Monday, 19 March 2012

Zen and the art of IELTS preparation

I'm feeling philosophical today.  My group of IELTS students haven't got many more lessons before they do the exam, and I had a scary moment today when I felt that there was not enough time to teach them everything I wanted them to learn.  As I was walking home I had to tell myself firmly that there is NEVER enough time to do everything - in our work, study, social or home lives - and we always need to prioritise and do our best to make the most of the time we have left.

If you are doing IELTS and have a few days or weeks before the exam, why not try these ideas:

  • Make a revision folder: put ONLY your most useful handouts in a folder and carry it around with you everywhere!  Read it, highlight important bits, test yourself - but look at it at least once a day.  I'll write more about revision folders tomorrow.  
  • Get to know IELTS Simon -  He writes short daily lessons on his blog, and you won't find better information in any book.  It's also completely free.  If you carefully read and think about his lesson every day from now until the exam, I am absolutely sure that you will increase your IELTS score in each of the four skills - his advice and ideas are sensible and easy to understand.    And the main thing is....  he's not just a great teacher - he used to be an IELTS examiner.
  • Start talking to native speakers.  If you don't know any, and especially if you live in a place where there are no native speakers of English around, get talking to people on the Internet!  It doesn't matter what you talk about or how many mistakes you make - just get talking.  Your confidence and fluency will improve dramatically, even if the people you talk to don't correct your mistakes.  To those of my students who spend all their time with people who speak the same language and who rarely speak English outside the classroom - really make the effort to get to know another student with a different mother tongue.  Invite them to come along when you go out with your friends - you will have to speak English then!

If time is really, really short:

  • Find something light and enjoyable to read in English - maybe a magazine or a website about something your really enjoy.  As you read, you are refreshing your knowledge of all sorts of vocabulary and grammar without getting stressed out about it, and it really will help you when you face the exam questions.
  • Finally, try to relax.  All we can do is our best, and it is never too late to make a difference to how we perform in a challenging task - even if we know we should have done more to prepare for the exam, we can at least try to develop a positive attitude, which will probably make us perform better than we would have done if we were feeling pessimistic.  The earth will not stop turning if you don't get the score you hoped for - most of the time you get another chance, but if you don't, who knows?  Plan B may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you!  And if you don't know what I mean by Plan B, here's the explanation: .

Teachers and students out there - do you have any good last-minute advice?  Let me know....

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