In the reading and listening parts of the test, there are many different question types. You may find some easier than others. Practise all the different types which you may have to answer in the exam and focus on the ones which you find more difficult. Think about techniques you can use to help you. For example, with many question types, predicting the answers beforehand can be a good method. With others, underlining key words and listening out for or underlining synonyms in the reading text works better.
This may seem obvious but you’d be amazed at how many times students make mistakes which, with a little more care and attention, could have been avoided. For example, if the instruction says no more than 3 words, this includes things like prepositions, contractions and articles. Make sure you follow the instructions. With questions like these (short answer and also sentence completion types), the words you require will either be in the recording (listening) or in the text (reading). If the word is in the reading text, do not change it – copy the spelling. If you don’t spell a word correctly that is written in the text on the question paper, this is a needless way to lose marks. With things like sentence, note or summary completion, always read through again after you’ve completed the task. The text should be grammatically correct and you shouldn’t repeat words that are already provided in the stem.
With a test like this, it’s impossible to predict the vocabulary topics you’ll be tested on so you can’t really prepare for this. However, there is some language that will always be useful to you. For example, in part 1 of the writing, you’ll always be asked to summarise data, therefore it is essential that you learn how to describe trends (e.g. “the level has increased steadily”/ “there has been a gradual decline” etc). Phrases you’ll need to summarise are also important such as “to sum up” or “overall”. The same goes for the essay (writing section part 2). Connecting phrases like “however”, “in addition” as well as passive structures for describing common ideas (e.g. “It is widely believed that…”) will always come in useful, so learn them. But remember, you must understand the grammar and meaning of the vocabulary you use as there is nothing more confusing for a reader than lots of complex words used in an inappropriate way.
Patrick prepares students for the IELTS exam at our school in the centre of Manchester, UK. If you wish to attend Patrick’s lessons, please email firstname.lastname@example.org