My IELTS tips

So I took the IELTS on 27 August 2011 for the first time at British Council Vietnam and received the results on 9 September. The band score was actually surprising for a Vietnamese like me: Overall 8.0 Listening 8.5 Reading 8.5 Writing 7.0 and Speaking 7.0

I want to pay tribute to many people and organizations for assisting me during my preparation. Forum www.tienganh.com.vn, forum www.ef.com, Mister AJ Hoge of www.EffortlessEnglish.com and so on are particularly helpful.

To get to the point of this post, below are some of my experiences on the IELTS. Hopefully this may give you readers some motivation and hands-on insights. My writing goes like this: the first part is what I think of learning general English, the second part is about what are my tips for the IELTS.

A- Learning general English.

First of all, many of you asked me, (and emailed me), how did I practice my English. I just want to emphasize that like learning any other language, learning English follows the same “patterns. And those patterns are fundamentally basic for average people, at least. In my opinion, they are:

1. Be aware that you are LEARNING a FOREIGN LANGUAGE!

This is not as simple as it might seem. What I mean in FOREIGN is that maybe English is your 2nd language, maybe it’s third, but it always comes from another country. The first thing is that you have to make sure you are interested in that country. And this is totally pivotal! When was the last time you got fed up with the lengthy English textbook? The second thing is that you must realize that English is not like your mother- tongue to any extent. It has different alphabet system (with different symbols and phonetics), different intonation and stress patterns (music of the language), different grammatical rules and structures, and so on.

That’s why you must LEARN English from the beginning, forget all about what you have already known about languages, like a child starting to talk and write.

Browse www.antimoon.com for the serious linguistic matters of learning English, including accents, environment, physical and cultural distinctions of language learners.

2. You need to CONSUME English in order to PRODUCE English.

What do I mean by “consume”? Consuming English means gathering standard English, digesting and processing it. Listening and reading materials for natives ( not textbooks for foreigners) are also called “input” of the learning and are the must. So you need good input, and to put it in frequently.

Visit www.newscientist.com , www.scientificamerican.com for great academic articles, visit www.bbc.com/learningenglish and www.bbc.co.uk/radio for useful mp3 and podcast download.

What do I mean by “produce”? Producing English means creating you own English from “input”, i.e, releasing “output”. One thing you should know is that the more you let English in, the more you can let it out, naturally and precisely.

Go to www.ef.com to get your essays commented and corrected. Go to www.speaking24.com to look for speaking partner around the world.

3, “Practice makes perfect”.

Sounds familiar? Yes, it does. However, one thing I should mention is that not only you must practice your English in classrooms or during study hours, you should practice it anywhere, anytime. I mean, even start thinking in English. This process might be interrupting, painful, and even make you difficult to sleep at night, but you will soon find this technique amazing after only about one week. Trust me!

How to Think in English and Improve Your English Great articles on how to practice and apply thinking in English.

B- Learning for the IELTS

So if you read until this line and have applied all of the things I mentioned above, you should do fine with your test. Don’t worry, it is just a test regarding how well you command you language.

1. Materials

a. Cambridge IELTS practice tests set of books is absolutely crucial. However you should forget about the book 1,2,3,4 because they are already outdated.

b. Accent training program

Visit this for tips and videos to improve your speaking www.pronunciationworkshop.com/accentreduction.htm

and this is great articles on how to reduce accent:

Improve Your Spoken English and Reduce Your Accent

c. IELTS speaking by Mat Clark: wonderful for speaking practice.

d. IELTS writing by Abi Guidu and IETLS target band 7: good for writing.

e. IELTS official guide: this provide sample and graded speaking answers to let you know how marking system actually works.

2. Some other tips

– If you are not sure about basics, just please DO NOT jump around! Look them up on dictionary, Oxford Grammar Advanced, etc.

– Get used to the test structure and timing.

– Learn from your mistakes.

– Have decent meals and remember to work out.

– Use thesaurus to apply better vocabulary range.

3.Test center experience (Vietnamese readers only)

British Council test center is actually the Center for Women and Development at 20 Thuy Khue. The sound quality is impressive because you are provided with a high-quality wireless headphone. Before the exam, you can turn it on and listen to some smooth music to warm your brain up.

The testing room is very huge, and can contain about 300 people at one time. Everyone has his own space so don’t worry about being distracted by the others. Light system is also adequate and there is also air-conditioners to keep you from being over-heated by the exam.

Speaking testing room is also large and quiet. Examiners are professional, but they speak faster than audio files!

So these are some of my feelings. Hope you like it!

By Andy Tran Hung

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