2013 — Grass was greener, mountains were higher and D.Trump wasn’t the US president. That year I decided to apply for the university abroad, in order to do so, I had to pass IELTS/ TOEFL (for those, who hasn’t heard of second exam, here are some quick info: it is almost the same English test, can be written electronically only and usually seen more American). As far as I felt that my language was closer to American dialect, TOEFL was my first choice, however, as soon as I finished with theoretical part of preparations, my eyes “disagreed” with my decision of passing the electronic exam (after 1st hour of reading part eyes were almost bleeding and I could not concentrate on any further testing).
IELTS Academic was unavoidable since then. My plan was to pass IELTS in August, so I would be free from my high school studies. One month of good preparations seemed to be enough for me. Back then, I felt rather “unreal”: passing IELTS seemed to me more like a mirage, rather than a possible reality, and thinking of studying fully abroad looked more like an ideal dream. However, this gave me some additional confidence during the start of my preparations because one month felt like an eternity.
Studying theory at first, and then, following with practical exercises was the primary plan. Here I would like to step a bit away from the theme on my preparations and describe how it felt like to take first serious exam: it was horrible, as you may notice, the cost of the exam is rather high, when you are in the end of your high school — sum looks even bigger. The “money” factor brought additional responsibility and possibility of failure was unacceptable for me, the idea of taking any IELTS courses wasn’t taken into the account as well (due to the additional costs). Ok, we cool here — continue. My plan in terms of preparations was set as following:
- Study theory and the exam format by parts (1 week)
- Practice each part (2 weeks)
- Exam imitation (1 week)
Overall, 4 weeks of preparing for the exam. By the way, I fully ignored preparations for the “speaking” part, as far as I felt that it should be fully improvised and for me it is easy to talk in English.
Preparations started in the July… were supposed to start, however, nice sunny weather wasn’t supporting this idea. Concentration was a bitch who ran as fast from me as possible. Most of my attempts to study ended up with me swimming or hanging around with my friends. Half of first week was wasted, however, “next week I will be example of pure concentration and will study much better”. As you may predict, following week wasn’t rather productive: even though I done some stuff, I was far behind the plan. And clever reader may think that 3rd week was rather close to that as well, but I have to upset you: I found the article, where author described his experience of preparing for the exam, how hard was it and how he had failed. The single article brought me the fact that not so much time left and I still sucked at some parts. Next week I tried my best and must admit that was proud with the results. Practiced a lot on reading and writing cause I got some problems with timing, found a lot of useful materials (I will make a list of them in the end of the article), moreover, I applied my short TOEFL studies to the IELTS framework — surprisingly, speaking part one perfectly fits of TOEFL perfectly fits IELTS writing. Week 4 — huge panic, felt like I know nothing or like I am going to forget everything as soon as I enter the building. Instead of test imitation, I was improving my listening part, was rather tough to get everything on paper because you hear the text only once. BBC, CNN became my best buds, any series or movie was in English, no subs. Last day before the writing part, I found a great book “Target band 7”, great overview and main tips of whole the exam, still regret that couldn’t have found it earlier.
Speaking was the first part: everything went good till part 2. Here is a thing, more I am getting nervous — faster my speech is gonna be. That is why I rushed through my imaginary story and the last 15 or 20 seconds we were awkwardly sitting with the examiner in front of each other in complete silence. During the exam, I thought that nothing worse can’t happen till she asked me: “What is your favorite volunteering organisation?” …it feels like the phrase “that is such a great question” was repeated more than 5 times until I came up with an environmental organisation that is fighting against pollution in Siberia. Speaking done. Score: 7.5
Writing part — felt so nervous that couldn’t have slept that day, therefore, came to the exam one hour earlier. Here are we going to the exam room — my passport was checked for 5 times. Listening is starting — I am killing it — felt rather sure about most of the answers. Score: 7
Before the reading, decided to go to the toilet — still don’t know how, but I got a bit lost in the building. Felt stressed, that I spent 7 mins out of 1 hour. Starting to read and panic at the same time — feeling like I can’t understand a shit. The text wasn’t that hard, but I just couldn’t concentrate, all the “scan, do not read” techniques were piece of shit at that moment. To calm down, I decide to read everything through just like a casual article. Texts were rather interesting and I lost track of time, so I haven’t filled in any answers before they said that only 10 minutes left — had to rush through all the questions, multiple choice was half random. Score: 6.5
Writing was the easiest: got some easy graphs, so got no problems with descriptions. Second theme was on junk food. The only problem here — I didn’t know the word “junk” food, however, out of the context understood what is meant, main problem here was the lack of synonyms (hard to understand, which synonym suits the best when you see the original word for a first time). Score: 6.5
Overall score: 7
Such score was enough for me back then, because I needed only 6.0 to apply for the university. Today, it feels a bit low for me.
My only advice is to learn the exam, not the language. At least if you are time-limited. IELTS is just some sort of skill, you do not need to have a perfect English in order to get 8, you just need to learn exam hints.
Even free section is rather useful. Due to the fact that TOEFL and IELTS are similar, knowledge from this source is rather useful.
- “Target Band 7: IELTS Academic Module : how to Maximize Your Score”
There are also books for the higher scores; you can find some in Google books or torrent sites.
- “English lessons with…” YouTube channels
- http://www.bbc.com/news — read as much as possible, the language on the exam is rather close