— Written By Rohit Sethi
Most Indians dream of pursuing higher education abroad or working in foreign locations. However, doing so is not that easy as it sounds. One of the most common criterias that several institutions or organisations ask from foreign candidates is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) tag, in the absence of which individuals would not be permitted to operate overseas. IELTS is a standardised proficiency test that analyses and evaluates a candidate’s command over the English language and this is why scoring well in this test becomes essential for anyone who wishes to study or work outside their home countries.
IELTS is a two hour and 45-minute test that includes four sections: listening, reading, writing and speaking. Candidates can score within a range of 1 to 9 in each of these sections – meaning nobody passes or fails this test. However, candidates must know that the minimum scores set by different institutions may vary. For undergraduate and graduate courses, the minimum scores range from 6 to 7, whereas there are also some elite institutions that demand 7.5. Candidates have the choice to either give the test on paper or computer.
So how one can prepare for IELTS? Here are some tried and tested techniques:
Timed Practice: Firstly, it is always advised to take the test early. Doing so will not only allow you to experience the test but also give you a clear picture of where do you land at the moment. This will help you plan and prepare better to score well in the available time slot.
Enhancing Listening Skills: The best practice to enhance your listening skills is developing a habit of listening to English podcasts and radio stations instead of songs. Start following and listening to the top English speakers regularly until you become familiar with their accent and understanding their pronunciation becomes a hassle-free task.
Go natural with the accent: In doing so, make sure you never imitate their accent. Remember it never works in the real world. Invigilators can quickly notice if you copy anybody’s accent and will immediately deduct marks for such blunders. A natural accent is, therefore, highly recommended to score above 6 in this section. One should instead focus on improving fundamental skills such as sentence formation, grammar, punctuation, etc.
Develop reading skills: For the next section, a regular reading practice is strongly recommended. Read more and more newspapers, magazines or novels, either in print or online. The more you read the more your vocabulary will advance and this will have a direct positive impact on your writing skills as well. This way, you will be able to use rich and better words in the writing section of the test.
Strengthen writing skills: To hone your writing skills, you may start with drafting essays under strict time limits. Give mock tests and keep writing in your downtime. In fact, write on any topic that interests you – be it politics, sports, storytelling, anything; this will help you develop a knack around writing on different topics and eventually enhance and add pace to your writing.
Practice pronunciation and fluency: The last section is speaking, where you will be given a good five to six minutes to describe yourself. It may include speaking about your hobbies or any particular topic that the interviewer may ask for. For this, start having conversations with friends and family members in English. Although being a Hindi speaking Indian, it may feel awkward initially, slowly and surely you will develop fluency, enough to score well in this section. While speaking in front of the invigilator, remember not to be too loud or even low. Speak at a moderate speed to allow the person to easily comprehend the words coming out of your mouth.
There is a huge collection of study materials available on the internet and offered by coaching institutes such as the British Council, which is certainly useful to train and prepare yourself for IELTS. Other alternatives for IELTS are also available for aspirants who wish to pursue higher education from foreign universities – for instance, DuoLingo and TOFEL.
So what are you waiting for? Follow these tips to improve your English linguistic skills and earn a graduate degree from your dream institution.
— The author is director ESS Global