I have been involved in English language learning and assessment for more than 25 years and have met a large number of students from a wide range of cultures and nationalities. There is something that is common among them all though, which is the goal to improve themselves by using IELTS for professional registration, to enter a course in a university or even to relocate to a new country. While it is great to have large goals like this, it is equally important to have smaller, more manageable tasks to make sure that motivation can be maintained. After all, learning a language is a long road. I love seeing students succeed, especially when they have put in a lot of work and constant effort to reach their target. It is hard to see people lose their energy and focus, so it has been important for me as an educator to ensure they stay on track. The 7-day preparation challenge is a good way to set an achievable target and to ensure some progress has been made.
The first thing to consider when starting the 7-day preparation challenge is to have a clear study space where you are free from interruptions, as this will help you concentrate more intensively. Also think about organising your notes into different skills, e.g. reading, writing, listening and speaking.
It is important to make yourself aware of the test format first of all – even if you have done the test before. This is because how the test is delivered may be different to your last test, especially if you want to take the Computer Delivered (CD) test. It is important to take note of the set timing for the test as well as the suggested timing for different tasks.
When it comes to the question types, it can be a good idea to organise some ideas in a notebook. Write them as a heading at the top of the page and allocate at least one page per question type. This can give you enough space to write down you approach for each type and important points to look out for, especially costly mistakes where you can lose marks. You an also make notes about your strengths and weaknesses for these task types, such as if you have a high or low error rate, if you are quick or slow answering them or your strengths and weaknesses you have with them.
Before long, you may find that you have piles of notes and papers, which can make it hard to locate information that you need. One thing to consider is to arrange your paperwork into themes. You may have collected some articles or tasks related to one particular area (e.g. health, education, technology, etc.). It can be handy to listen to and read about a particular topic before doing speaking and writing practice on it. In this way, you have built up your knowledge, ideas and language to be better able to handle something more in depth, such as an essay (Writing Task 2) or a discussion (Speaking Part 3). You may also find that particular grammar suits certain topics, e.g. when looking at modal verbs of obligation, such as ‘have to’, this is often used in work contexts.
In my experience, it is best to study every day, even if it is just for 30 minutes. While it is understandable that people struggle to find the time due to having many commitments such as work and family, language development improves most when it is done on a daily basis, rather than leaving all your study for one day at the end of the week. Think of the 7-Day Prep Challenge as giving you a useful plan you can commit to, which can count towards your overall goal.