5 things to keep in mind while preparing for the IELTS (Education Tips)

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When it comes to realising your dream of studying abroad, there are several tests and barriers that you will have to navigate. Alongside your application, the visa, and examinations like the SAT, the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is an essential requirement for this dream.

Over 10,000 institutes of higher learning in English-speaking countries like the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand use your score in this exam as evidence of your proficiency in English. Getting a good score lets the institution you're applying to know how good your language skills are, which is useful in helping them choose. Not doing well in this exam could mean being rejected. As a student with hopes and dreams, you don't want to mess this opportunity up.

Here are 5 useful tips to help you along the way:
* Polish up your reading
The reading module of the IELTS isn't challenging because reading is difficult; it is challenging because it requires comprehensive and thorough reading with a strict time limit. There are several different methods that are recommended to help people crack this section.

Some suggest reading the questions first and then noting the answers as they occur in the passage and answering them. Another is to read the topic of the passage, read the first and last lines of each paragraph and then move to the questions to understand what exactly has to be found while reading the entire passage. Essentially, you have to practice this and determine what approach works best for you. Do this, settle on an approach and then practice this until you have optimised it. Make sure you practice this section often as it is the one most vulnerable to being messed up due to nerves.

* Self-evaluate and find your level
Doing mock tests to find your weaknesses is just the first part of the self-evaluation you will constantly have to undergo to direct your preparation and revision efforts. Frequently doing online and offline mock tests will help you understand how to approach the test. In an examination like the IELTS, this can be very useful -- it can help you gauge which structure to follow, which words and vocabulary to employ, how to put those words in a well-constructed sentence, and so forth. Giving these exams also has the added benefit of making you accustomed to the process and steadying your nerves for the actual examination.

* Focus on skill improvement
At the point that your familiarity with the language is getting better and you are becoming more proficient in English, it is time to focus on method and process. Improve your listening skills by familiarising yourself with the sound, the situation and the speakers. Involve friends and family in your preparations -- let them help you understand where you might be going off track. Having someone you trust giving you consistent feedback will help you get an objective understanding of how you're doing.

* Practice whenever you can and wherever you can
Interaction with different kinds of people can help you get different flavours that will help you improve your listening and spoken English skills. You can choose opening nights, galas, cultural events, seminars, talks and even specific networking events for your venture. You can read books of your interest and write thoughtful letters to your loved ones -- helping you with reading and writing skills. Dedicated hours need not be given for your practice sessions. They can be incorporated as a part of your daily routing -- making it interesting, enjoyable and productive.

* Find a self-learning technology and weave it into a network Of like-minded people
Your self-learning communications apps can be used anywhere and everywhere and can be as flexible as per your schedule. These apps offer affordable courses on IELTS preparations. Learning and simultaneous implementation with people who are also looking at cracking IELTS exams and help you learn quick tips.

(Gurinder Bhatti is Chairman and MD, ESS Global-Study Abroad Consultants; Arshan Vakil is Founder and CEO of Kings Learning. The views expressed are personal)