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How I prepared for IELTS (Academic) while working a 12 hour shift everyday: By Ankita Sen

IELTS or the International English Language Testing system is one of the most common English language testing systems available today for students or professionals who wish to study or work outside of India/other countries. I started preparing for IELTS Academic in 2017 when I decided I wanted to continue with my master studies in Germany and here is a brief description of the test pattern and how I prepared for it.

The process for registering to appear for IELTS is rather simple. I can talk about India, from where I took the test, there are currently two institutions who offer to take the test

● British Council

● IDP India

I went with British Council, though there is no difference between the two. One can go online to their websites and book the test in really easy steps. They need to have their passport handy because the passport is the officially accepted identity document for the test taker.

Now coming to the format of the test, it is a 2 hour 45 minutes test with the following sections

● Reading : 60 minutes

● Writing : 60 minutes

● Listening : 30 minutes

● Speaking : around 11 to 15 minutes

One important thing to know is that the Reading, Writing and the Listening test happens on the same day without any gaps but the Speaking test can happen between one week before or after the test depending on the test centers availability. More details about the test format can be found in this link.

Now for the preparation part : I studied in an ICSE board school where special emphasis was given on English as a subject so my background was pretty strong but I was however out of practice when it came to taking tests and managing time. The test paper is quite okay not extremely difficult or too easy. The test is basically to gauge the understanding and application level of an individual at an international level, to make sure they can survive with English as the main mode of communication.

After registering, the British Council sends a study material, including a CD for listening exercises and in this link more sample questions can be found. I will give brief tips on each section but the most important tip is to Practice at least one full paper everyday, time it properly and get it checked by someone (a friend, parents, teacher) because it really helps in time management and saves last minute panics.

● Reading: This was section which troubled me the most and one week prior to the exam I was only getting band 6 for my reading sections after solving many many papers and I was taking maximum time to do this section. Then I tried reading one paragraph at a time and looking at the questions and I found that questions were sequential to the passage, i.e. question 1 will be about content from paragraph 1 and so on and I went on to get a band 8.5 in it. For enriching vocabulary read news articles, watch good movies and TV shows (preferably British), it helps a lot.

● Writing: There are two tasks so most important things is time management. Read the description of the tasks extremely well and 1/3rd of your job is done. Keep the answers simple. It is important to make proper and correct sentences rather than using fancy vocabulary. Well explained and grammatically correct sentences hold greater value than slipping fancy words out of context. British council is pretty strict when it comes to marking the writing scripts and they emphasise on grammar, spellings and how contextual the answer is. I went on to get a 7.0 in this section.

● Listening: Perhaps the easiest section in the test. The key to acing this section is concentration and watching lots of English movies wearing an earphone but without subtitles. Practice the listening tests provided in the study materials, time them and one can score a perfect band (9.0) in this section, I did !!

● Speaking: Thanks to me being from East India and all my colleagues from work being from South India, my English speaking was well in practice. But nervousness got the better of me and I did fumble a little but manage to score a 7.0 in this section. I did an exercise everyday where I would just select a topic from the list of topics given in the study material and record myself speaking on it then listen to it to correct or avoid mistakes. Helped me a lot. Read articles, saw movies and TV series to enrich my vocabulary.

Apart from these I had a nice dinner the previous night, a yummy breakfast, slept for 8 hours took a cool shower and gave my best. I prepared for a month while doing 12 hour shifts at the office everyday and got an overall band of 8. The key is to at least take out 2 hours 45 mins everyday for practicing one paper and even a perfect band is achievable.

Hope this article helps the future IELTS Academic test takers. Happy Learning !!!

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