IELTS Preparation Courses Dos and Don’ts
So you’ve decided to take the IELTS exam and you want to do a preparatory course. Good choice! This exam is one of the most widely-recognised in the world and it can help you to study in many university programmes all over the world, or to improve your career prospects, or even to move to an English speaking country. But you’re asking yourself, “How do I prepare for an IELTS exam?”
Hopefully this post will help you make some good decisions and avoid some common mistakes while you’re choosing an IELTS course, preparing for the exam, and on the actual day you take it! This is the advice that I give to all my students who choose to take the IELTS exam in Galway.
Before choosing your course
DO YOUR RESEARCH
If you want to study IELTS in Ireland or anywhere else in the world, you should make sure that the course you’re taking is right for you. A lot of people come to learn English in Ireland, but not all courses will show you how to prepare for IELTS. Every exam is different, and even with all the great resources available to students online, nothing beats preparing with a teacher who really understands how the exam works and what is expected of you. Make sure that the course you take will help you with every skill and that you will be able to easily book and take the exam somewhere near your accommodation so that you’ll be well rested and relaxed on the day.
During your course
DO GET TO KNOW THE MARKING SYSTEM
As a student, you should set meaningful and achievable goals for yourself and then share those goals with your teacher. Find out which skills (reading, writing, listening or speaking) you are strongest in and which ones need the most improvement. Especially with writing and speaking, there are very specific things the examiners are looking for and you will be better able to meet your goals if you understand the requirements clearly.
DON’T IGNORE YOUR TEACHER’S ADVICE
Throughout your course, listen to your teacher’s feedback. Whenever they correct something in your writing or speaking, try and understand why you needed to make an improvement and think about that the next time you do a task. I and many of my colleagues who teach IELTS in Galway often find our advice falling on deaf ears. Make sure you’re one of the students who takes full advantage of having access to a good teacher.
We look carefully at what the examiners want from our students and try to steer them in the right direction. The coursebooks used in classes are carefully written to contain the correct and relevant IELTS preparation course content that will help you the most. Trust your teacher and take everything you do in class seriously, even if it’s not always exam practice. There are more ways to improve your skills than just by doing practice tests.
DO THINK ABOUT TIME
As with all exam preparation, time is very important. The IELTS exam is very time sensitive and your teacher will help you manage your time, but you should think about it as well. You need to think about the limited time you’ll have on the day of the test; and the best way to prepare for this is to start timing your homework. Try to do some of the tasks you’re assigned the way you will on the test: no phone, no distractions, within the time limit.
Homework and study time outside of the class are essential. You need to organise in the long term as well. Think about how many weeks you have before the test, what skills you want to work on, and how much you want to do each night. The more work you do in your first two weeks of the course, the less stressed you’ll feel when you reach the end.
DON’T OVERDO IT
Having said that, be careful that you don’t overwhelm yourself or make the experience more stressful than it needs to be. If you’re doing your IELTS course in Ireland, away from home, make sure you take good care of yourself. Talk to your friends and family regularly and find some fun things to do with friends outside of your preparation course.
Remember: we offer an exciting activities programme for our students so every time you go out and do something fun while speaking in English, you’re still studying! Don’t only study by doing exam tasks. Read magazines and books in English, watch films and series to work on your listening, and speak as much as you can about as many topics as you can. Studying doesn’t have to be tiring and stressful.
On the day of the exam
DO READ THE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY
The IELTS exam has so many different task types that it is easy for even the best prepared student to make a mistake. So, on the day of the test, read the tasks and make sure that if they ask you for two correct answers you don’t select just one and that if they ask you to fill a gap with no more than two words you don’t write three.
DON’T SPEND TOO LONG ON ONE QUESTION
Remember that you’re racing against the clock. While you’ve been preparing for the exam, you have developed techniques for dealing with the time limits. Don’t allow yourself to panic and forget all this important work on the day. When you come across a question you don’t have a good answer to: take a deep breath, write something down and put a star next to it on your question paper. If you have time at the end, you can come back to it.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE YOURSELF
When you’ve been preparing for an exam for weeks or even months, it can be very easy to become a little obsessed with passing, with linkers, better vocabulary and avoiding mistakes until you forget that the examiners want to hear you communicate! It’s much easier to do that if you have something to say.
You’re a brave person. Maybe you’ve already chosen to do your IELTS preparation in Ireland, away from home, let the examiner see that!