Don't just mug up new words. Use it in your conversation.
Take regular mock tests and/ learn from your mistakes, advises study abroad consultant Gurinder Bhatti.
Photograph: Sahil Salvi
When it comes to realising your dreams of studying abroad, there are several different tests and barriers that you will have to navigate.
Alongside your application, the visa, and examinations like the SAT, the IELTS is an essential requirement for this dream.
The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS is a standardised test for English proficiency taken by non-native English language speakers.
Over 10,000 institutes of higher learning in English-speaking countries like the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand use your score in the exam as evidence of your proficiency in English.
Getting a good score in this exam lets the institution you’re applying to know how good your language skills are. Not doing well in this exam could mean being rejected.
Follow these five tips to crack the examination:
Find and address weaknesses
The most efficient way to improve is to find your weaknesses and work on them.
While applying abroad, you will have dozens of things to deal with and prepare for; the more efficiently you prepare for the IELTS, the better.
Take some mock tests and let the data drive you.
Which questions did you get wrong? Is the issue one of a subject or field of knowledge, or is it a type of question that is leaving you stumped?
In the IELTS, a candidate is tested on their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.
Additionally, your grammar is evaluated throughout. Being able to identify where you are struggling the most will help you focus on that issue.
If a type of question is leaving you stumped, practice it. If your writing is bringing down your score, then working on improving it specifically as opposed to revising every aspect will be a more efficient way to improve your score.
Doing mock tests to find your weaknesses is just the first part of the self-evaluation you will constantly have to undergo to direct your preparation and revision efforts.
Frequently doing online and offline mock tests will help you understand how to approach the test.
In an examination like the IELTS, this can be very useful -- it can help you gauge which structure to follow, which words and vocabulary to employ, how to put those words in a well-constructed sentence, and so forth.
Giving mock tests also has the added benefit of making you accustomed to the process and steadying your nerves for the actual examination.
Developing your vocabulary
One of the most important qualities tested in the IELTS is your vocabulary.
In the desire to do well, students often rote-learn new words. However, vocabulary is not about mugging up the meaning of words, but understanding how and when it should be used.
The best way to expand your vocabulary in the most effective way for your exam is to learn a new word, and then make it a point to use it in conversation.
To become more familiar with the word and to recognize the best ways and forms in which to use it, make it a point to find instances of the word being used in literature or media and study it.
During the exam, speak confidently and directly to the examiner and be careful and precise in what you say.
The idea is not to impress the examiner with what you know, but how you communicate it.
Organise and link your ideas, create appropriately structured sentences, speak clearly and lucidly, and use the right words at the right time to express yourself.
Focus on skill improvement
At the point that your familiarity with the language is getting better and you are becoming more proficient in English, it is time to focus on method and process.
Improve your listening skills by familiarising yourself with the sound, the situation, and the speakers.
Involve friends and family in your preparation -- let them help you understand where you might be going off track.
Having someone you trust giving you consistent feedback will help you get an objective understanding of how you’re doing.
Polish up your reading
The reading module of the IELTS isn’t challenging because reading is difficult; it is challenging because it requires comprehensive and thorough reading with a strict time limit.
There are several different methods that are recommended to help people crack this section. Some suggest reading the questions first and then noting the answers as they occur in the passage and answering them.
Another is to read the topic of the passage, read the first and last lines of each paragraph, and then move to the questions to understand what exactly has to be found while reading the entire passage.
Essentially, you have to practice this and determine what approach works best for you.
Settle on an approach, and then practice this until you have optimised it.
All the best!
The author Gurinder Bhatti is chairman and MD, ESS Global-Study Abroad Consultant.