How to Clear IELTS in a Single Attempt
Hi, I am Dr. Shayon Ghosh, an IMG from India. I cleared my IELTS in May 2022 and have booked a PLAB 1 seat for the May 2023 exam. In today’s blog, I am going to tell you about my IELTS experience, how to prepare for it as well as some tricks and tips to clear it in one go (Here, I would be referring to paper-based Academic IELTS).
I will discuss the following in this blog:
1) Why many aspirants cannot clear it in a single sitting?
2) Understanding the exam pattern, point system, and what the examiner looks for in each domain
3) High yield resources
4) My experience and preparation strategies
Why many aspirants cannot clear it in a single sitting?
I heard many stories, prior to my exam, regarding students taking the exam multiple times. Why so? Where do they lack? Why do the majority get stuck in the ‘Writing’ domain? Let me tell you; it is important to ask these questions, especially when you are next in line. And after days of chiseling and searching through, I came across quite a few reasons.
1) We either underestimate or overestimate our basic knowledge. Surprisingly, both lead to improper preparation strategies. Being unaware of what you exactly need to stress on is the biggest killer of performance. Explore your English skills, know where you lack, and work on that first, given you have plenty of time till your exam (a month or so).
2) Not understanding the true nature of this exam. It is not like those school-level English tests. We must research well enough about the IELTS exam and know it, in and out. This would make the preparation strategy smarter and more directional, saving us a lot of time.
3) Although this exam is not really that tough nut to crack, taking its preparation lightly and not giving it ample time is a mistake.
4) Last but not least, using “plain English”. Examiners would love to keep you stuck below band 7, that is for sure. In short, you must expand your lexical resource and put in variety.
Understanding the exam pattern, marking system, and what the examiner looks for in each domain
Now that you know what “not to do”, let me tell you what “to do”.
Exam pattern: It consists of 4 domains – Listening, Reading, Speaking, and Writing
- 40 questions, divided into 4 tasks, 10 questions each, in various patterns “complete the sentence, match the following, map, etc.”.
- Marking: 1 mark for each correct answer
- Time: 30 minutes + 10 mins extra time to transfer answers in the answer sheet
- 40 questions, divided into either 3-4 different passages or in a couple of passages in continuation, similar question types followed like “Listening”.
- Marking: 1 mark for each correct answer, penalised for wrong grammar or spelling while writing the answer in the answer sheet
- Time: 60 minutes (no extra time to transfer answers)
- 3 parts, with intentions to test a different set of speaking skills in each part – “Interaction”, “task input”, and “test takers output”. The amount of questions is variable. More questions are asked to encourage you to speak better and get what they are looking for.
- Marking: Marked as per examiner’s discretion, but marked on four qualities:
i) Fluency and coherence
ii) Lexical resource
iii) Grammar range and accuracy
- Time: 11-14 minutes
I) Use idioms and phrases wherever they seem fit, in moderation.
II) Avoid being too formal (avoid using too many conjunctions, e.g., Therefore, moreover, additionally), be more expressive and try voice modulation in moderation.
2 parts: Task 1 and Task 2
- Describe a visual representation - graph, table, diagram, etc. in your own words but in formal language.
- Word limit: 150 words or more
- Time: 20 minutes
- Format: Paragraphs – Introduction, body, and conclusion. Do not write in points.
- Respond with your point of view to an argument or problem, again in formal language
- Word limit: 250 words or more
- Time: 40 minutes
- Format: Paragraphs – Introduction, Body, conclusion. Do not write in points.
- Tip: Be formal here; use conjunctions and avoid using simple words; rather, use synonyms for those words. Add variety.
- For more information, refer to this link: https://www.ielts.org/for-test-takers/test-format
IELTS uses something called the “Band system”, ranging from 1 to 9. Band scores are expressed both for the test as a whole and for each domain separately. As we all are aware of the qualifying criteria, i.e., an overall of 7.5 or more AND a minimum of 7 in each domain, our priority should revolve around knowing what do these bands mean and how they are scored in the exam and practice accordingly.
Since Listening and Reading are scored based on a number of questions answered correctly, the true understanding of the “Band system” plays a much more significant role in Speaking and Writing tasks. For more information, refer to this link: https://www.ielts.org/for-test-takers/how-ielts-is-scored
High yield resources
1) YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/@EnglishSpeakingSuccess (For Speaking)
2) YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/@E2IELTS (Overall, but especially for Writing)
3) YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/@Aehelp (To see how the Speaking tasks are conducted)
4) When you book a test with either the British council or IDP, they will send you a booklet with examples and mock tests. Do solve as many mock tests as you can. Helps a lot!
My experience and preparation strategies
I had roughly a month to prepare, although I did not quite utilise most days efficiently due to my internship duties. I joined a free online coaching class that ran for a month, covering all 4 domains sufficiently with post-lecture tasks to maintain active participation from the attendees.
I mainly focused on the Speaking and Writing classes since I had already taken out the time previously to explore my weaknesses. I practiced Writing by choosing a few sample topics, keeping a check on the timing, and finally presenting it to the coach to get feedback.
I chose to practice speaking both with a friend and against a mirror. I also joined a live speaking series with the same coaching organisation. All these sources gave me excellent inputs as to how I could improve my Speaking. I cannot stress this enough, but getting feedback from the right person/source is highly essential. It is also important to inculcate and adapt to those improvements.
If you do not have access to such resources, try reading newspapers and watching the news on TV, searching for synonyms of daily used words, watch English movies and shows.
Again, YouTube is a great source of information at any point of time.
See, it is all up to you to set an upper limit to learning and practicing, but make sure you manage to prepare enough to score the qualifying criteria. Sure, I cleared IELTS in one go, but it was not exactly perfect. Unexpectedly, my performance in the Listening and Speaking domains was not up to the mark, which I took as a warning for myself, but it did not bother me much since I CLEARED it anyway. So yes, do not stress yourself.
To conclude, if you know the base level of your English skills, practice enough, and that too with a proper direction, and know what your target “Band” demands, you are good to go.
All the best!
Need more tips and advice?
If you have any questions regarding IELTS preparation, portfolio building, or the PLAB pathway, I would be happy to answer them at trewlink.com. You can register using this link https://trewlink.com/?referrer=kks416366.
Find me as an ambassador and follow my profile – Shayon Ghosh – to receive regular support and advice.