Everyday I get messages from people who want to know why their IELTS score doesn’t improve. Often they have NO IDEA that their writing or speech is incomprehensible, or that their methods in listening or reading are all wrong!
Why does this happen? Well, for one thing, it shows the importance of studying with a teacher before you take the test. As an IELTS teacher myself, I would like to help people overcome the most common mistakes in IELTS before they decide to contact me, so here is my list of eight common mistakes to avoid.
Common mistakes in IELTS listening
Do you listen with open ears, so you easily miss the answers to the questions? Unfortunately it’s not about how much you understand overall. It’s about how many of those ten answers you anticipate and how many you catch when they are spoken. Preview the questions as much as possible before your listen, and concentrate only on listening for the answers.
Do you miss the next answer, because you’re still trying to answer a previous question? This can happen to anyone, and it’s the surest way to multiply the consequences of a mistake. Accept that you only need to get seven or eight of the ten answers, and don’t panic when you miss one. Concentrate on the next question, not the last question.
Common mistakes in IELTS Reading
Do you spend too much time reading, so that you hardly have time to answer the questions? Unfortunately, IELTS is not the time to take pleasure in reading! And there are no points for understanding the entire passage. Skim the text quickly to get an idea of the topic and organisation, and then move straight on to the questions. Maximum skim-reading time should be five minutes.
Do you easily get fooled by ‘distractors’, so that you’re shocked when your score is much lower than you expected? Distractors are answers that seem obviously correct, but turn out to be incorrect. They often make use of the same word as the original text. To avoid distractors, make sure you read all of the possible answers before deciding which is correct.
Common mistakes in IELTS Writing
Do you use too much fancy language, so your overall point is unclear? If the examiner thinks you’re just showing off some phrases you’ve memorised without fully understanding them, he or she will mark down your score. Also, do you believe the examiner will take the time to re-read your answer in order to figure out what you mean? Of course not. He or she will just lose patience and mark down your answer for coherence.
Do you write too casually, so you lose marks for inappropriate style? Fine if you’re taking the General Training version of IELTS, but not fine in the Academic version. Sure, examiners are nice people, but they aren’t your best friend and don’t want to read “Am I right?” and “Don’t you think so?” How do you know if your writing is too casual? Show it to a knowledgeable teacher and ask them if they think it would be suitable language for an academic report.
Common mistakes in IELTS Speaking
Do you hesitate for too long, because you’re planning the perfect answer in your own mind? You cannot get more than IELTS band 5 if you hesitate for an uncomfortable length of time while speaking. What is an uncomfortable amount of silence? For many English speakers, it can be as little as five seconds.
Do you speak with poor pronunciation, so the examiner has to struggle to understand your words? Perhaps your words are good words—the problem is that the examiner simply can’t catch what you’re trying to say! IELTS examiners are not supposed to reveal when candidates have performed poorly or made mistakes, so you may never know that your poor pronunciation is a problem. The solution is to practice IELTS speaking with a good teacher.
Would you like to practice your IELTS writing or IELTS speaking with an expert teacher? Eliminate common mistakes from your IELTS answers and find out the reason why your score hasn’t improved. See our current IELTS practice tests.