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As an IELTS trainer, one of the questions I hear most frequently is, ‘How do examiners determine my speaking and writing band scores?’.
A public version of the rubrics used by examiners for Writing and Speaking band scores can be found through the official IELTS.org website.
You can also find more more information about the task types and scoring for Writing and Speaking in our videos.
Using strong models, as a guide, is a proven method of improving our performance when it comes to developing any skill - and the IELTS is no exception. As an IELTS examiner, I strongly suggest studying Speaking scripts of candidates who have achieved your target band score or slightly higher.
There are plenty of mock speaking interviews, and free IELTS preparation videos, on a number of different Youtube channels. However, 90% of these have not been done by official IELTS examiners. The only set of IELTS videos I know about, that was given by official examiners, is this set of 17 videos.
It will be especially helpful to read the examiner’s report in the comments section of each video. These reports will help explain what you should be able to do to get the score you want on the IELTS exam. The comments provide a lot of information on exactly what examiners are thinking about when giving speaking band scores. Here’s another link to a public version of the Speaking Marking Criteria Full.png on our website.
However, these free IELTS preparation materials are of mixed quality and not always very well organized. As an examiner and exam trainer, I would recommend the authentic exams found in the Official Cambridge IELTS series. Each book contains 4 authentic exams that were given in previous years. They also contain complete writing models to help with your IELTS preparation. Each model answer includes the examiner’s comments explaining why each essay received its band score.
However, these are not free IELTS preparation materials, and it can be expensive to purchase all of the books in this series. We have created and smaller, but equally useful, collection of speaking and writing scripts for our IELTS online preparation course.
If you read the rubrics carefully, you should notice that they both have 2 criteria in common - Vocabulary and Grammar. It should not be a surprise that vocabulary will be important in calculating your level of English.
In my 13 years of teaching, I’ve noticed that many students preparing for the IELTS have a misconception about vocabulary. Many spend hours memorizing lists of very advanced words, believe this is the only way to get a good vocabulary score on speaking and writing.
However, it’s more practical, and better, to learn a range of everyday expressions. An important part of doing well in all sections, but especially Writing and Speaking, is a strong knowledge of both fixed expressions and collocations. On our online IELTS preparation course, we have created a guidebook with some of the most useful phrasal verbs for the IELTS which should help you move closer to your goal!
Grammar is an important part of any language course. Therefore, it is also present in both the Speaking and Writing rubrics. Unfortunately, there are few shortcuts to having a strong understanding of English grammar.
Ideally, candidates taking the IELTS exams will already have a strong foundation from English classes and have an intermediate level or higher.
However, if you don’t have time for classes, or if you’re looking for free IELTS preparation material online, the following websites should be helpful for improving grammar:
You may feel that you already have strong vocabulary and grammar, but are shy and uncomfortable speaking. If this sounds like you, I’d recommend finding speaking partners to develop fluency.
In most cities, there are 2 organizations where you can meet native, and non-native, English speakers and talk to them for hours for free.
Having a better understanding of the different question types found on the IELTS will help you develop strategies to get the best possible result. The strategies you can use for multiple-choice questions are not the same as for matching or gap-fills.
We have provided several free videos on our website to help clarify the different question types you will find on the IELTS Listening and Reading exams. This free IELTS preparation material is here.
The most practical way to prepare for the Listening and Reading sections of the IELTS is to use old exams. These are available to the public via the Official Cambridge IELTS series mentioned earlier, or you can also use the collection of mock exams we have available on our website. You can find them by following this LINK.
You can also find free online IELTS practice exams here.
This is an excellent resource for free online IELTS preparation. You can also download the app and use it on your phone! Quizlet has many sets of flashcards that other people preparing for the IELTS have already made. You can also create your own sets of cards and share them with other users. This is a complete free way to prepare for the IELTS exam by building your vocabulary.