I am a doctor hailing from Karachi. I sat for my IELTS UKVI Academic (Computer Based) exam on the 6th of May-2017, via the British Council. I gave the test while working full time and I chose the computer-based type because my typing speed is faster as opposed to writing. I had prior experience of giving the TOEFL computer-based exam in 2012 as well. I was fortunate enough to score the required band in my first attempt and my overall experience is described below.
Working as a full-time doctor did not give me as much time to prepare for the exam as I would have preferred. But, collectively, I prepared for about 10 days; with thorough preparation in the last two days leading up to my exam. I went through the Barron’s IELTS preparatory book; coupled with a few online resources. I chose Barron’s over the Cambridge series because of two reasons; first being that I had found online versions of the Cambridge books with online on spot comprehensions and listening tests. Secondly, it was a personal preference, as owing to time constraints, I chose one book with detailed instructions over smaller multiple volumes. Then again, both books are very helpful and cover all four sections well.
I spent about 2-3 hours solving, reading comprehensions for a few days, following the guidelines given in the Barron’s book. For listening, I practiced the tests present in the book. As far as speaking tasks were concerned, I feel that, anyone who is well versed in the English language shall not have a problem in the speaking segment of the exam. Lastly, for the writing section, I will be honest. I gave little time to preparation. I have prior experience of blogging on/off so I gave did not let the writing part get on to my nerves even though many people get stuck in the writing section with multiple exam attempts! So, I randomly chose topics given in the book and wrote pointers for those that I would have assimilated into an essay in real time, given I was sitting for the actual exam. I had a technical glitch during my actual exam where the computer system crashed and I had to handwrite the writing part of the exam which ironically was the sole reason I chose computer-based to begin with, so the joke was on me. I would have scored slightly higher in writing had I typed in my essays because my thinking process functions better when typing as opposed to writing plus I also have bad handwriting.
Anyhow, my score was an Overall 8 band, with 7 in writing, 7.5 in speaking, 8 in reading and 8.5 in listening.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for the exam:
- Do practice the writing section of the test with at least 10 writing topics for task 2 and 5 topics for task 1.
- Do some casual reading on the side if you have time so that your comprehension skills improve.
- Do go into the exam knowing what to expect in the speaking section and with prior practice regarding the format and types of questions asked.
- Do solve all four sections of the exam and time yourself each time so that you learn to manage and are well prepared
- Do get a good night’s sleep before the exam. Adequate sleep is of utmost importance.
- Don’t take any of the sections lightly. Scoring the desired band in each is important so don’t overlook practicing for each and every one.
- Don’t waste time over whether British council / AEO have an easier or harder exam. They are all the same. The same rule applies to handwritten vs computer-based exam. Chose the portal and mode of exam according to your own ease.
- Don’t feel burdened or register for the exam in a hurry. IELTS can be tricky, so give it when you are a 100% sure.
To sum it all up, the exam is easier for those who prepare for it. Ideally, I feel one should give 2-3 weeks of dedicated time before they attempt it. Treat it like it is, just like any other exam. It is not bigger than you. For those that were not able to score the desired attempt in the first try, do not feel disheartened. Evaluate your weak points, practice harder and come back stronger. All the very best.
(This post was written on 04 February 2017 for my website. I want to thank the writer for their contribution).