I have helped many people over the last decade to prepare for their IELTS,CELPIP,TOFEL and other Cambridge tests. The common denominator in all these exams is to test how well versed the candidate is in English. Many who ask for help have taken their exam multiple times and not been able to achieve their desired bands or scores. Preparing for any fluency exam requires time, dedication and several little fun ways to get better at Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. Today, I would like to focus on some aspects that will help you prepare.
Please make it a point to speak and use English as much as possible. It does not work, if you speak your first language all the time and do English for 3 hours a day only. It is Imperative, to use the second language as much as possible. You can join free conversation clubs, watch sitcoms, movies or YouTube. If you have a work permit, take up a job. If you do not have a work permit, you can volunteer and speak to native speakers.
Read the newspapers every day. We get Star Metro which is free and you should pick it up. Read it and do not stop to understand the vocabulary. Try and understand the meaning of the sentence and move on. Go to www.bbc.com and listen to the debates and news. It will help you in your vocabulary, understanding the accent and getting to know what can be used as examples for both speaking and writing.
Go to the library and borrow magazines. Books are great but, at this point will not help you. You should read magazines because they present articles on many subjects and the vocabulary is content specific. That is the way to pick up new words contextually. Learning random words from a list is of no use. One has to see how the word is used to enable the brain to understand where and when to use a specific word.
Listen to English music. I am not talking about rap but songs that have lyrics that appeal to you. If you go to YouTube, you can listen to the song with the lyrics given. One word of caution, sometimes the lyrics can be wrong. But it can be fun to challenge the brain to understand and identify words that you know already. Go beyond your comfort zone and pick up new words and have the courage to use them.
One fun way to help your reading is to read a paragraph and try and figure out what the main idea of the paragraph is. A good example would be reading the Metro newspaper and after reading each para, try and find out what the main idea is and where that main idea has been supported. Has the main idea been supported with the help of examples? did they give data to support it? did they give a quotation? Use this strategy and see how quickly you get to the main idea. This is really helpful when you do your reading exam.