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.
If you were to send me 4 tasks to correct I know that they would all contain the same mistakes so if you complete 50 tasks and don’t get feedback then all 50 are likely to be the same, the same problems, the same mistakes and the same band. A skill like writing needs to progress step by step and this cannot be achieved in an avalanche of writing. You have to learn from your first task and then use that learning to improve the second and so on.
All that happens if you keep churning out task after task without any feedback is that your mistakes become further and further entrenched in your writing until the point that they are far harder to remove. It is far better to spend 2 hours on one task and get it correct than to spend 2 hours on 3 or 4 tasks.
The same is true with reading and listening. If you keep just practising test after test without stopping and checking the bits that you are making mistakes with then it is going to take a VERY long time to improve your scores. Testing is NOT learning.
Students often ask me to send them more and more tests. Why? Soon they will run out of tests altogether and what will happen then? Yet when I ask them if they know where they make mistakes they often don’t – why is that? It’s because they look at the test result and then immediately do another one to try and improve the score.
And does the score improve -generally not, or only marginally.
The reason for this is that they are not addressing the errors and improving them – this is NOT smart study and although things may improve it will not happen fast.
The truth is that if you work smart then the results can improve quickly in a matter of weeks or even days – quality rather than quantity. When I receive reading results from my students I make them do them again until they are all correct! I do the same with listening too.
I believe in improving skills – not just testing and this is why my students can get very high results. If your skills are excellent then your score will be too!
Here are a few tips on how to work at quality over quantity:
- Don’t just do IELTS Listening practice – do other things too this will help improve you exposure to vocabulary and different accents
- Make sure you can hear every answer – go back and listening to each question – can you hear the answer? Listen over and over until you can
- Really work on the questions. If you make a mistake check out why it was wrong – what did you miss, what did you overlook?
- Work on the questions and passages that have the highest number of wrong answers – e.g. doing lots of passage 1 if you get a high score here is a waste of your time when most mistakes are in passage 3 – do more on passage 3
- Spend time on your writing. Look at the descriptors and the models and really analyse your own work and try to make it the same. This will take time.
- I say this a lot but do try and get some feedback – without it it is really hard to know where you are with writing
- Make sure that you actually practise the test sections as well as general practice and chatting with friends and colleagues. The IELTS speaking test is not just a chat
- A high band depends on a good performance in parts 2 and 3 so spend some time on these. Part 1 should be straightforward for a band 7 candidate (practise it also a little) so put your energy where the more difficult parts are.
Learn and improve skills, don’t just test – leave that for the exam and the period just before (2 weeks or so).
Focus on quality rather than quantity and you will get closer to your band.