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Many of my students who have either taken the IELTS exam or are scheduled to take it have certain questions. I have tried to put down a few and have answered them for you to take a look.

  • Why is this such a difficult test?

It is not such a difficult test. The exam is merely trying to see where you are on a scale from 0 to 9 in terms of your fluency in all 4 skills. The word difficult is extremely relative and you should not look at any exam as easy or hard. It is just an indicator and is not meant to depress you or de motivate you. It just tells you where you are at the moment. Getting a 7 is harder than a 6 for sure, but that can be achieved with work and a correct attitude towards the exam.

  • Why am I unable to get the score I require?

Once again, the score you require like a Band 6.5 or Band 7 may require more work from you and you need to work on a particular skill harder. Most candidates speak their mother tongue most of the time and speak English for 2 hours or less in a day. Many people hardly ever write academic essays and so, this is the part one needs to work on even more.You need to put in more work and surround yourself with English. Cut back a little on using your first language. Learning the finer nuances of any language takes time.

  • What do IELTS examiners want for a band 7 in all 4 skills?

That is a very easy question to answer. Go to Google and download the Public Band Parameters that clearly indicate the expectations of each band in all 4 skills in writing and speaking. Most people do not know that IELTS has this for you to give you an indication of what is expected. This is a very useful tool and you should print it and keep it for your personal reference.

  • I have taken multiple tests and I have not passed. What am I to do?

First of all, there is no pass or fail in this exam. It just tells you where you are. You need to invest money and take classes or get a tutor or just practice to get more familiar with the exam. Very often, people need to take multiple tests as they improve to check whether they have reached the level required for their band score. In all honesty, if you got a Band 6 in your writing and need a Band 6.5 or 7, that is not going to happen in a week or 2 weeks. One needs to take a step back and get working on the different aspects of academic writing and then move forward. If you have taken multiple tests and are stuck in a particular band, quite obviously you are doing something wrong, something you don’t know or are missing. You need to fix that first.

  • My writing sucks and I can never make it. What do I do? I have written so many essays and it does not help.

Nope. Your writing does not suck. You may have written a hundred essays BUT,did you get a tutor to mark them? Probably not. You keep repeating the same mistakes and in your eyes the essay is perfect. However, when someone else reads it, the story is quite different. Get a tutor to go over your essay or your Task 1 and let them point out all your errors. You can only improve something, if you know what is wrong with it. So, quality over quantity will really help you reach your target band.

  • I can never finish my reading and why are the readings so long?

Academic texts are longer than general ones. When you go to University or are pursuing your career as a doctor, nurse, architect or pharmacist you will be reading long and complicated texts that require analysis. Stop complaining about the length and get to grips with what the text is trying to tell you. There are specific tools like skimming and scanning that need to be used. You need other tools as well that will help and that you will get, if you go to a reputed tutor. You will need to practice and time yourself and this needs to be done on a regular basis. Give yourself a chance to get used to the texts. My students have always got anywhere between a 7.5 and 8 and they did this because they used the tools I gave them for reading. They usually finish ahead of time.

  • I cannot make out the difference between False and Not Given when doing my reading sections. Those questions are awful.

The reason those questions have been given is to test whether you have truly understood the subtle difference between something that is totally wrong and something that has not been mentioned in the text. Many times we imagine and believe that the writer means something which the writer has not mentioned at all. You need to read that section more carefully to sift between wrong information and facts that cannot be found in the body of the text. This requires practice. They are not really awful, just fun things to ace completely.

  • The accent in listening is so hard. I often misunderstand what is being said.

The reason why people study English is to be able to communicate with people from all around the world. You need to be able to understand English spoken by people with different accents, native speakers, and non-native speakers. This is a reality specially when you work in Canada.

Cambridge has a tremendous reputation of generating materials that are very well graded and understood. I have given specific ways to my students to get more familiar with different accents and you too should be aware,that often we mispronounce words and we do not know any better. When we hear that word correctly pronounced, we actually do not understand it. Once again, practice makes perfect in this case. Be careful of your spellings.

  • My Speaking examiner looked so strict and I was so nervous. I did badly because of that.

