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International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

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Success in the IELTS exam requires a candidate to know the test format and the specific techniques for answering questions. Make sure you are fully equipped with this knowledge. ( Please see Resources on the Internet and Books )

Don't believe people who tell you that IELTS needs no preparation if your English is good. Even if it is, you still need to learn the right skills for the test. I would suggest a period of two weeks as preparation time, though this would vary depending on your level of familiarity with English. The test fees are high and if you don't get the band score you need, you have to wait for three months before you can take the test again.

Like in all other exams, practice is the key to doing well in the IELTS. Make sure you have plenty of it before you appear for the test.

Answer all questions. There is no negative marking for incorrect answers.

Preparing for the test

Start by familiarizing yourself with the test format. Then read the online resources I have suggested. After that you could start with Step Up to IELTS to build the basic skills that you will need to do the test. Lastly, go on to doing the 4 tests in Cambridge IELTS 3 under test conditions. This should get you ready to take on the IELTS.

The British Council offers preparatory courses for IELTS. A placement test is held first to assess the candidate's level of English. This costs Rs 400/-. A four day intensive course is held before the date of the test. This costs Rs 5600/-. If you can afford the fees, the course might be a good idea as it gives you an insight into IELTS along with lots of practice. I think it would not help those whose level is very poor (possibly they would not do well in the placement test itself) or very good (they may not need the course). It would be most useful for those who lie somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

Test day

Make sure you have visited the venue of the test a few days before the test date. Arrive at least half an hour earlier than the reporting time specified. Arriving late could send your tension levels soaring and the exam requires you to be absolutely relaxed and ready to give of your best.

There is no break between the four components of the test. This means that for around 3-3.5 hours, you can't eat, drink or visit the restroom. However, water was provided in the test hall where I took the exam and students were allowed to visit the restroom, but only while the test was in progress ( not in the period between different modules ). Since time is such a crucial factor in the exam, no one would want to waste time going to the toilet in the middle of the test. Make sure you visit the restroom before the test starts.

Carry your original and valid passport as it is mandatory. Also take the letter which gave you the venue of the test and your roll number. The receipt for the IELTS fee is another document that is sometimes asked for. Take it too.

Take a number of sharpened pencils, a pencil sharpener, an eraser and pens. Do all the components of the test in pencil. For listening and reading, use of a pencil is mandatory. For writing, it is much easier to erase what you write in pencil when you want to modify a sentence. If you use a pen, deleting sentences or words creates a mess.

Time is a crucial factor in the test. Make sure you take a watch that works and shows the correct time. Keep it in front of you on the desk as you work. It is all too easy to forget how much time has elapsed.

You can write anything you like on the question sheet. It is not read by the examiner. You can underline words, jot down your ideas for the writing test or write the answers for the listening test.

At our center (Delhi - INDIA), the Listening, Reading and Writing tests were held on one day and the Speaking test on the next day. The venue and time for the Speaking test are provided on the first day. Listen carefully to the instructions and remember to take the slip kept on your table which has the time for the Speaking test mentioned on it. You have to bring it along for the test. At some centers, all components of the test are held on the same day. This information is provided in the letter sent to you which gives you your roll number and the test venue.


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