I was there it was necessary to learn the language – firstly for living and then later for my job. I was an English teacher at the university so at first my work was all conducted in English. Learning Bahasa Indonesia was not an easy thing as it is not at all related to English and had very different features. It had no tenses – hurray!!

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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.

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preperation system

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.

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IELTS test

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.

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IELTS writing

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fact 1

You’ll find these in the question NOT the text. Sometimes when I start to work with IELTS students I see them going through the passages and underlining lots of ‘keywords’ – ‘Why are you doing that?‘ I usually ask them, ‘You don’t even know what the questions are yet so how will that help you?’ It is also a great way to waste time – and time is very precious in reading. (The only words that it might be a good idea to underline in the text at the beginning are the names of people for the specific matching exercise of names to their comments or ideas – but check first that you actually have this question!).

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