My students at Manchester Victoria College have their IELTS exam tomorrow - good luck! Here are some of the reminders I gave them today:
- Make sure you know EXACTLY how to get to the IELTS test centre, and assume that the traffic is going to be very heavy (unless you're walking there!). Plan to get there about an hour before the deadline - you can always have a cup of tea in a coffee shop if you get there quickly, and if the bus is stuck in traffic you won't be stressed.
- Be careful in your choice of clothing - you're not allowed to wear your coat, or a top with pockets. Wear a few layers so you will feel comfortably warm but can quickly strip off if you overheat!
- If you're doing the whole exam in one day, bring some food and drinks - you won't know the time of your speaking exam until the day so you don't know how much time you will have to get some lunch.
- And while we are on the subject of food, try to have some breakfast on the day. I know that most people don't feel like eating when they are nervous about the exam, but your brain will work better if you give it some food first :-) If you can't face your normal breakfast, maybe you could have some fruit and yogurt when you arrive at the test centre?
- In the Listening, don't waste time worrying about anything you miss - keep listening and try really hard to keep up with the questions, even if you can't get every answer. Don't give up in Section 4 - yes, it's difficult, but there are always a few easier questions even in this part of the test. At the end when you are transferring your answers, be VERY careful to check that you are putting the right answer against the right number on the sheet - I know it sounds insultingly obvious, but many students number their answers incorrectly, purely as a result of exam nerves. Don't leave any of the questions blank - you will get nothing if you write nothing, but a guess may just be right.
- In the Reading, don't panic and start trying out new strategies at this stage - use the techniques you've been practising in class. Don't forget that each of the three passages has a mixture of easy and difficult questions - if anyone tells you that the whole of passage three is difficult, they are mistaken. Spend twenty minutes on each of the passages, and transfer your answers to the answer sheet as you go - you don't get any extra time for this at the end of the test. I personally know three students who got a Reading score of less than 2.0 because they forgot about this on the day, and one of the three tried to quickly carry on writing after the time was up and got into trouble with the invigilator. Again, don't leave any blank spaces on the answer sheet, especially if the questions were multiple choice.
- In the Writing, focus on being clear and as accurate as possible. If the examiner doesn't understand what you are trying to say, you will not get a great mark. Don't spend more than 20 minutes on Task 1, and don't forget that students who put in lots and lots of numbers without making comparisons and a summary/overview get low marks. In Task 2, spend five minutes thinking and planning, and then put most of your effort into the main body paragraphs - your introduction and conclusion only need to be a couple of sentences each - if you run out of ideas try to include examples of what you are talking about. Use the last few minutes to check for silly mistakes - like missing plurals or third person 's'.
- In the Speaking, smile and make eye contact with the examiner - they are only human, after all! Don't forget to include the words if and because as these words will make you use more advanced language without even thinking about it. Don't be afraid to say 'Sorry, I didn't catch that' if you didn't understand the question, and if they ask you a really difficult question you can say 'Hmm, that's a really difficult question'!
I really hope that the exam will go well for you but if you feel it went badly, don't despair. Very many people need to take the exam a second or even third time to get the score they need, and if you did very much worse than you expected you could even consider taking some extra lessons... :-D