Let's be honest... Tests can bring around a great deal of stress and very few people enjoy them. The IELTS exam is no exception, and for good reason. Like many difficult exams, this one requires just as much preparation as it does knowlege.
What is IELTS? It stands for International English Language Testing System, and it measures the language proficiency of those who would like to study and/or work where English is used to communicate. The exam uses a nine-band scale, and identifies proficiency from non-user to expert in reading, writing, listening,and speaking. On the surface it sounds pretty simple but it's not uncommon for a native English speaker to score lower than someone who has only been using the language for a few years. This is connected to lack of preparation before the exam. Knowing how the test works will go a long way in helping you achieve a successful score.
What score is ideal? On average, many institutions look for an overall score of 6.5 to 7. Some institutions look for a specific score in one of the skills. As it varies from place to place, it's a good idea to know what the requirements are for your target institution. This should be your starting point for preparation.
How do I prepare for it? If you are confident in your self-study skills, there are plenty of free resources online, as well as paid resources. From books, videos and tips, to practice tests and online quizes. Taking the test costs between 100€-200€ depending on the location so it is something to consider when preparing for the exam. If you feel you need a more hands-on approach to studying, then it might be a good idea to meet a teacher or tutor with experience in taking the exam.
Should I be disappointed if I don't get an overall of 9? The answer is no. Band score 9 is expert level, and as mentioned before, even native English speakers will have difficulty hitting that target. In my personal experience, it comes down to aiming as high as you are comfortable with, and not beating yourself up if you score 6 to 7. Preparation will always be the key factor.
I have taken the test and did not achieve my target. What now? You can request to have it re-marked or you can take the exam again. You may take the test as many times as you like however it costs money to register so, again, keep this in mind. It could be that there is something missing in your preparation and it might be a good idea to try working with a teacher or tutor who can identify where you are having difficulties. If they are experienced with the test, they will help you stay on track.
For more information about the exam, you can check out www.ielts.org as well as the many other available online resources. If you think you might need an instructor or tutor, then feel free to get in contact with me to discuss options. Have you taken the test? Sound off in the comments with how you did, and how you prepared for it.
Best of luck!