The London School - The Cambridge Way

IELTS tips

By 15-year-old Tran Viet Duc, 8.5 IELTS student

Over recent years, few Vietnamese can say that they are oblivious to having heard about IELTS. The ever-increasing popularity and prominence of the IELTS examination is not without sound justification.

Your IELTS score can have a direct influence on your chance of enrolling in a top university, landing a job at a reputable company, or earning yourself a scholarship. Therefore, it is vital that anyone who is interested get all the help they require to tackle the test with confidence.

As someone who has achieved 8.5 on the IELTS, I have taken it upon myself to offer you my way of learning so that my experience can aid you in some way and help you to achieve the results you desire.

This guide was compiled with versatility in mind, so an IELTS beginner or veteran should be able to benefit from it in much the same way.

  – Have a good understanding of the structure and grading mechanics: Regardless of your ideal score, there are a myriad of ways to approach the test. To come up with the best strategy you have to have a good understanding of how the scores in each section are calculated and use that information to help you prepare.

Since not everyone is aiming for a score higher than 8.0, test takers can opt for accuracy over quantity. Your goal is not to achieve the highest score possible, but to just earn enough for your needs. If you find questions that you struggle with, move on and ensure that the rest of the answers are correct. You should have a good idea of how many correct questions you need for each section in order to get the exact score that you need.

  – Practice what you learned: This might go without saying for most people, but having good discipline in your practice could take you a very long way. This applies to all skills, but it really shines in speaking and listening. Practice trains your reflexes to information so that you can process it faster, enabling you to work more efficiently and with greater ease. After all, what good are days and nights spent studying advanced vocabulary if you are unable to use any of what you have learned in your spoken or written test?

 -General skill sections:


– Try to comprehend the recordings as a whole, not just as separate ideas: This could help you have a logical understanding of the topic, especially when academic recordings get overwhelming. Some answers could be deduced entirely from doing so, even if you missed out on individual parts when listening.

 – Anticipate the answers: In sections where you have to fill in blanks, it is possible to guess the kind of words that are missing, be it names, phone numbers or activities. Used in tandem with the previous tip, you can get a serious leg up when it comes to listening. And as IELTS recordings enjoy tricking people by paraphrasing words, they would have a harder time trying to deceive you.

 – Pay attention to the recording constantly: IELTS recording have a tendency to throw up keywords and answers when you least expect them. To counter this, keep focused even when you are writing down your answer as the next answer could come up immediately, effectively taking you by surprise.


 – When a passage makes little sense, try to read it first instead of skimming and scanning for answers from reading the questions: In especially complicated passages, you may want to read them in their entirety before scrambling for answers in them. IELTS passages have distractive information that will confuse or push you in the wrong direction. Reading the passage beforehand will give you better total comprehension and will eliminate most of the pesky misleading information, saving you valuable time.

 – Guess the meaning of complex items of vocabulary from the context: This is a skill that will follow you always in your pursuit of English proficiency, specifically if you are interested in higher education. In the passage presented to you, there is almost a 100% chance that an unknown keyword will show up, preventing you from earning definitive knowledge that will shape your answer. This might seem like a cheap trick at first but there are still ways to deal with these kinds of words without breaking into too much of a sweat. If you follow the flow of the passage closely, it is easy to identify the general tone of the word, i.e. whether it is positive or negative. That much should be enough for you to establish a reliable answer.


  – Pace yourself so that you are comfortable: You do not have to answer the question immediately after the examiner finishes asking. Take your time to gather your thoughts, even buy some extra time by paraphrasing the question before you start answering. Speak at a speed that you are comfortable with and focus on linking the sentences so that you have a smooth transition from idea to idea. Forcing yourself to talk too quickly makes you vulnerable to a variety of issues such as; misspelling words, stuttering, and lacking cohesion in your speech.

  – Act as if it is a normal conversation: Although the IELTS does not grade you on this aspect, being confident is crucial to your morale. Confidence radiates and will give the examiner a good impression of you. They might even overlook the occasional error in your speaking section. Do not be afraid to ask the examiner to repeat the questions. Use this as another tool to buy some time. Return the questions if it feels appropriate and it is possible to do so. A lively exchange of ideas should increase your odds of getting a good mark in the speaking test.


  – Time management: Despite its pervasive presence in all sections of the IELTS, the writing section is where time management makes or breaks the deal completely. It is easy to get lost in your thoughts and invest a lot of time in just one of the two tasks and ending up rushing the other one. Even if this method works, it is a bad habit to get into that could be avoided with careful planning. Give yourself a time frame and try your best to remain within it. It is a fundamental requirement that you complete both tasks in the necessary format and you will be penalized if your writing is incomplete.

            That provides an overview of some of the problems that I find many people struggle with, myself included. I do hope that this advice will help you to get a better view on how the IELTS examination works and help you to prepare for it as well. My best wishes are with you.

Tran Viet Duc, born in 2001, 10th grader of Trung Hoc Thuc Hanh Su Pham in Hochiminh City

Alumnus of Superyouth Language School (2009-2013)

Alumnus of London School 100% native teachers (2013-2015)

IELTS overall band score: 8.5/9.0 (test taken on Mar 05, 2016)

Listening 9.0, Speaking 9.0, Reading 8.0 & Writing 7.0

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