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Ever wondered that even after studying in convent schools, speaking good English throughout our academic years, getting good scores in our English papers, why are we still lagging when it comes to high scores in IELTS, TOEFL, PTE and other proficiency tests? 

The answer is very simple because these tests are designed to test you in a very specific manner for a very specific purpose. That purpose is your ability to work in an environment where the English language has pure dominance. This suggests that not only you should be able to speak English fluently but also listen and understand it aptly. Imagine yourself to be in the United States as a university student. You are expected to understand English the way native speakers i.e. without any hesitation. That is why most of us aren’t hitting those high-score band because maybe we understand English well but that’s Indian English in an Indian accent. Moreover, the range of vocabulary exposure we have had since childhood is far less than a native speaker of English which in turn also poses certain difficulties in understanding English while listening to the conversation of native speakers of the language.  

KNOW YOUR EXAM PATTERN

The tabular format helps us understand that all these exams are more or less the same when it comes to questioning pattern and testing areas. 

Name of examListeningReading Writing Speaking
IELTS40 questions in 30 minutes 40 questions in 60 minutes 2 questions in 60 minutes 3 questions in 11-15 minutes
TOEFL28-38 questions in 41-57 minutes30-40 Questions in 41-57 minutes2 tasks in 50 minutes
4 tasks in 17 minutes
PTE 45 to 57 minutes
32 to 41 minutes
77 to 93 minutes together as one section 77 to 93 minutes together as one section

HOW TO PREPARE LIKE A PRO?

The best practice to enhance our score is to perform well in each section and for that, you need to adopt the below-mentioned activities as a must.

Reading:

  • Vocabulary

If you read something and understand it, is it a problem? Not. The key understands needs vocabulary as a must. As mentioned earlier for non-native speakers the exposure to the vocabulary spectrum is significantly less. What can we do? You need to first focus on books that are widely accepted because unless you have a systematic approach you would reach nowhere close. The Barron’s package, Official IELTS papers, Cambridge road to IELTS is some of the most popular books to help you reach your goal. 

  • Diversify

It’s not that if you read from exam specific books you will have a guarantee to accomplish goals what important is a holistic approach. You will always learn better if you increase your sources for that you need to read some novels, fiction books, autobiographies, biographies, science fiction books, etc whichever interests you the most. What value addition it does is that while you read more you come across more words and if you read different genres you multiply your scope of learning.

Listening 

This is the weakest of all forms for most candidates because we are usually not accustomed to listening to native speakers. After all, we are non-native speakers. The addition of different voices and different speech patterns makes the task even more complicated. 

  • Interviews

This is specifically important from a preparation point-of-view because in interviews most people talk in a general conversational tone which is what you will hear in any test. If you have difficulty understanding you should turn on captions (if available) then re-listen to it again without captions or pause slowly and listen multiple times until you understand.

  • Monologues

They help you understand voice intonation patterns because in monologues you would find a single speaker talking. It helps us to get accustomed to voice patterns which in turn increases familiarity whenever we hear the voice of a single person in the exam

  • Audio scripts

One of the most outstanding methods to check your daily progress. Numerous websites provide you with free audio scripts and you have to just type what is being said in the audio. These types of audio are played in actual exams as well either a telephonic conversation or a client meeting etc

  • YOLO rule

Always follow this rule You Only Listen Once (YOLO) because in exams you would be hearing the audio once in 99% of cases. So if you are accustomed to interpreting things after multiple takes then you might score considerably low in the listening section which would be damaging.

  • Movies and songs

The most entertaining and yet effective way to learn things. It can immensely help you learn new words, usage of words at appropriate places, most importantly help you remember them quickly without extra efforts as you remember them. Subtitles are always helpful but try to understand things without them and eventually, over time you shall succeed.

Writing:

What needs to be clearly remembered in this section is that the idea being expressed should be understandable to the reader. Fancy stuff will shoot your score higher but a good presentation will.

  • Always Structure

An article, essay, blog, report or any piece of writing makes absolutely no sense if it does not have a structure. The simplest example would be a 300 word or a 500-word essay scores highest when it has a clear introduction, body and conclusion.

  • Avoid fancy words

It’s important that what you write in simple and grammatically correct. Usage of fancy words is appreciated but it’s a two-way sword. If you get it right you make your work look good but in case you don’t you simply lose marks due to wrong spellings, wrong grammar and incorrect words.

  • Proofreading

After you are done writing your essay you should always have the habit of proof-reading it for any small mistake which you could find and rectify. You should add sentences wherever you think is necessary to enhance the opinion being put forward in the write-up and delete them as well. Reading again always gives you a better understanding of the essay and hence scope to improve its tone and message.

Speaking:

The very first question you need to ask yourself is what you like about somebody when they talk to you. Quite obviously there are few things such as not being shy, trying to build a rapport with the interviewer, smiling and talking at ease being some of the basic things which need to be followed.

  • Record and listen 

Try to record your voice and assess your intonation levels, politeness, and parameters like are you greeting properly or not, is there an element of fear or not, are you speaking freely or not. It s obvious for non-native speakers to panic while speaking in English in front of an interviewer but if weak points are constantly assessed and improved then there is no issue.

  • Self-explanations

Express using simple terms your idea even simple ideas using good English can help you score very high. Try to read passages and record summaries to get an idea of how well can you express yourself in English.

4 HABITS TO BE IN THE TOP BAND:

  1. Make sure to read for at least 30 minutes every day
  2. Revise vocabulary for at least 30 minutes, until vocabulary is part of life it cannot be mastered
  3. Read passages and explain English its summary and record your voice
  4. Listen to audio, music, or podcasts daily

Doing these activities daily and spending at least 2-3 hours per day can help you score in the highest band of all these examinations with ease. All the best!

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