Before you study for IELTS, you should know that by studying for IELTS, you can not improve your English language skills. By studying for IELTS, you’ll only be making yourself familiar with the test and you’ll be polishing your IELTS taking skills.
Where to Study From?
Your best guide for IELTS will be the 12 books from the IELTS Cambridge series. The books contain sample tests from past exams. You don’t need to read any theory or any long essays to practice for IELTS. You just have to go through these past tests to get yourself acquainted to IELTS.
There are 12 books in the series so far. Each book contains four sample test. Each test has four sections (listening, reading, writing and speaking).
How to Study?
You can start from any of the 12 books. Keep in mind that book 1 is the oldest book and book 11 is the latest book. Before you start any test, read the introduction to understand the structure of the test.
Start off from the listening section. Read the instructions. Then begin testing yourself. If you listen to people talking in English in your daily life (for example, at home, at school, at work or even on TV), then listening will be pretty easy for you.
About the Test
You’ll have an audio recording to listen to. In the audio recording, you’ll listen to two people having a conversation. The answers to your questions will be from their conversation. There are 40 questions in the listening section.
After the audio stops playing, you have 10 minutes to copy all your answers from your question paper to your answer sheet, which is more than enough. Some people prefer to write their answers directly in the answer sheet, as there is not much that you can change in your answers, once the audio stops playing. Because your answers are based on the audio recording and once the recording stops playing, it’s difficult to recall what was said.
The key to doing well in IELTS is to listen to the audio conversation with complete focus and to blur out everything else from your mind. Another important thing is to let go of any questions that you miss. Because thinking over a missed question stops you from answering the next few questions. And because of one missed question, you end with up a lot of missed questions. Since listening test has changed slightly over the years, it is best to go through the recent books for the listening tests.
If you’re good at English, then listening shouldn’t take you more than 10 to 12 tests, which should take 2-4 days. It doesn’t matter if it takes you less or more tests to achieve your target score. Once you start achieving scores of 38 out of 40, you can move on to reading.
Read the instructions. Begin testing yourself. You’re a medical graduate. So you’ve read dozens of books by now. Reading should not be difficult for you.
About the Test
The reading test comprises of three comprehensions tests. First you have to read an essay. Then you have to answer 13-14 questions from the essay. The total number of questions that you have to answer in reading is 40.
You have 60 minutes to complete reading. It is ideal to spend 20 minutes on each of the three essays. But you’re not bound to divide your time like that. The bell only rings at 60 minutes.
The are two approaches for reading. Some people prefer to read the essay first. Others prefer to read the questions first. There’s nothing wrong with either of these approaches. Choose what suits your best. If you read the essay first, when you start reading, keep a pencil with you and underline all the nouns and all other important information in the essay. Try to make a story of the essay in your mind. Try to make small maps of the story in your mind, to know which paragraph talks about which topic. So that when you read the questions, you remember where to find the information for the answers. Since reading test has changed slightly over the years, it is best to go through the recent books for the reading tests.
If you’re good at English, then reading shouldn’t take you more than 10-12 tests, which should take 2-4. It doesn’t matter if it takes you less or more tests to achieve your target score. Once you start achieving scores of 38 out of 40, you can move on to the writing section.
This is the trickiest part of the exam. There’s no scoring system to judge yourself here.
About the Test
There are two tasks in writing.
Task 1 involves a diagram, which can be a table chart, a bar chart, a line chart, a pie chart, a flow chart or a graph. You have to explain the diagram using at least 150 words.
Task 2 involves writing a detailed essay on any subject.
You have 60 minutes to complete writing. It is ideal to spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on task 2. But you’re not bound to divide your time like that. The bell only rings at 60 minutes.
It is also your choice to write task 2 before task 1. I preferred writing task 1 first, because it was small and I wanted it out of the way. Because in task 2, you can write as much as you want.
Before you start practicing your writing skills, it is important to understand how you need to write. To understand this, go through the answers section of each book. Read the task, then read the answer. When you’re done reading answers from 8 or 9 books, you can use the remaining books, to test yourself. Assess your writing skills by showing your writings to other candidates. You can find other candidates on Facebook.
It usually takes 10-20 writings of each task, which can take 2-4 weeks or longer to feel comfortable with writing.
Read the instructions. Speaking shouldn’t be difficult since you’re a medical graduate.
About the Test
The speaking test comprises of 3 parts.
You’ll be asked questions about yourself and your life.
You’ll be given a topic to talk about. You’ll be given a pencil and a piece of paper to write ideas about your talk. You’ll have a minute to prepare your talk. During your talk, you can not stop or take breaks. You have to talk for 2 minutes uninterrupted. You can not see the 2-minute clock during your exam.
During this part, I couldn’t speak for more than 70 seconds. I ran out of ideas. The examiner used her hands to suggest to me to continue speaking. So I spoke whatever came to my mind about the topic. I stopped again 5 seconds before the bell. She again asked me to go on. Luckily the bell rang then.
The examiner will talk to you, by asking you questions involving the topic about which you talked in Part 2.
If you speak English in your daily life, this will be very easy. Go through a few practice tests and you should be okay.
When I took IELTS, talking in English was not a part of my daily life. I only went through a couple of speaking tests, a couple of days before my exam. And I did fine in speaking.
If you’re good at English, just a couple of hours can be enough. If you struggle with this section, then you should spend 15-30 minutes on it every day.
Summary of IELTS Preparation
Even if you have good command over English, it’s important to go through IELTS preparation, to make yourself familiar with the test.
You’ll need a week or two for listening and reading. And 2-4 weeks more for writing practice. Speaking shouldn’t take much time.It usually takes people 4-8 weeks to prepare for IELTS.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Should I take IELTS Academic or IELTS UKVI Academic?
This is a personal choice. If you take IELTS UKVI Academic, you will not have to take IELTS again. If you take IELTS Academic, you will have to take IELTS UKVI Academic later on as well.
2. What is the difference between IELTS Academic and IELTS UKVI Academic?
The pattern of the exam is exactly the same. The only differences are that the UKVI version costs a little more, it has increased camera surveillance and is held less often.
3. Should I take IELTS from British Council or Australian Education Office?
This is a personal choice. IELTS is accepted from both of these bodies. There’s a common perception in Pakistan that AEO is more generous with IELTS scores. Because AEO has local examiners in the speaking part of the test, while British Council has British Speakers. However, I have seen a friend score better when he took IELTS conducted by the British Council. His score through AEO was not good enough for PLAB.
4. Can I take IELTS before graduating from medical school?
Yes, you can.
5. Is IELTS easy to pass?
It depends on how good your English is. The only way to find out is to go through practice tests from the IELTS Cambridge series.
6. Can I improve my English language skills if I study for IELTS?
Studying for IELTS only makes us familiar with the test. It does not improve our English language skills.
7. How can I improve my English language skills?
The only way to improve your language would be to increase your exposure to English. You can do this by reading books, watching movies and shows and talking to people in English.
8. How can I improve my IELTS scores?
You can improve your scores by practicing as much as you can. If your scores still do not improve, then you might need to increase your exposure to the English language. You can do this by reading books, watching movies and shows and talking to people in English.