This may seem to be a jokey piece, but in fact there is a very serious message. It’s all about how to prepare for IELTS. I concentrate on writing here, but in truth this article relates to all the IELTS modules. The basic message is that the best way to prepare for the exam may not be to practise, practise, practise, but to practise your English language skills with a real purpose. To see what I mean, try this very short quiz:
Lionel Messi – IELTS band 9?
Who’s the best footballer in the world today? Well, I’m going to guess a lot of people would say Lionel Messi. The question is would you like to write English the way he plays football? I would. So let’s try a thought experiment: how would Lionel Messi prepare for IELTS essays? Improbable perhaps. But you never know, he may one day choose to play for Manchester United.
Step number one.
Football is a skill, so surely just as you learn to play football by playing football, so you learn to write essays by writing essays. Easy. Well, actually no: it’s a bit more complicated than that. Take a look at this video
Is Lionel playing football? Yes he is. But what he’s really doing is training with a football practising his skills. Note also how he spends time doing the boring stuff like running up and down. What he isn’t doing is playing a full match. Do you think it’s possible that one reason he’s so good is that he spends time on those skills?.Seems quite likely to me.
Step number two
Language like football is skills based. How do you think Lionel Messi would prepare for IELTS essays? Would he practise by writing essay after essay – concentrating on finishing in 40 minutes? Or would he practise his writing skills?
A practical suggestion
If like me you think that the skills come first, I’ll make a modest suggestion: practise writing paragraphs, don’t concentrate on writing essay after essay. That way your writing skills will improve and in time you will be writing excellent essays. An IELTS essay is after all really just a collection of paragraphs. And as you write your paragraphs, think of coherence and cohesion: that is the writing equivalent of dribbling.
Coherence is the forgotten skill in IELTS writing: it’s not all about grammar and vocabulary. To read more about it, try coherence.
Another practical suggestion
Here’s another idea for you. Don’t practise writing all your essays in 40 minutes. I know that’s what you need to do in the exam, but that does not mean you must write all your essays before the exam in 40 minutes. Indeed, if you do, what may happen is that your writing skills do not improve.
Rather the suggestion is that you start by writing a good essay in 60 minutes, then in 58 minutes, then in 56 minutes and so on. This way you will soon learn to write a good essay in 40 minutes. It may take a little time, but your writing skills will improve.