Migration in Australia comes with a series of challenges to get approved. They test your good morals, financial capability, and your ability to communicate. With the first two in place, quite a number of Filipinos still fail the dreaded latter despite English being our second language.
We question ourselves, “We speak this language for so long. We even receive most of our learning and directives at school in this medium. Why is it so hard to pass this *insert profane language* exam?”. The problem might not be the lack of knowledge, but the lack of proper preparation and testmanship. This article aims to help you in preparing to ace that IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam.
Before you start
IELTS is a world-renowned test that determines your qualifications and mastery with regard to the English Language. Every visa application has a corresponding “band” or simply the average score you need to pass the requirement.
It is good to know what IELTS band you need to target to have a clear minimum goal to set. For example, the upcoming changes for the temporary workers’ visa now demand a higher average compared to the prior arrangement. Below is the range of scores you can get from the exam and what each tier means.
There are two IELTS tests namely the General IELTS or the Academic IELTS.
The General IELTS is usually for people who are applying for work visas. On the other hand, Academic IELTS is for those entering for education-related endeavors. Both tests are divided into four sub-tests namely: the Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking exams.
Depending on which one you are taking, the only difference is the “Reading” and “Writing” subtests are more scholastic for the Academic variant. Also, it is good to note that the test is strictly timed and specifically formatted. With this knowledge, we can simulate how the test will actually be when practicing.
Listening Subtest (30 minutes)
The Listening Subtest aims to assess the information recall of the testee upon hearing conversations. There are four recordings that will be the basis of the tests.
You must remember that the recordings will be played only ONCE. Afterward, you are tasked to answer questions pertaining to the recording. The questions are either in multiple choice, matching, sentence completion, or labeling type. A total of 40 questions is asked for the whole test.
Before starting, please check your headphones if it is working properly. If there are problems, ask help from the examiner in the room. You are given a sample test at the beginning to identify this problem.
Moving on, you are not expected to memorize the entirety of the recording. The examiner just wants to assess your comprehension on the key points of the recordings. What is good about this test is that you will be given time to check the questions first before the examiner plays the test recording. Given this, underlining key points and writing notes in your questionnaire is a good way to help you “watch out” for answers when the recording is playing.
Moreover, the exam makes you multitask between listening and writing your answers. The answer may come quickly or very slowly. Don’t fret because this is deliberate to rattle you. Be calm and practice to avoid this pitfall.
Lastly, there are instances that you might miss the answer from the recording. I suggest you don’t linger too long in any question. The time spent on this missed answer can be used to get other correct answers. The worst case is, with the given 10 minutes to transfer your answers, you can always guess.
Reading Subtest (60 minutes)
The Reading Subtest calibrates the comprehension of the testee when going through articles of various difficulties. The Academic Reading Subtest is composed of three sections with varying topics lifted from books, journals, magazines, and newspapers. On the contrary, the General Reading Subtest is focused more on social and work-life related articles. The examinees are given 40 questions for both tests.
For this sub-test, you can get tips to ace this test in here.
Writing Subtest (60 minutes)
The Writing Subtest gauges the examinee’s ability to compose letters and essays with regard to certain topics given. Both tests are divided into two tasks. Task 1 for the Academic Writing Subtests is a 150-word essay explaining visual information like graphs and diagrams, while the General Writing Subtest lets the examiner write a response letter to a certain situation. The missive might be a request for information or a letter explaining a situation. The suggested time for completion for this part is clocked at 20 minutes
Task 2 of this test involves writing a 250-word essay regarding a certain topic. The main difference between the two is that the General Writing Subtest has more commonly known subjects like recent issues about society. The questions are also phrased simply; simple enough to infer what the examiner wants to get. This part is time at 40 minutes for completion. You are graded using the following criteria:
Task achievement – regarding completion of word count and context of the essay used.
Coherence and Cohesion – it relates to the clarity and fluency of the message. It includes sequencing your ideas in a logical manner using appropriate word connectors.
Lexical Recourse – it refers to the range and proper use of vocabulary in writing.
Grammatical Range and Accuracy – it measures the accuracy of the grammar used in writing.
In receiving the questionnaire, it is good to plan your essay before writing. You can use your questionnaire as a scratch paper for organizing your thoughts because the examiner only gets the answer sheet. In taking a few minutes to do this, you can make sure to include relevant ideas for the piece and to compose a free-flowing essay.
To add, it is important to note that writing whole sentences lifted from the question will merit no marks; same with writing in bullet points. Just stick with writing whole sentences explaining the topic with proper grammar and spelling. Also, a lot of practice would give you certainty in measuring word count because you will not have time to do this. Practice under the same exam conditions, and surely you can ace this test.
Speaking Subtest (11 – 14 minutes)
The Speaking Subtest appraises the examinee of his ability to convey his/her thoughts in verbal communications. After the introduction, the test taker is given a “task card” to talk about. You are given one minute to prepare for the discussion. Your job is to convey your ideas using appropriate language and coherence. Afterward, you are asked questions, and later, answering it with the justification of your opinion. You are graded using the following criteria:
Fluency and Coherence – it describes the flow of speech of an examinee in using linking ideas when communication.
Lexical Recourse – it refers to the range and proper use of vocabulary in speaking.
Grammatical range and accuracy – it measures the accuracy of the grammar used in speaking.
Pronunciation – it infers how easy it is to understand the speaker.
In this test, for starters, confidence and spontaneity can go a long way. This can make you relaxed along the interview-like test. Also, your ideas flow out smoothly when you don’t feel pressured in the process. So be calm and composed before taking the test. Think of it as just a normal conversation with another person. Moreover, you are given a few minutes to prepare for your spiel and points to tackle. You can even ask for clarifications if needed. So need not worry.
Furthermore, these qualities can be acquired with consistent practice. Be aware of the current events by watching documentaries, news, radio programs, or reading our iRemit blogs. Also, try looking for a “speaking” partner to practice discussing your opinions with the topics. This can help you get more comfortable in speaking the English language.
Last Overall Tips
The amount of time it takes to prepare for the exam varies from person to person. Whether you are a prodigy or an average person, one thing is certain. The diligence to practice every day will not only make you familiar with the test but will also build your speed in answering the exam. Make sure that you practice under test conditions.
Because again, given there is high enough level of competency, students fail ONLY because of the test conditions. With that, assuming you have the luxury of time, it is best to take the test when you feel most confident in your practice test result. (Please do not base this on just one test. Please test yourself quite a number of times).
With that, I hope this guide helps you in acing your IELTS exam. Good Luck!