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  • Writer's pictureSte Sharpe

IELTS Myth... doing IELTS practice tests will improve your band score

Fake news with a red cross
Fake news

One myth which always seems to be constant when preparing for the IELTS test is…

‘You need to do lots and lots of IELTS practice tests to improve your band score’.

While there is ‘some’ truth in this, it’s not the most effective way.

If you want to know my thoughts on this myth, read on…

What is the IELTS Test?

As I’ve discussed in my previous blog, the IELTS test is an evaluation of your current level of English. If you want to get a band 7 (equivalent to C1), your overall English level already needs to be at that level.

The test will evaluate your English skills in listening, reading, writing and speaking. You’ll receive an individual band score for each test, then an overall band score.

What are the advantages of doing IELTS practice tests?

IELTS practice tests are a great way for you to prepare for the test in terms of:

-familiarising yourself with the different types of exam questions and strategies needed to answer them.

-managing your time effectively to answer all the questions and have enough time to review your answers (especially for the IELTS Writing Test).

-calming your nerves so you can do your best.

-boosting your confidence.

What are the disadvantages of doing IELTS practice tests?

As the IELTS test is an evaluation of your current level of English, you need to show the examiner your range of knowledge in English to help you understand the language in reading and listening and produce the language in speaking and writing.

In my previous blog post about Lexical Resource in the IELTS Speaking Test descriptors, you can see the difference between a band 6 and 7. At band 7, you need to show an ability to:

-use less common and idiomatic expressions

For example:

I’m on the fence, under the weather

-use collocations

For example:

make an effort, influential figure

-paraphrase effectively

For example:

Many citizens are unhealthy = many people in the city have poor health

The same is true for the grammar. In my previous blog post about Grammatical Range and Accuracy descriptor for the IELTS Speaking Test, I highlighted the difference between a band 6 and 7. At band 7, you need to show an ability to:

-use a range of simple and complex sentence structures

For example:

Once I’ve finished my exams, I’d like to go on holiday for a month to relax.

I could’ve been a better student at university.

-uses sentences without frequent errors

For example:

'It depends on’ not ‘It’s depend of’

‘Despite the rain..’ not ‘Despite of it’s raining’

Doing lots of IELTS practice tests won’t help you to expand your range of English to be able to use complex sentences better, use less common idiomatic expressions or paraphrase effectively.

Another disadvantage is the lack of feedback on your speaking and writing. It’s important to know what areas of grammar and punctuation you need to improve in your writing and how to correct your pronunciation in your speaking so you feel you’re making progress. Official IELTS Practice Test books will provide sample IELTS Writing Test answers, as well as transcripts from IELTS Speaking Test answers, with an explanation of the band scores, but having feedback from an IELTS teacher for writing and speaking is key to your progress.

How can I prepare effectively for the IELTS Test?

To answer this question, I need to talk about my philosophy to IELTS Test preparation:

Test Familiarisation + Language Development

Test Familiarisation means you need to understand the IELTS Test format, such as the timing for each test, the types of questions use in each test, the strategies used to answer them, how the scoring works, what language you need to use for band 7 is the IELTS Speaking and Writing test.

Language Development means exposing yourself to English so you can learn new words on a wide range of topics, understand how to use more complex sentence structures and learn more ideas on different topics.

To improve your test familiarisation, you can do IELTS practice tests, especially for reading and listening. There are so many IELTS practice tests available on the Internet, but I would highly recommend the following websites:

-The official IELTS Website has some sample papers for both paper-based and computer-based tests.

-Cambridge English website offers the official IELTS Practice Test books, now in its 18th series.

So, what do I do now?

If you want to prepare for the IELTS Speaking test, check out my online IELTS Speaking Course where you’ll not only learn all about the IELTS Speaking Test format, but you’ll also improve your speaking skills and complete 4 speaking mock tests with me, including detailed feedback, to ensure you feel prepared and ready to give your best on the test day.

You can also join my Telegram Channel (see the link at the bottom of the web page) where you’ll receive free resources to develop your language skills.

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