(This post was originally written for my blog on 23rd Feb 2017. It was added to my blog by taking permission from the writer. Thank you, Dr. Murk Memon, for allowing me to add your post to this blog)
Hello everyone, I am going to share my IELTS experience in this document. It’s a little effort to help all the doctors who are planning to go through PLAB route in the future. First and foremost, I am grateful to ALMIGHTY ALLAH who blessed me with this success and much more than I deserve and to my parents who supported me throughout my medical journey. I passed my IELTS in 2015. I did all the preparation at home and did not take any courses for both the exams.
The main question that arises in our mind is the time required to prepare. I think it varies from person to person. If you have a sound knowledge of the subject and your basic English is good then you can achieve your target band in 1 to 1.5 months. I have even heard of people who have done it in a week. However, if you have difficulty in understanding it, you have to start it from scratch which may take several months. In that case, you can start with the basic grammar before coming to the actual modules and you can do it by studying CAMBRIDGE GRAMMAR FOR IELTS and SIMON IELTS GRAMMAR SECTION. I didn’t do any of these as I had to prepare in 1.5 to 2 months and still managed to get the required band. I think practice is key. It’s not the hardest exam like most people think, rather it’s very doable. You just need to stay focused and keep on practicing.
MATERIALS/WEBSITES THAT I USED:
1. I did all 10 Cambridge books and did Barron’s as well (for extra practice but it isn’t necessary).
2. I followed IELTS SIMON and IELTS LIZ for overall ideas. SIMON has a book too with different ideas on the common topics.
3. I did various exercises on Simon’s Website. It is a great source of IELTS tips and Techniques. It boosts up your Morale and gives you the confidence to pass this exam. I would recommend you to try his website and I am sure you will all find it very helping and motivating.
4. I followed Ryan for writing. I watched all of his videos and read his band 9 essays. His videos are easily available on torrent
5. I posted my essays on a group named ‘SPEAKING FOR IELTS PLAB’. FOR LISTENING: Listening was the easiest part for me. Practice IELTS listening tests from Cambridge books if you are good at listening, but if you are not then that isn’t the only type of practice you can do. It is important to do as much general listening practice as you can. You can listen to things that you find interesting. You can watch TV programs, movies and online videos. You can listen to radio broadcasts and podcasts if you want. The more listening you do, the faster your ear will improve. My favorite website to watch interesting videos was TED.com. The videos on this website are not only good for listening but are full of good IELTS language. The most important thing to keep in mind during the listening test is not to lose concentration because you only get ONE chance to listen to the recording. If you don’t understand something or if you missed a question, just don’t worry about it and come back to it at the end. In addition to this, spelling mistakes can affect your score in the listening test so always use correct spellings when writing down answers.
I did Cambridge series and Barron’s for the reading module. I also did reading exercises on IELTS SIMON. Usually time is the biggest enemy as the texts are very lengthy and contain some complex vocabulary. It’s basically a test of your vocabulary. If your knowledge of English words and phrases is good, you will do well in this section. There are various techniques that can help you work faster and cope with difficult question types but the best way to improve your reading score is to do a lot of reading and vocabulary work. You can learn a lot by doing questions slowly and trying to get every answer right. Don’t test yourself. If you do this, you won’t improve. No need to read the whole passage but go straight to the questions as you don’t have enough time. Don’t skim and scan unless the question contains a name or number. Do T/F/NG questions first. Do the paragraph heading and Which para contains the following info sections in the end. You will find them easier to do as you will already be familiar with the text. The answers to most of the question types are in the correct order in the passage, so you don’t need to go back to the beginning. However, everyone has their own approach. Do whatever works for you. I followed these techniques and got a score of 9 in reading.
This is the most difficult part as most people would say. Like everyone, I found it hard too. I would say focus more on writing task 2 as it carries twice as many marks.
FOR WRITING TASK 1:
The introduction is the general part of any essay. The introduction to writing task 1 should explain what the graph/chart shows. You should start it by paraphrasing the question I.e rewriting it in your own words. Do not write your conclusion in the end. After your introduction, you can write a general summary of the information given in the graph/chart etc. You usually get more than one chart or graph in the exam so in the summary try to find an overall trend that connects the charts. After the intro and summary paragraphs, you need to include the details. Describe each chart or graph separately and choose the most important information from each one. However, if you get a single graph/chart or a process diagram you can divide your information in two paragraphs. Always write over the word count but try to make it simple and easy. Ideally, your Task 1 essay should have around 150 – 190 words.
FOR WRITING TASK 2:
I would suggest that you all follow Ryan. Watch all of his videos and try to understand the structure and the way he applies it to the essays. Some people find Simon’s approach better. Both of them are good so choose whatever you are comfortable with. It is very important to structure your writing in a good essay format.
ESSAY STRUCTURE: ( Argument Essay):
Paragraph 1: Introduction
- sentence 1: background sentence
- sentence 2: detailed background
- sentence 3: thesis
- entence 4: outline
Paragraph 2 and 3: Body Paragraphs
- sentence 1: topic sentence
- sentence 2: example
- sentence 3: discussion
- sentence 4: conclusion of the topic
Paragraph 4: Conclusion
- sentence 1: summary
- sentence 2: Restatement of your thesis
- sentence 3: recommendation or prediction.
You will learn how to do it and apply this structure to your essays after watching Ryan’s videos. Plan your essay for 3 to 5 minutes before you start writing it. It will help you to write a strong essay. Write 2 to 3 essays per day. I used to post my essays on a group named ‘SPEAKING FOR IELTS PLAB’ to receive feedback on my essays. People on that group were really helpful. They commented on my essays and gave their suggestions on how to improve them. Practice as many essays as you can since practice makes perfect. You need to discuss your essays with a friend or someone who is good enough to check them and point out mistakes. Learn from your mistakes and try to improve. Introduction plays an imperative part in your essay. It acts as a roadmap for your essay. It should be well written since it is the first thing the IELTS examiners will come across while reading the essay. After reading it, they should already know that what the rest of your essay will look like. If you are not able to come up with ideas, read band 8 and 9 essays. You can use the same ideas but in your own words and with your own examples. Do not incorporate too many ideas in one paragraph. Instead, stick to one idea per paragraph and expand that. You should be COHERENT and COHESIVE while writing your essays. These two factors are a measure of how logical your ideas are and how well they work together. You can check “Ideas for IELTS Topics” by Simon as well. He has shared some good ideas in his book. Your writing task 2 should be about 270 – 290 words long. Always proofread your essay to check for any spelling mistakes, overwriting etc.
I did not do much for the speaking part to be honest. I just practiced this in the last 2 days. I used to record myself and listen to that recording to avoid making the same mistakes. I also used to speak in front of the mirror. You can practice speaking by finding a partner online. You just need to be confident and make things up. Try to avoid repeating points. Speaking part 1 is usually easy so you need to keep your answers short and simple. Speaking part 2 and part 3 are considered important. You only get 1 minute to prepare your topic in speaking part 2 so choose your topic quickly and don’t overthink. It is difficult to think about grammar when you are speaking, so don’t worry about using complex grammar and focus more on expressing good ideas. Moreover, in speaking part 2 and 3 you can provide the examiner with a better range of vocabulary and fluency. You should try to give longer answers with opinions, reasons etc in speaking part 3.
This is how I prepared and managed to succeed in both of the exams. I am no expert in this subject and you will definitely find many wonderful experiences by others. But I tried my best to cover each and everything and to help as much as I could in this document. I would conclude by saying that optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Good luck to all of you 🙂