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How to Prepare for the IELTS Exam

by Jen Jefferson

The International English Language Testing System exam evaluates your ability to communicate in English. Employers around the world use IELTS results to gauge the verbal and written proficiency of potential hires and staff. The U.S. and Canada, among other countries, accept the IELTS scores of applicants for citizenship as evidence of English proficiency. In 2011, more than a million people around the world took this important test.

Listening

Since the listening section tests your ability to understand conversations among multiple people as well as monologues, preparation can be as enjoyable as watching a DVD of your favorite American TV show that comes with subtitles in your native language. View the show without subtitles first. Then, use the subtitled version to brush up on vocabulary or idioms you don't understand. Repeat watching can help you understand phrases you might have missed. You can also download free listening-practice audio files at the IELTS website.

Reading

Your reading skills depend on your competency in grammar and the range of your vocabulary. The most rigorous preparation for the IELTS exam involves using a dictionary to look up definitions of words that you don't know. Reading with an eye toward the way parts of speech interact and function in writing can help you learn the important element of flow and the proper use of transitions. Avoid reading texts specifically designed for teaching purposes; instead, magazines, blogs and books will expose you to a less stilted, more natural style of communication.

Writing

Good writing is structured and detailed. With a spelling app on your smart phone or online exercises, you can master tricky grammar issues such as subject-verb agreement. You can also learn to use prepositions and gerunds with confidence and know when to use a comma and when to use a semicolon. Time yourself to re-create the conditions of the test. Even professional writers have editors, so it will benefit you to have a tutor correct and offer feedback on practice essays you create.

Speaking

The oral section of the IELTS is conducted with a live examiner. Engaging in chats with an online conversation partner can help boost your skills. It's easier to manage a language exchange by limiting each one to a single topic, but respond to your partner's statements as you would in normal conversation; your score is likely to be lower if you sound stiff or scripted. To loosen up, chat spontaneously with neighbors, cashiers and other people you meet during the day.

About the Author

Jen Jefferson has been a writer and researcher since 2001. Her work has appeared in "Business Insights" and other publications. Jefferson has a Bachelor of Arts in English from The New School and a certificate in French from the International Language School in Montreal.

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