During a lesson, another student asked me yesterday about the effectiveness of doing IELTS practice tests. Should he always do IELTS practice tests to help him improve his chances of getting a good score?
My answer to this is yes and no.
Yes, because …
- Practice tests are good to make yourself familiar with the format of the test, the kind of questions that you will be asked and to get a feel for how long the test lasts for;
- They could also help you improve your timing for each of the skills. The more you practise with a timer, the more you get used to how fast you should be working in the test;
- Doing this could build your confidence in doing the test. You will not come into the exam room the first time, surprised and shocked at how difficult everything seems.
No, because …
- The IELTS does not only test your test taking skills and strategies, it also tests your language. Just doing practice tests will limit you to the knowledge and vocabulary of that particular topic you are dealing with;
- Many practice tests available in publication and on the internet are unreliable as they do not accurately reflect the true form of IELTS tests. The authors may not be professional test writers and may fail to see the objective behind the design of each item that is being tested. Also some answers may be poorly written and even inaccurate!
- IELTS candidates may be wasting precious time that should have been dedicated to improving language skills instead of just doing practice tests.
So, by all means, continue doing some practice tests but don’t let this be the only way for you to prepare for the IELTS. Devote some time to working on improving your English as well – read as much as you can, record your voice as often as you can. Get feedback on how you are doing.
When you do practice tests, make sure that you only use official IELTS practice materials and if you want to use others, then do the exercises/activities to improve your language, not as practice tests.
I hope this helps.
Until next time!