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The basics
Study abroad : Applying to University

Top IELTS mistakes and how to avoid them

Getting a good IELTS score means avoiding some of the common mistakes made when taking the test. Read on to find out about the top mistakes and how you can stop them from happening to you.

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Achieving the IELTS band score you’re aiming for means practice, preparation, and hard work. To get the best result for your IELTS test, you must try to avoid some of the more common mistakes that students make. We take you through the top IELTS mistakes and how you can stop them from happening.

 

Not following the IELTS test instructions

 

Yes, that’s right. One of the most common errors students make on the IELTS test is not reading and following the instructions. IELTS examiners are looking for evidence of your ability to interpret, understand and present information to mark you. The test instructions are a key part of this.

 

Every test section has a clear set of instructions outlining what you need to do. This includes information on the task, how long it should take you, where you should write your answers, the question types, and critically when answering how many words to include. In the readingwriting, and listening test, there are specific requirements for how to answer. If you don’t follow these, it makes the examiner's job much harder and will affect your score.

 

Get advice on how to prepare for the IELTS test.

 

Not sticking to the word limits in the IELTS writing test

 

The IELTS writing test has a specific set of requirements. Both writing test tasks have a strict word limit. The tasks test your ability to interpret, summarise, and communicate information effectively. It’s a place in the IELTS test where many students struggle by writing too much. This makes it harder for an examiner to award a good mark because you haven’t stuck to the task.

 

Remember, for the first writing task in which you summarise the information from a chart, table, diagram, or chart you can write up to 150 words. The second writing task, which is a formal essay style discussing an argument, point of view or problem, requires up to 250 words, but not more.

 

Find out how universities and organisations verify your IELTS score.

 

Excluding key data in the IELTS writing test

 

According to advice from IELTS examiners, this is a key area in which students make mistakes. In the first task of the IELTS writing test, you’ll have to write about the information presented, including a graph, diagram, chart, or table. This requires focus and attention to detail.

 

You need to make sure that you don’t leave out any big or important data. If you do, you won’t score very highly on task achievement. Try to include all the data that you see, but avoid simply listing the information. Your interpretation of the data is what the examiner wants to see. Keep your writing focused and task-oriented, and you’ll be in the examiner’s good books. Remember, an incomplete task means a lower band score.

 

Not participating enough in the IELTS speaking test

 

Many students say that the IELTS speaking test is most likely to give them sleepless nights. When speaking face-to-face with an examiner you may feel anxious, nervous, or self-conscious. If you have practiced conversation and speaking about topics regularly, there is nothing to be worried about.

 

Participation is key to getting a good score. Try to give more than one word or single sentence answers. Wait for cues from the examiner as to when to speak and answer questions. Examiners are looking for fluency of speech and the correct use of language and pronunciation. If you don’t talk enough in the speaking test, they cannot get a good sense of who you are, what you’re thinking and how well you can communicate.

 

Read more about how the IELTS test is developed.

 

Rushing through the IELTS listening test

 

While you need to be both quick and accurate when answering the 40 questions for the IELTS listening test, you should never rush. Take your time to listen to the four pieces of audio. Understand the topics, the arguments made, and the opinions stated. If you can’t hear the audio properly always alert the IELTS supervisor in the exam venue.

 

You may be tempted to leave some answers blank to complete the test quickly. This isn’t a good idea. Examiners will not penalise you for trying to answer, but blank answers can influence your overall score. You will have to focus when listening to the audio. Some of the answers come all at once in clusters, or there may be gaps between them. You won’t want to miss any.

 

If you’ve prepared well for potential topics, practiced word types, sentence structures, grammar, and pronunciation you’ll be in a good position to get a high score. Lastly, don’t forget to stick to the word count given for the answers.

 

Are you wondering where the IELTS test is accepted?

 

Grammar, spelling and punctuation errors

 

Practice makes perfect. For a good IELTS score, you need to make as few spelling and grammar mistakes in your answers as possible. This is an area that examiners are on the lookout for. Luckily, it’s also one that is easy to rectify, by employing attention to detail and constant practice. Read and write in English as much as possible before the test, so that it becomes second nature.  

 

On IELTS test day take the time to review and double-check your answers. Make sure that you aren’t repeating words or phrases, as examiners are looking to award marks for vocabulary. Don’t forget that in English incorrect spelling can change the meaning of a word or entire sentence. Spelling errors can lead to vocabulary errors too. A top tip is to keep notes as you prepare for the test, including keywords, topics and even areas where you feel you can improve. It all helps you to be ready for test day.

 

If you’re interested in finding out more about IELTS you can read our guides to the types of IELTS testsIELTS scores for top universities, and how to book an IELTS test. You can also check what IELTS scores you need for your ideal course by using our course matcher tool.

 

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