Let's dive straight into the common mistakes in the IELTS test and ways you can avoid them. To do this we'll look at:
By becoming familiar with these common errors, you increase your chances of achieving an exceptional score.
One of the most prevalent mistakes is beginning your study process too late. Many candidates underestimate the breadth of the IELTS test and overestimate their academic English level. Delayed preparation can lead to inadequate knowledge and lack of practice, which often leads to poor test results.
Some candidates assume that because their English level is ok or even excellent, they don't need to prepare for the test at all! This is a mistake. There are many errors that even very good or fluent speakers of English can make.
For instance, not having an 'overview' for academic writing task 1 would cost you dearly as it would limit your writing task achievement score to band 5. And the reading tests are difficult even for those the most proficient in English. Even if you are clearly excellent in speaking, not saying enough in the speaking test could limit your score.
The listening section isn't just the classic British accent. There can be various accents, including the variations in regional accents from within the UK, to other European countries, the US, Canada and Australia. Some test-takers struggle to understand if they haven't prepared by listening to a range of accents.
Vocabulary plays a significant role in all sections of the IELTS exam. Neglecting vocabulary development can hinder performance in the reading, writing, and speaking sections.
For example, the reading is complex in the academic test so if you don't have sufficient knowledge of vocabulary you won't understand it and will answer questions incorrectly. The examiner also looks out for your vocabulary use in the speaking and writing.
This is another mistake candidates make. Studying the material is essential, but so is adapting to the exam's time limitations and pressure. Writing a top-level graph/letter and essay in 1 hour is no easy feat and neither is completing all the sections of the difficult reading test.
An over-reliance on memorising answers and information is a common error and can detrimentally impact comprehension ability during the exam. Question types and topics can come up again and again but the way they are worded changes.
In the speaking section, memorised answers often result in unnatural, robotic answers that don't truly answer the given questions.
Not taking enough practice tests is another common mistake in the IELTS test. Regularly practicing with sample tests will help you familiarise with the format and improve your test-taking skills as you'll discover where you are going wrong and where to develop your skills further.
It's obviously important to understand the test and do practice tests, but you should not do this at the expense of simply improving your general language capabilities. This is particularly important for those who are weaker in English.
Ultimately, IELTS is an English test. If you are poor at English, you are not going to do really well in the test just because you practice it a lot! This might seem obvious but many test takers don't seem to realise this.
Not reading instructions carefully is a common mistake in the IELTS test. Misunderstanding instructions can lead to incorrect answers, no matter how well you've prepared. You could lose points in whole sections of the test if you have not followed what you were told do do.
Some candidates spend too much time on complex questions that they don't understand (e.g. some reading questions), leaving inadequate time for the remainder of the test. This mistake can lead to a rushed and insufficiently thought-out completion of the remaining test sections.
Using less common vocabulary and complex grammatical structures are important for a higher score. However, using overly complex words and vocabulary without a clear understanding of their meaning or appropriate context within which to use them can actually end up reducing your score due to errors.
Transition words and phrases help to make your speaking or writing more coherent. That said, while some candidates may overuse lots of simple connectors (e.g. first, second, for example, however), making you sound a bit robotic and mechanical, others may not use them at all, meaning the examiner can get confused or lost when they listen to you or look at your writing.
Some candidates don't make good use of the listening test's 10-minute transfer time or the time given between sections, thinking it's unnecessary. This time is crucial for rechecking your responses and ensuring they're written correctly on the answer sheet.
It's common for candidates in the writing to feel they have to start writing as soon as possible and pay all their attention to language proficiency. This shouldn't be done at the expense of actually answering the question properly, and risking going off topic. The same goes for speaking, with candidates not listening very carefully to the question or not understanding it and going off topic.
Another common mistake in the IELTS test is not mentioning the data in the graphs at all or having no 'overview' (or having a poor one). These are bad mistakes as doing either of them will limit your task achievement score to a band 5 or worse.
Lastly, also among the common mistakes in the IELTS test is anxiety, which can severely impact performance. Worry and stress can hinder your ability to think clearly and accurately respond to questions.
Remember, no exam is without challenges, but thorough preparation and awareness of these common mistakes in the IELTS test you can significantly improve your IELTS performance. With ample practice, a clear understanding of the exam format, and a mind free of anxiety, you'll be well on your way to acing the IELTS test.
Good luck in your preparation and remember that every challenge is a stepping stone towards your success.
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