International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam is an herculean task. First of all, I don't know why we have to do this test really. But as the anthem goes today, it is what it is.
Passing IELTS is a major milestone in the immigration journey. In fact, once you pass IELTS the remaining steps become more manageable. The good news is that it is doable and many have done it and excelled.
I am no expert myself but having attained a band of 8.5/9, I believe I know a trick or four. So, what to do:
1. It starts with Mindset.
IELTS is hard. This statement is not meant to elicit fear but to enable one prepare exhaustively and be serious while at it.
Understand what the test is about. Understand the section; Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Understand what is required of each. Each section tests a specific skill in English. In the beginning, treat all as equal.
Depending with the country of interest, you will be expected to attain different bands scores for each of the sections and an overall score. It is good to aim for the stars as this will give you more options. Needless to say, UK, the homeland of English, has much higher band cutoffs compared to other countries. Once you know your requirements, turn on the study mode and leave no stone unturned.
2. Get a good teacher/school
While some people have studied for IELTS individually it is better to get yourself into a school or find a teacher. Like all other exams, you need some training on the approaches of tackling different sections and questions. They will also help you with pace setting, a much needed support in the process.
Luckily for me, just when my mind was made up to immigrate, the universe connected me to Paul Simiyu of KenyanNurse. The training is straightforward and conducted online on WhatsApp making it extremely convenient especially for working and family class. We had several classes for each of the sections of IELTS and this really went along way to prepare us for the exam. Obviously, this will come at cost, but every thing of value has a cost.
Getting into school is one thing, commitment is another. When it comes to IELTS, there is no shortcut. You must put in the work. You need to push yourself and do the practice. This is because its a skill and only you can do it on the exam day.
I remember when I started the training with KenyanNurse, we were close to 50 participants in the group. After two months of training, only five of us were left. Aside from sticking to the end, I did all assignments and even did extra practice, especially for Reading which can be quite a challenge and it did pay off
4. Its a Marathon not a Sprint
Many people hurry to book and sit for IELTS and it almost always end in tears. IELTS preparation should take as long as you feel you need but I suggest at least two months of rigorous practice. You should also give more time to sections you find hard.
Taking your time to practice is important because in as much as it is an English test, it is also a test of nerves. Anxiety can take the better of you on the exam day but being well prepared will boost your confidence.
Finally, on the exam day breathe. Breathe a lot more on the day of the results. If you pass you will get the impetus to forge ahead. If you don't attain the required band scores, don't give up. Book another test. Remember, the second time you will be starting from experience.