Using Daily Interactions to Prepare for the IELTS

March 2, 2018 by Lauren McKenzie

So, you’ve decided to sit for the IELTS, and you’re in full preparation mode. There are many good resources available online and courses to attend. Please have a look at other blog titles in this series for tips on how to find the right preparation course and materials for you.

There may be a tendency for candidates to compartmentalize their IELTS preparation time. Perhaps you put aside one hour every evening to do an IELTS style reading or a timed writing. Although this is, for most, a necessary element of preparation, this blog entry is meant to get you thinking about how to bring IELTS practice into your daily life and outside of your prescribed IELTS preparation time.

Becoming aware

There are many situations in the course of a day that provide valuable opportunities for language learning and practice. These various interactions are not just with people, but with reading material, and there are a multitude of opportunities for listening and writing. So how can you apply the IELTS skills you’re in the process of acquiring to everyday interactions?

With practice and awareness, you can develop the ease and speed in which you filter and respond to the people and information around you. Before getting into each of the individual skill areas, there are some general guidelines to discuss.

Developing SMART goals

Carefully considering your specific language goals will make your preparation process more quantitative and thus less vague and/or overwhelming. The acronym SMART is often used to encourage people to think about their goals in a more ‘scientific’ way. This acronym breaks down as follows:
S – Specific; M – Measurable; A – Achievable; R – Realistic; T – Timely

A key to developing language skills is to take clear and defined steps, thus maximizing your awareness of the process and outcome of your efforts. You can easily do this in your daily life. Instead of saying, “I’m going to work on speaking today,” think of how you can make that goal more specific.

For example, perhaps there is a particular English phoneme, or sound that you struggle with. You can say to yourself, “I am going to slow down my speech so that I can beautifully pronounce the letter ‘v’ today.” Or, “I’m going to listen really carefully for ‘r’ and ‘l’ in other’s speech today and try to replicate what I hear.”

Personalize and focus your efforts

The process for identifying goals for the other skill areas will be similar. For example, choose an article that you are interested in reading a newspaper or popular magazines, such as MacLean’s or National Geographic. Give yourself a limited time to read, make some notes and see how much information you can gather by skimming and scanning the article – just as you will have to do on the IELTS. Identify a few relevant details and the main idea of the article – both transferable skills to the test you are preparing for.

The IELTS is designed to evaluate so many aspects of language production, that it's truly in your best interest, to make every day an opportunity for expanding your language skills. Remember to get familiar with the writing and speaking band descriptors and the types of questions you’ll see on the exam. The speaking, writing task 1 and task 2 descriptors are available online. There are many old exams in circulation online and prep publications to help you become familiar with topics commonly used, and you can see the format for the reading and listening components.

There are great resources on the internet, such as detailed descriptions and worksheets to help you deepen your self-awareness and focus your efforts. With a quick search, you can easily find websites designed to help IELTS candidates identify their SMART goals for language acquisition for the IELTS. Be specific about your goals and limit your focus to a few problem areas each week as you try to incorporate your IELTS preparation into your daily life.

Good luck!

Lauren has been teaching English for close to fifteen years in universities and language schools in Halifax, NS. To meet the needs of her students, she began her own study of the IELTS exam nearly five years ago and has since taught preparation workshops. Lauren lives in Halifax, NS where she enjoys hiking and live music as well as travelling, studying languages and reading nonfiction.

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