I gave my IELTS exam yesterday so I can’t really look back and give much info yet. I might be able to better comment on that once I have my scores in hand but here’s a gist of how everything went.
I didn’t prepare for the exam in advance. In fact, I booked the appointment only last week. I stay in the SF Bay Area and did not have any dates available locally, until 9/30. I did not want to wait that long to give the test. The closest center which had anything available for 9/9 was Santa Monica (LA).
We were asked to register at the center between 7:30 AM and 8:30 AM on 9/9. All we needed to carry with us were our passports. During registration, our passports were checked, we needed to sign sheets to confirm our attendance, our right index fingerprints were taken and our photos were clicked. Then we were directed to our classrooms where the seat numbers were already assigned and stuck to our desks.
The exam began at 9 AM. We had the Listening section first, followed by Reading and then Writing. The only practice that I had done for the Listening and Reading sections was going through the practice tests on the IELTS website (https://www.ielts.org/en-us/about-the-test/sample-test-questions). For the Writing section, I had only read samples from the IELTS website and from this website - https://www.ielts-exam.net/ielts-writing/. I did not read all the letters and essays, but just some of them for reference about what is expected. These three sections completed by 12 PM. I think I did fairly well in these.
The Listening section was the best for me followed by Writing and then Reading. The Listening section had audio which was played out over the CD player for the whole room; no headphones were provided. Some of the answers were confusing for me in the Reading section. These were mainly for the questions where we need to assign appropriate titles for a bunch of paragraphs. For Writing Task 1, we were to write a letter to our manager asking for some office equipment and for Writing Task 2, we had to provide arguments on girls and boys having to participate in sports at school, considering that sports were being added to the timetable in some schools. My letter was a little over 200 words and my essay was a little over 250 words. I wish I had practiced a few essays before the test but I don’t know how much that would have helped with the topic that I got.
My main concern was the Speaking section since this was going to be a 1:1 conversation with an actual person. I am more of an introvert so it gets a little uncomfortable for me to start talking to random people, face-to-face, but it’s not like I had a choice. After our first 3 sections completed, we were assigned time slots for the Speaking section. Mine was scheduled at 1:10 PM and I was asked to report for registration at 12:40 PM so I took a half hour stroll outside the center and then came back for the Speaking section.
In the Speaking section, I was asked a bunch of questions. Since they are typically in 3 sections, I have tried to segregate them below:
Where do I stay and whether I like it?
How my future house should be and why?
What do I think about politeness and whom did I learn it from
Is politeness going down in the modern world?
Who is my favorite historical figure?
Have I ever watched a historical movie and learnt history from it? If so, which one?
Who is a couple, I know, that is happily married and for how long? And what are some possible reasons that they are happily married?
What are the roles of husbands and wives in my culture?
Are the roles changing?
Do I think that the roles in India and America started changing at the same time?
What do I think about a family unit?
Why is the family unit shrinking?
Do I think it will continue to shrink?
Should children’s opinions matter in family decisions?
How important is the family unit?
There might have been a few other questions which I don’t remember now. The topics are changed abruptly so this is one thing that I should have definitely practiced. More importantly, I should have practiced a little more public speaking as that would have helped calm my nerves. My husband was asked about which invention does he think helped mankind a lot (I am not sure if I have framed it correctly). He answered with ‘microprocessor chip’ and the examiner asked him whether he doesn’t think the wheel was the most important invention by mankind. So be prepared for counter-questions to your answers.
Once I was done with the exam, it felt like a heavy burden was lifted. It’s not like it was tough but I usually tend to freak out before exams, in general The good part about the whole experience is that it is now over and hopefully the scores wouldn’t be too bad. My husband also gave his IELTS at the same time but he doesn’t like discussing exams after they are done since he feels that it will not change the results in anyway.
I worried a lot about everything, including whether I have enough pens and pencils. No one in my exam center brought pencils with them. The center provided those. My husband’s hall instructor, in fact took away his pencils and asked him to write with the ones that the center provided. My hall instructor didn’t enforce that rule for some reason so I was able to write with mine. It would have been good to know that the centers provided everything and I might have been a little less worked up.
Now, a few things that I would like to point out to everyone who plans to take the test:
- This is ironic coming from me but try to stay calm because your ability to think gets impacted if you are in a frenzy.
- Read all the instructions carefully before you answer the questions. Some answers can’t exceed 1 word, some can’t go over 2 words and some are restricted to 3 words. In the writing section, the tasks have to be at least 150 words and 250 words respectively. Take the word count requirement seriously.
- After you have completed writing your answers in the answer sheet for the Listening and Reading sections, re-read them and make sure that you have answered all questions correctly, to the best of your knowledge. It is possible to jumble up sometimes.
- For the Writing section, before you start writing, spare a few minutes and jot down the points which you want to cover and if possible, put them in order. After you complete writing, go over the answers to check for any grammatical and spelling mistakes.
- Try preparing for the Speaking test with a partner. Focus on what you speak and how you speak. Emphasize appropriately on words. Don’t speak too fast or too slow. If you practice with an actual person, it will help you with your pronunciation as well.
- I have been in the US for a while now and am used to writing in U.S English. Remember to try writing in U.K English, wherever possible. I don’t know whether they deduct marks for this but I followed this approach. For example, writing ‘colour’ and not ‘color’.
I will update my answer if I remember anything else. Hope this helps!