Three documents that you MUST read as you prepare for the test!

Students often ask me ‘what is the secret of getting a high band score?’ Well, it’s no secret that you have to have good English to reach a high band. A candidate who really is a band 5 can’t perform at band 7. IELTS is a pretty accurate measure of English ability.

But it is possible, and common, for a band 7 English user to only score a 5 in the test. This is because they haven’t prepared properly. A short test preparation course can only help you reach your best potential score in the test. To actually improve your English to the point where you will score higher takes 6 months or more of study and practice.

So, there is no secret to getting a high score. In fact, there are not many secrets about the test. IELTS publishes lots of material to help candidates prepare. The three most important documents though, are the band descriptors for Speaking, Writing Task 1, and Writing Task 2. These are public versions of the secret documents that IELTS examiners use to decide which band score to give in speaking and writing. However, I’ve been told by examiners that the public versions are very similar to the secret versions.

Every candidate needs to be familiar with the band descriptors. This is the only way to judge if your writing and speaking is giving the examiner all the evidence they need to give you a higher band. The descriptors describe exactly what the candidate needs to do to reach each band.

The problem for candidates, however, is that these descriptors have been written for examiners and language teachers. They use words and phrases that the average English learner may not understand. For example, one of the four elements of writing that you are marked on is coherence and cohesion. Do you know what these words mean? Coherence means how clear and easy to read the writing is. Cohesion means how well the words, sentences, and paragraphs all link together.

A good language teacher can help you to understand what is required for each band. More importantly, they can give you accurate feedback on exactly where your speaking and writing need work. A teacher can help you to translate the band descriptors into what you need to do to reach a higher band in speaking and writing. For example, a band 7 candidate will use cohesive devices appropriately. What exactly are cohesive devices, and what is appropriate? A good teacher will explain this.

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