Cracking the IELTS Code

The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS as it’s more widely known as, is one of the most important tests that you will have to appear for, if you are looking at expanding your horizon. There are several other formalities before your dreams will finally take wings, but, IELTS will be your first big pitstop in this race. Now that my last article has given you some clarity on what this test is about and what should you be expecting when appearing for this test, you’ve crossed step one.

However, just knowing isn’t sufficient. You’ve got to prepare yourself before you decide on when you want to take the test. Remember, IELTS is no cakewalk if you go unprepared. As discussed in the last article, there are four sections: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking, in which, you will be awarded band scores according to your performance, irrespective of whether you’re attempting the General or Academic test. Now, before you put pen to paper, it is important that you equip yourself with some best practices, so that your chances of getting a good band score are high, which in turn, will translate into the first stepping stone to your success.


The moment you complete the identification check on the day of your IELTS exam, you will get started with your listening module.  As mentioned in the last article, it remains same for both General and Academic. Since, you are made to listen the audio only once, these tips would aid you in giving your best. Use the example beginning of the first section to familiarize yourself with the sound, the situation, and the speakers. Do not hurry through the entire section. You must keep listening until the recording stops, looking only at the questions that relate to the part being played. Make optimum use of the pauses and half-minute breaks you are given, to ensure that your answers are accurate. Remember, questions are in the same order as the information in the recording, so, you can relax. As it is difficult for you to write the answers in the answer script the moment when you listen the recording and maintain pace with the questions, at the end of the recording you have some time to transfer your answers to the Answer Sheet. Check your grammar and spelling as you do so.


Reading is perhaps the trickiest of all the modules tested. As mentioned earlier, the reading module differs for Academic and General test. Begin by going quickly through each passage to identify features such as the topic, the style, the likely source, the writer’s purpose and the intended reader. As you read, don’t try to understand the precise meaning of every word or phrase. You don’t have time, and those parts of the text might not be tested anyway. Skipping some words, while registering the keywords will be your cheat code to do well in this module. Reading tasks sometimes have an example answer. If this is the case, study it and decide why it is correct, and in doing so, understand how it is done. Some tasks require you to use words from the text in the answer; in others you should use your own words. Thus, it becomes inevitable for you to check the instructions carefully. This might also include a word limit, e.g. ‘Use no more than three words’. Stick to the instructions religiously.


In order to understand how to crack this section, it is important that we split it into Academic and General tests. In Academic writing, you must always keep to the topic set. Don’t try to prepare sections of text before the exam. Remember, you might have prepared for some topic, but it could be something completely different in the question paper. Also, since there are two tasks in this module, manage your time well. In this regard, it is important for you to know how the marks are split, so that you can devote time to each task accordingly. There are more marks possible for Task 2 than Task 1. In the writing module, you should organize and link your ideas and sentences appropriately, using a wide range of language and showing your ability (in Task 2) to discuss ideas and express opinions. If you write less than 150 words in Task 1, which is data interpretation for Academic and letter writing for General candidates, or less than 250 in Task 2, which is essay writing for both, you will lose marks, but there is no maximum number of words for either. When you plan your essay, allow plenty of time at the end to check your work. Read the question, understand the instructions and allow yourself to think and plan before you put pen to paper.


Speaking is perhaps the only section in which there is scope for you to do things differently, because, it is precisely about you and your take on a range of topics. In the Speaking module, don’t try to give a prepared speech, or talk about a different topic from the one you are asked to discuss. You always should speak directly to the Examiner, not to the recording equipment. Never give skeletal answers; whenever you reply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the Examiner’s questions, add more details to your answer. In each case, aim to explain at least one point, preferably, with examples. Remember that you are not being tested on your general knowledge but on your ability to communicate effectively, hence, the topics will be of general interest too. You will not be expected to speak on topics that you will be clueless about. Organize and link your ideas and sentences appropriately, talking clearly at normal speed and using a wide range of structures and vocabulary. Speak loudly and clearly, in a manner that the examiner understands each word you speak.

IELTS is no rocket science. There are thousands who attempt the test and come out with flying colours. If so many of them can do it, so can you. Keep these points in mind so that cracking IELTS becomes easier for you. Remember that you need to relax before you start appearing for any module. In a panic-stricken state, you will only end up making blunders. Keep calm and implement these suggestions in your preparation. Be rest assured that the results won’t be disappointing. Good luck!

By Mounica Sharma



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