Before the exam date, British Council and IDP gives a free workshop to the examinees. The lecturer will teach you the tips and tricks on how to obtain a passing mark. During that session, you will meet people who had retaken the exam more than once, which made applicants more nervous. People do fail the exams!

If you’re wondering how to managed to pass, you have to do the following techniques before taking the exam:

Reading

  1. Answer at least three sample exams. On the first try, focus on how the test is structured. Always highlight in the instruction whether it allows  ONE, TWO or THREE words. This is very important.
  2. Don’t be confused on the TRUE, FALSE, NOT GIVEN section. To overcome this, you have to analyze the differences between a FALSE statement and a NOT GIVEN statement. You just have to get used to the logic.
  3. Always underline the important words. You will receive an advise to read the questions first before reading the entire article. It will work if there are only four questions for that article, which isn’t the case. Otherwise, it’s better to skim through and underline some phrases that you think are important. Then read the questions and refer back to the article.
  4. Time your reading comprehension. There are 40 questions and you’re given only 60 minutes to answer all of them. You should achieve a rate of 1 minute per question, that would be the safest.
  5. Learn how to block all distractions when reading an article.

Listening

  1. The emphasis of this exam is to ensure that you can understand different English accents, e.g. British, Canadian, Australian and American. To familiarize yourself with the British and Australian way of speaking, go to Youtube and watch some videos.
  2. You need to practice your concentration and monitor your speed in analysing each dialogue. This is tougher than reading because you can’t pause nor rewind the tape.
  3. Before each session starts, you are given 20 seconds (or 1 minute?) to read the questions. You have to ensure that you read and highlight the important words in each question. Always underline those words that you deemed valuable.

Writing

  1. For this exam, it was a mistake to rely on your current skills. It doesn’t help that you know how to rant on a blog or social media etc. The checker will always grade you based on the  “proper” way of writing an informal/formal letter as well as the correct way of conveying your thoughts in an essay.
  2. To accustom yourself with the correct way of writing a letter, read the sample solutions of the review materials. If you’re used to writing emails in the office or sending letters to your English-speaking friends, then this is a breeze. Just make sure that you only spend 20 minutes (or less!) on this part.
  3. The essay part of the exam is more draining than the first. Not only do you need to formulate your thoughts into Introduction, Body and Conclusion, you also need to ensure that your reasoning is convincing. It will help if you practice a lot on this part. You need to train your mind to always write an eye-catching intro (not just a paraphrase of the topic).
  4. When writing the body of the essay, always use the words, “Firstly”, “Secondly” or “The first point is”. 
  5. If you’re not good with conclusions, just summarize your points into one paragraph and that will work.
  6. Follow the basic rule of writing, list down the outline of your essay. This will give your thought a direction. This should take you a minute or less.
  7. ENSURE that you adhere to the minimum word count. The easiest way to do this is to count the words in each line, then multiple by the number of lines you’ve used, subtract it by ten.
  8. Use pencil and don’t use the scratch paper. Write directly to the answer sheet, you’ll be provided with an eraser so there’s no need to worry.

Speaking

  1. The easiest way to practice this is to meet people outside your circle. You can meet and look for groups which have the same interest as yours. You don’t have to connect to all the people there, aim for quality and not quantity.
  2. What you can do for example is arranged a dinner with a few English-speaking friends. It’s best to do a one-to-one date because it will allow you to be aware of the way you speak and how quick you can construct sentences in your thought. Besides, the interviewers in British Council in Ho Chi Minh City are all native speakers so try to find another native or fluent speaker and imagine talking to him/her during the exam.

It is inevitable that you get anxious before the exam especially when you told your friends that you’re aiming for a grade of 9 (until you found out that 9 is actually the perfect score!). It may differ on how you get rid of anxiety. 

Before the start of the exam, it also helps to drown yourself with happy thoughts, this relaxes your mind and helps you get good score at IELTS.

About the author