Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Last minute IELTS revision

In my last post I talked about getting ready for IELTS when you still have a couple of months ahead of you.  Today I've been working with students who don't have anything like that amount of time available for revision - they are doing their tests within the next ten days.  

If time is getting short, you need to focus your attention very carefully on the most essential things.  It goes without saying that all IELTS teachers will have their own ideas about what is essential, but these are the things I think are worth doing in the last few hours of revision time.  
  1. Speaking: IELTS-Simon quite rightly says that most of your focus should be on preparing for the second part of the test, by planning ideas and language for some of the very common topics - have a look at his advice here and act on it. However, if time is getting REALLY short, and you are down to the last few hours, I suggest that you make sure you are ready for Part 1.  True, it's not where you get the most marks, but it's a good idea to make a strong and confident start to the test, and it's not difficult to work through the typical Part 1 questions and get your answers ready.  If you make a mess of the answer to 'Do you work or are you a student?' it will knock your confidence and make you even more nervous.  There's lots of videos on YouTube which will give you a really good idea of the questions you will face - have a look at this one for a start.  Whatever you do, smile at the examiner, make eye contact with him or her, and don't forget that it's ok to say 'Sorry, I didn't quite catch that.  Could you repeat the question please?'  Finally, remember the magical power of if and because!
  2. Reading: Try and find one IELTS Reading passage that you haven't seen before, or if you really can't find one have a look at the 'official' samples here (the downside of this is that the passage only has a few questions, not the normal amount).  In any case, have a go at your chosen passage - time yourself for 20 minutes if you have a proper passage with the 12 or 13 questions  (if you're using the samples don't bother timing yourself), then check your answers.  If you stop here you're wasting a massive opportunity to help yourself - as I said yesterday, the value of the practice tests is that you can learn so much from your mistakes.  What did you get wrong and why?  Is it something that can be quickly fixed - like not having read the questions carefully enough?  Compare the language in the question with the words in the text and remind yourself that the words will be related in meaning, but rarely are the same words in both.
  3. Listening: If you still have access to a Listening test you haven't done before, do it - but make sure you use the transcript afterwards to really check where you went wrong.  Otherwise, try and find something interesting to watch in English on television or the internet, using English subtitles if necessary.  It's very important to 'tune in your ear' to English, particularly if you are not living in an English-speaking country and/or are living with people who speak the same mother tongue as you.  Relaxing with a really good film in English is actually quite a good use of your time!
  4. Writing: This is where IELTS-Simon is really valuable - his advice is better than anything you'll read in a book.  Learn his Writing Task 1 four paragraph method - paraphrase the question, give an overview of the most important information, then add two paragraphs with some details.  You can find out more information about this here, where he talks you through his thinking process about how to approach a task.  For Task 2, why not think about adopting this quick and simple method for writing introductions and conclusions - a strong start and finish to an essay always make a good impression.  If you have time, read through as many of Simon's plans and sample essays as possible - they will give you lots of good ideas.
Only you can know exactly what your particular strengths and weaknesses are, so some of these things may not apply to you, but maybe some of the ideas will be helpful.  Good luck!


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