In the IELTS test, time is your enemy. Candidates who have taken the test and did not perform as well as they had hoped often complain that they were unable to give all the answers in the Listening Test because the tape was too fast, and that they ran out of time in the Reading Test.
To begin with, do not worry if you do not finish the tests. Remember, the test is designed to measure candidates over a range of scores from 0 to 9 (0 indicates the test was not attempted). Candidates whose English is near perfect can expect to score 9, but even native English-speaking people would be unlikely to complete every Listening Test answer perfectly or finish the Reading Test a long time before the examination ends. Remember, the test is meant to be challenging.
The IELTS test measures many aspects of your English ability including the speed at which you listen, read, write, speak, and think in English. Your personal speed is not something which changes a great deal from day to day, but does change considerably over a longer period of time, as a direct result of practice in working with the English language.
Your personal speed and ability in the 5 areas previously mentioned is pretty well fixed at any given time. The official IELTS Band Scores you receive are extremely accurate, since each test is trialled extensively to achieve standardised results for candidates at all English levels. Nonetheless, there are certainly many things you can do, before and on the day of the test, to help maximise the use of your time and give yourself the best chance of success.
Consider the following situation: although a racing car cannot go faster than its maximum speed, the race can still be won, and its maximum speed maintained for longer, if an expert driver is at the wheel. An expert racing car driver will:
• ... spend a great deal of time practising at the wheel before race day
• ... visit the track so that he or she knows where to go and what to expect
• ... get enough sleep before the day of the big race
• ... eat a good breakfast on race day morning;
• ... check his or her watch constantly to monitor the car's progress
• ... keep moving along the track and not get stuck on a bad corner
• ... breathe long and deeply to relax and keep the oxygen going to the brain
• ... drink water (but not too much!) when the car is at the pit-stop.
The Listening, Reading, and Writing Tests are given in that order, and are usually held on a single morning. The combined length of those three tests is 2 hours and 30 minutes. (The Speaking Test is conducted at an appointed time in the afternoon.) Only one short break is given between the Reading and Writing Tests, so you need to be at your best for a long period of time, which is why you must sleep and eat well before the test. The hints and guidelines in this book should help you achieve your "maximum speed". The more effort you put in, the faster your personal speed will be on the day. (See also IELTS Test - Basic Hints 1 and 2.)
INCREASE YOUR SENTENCE READING SPEED
The faster and more accurately you read, the more questions you will be able to answer. In all the tests, the instructions, the example, and the questions themselves need to be read quickly, and must be well understood in order for you to have more time to find the answers. It pays to increase your overall reading speed. (See also Reading Hint 41.)
To increase your reading speed, you must learn to read in groups of words that form logical units of thought within sentences. Look at the following sentence:
Britain has been a popular choice for thousands of international students over many years
Notice how you can think of the sentence as being made up of 3 main parts:
1. Britain has been a popular choice (What and where?)
2. ... for thousands of international students (Who for?)
3. ... over many years. (When?)
Note also, that in this case (and many others) all the phrases answer wh/how questions. It may be helpful at first to think of wh/how questions when trying to read in phrases.
If you read each word in a sentence one at a time, you will read very slowly and most likely misunderstand the meaning of much of what you read. So read your sentences in phrases by considering all the words of a phrase as a single unit.
Notice how much quicker it is to read the sentence, and how the meaning of what you say is more clear. Practise reading in phrases everyday. Look ahead on the page as you read, and always aim to find logical places in the sentences where phrases begin and end. Note also that there is often more than one solution as to where the logical breaks between phrases occur within sentences.
Read faster by reading words in groups that form logical units of thought
DEVELOP A MEMORY FOR ENGLISH
In the Reading Test, it pays to remember as much as you can of what you have just read, but at least the words can be read again. However, in the Listening Test you cannot go back, and the tape is only played once. If the answer comes before the keyword/phrase, your memory of what you have just heard is even more important. Nevertheless, the answer usually follows the keywords/phrases that you hear, and is close in time to the main keyword/phrase you are listening for.
To improve your "English memory", try the following exercise. Using the pause button on the tape recorder, repeat the sentences spoken in the passages on the audio cassette tape that comes with this book, gradually increasing the length of what you repeat. Do not worry about repeating the exact words. Simply aim to remember more of what you have heard.
Note: originally posted at http://www.rxpgonline.com/postt36548.html