How to Score Band 7 or Above in IELTS

December 11, 2018 - Kaplan Test Prep

A high IELTS score shows you have demonstrated exceptional skills in English speaking, listening, reading and writing. It is also determined by your level of comfort and fluency with the English language in general. A majority of prestigious universities and organisations acknowledge this achievement, which will open up a number of doors for your future education and career.

Although the idea of obtaining a high score in IELTS may seem daunting, it is perfectly achievable, and Kaplan has compiled a comprehensive guide of tips on how to score band 7 or above. We have provided advice on each of the four sections of the test to help you feel confident and excel in each part.


LISTENING

The IELTS listening test takes around 30 minutes to complete and is comprised of four parts. In order to achieve a score of band 7 or above in this test, you will need to answer 30 or above out of 40 questions correctly. Difficulty levels vary for each question. From study tips to how to tackle the test itself, here’s how you can score band 7:

  • Your listening skills in English must be at their peak in order to increase your chances of scoring well on the Listening section of the test, as you will be assessed on your ability to understand formalities and everyday speaking in the English language.

  • To score band 7 or above, you will be expected to have an operational command of the language, with only very occasional mistakes being made. In addition, you will be graded on how well you understand complex and detailed language.

  • An accessible way to help you train in the complexity of the English language before the test is by listening extensively to English-speaking podcasts, news and documentaries, all of which are readily available online. It might be useful for you to pick out words you don’t understand and make note of them as you watch and listen. This technique will help train your ears to listen out for specific words.

  • During the test, you will be given some time to read the questions before you listen to the recording. In this time, use your training in skim reading to highlight phrases and sentences which contain facts or figures. Doing so can help you focus as the recording plays, as you are preparing your ears to identify certain words and information.

  • Finally, in addition to preparing your ears to identify significant information, one of the most important things you can do is to ensure you LISTEN intently to the recording provided. This sounds obvious, but requires concentration so you do not risk mishearing important sections.

WRITING

The IELTS Writing section is made up of two tasks. The test evaluates your ability to write appropriate responses, your competency in English spelling and grammar. and how well you structure ideas. You must answer both questions in full to achieve band 7 or above. Here are our tips to help you prepare, including how to structure your answers:

  • Achieving a high score in the IELTS writing test requires you to be proficient in both spelling and grammar. Luckily, you can find many online resources that will teach and help you practice the fundamentals. Apps can also be helpful for your exam preparation, including ‘Practice English Grammar’, ‘Learn English Grammar’ (UK and US edition available) and 'Grammarly’.

  • When you take the test, you will be given 60 minutes to complete it. Task 2 is worth twice as much in the writing test. To manage your time effectively to achieve greater results, it is advised you spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2.

  • In addition, to score in a top band on IELTS, planning and structuring your Writing answers correctly is crucial. A useful way to plan your answers is by properly analysing each task and making notes. You could also try underlining key words in the question to help you focus on the task at hand.

  • In terms of structuring your answers:

    • It is important you stay on topic and do not deviate from the subject or you will be marked down.
    • Ensure you write answers in full sentences as you will lose marks if you structure answers in bullet points or notes.
    • Do not repeat sentences or ideas using different terminology, and do not use informal language.
    • Spend some time reading over and correcting your answers.
    • Be conscious of word coun: Task 1 requires a minimum of 150 words, whilst Task 2 requires a minimum of 250 words. In addition, learn and practise what the word counts look like in your handwriting prior to the test, as you don’t want to use up your time counting words during the exam.

READING

The IELTS Reading section is separated into three parts, with a total of 40 questions. You are given one hour to complete this section. You will also need to answer a minimum of 30 questions correctly (out of 40) to achieve band 7 or above. Here are our top tips on how you can achieve this:

  • With only an hour to complete this section, it will definitely challenge your skills in finishing all the questions in the allotted time. You must develop your speed-reading and scanning skills in order to read and locate information and answers in the tests provided quickly.

    Ensure you spend time nurturing this skill, as you must take in the information as you quickly read it. Skim reading without practice will prohibit you from processing important information effectively. You are tested on your ability to efficiently locate answers during the time given, and understand the sentences containing key information. This is where training your scanning skills will come in handy.

    However, a few questions do require a more thorough understanding of the passage. These questions involve matching headings and selecting titles. To score well during these more detailed questions, be wary of these components and any other special features including italics, capital letters, or figures and graphs.

  • Participants with a wide vocabulary are at a huge advantage, and more likely to score band 7 or above. This is because the IELTS reading test is designed to assess how varied your vocabulary is by using the following components correctly in sentences:

    • Synonyms – words or a phrase that means almost the same as another word or phrase. E.g. ‘important’ and ‘essential’, or ‘positive’ and ‘optimistic’
    • Paraphrasing – expressing something using different words
    • Singular nouns – naming one person, place or object
    • Plural nouns – naming more than one person, place or object


    To best prepare, you should comprehensively read and research words, phrases, and all elements of English vocabulary, to train yourself in the foundations of the language and how it is structured. There are many useful online resources and apps to help your learning. The British Council provide useful and free online vocabulary tests. Vocabulary.com is an excellent vocabulary training app which works as a dictionary and allows you to practise and make a list of words you would like to learn.

    In addition, you can also make your own notes of various words and context surrounding these words, such as their meaning, examples of using them in a sentence, or pictures associated with them.

SPEAKING

The Speaking section of the test will take 10-15 minutes in total and has three parts. You will be required to speak fluently and at length in order to score well in this section.

  • The Speaking section is an opportunity for you to vocally showcase your hard work and dedication to learning the English language. To improve your chances of achieving band 7 or above, when speaking with the examiner, first make sure you speak more than they do, and ensure you are expressive and as fluent as possible. You will be assessed on your ability to communicate accordingly, therefore it is important you have immediate answers ready.

    However, do not feel the need to insert ‘big’ words during the test. Although it is advised you are fluent, you do not need to overcomplicate your answers in every sentence.
  • Never memorise prepared answers. The examiner is trained to understand if a participant has learned prepared answers prior to the test. In order to achieve authenticity and better marks, answer questions originally.

  • The speaking section assesses your ability to communicate your opinions. It is important to remember the examiner is interested in the way you express your views and thoughts, so do not feel disheartened or nervous if they do not agree with an opinion you give. You will not be marked down for this. Concentrate on giving a confident and fluent answer and demonstrating your speaking ability.

  • You may want to practise improving your confidence in both presentation and conversational skills with a native English speaker, friend or family member, and someone you might know who is taking the IELTS test too.


Finally, some tips that will serve you well no matter which band score you are aiming for…

  • Don’t Panic - It is natural to feel apprehensive before and during the IELTS test. Before you take the test, ensure you are well rested and practise calming techniques to ensure your mind is clear of stress. During the test, if you are unable to answer a question, try to not waste time panicking. While it is important you try and attempt every question, if you are stuck you should quickly move on to the next question to avoid wasting time and causing yourself further stress.

  • Read Instructions Carefully - Ensure you read and follow instructions on the Listening, Reading and Writing sections carefully. Make sure you understand every question and what is expected of you from the test. This is crucial if you want to achieve high marks.

  • Take Practice Tests - In addition to the preparation tips given throughout this guide, it is essential you study practice papers to prepare yourself for the exam. You can find IELTS Practice Tests here.


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