Appearing for one of the two official language tests is mandatory to apply for Canada’s Express Entry program. I will give you some tips and guidelines to score maximum possible band in all the IELTS modules based on my preparation and experience.
My score in IELTS was: Listening – 8.5, Reading – 9, Speaking – 7.5, Writing – 7.5 and it helped me achieve maximum possible score for the Canada Express Entry program i.e. 32 points for each module (Total = 128) and 25 bonus point each for my education & work experience (Total = 50). Thus giving our application a big boost of 178 points.
I didn’t join any class, I prepared all by myself by reading everything I could and identifying various factors which can help me boost my score. So the tips shared in this and upcoming posts about IELTS are the conclusion of all that research. Over last 6 months, many people have asked me this question – “Should I join a class” and my answer is “You don’t have to if you are willing to work hard and spend at least 20-30 hours every week on preparation”.
Before we get into the details, a word of advice from me. No matter how good you think your English is, you still need to prepare, study, work hard and practice. Practice is the key to getting a good score. You may get a decent score without practice but if you want the bonus points I mentioned earlier then you need to practice consciously using all the tips mentioned here and in future posts.
IELTS has 4 modules –
I will offer the tips for preparation in this post to help you with more than one modules. And over coming days I will write posts for each module offering more specific tips for it.
There are many online courses and help material for IELTS preparation. I will list the ones I found helpful.
1. Start watching British, Australian, Canadian & US news channels and start reading news, magazines from these countries. Don’t opt for English news sources from your own country. My observation was even though I was using English every day at work in India and was reading English newspapers, we tend to stick to basic English words. We don’t use advanced level of words. Scoring high in IELTS is not just about being able to communicate in English but it is about showcasing that you know the finer details of the language and can use complex words, statements and use it like a native person.
2. Future learn offers a free course which is typically also listed on the British Council website. Go to www.futurelearn.com and search for – Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests. This course is conducted by trainers who have been examiners for IELTS themselves. This course helped me understand the basics and nitty-gritty of the test. It is a 6-week course. Make sure you ask all your doubts and go through the comments as that will help you gain more insights and tips.
3. Dedicate a notebook or diary specifically for IELTS and don’t use it for anything else. (You will thank me the day before your test for making you do it). 😉
Write A to Z alphabets on top of pages, keeping 2-3 pages for each alphabet.
4. Make a schedule for yourself. Follow this routine on alternate days –
a. Read a news article from British, Australian, Canadian & US newspaper or websites. Highlight the words you don’t know or the words you know but never use. Note these words along with their meanings in your diary under respective alphabet. e.g. if the word is indigenous then note it down under alphabet ‘I’.
Note down 4-5 synonyms for the same word with respective context.
e.g. indigenous can be used for people as well as plants, animals, birds, species etc. The same rule applies to ‘aboriginal’. But the synonym ‘Homegrown’ is not used for people, it is used for produce or products, music, businesses etc.
Write down the news you read briefly in your own words but make sure you use all the new words you found for the first time.
b. Watch a TV news or program or documentary. You can also watch videos on YouTube if you don’t have access to international news or TV programs channels. Again make sure you watch British, Australian, Canadian & US news sources. Identify the words you don’t know or you know but you never use. Note them down in your diary in the similar manner mentioned above. Write down their respective meanings and synonyms.
Now find someone interested in listening to you or better even – someone preparing for IELTS. Speak about that news article in English and make sure you use all those words you found and noted in your diary.
- Special note – I observed that I knew many words and their meanings but never used them in day to day communication. As a result, I used a very limited set of vocabulary by habit and left out most of the good, advanced words while writing or speaking in English. Above mentioned routine is to get you into the habit of using as many words as possible.
5. After the alphabet lists in your diary, open a new page and put title – Adjectives. Every day, go on adding adjectives you come across and their respective synonyms. Dedicate at least 4-5 pages for this. Similarly, make a separate section for Adverbs and follow the same steps for listing as many adverbs as possible.
6. Make a new section – ‘Phrasal Verb’. Phrasal verbs are verbs used in combination with an adverb or a preposition and they have completely different meaning than the verb used.
e.g. Give has many different forms in phrasal verbs depending on the word we use with it. Give up means to stop trying, Give away means to give something for free and give in means reluctantly stop fighting.
You can refer https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/phrasal-verbs-list.htm for a list of phrasal verbs but remember this is not an exhaustive list. There are many more phrasal verbs than the listed here. So every time you read, listen to something in English, look out for phrasal verbs and note them down in your diary along with their meanings.
7. Make a new section in your diary leaving enough empty pages to fill with the phrasal verbs and title it as ‘Linking words’. Linking words are the words we use for linking two sentences. e.g. and, or, if, then, but, also, so – that, because, since, as, hence, therefore, thus, so, not only – but also, too – to, etc. Get into the habit of noticing the linking words used while reading and watching English news. Note the new ones down in this section (note down the usage if you think you won’t remember how to use it after a few days).
8. Go to www.ieltsliz.com. This website has a lot of material on IELTS and many useful tips. Make sure you follow the ones for General module.
Probably it is a lot to take in for you. So work your way through each step over many days. Work on new words first, once you get comfortable with it then start with adjectives & adverbs. Once you get comfortable with words, adjectives, adverbs then start working on phrasal verbs and so on. Don’t overburden yourself.
The most important part is – enjoy the process. Don’t think of it as study or preparation for a test. Think of it as acquiring a new skill. Enjoy every step of it and you will learn better.
P.S. Don’t try mugging up, it will not work. You have to practice using what you learn and not just by-heart words, phrasal verbs etc. It is not a magical wand, you won’t master it overnight. You need to work harder and give ample amount of time to get the results. Allow yourself at least 3 months to follow these steps and prepare.