Hi Native Speaker
I have just taken and passed my IELTS and received a band 8 overall - 8.5 in both Listening and Reading, 8 in speaking and 7 in Writing.
I am not a native of an English Speaking country yet I speak, read and write English like a 'native'. The first language I learnt was English and I think in English.
A few observations:
1. I honestly do not think being 'native' in the language helps in the writing and reading part of the test. I am truly fascinated that you managed to score 100 percent in the Reading practice tests whilst watching Eastenders - hats off to you. During my practice test (I did close to 20), I required close to 20 minutes per section and managed to get close to a hundred percent in most. I did it through strategy as opposed to being fluent in the language. There are books available to teach strategy in all of the sections.
2. Personally I have no clue why I got a 8 in my Speaking section. Again it is to do with what is 'expected'. I'll illustrate with an answer. Generally if I ask you the question, "Where are you from?" (Say you are from London, UK), you would say 'I am from London.' That is what a normal conversation would sound like. Maybe an additional 'You do know where London is, right?' Would you ever say, 'I am from London. London is the capital of England. It has a river running through. The river is called The Thames. London has got a lot of traffic!....etc. etc.
Yet in the IELTS that's exactly what you will be expected to answer. It's the same thing for most of the initial conversation.
The second part of the speaking requires organization. Here the difficulty is you are supposed to speak for 1 to 2 minutes. If your answer gets over in a minute and the examiner wants you to carry on, you will get less marks because you are 'making things up'.
3. I personally feel it is slightly unfair for most candidates to understand some accents - Glaswegian, maybe Yorkshire, Irish..... (I lived in the UK for 15 years so I can tell someone where he/she is from by listening) yet those accents are not 'universal'.
4. You definitely have an advantage in speaking and listening if you are a 'native'!
5. For fun sake, I have asked some of my American and English friends to sit the IELTS from some of the practice books. They were sporting and 6 of them sat the test (absolute test conditions)
The results were:
3 of them received less than 7 in reading
The other 4 received 7 or more. One received an 8!
Listening - all received 8 or more.
Speaking............. I could not score them but I am sure they would get 8 and above.
Writing: This was interesting. I send their essays to a Professor in English. The highest score was 78%!!!!
YOU DO NEED TO PREPARE.
THERE ARE TRULY SOME AMAZING PRACTICE BOOKS OUT THERE.......
Wonderful article James!
A native English speaker friend recently took the IELTS exam as part of a professional course she was taking.
This article, in her words, is her fascinating story of IELTS preparation and the IELTS Test experience. A must read for anyone taking the IELTS Test.
"It was a nerve wracking experience. I am now most certainly able to empathise with the non-native students who need to take the exam to enable them either to obtain their professional qualifications, or to achieve an academic qualification in the sector of Higher Education, or to qualify for their visa status in the country they wish to live or study in.
While you're reading this, you're probably thinking 'A native speaker? Why on earth was she worrying?' Well, I will tell you why!
My English cannot really be more fluent, I'm educated to post graduate level, so I consider myself to be capable of entering for an exam at a fairly high academic level.
I teach English for Academic Purposes, which includes the IELTS exam, so I spend a large part of my day telling students ' Do this while you're reading and you'll really improve your reading speeds. Try this and your writing will look much more controlled and fluent. Approach the listening part of the exam like this and you should have no problems. Speaking- learn these grammar tricks, learn those items of vocabulary and the exam will be a piece of cake.'
Of course, what I was to find out on the day of the exam was, that no matter how much you study and practise, nobody can help you with the nerves that overpower you, especially when not obtaining the IELTS band you've been asked for can really affect your dreams and your daily life. And as time in the exam goes by, the more you realise this, the worse your stress levels become and sometimes the more your chance of getting the necessary IELTS band decreases!!
The night before the exam, I prepared myself well in what I considered could be my downfall. I tried 3 of the reading passages from one of the Cambridge Exam Practice Books and even though I was watching Eastenders at the same time, I still managed to get 100% each time in only 15 minutes per passage. 'Great, I thought. No worries tomorrow!'
I then took my own advice, gave myself a rest from studying for the rest of the evening, went to bed and got a good night's rest. On the day, I woke up with enough time to get to the centre without panicking, having eaten a healthy breakfast, as I didn't want to feel hungry during the morning (a very long morning, with Listening, Reading and Writing and no break from 9.30 until almost 1.00pm) and then 14 minutes of Speaking exam after a short time to recuperate.
I did the listening exam with almost no problems, I am inclined to lose concentration but because of my good night's rest I was able to focus quite well. Then, however, it did start to go downhill. I always tell my students to do passage 3 first in the reading exam, as this is the most difficult and you can give yourself a bit more time because, hopefully, you can manage the other 2 passages in less time. Did I listen to my own advice? No, I did not.
Another of my tips is that if you have a passage with names in that you have to match opinions to, then scan for the names in the text and underline them, read the section around the first name, find the key words and then look for the opinions with the synonyms in, so that you can successfully match the opinion with the name. I, however, began looking for the opinions first and couldn't find them. I easily wasted 10 minutes doing this and started panicking as I realised how the time was running away. The more I panicked, the more difficult it became to concentrate and find the right answer. This resulted in my having to guess the final 4 answers in the last 30 seconds of the exam and knowing that I had said goodbye to the IELTS band 9 I was hoping for.
This small episode helped me understand how students, who can do everything successfully in class, can suddenly see their life's dream disappearing, when they realise that this time they're not going to get the IELTS band needed, putting them under even more pressure and their whole morning goes into freefall.
The most important advice to gain from my experience is to practise the skills and tips your teacher gives you. Do this, you won't find yourself under pressure and panicking in the IELTS exam and you will get the IELTS band you need. Good Luck."
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