This may be your perception because you are nervous to start with. Nerves can destroy and paralyze our brain completely. Your examiner is trying to give you the best scores you deserve. The examiner is listening carefully and is engaging with you but not as a friend. Think of it as a job interview and not a test. You have to do all the talking and not your examiner. This is your test and you have to impress the examiner. Your examiner is a native speaker and a qualified, certified examiner who does not need to impress you. Do not take this personally because it is not personal. How the examiner looks should not dictate how you answer and respond. You have to do your best and that is all you should focus on.

  • My friend got a much higher Band than me in writing and I know her English is worse than mine. How can this happen?

First of all, how are so sure that your English is better than your friend’s English? Are you sure she does not have someone who has been coaching her? We often do not know things about others because no one really tells us more than what we should know. This is not a competition between your friend and you. Your only competition should be with yourself. There may be multiple reasons why someone else has done better than you and you should not be spending time on that. Invest in yourself, shut out others and look at your own requirements. Focus, on yourself. If a person got a higher score, they deserved it.

  • My tutor said I will get a 7 but I got a 6. What is going on?

A self respecting tutor will not give you a Band score. That should not be the reason why you go to a tutor. The job of the tutor is to help you get better in grammar, vocabulary, style and organization. This is true for both Speaking and Writing. No one can or should guarantee the ultimate score you get. You may have given your tutor brilliant essays that you have researched, written over 2 hours. However, during the exam, nervousness, lack of planning and time pressure may have played a part and the result could have been an average essay or answer. Do not focus on what band the tutor gives you and rest on that. Instead, focus on the errors you make and ensure they never happen again.

  • I have taken the exam 6 times. I give up. Will I ever pass?

Passing any exam requires preparation, practice and dedication. You need to have an open mind and keep working on your skills to develop them adequately to get your desired scores. Please do not get desperate and start running around and go from one tutor to another and get exploited by others. No one can ever say how long it will take you to get your desired band score. It depends entirely on you and how much effort you put in and how far your current scores are from your required score. All I can say is that with tools, dedication and an open mind you will get to it. This exam does not define who you are and it never will. Just keep at it and stop taking multiple exams because each time you don’t get your score, it erases the self confidence you have in your own abilities.

  • Where do I get IELTS materials to practice with?

Cambridge has many books with enough practice to keep your engaged for a very long time. Go through those books....I believe there are 14 Cambridge IELTS books with all 4 skills covered. You can get them at your local library or download and print them You have numerous websites as well that can help you. The British Council has materials and practice tests which are targeted to give you what you need. IDP has an excellent website with loads of stuff. Since there is so much material out there, just make sure to choose carefully and sign up with authentic materials given by the test partners which are IDP and The British Council. These two organizations know what they are doing and the chance of getting misled by them will never happen. They conduct these exams and know what they do.

  • I got 6.5 and need 7. Should I ask for a review?

I would say it depends. The reason I say that is because you need to pay for that review, you have to wait for 3 weeks and the chances are the score may never get changed. Do you have the time to wait? I would say, move on. If you did not get the score, get help and improve yourself. Take the exam when you know you are ready to take it and get on with your life. Often the wait can be quite stressful and not worth the trouble.

  • Is there a difference between centres? My friend changed her centre and got her score.

NO. There is no difference between centres when it come to scores. The administration of centres may vary but as far as your marking goes, there is no difference. You will get the score you deserve based on your test responses. You should decide which centre you want to go to based on distance, your own needs and whether any centre offers something another centre may not have. A good example will be headphones for the listening test. All centres do not offer that option. If you feel you need one, go to the centre that gives you that option. All examiners are trained the same way and the exam is highly standardized and therefore, no person gets any extra favours. The centres are run by IDP and The British Council and they run them based on exactly the same standard procedures.

  • If I go back to my home country, I will get better scores in Speaking. Here the examiners are too strict.

I get this question a lot. Once again, that is your perception because you are in a familiar environment and feel more relaxed. All examiners are certified the same way and no examiner will give you more or less marks. When you make these comments, you are actually questioning the examiners’ credentials,their honesty and ability. You are also without knowing, casting aspersions on a highly successful examination system based on fairness. So please do not make these remarks, they are totally baseless and incorrect. Ultimately, You get what you deserve, wherever you take this exam. It is entirely possible that in your own city, you may be more at ease and therefore, be able to write and speak better. Once again, do not harbour these thoughts, they are incorrect, baseless and very negative.

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