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IELTS


Are you considering writing the IELTS exam soon? Or have you taken one before and you’re wondering why your score didn’t match your expectation? Welcome aboard! We are here to help you.

There are common mistakes test takers make that cause them to get low band scores, and in this article, we will be sharing these mistakes with you.

If you have taken this test before, you will most likely come across one or more mistakes you made on the test as you continue reading. We won’t only be letting you on these mistakes, we will also be showing you how to avoid them in order to earn your desired score.

If you pay attention to these mistakes and avoid them when and before you take the test, you will be well on your way to getting a band score of 9 on the test.

Little to no prior knowledge about the test

Some test takers just hop on the IELTS train simply because it is listed as a requirement for an admission, scholarship, or visa application process. And so most who fall into this category don’t make adequate research on the structure of the exam and what is expected of test takers.

It is even sad that some don’t know that it is IELTS and not “ILTS”, or “ILETS” as some erroneously call it.

Part of knowing what the exam looks like is knowing what to expect on the test day. Typically, as soon as you start the test, you’ll be presented with the Listening section first, followed by the Reading and Writing sections. Later in the afternoon, you’ll be required to complete the last section – the Speaking section. 

Now, the time gap between the Writing section and the Speaking section could be as short as an hour or as long as 4 hours. So you need this information before the test day so that you can know how to fill up that time.

Then again, knowing what to expect will help you build confidence for the test.

Doing more than expected

There’s a term in the Nigerian vocabulary that is known as ‘oversabi’. It is often used to describe a situation when someone does more than he is asked to do. ‘Oversabi’ is dangerous on the IELTS exam and could cost you some points.

Say for whatever reason you are excited that after months of learning big words and sentence constructions and every other thing you learned during your study period, you are finally ready to show the test makers you are the boss, ensure you put a lid on that excitement as soon as you get to the test centre and for as long as you will be sitting in front of the computer.

We say so because you can’t afford to answer questions in more words than you are instructed to. For example, you may come across an instruction that says, “Not more than 4 words”. With an instruction like that, if you answer in 5 or even more words, be rest assured you will lose marks for it.

Doing less than expecte

There are also instructions on minimums. The length of a written task is very vital to the test. Typically, essays should be written in a minimum of 250 words; while reports or letters are to be written in at least 150 words.

Please note that instructions of this sort are not for fancy. They are to be followed. If you submit any work that is shorter than the minimal words you will also lose marks.

Memorizing answers from practice exercises

Memorizing answers during your study period with the mind that they’ll come in handy on the actual test is laughable and a pure waste of time. It is also wrong thinking that the chances of succeeding on the test could increase by memorizing answers from practice questions.

The truth is, you can never really tell what to expect on the IELTS exam, and this shows the futility of memorizing answers.

What will be valuable and useful to you on the actual test is familiarizing yourself with the structure and style of the test by studying many practice exercises. Doing this will make you more confident and better poised to answer the questions on the test.

Writing too long essays

A 100-page essay is not necessarily a winning essay. Ok, we know you can’t possibly write a 100-page essay on the IELTS. Really, where’s the time for that? But there’s a popular school of thought that says the longer an essay is, the more marks it will attract. This isn’t just a myth, its implications are costly.

For starters, the more words you add to an essay, the higher the chances of making mistakes that could cost you some good marks. 

With essays, ensure you write above the minimum number of words but not too far from it either.

Changing subjects

You can’t change the game on the test makers and go scot-free. Here’s what we mean. When you are given a particular subject to handle, changing that subject is inappropriate. Many times, test takers who didn’t have an idea of the subject in certain tasks and didn’t want to leave the question unanswered, have rewritten the task to cover a subject they knew better. The truth is, no matter how wonderful the rewritten essay turns out, there will be no score for it – none at all!

Again, where some changed the subject, others ignored guidelines or omitted parts of the instructions in the given topic.

The examiners consider even the least detail. So you must pay attention to every one of them while answering the questions.

Paying attention to the accent at the expense of proper pronunciation

No, the accent is not important on this test. What is important to the IELTS is your pronunciation! Since it tests the English language proficiency of non-English speakers, then it can’t possibly be looking out for accent. So you should focus more on pronouncing the words correctly as opposed to faking an accent. Note that wrong pronunciations reduce marks.

Really, when it comes to it, what matters is being able to express yourself fluently and not necessarily absolutely perfectly.

Paying attention to ideas at the expense of their expression

There’s a common fear test that takers have especially with the essay and letter writing sections and that’s the fear of submitting the wrong ideas. So, most often than not, they spend so much time trying to figure the right ideas. On the contrary, it is the expression of ideas that rank higher on the scale of importance.

On the IELTS test, there are no right or wrong ideas. What truly matters is how your ideas are expressed. On their own, ideas are not important till they are expressed.

Connective words: too many cooks spoil the broth

The saying is “the more the merrier”, but not on the IELTS – especially where connective words are concerned. Of course, every smart test taker knows that the keys to producing a good essay are coherence and cohesion. So a good number of test takers resort to connective words to express their ideas coherently. But there’s a whole lot of danger with using too many connective words that these test takers fail to see.

In fact, when an overuse is detected (well, it is easily detected) in an IELTS essay, there’s always a penalty for it.

Poor time management

You will most likely have incomplete answers at the end of a section if you don’t work against the clock or plan your time properly. Time management is basically 50% of your success on the test. If you stop speaking in the speaking section or you an unable to complete your reading, you will lose marks.

What to do? Focus on answering the questions you are sure you can handle and then spend the remaining time dealing with the difficult or tricky ones. You will need this tip particularly in the reading section of the test.

Finally, the trick to steering clear of costly mistakes is to take as many practice exercises as you can during your study period. This way, you would have familiarized yourself with the structure, instruction, and style of the test. You can take advantage of the resource materials offered by the test takers and also visit the effiko store for prep books that will make studying easier.

Getting used to how the IELTS test is structured and knowing what to expect before the test day will certainly build your level of confidence and will put you in a good position to get the best you can possibly earn on the test.

Also, because of the nature of this exam – a test of English language proficiency – we advise you listen to and read as many materials as you can before the test day. We can tell you for free that good listeners make good speakers and good readers make good writers. These are skills you will need to get an excellent result on the test.

For more detailed information about the IELTS exam, click here.