I want a higher score in IELTS: Tips & Techniques

Tips to get a higher score in IELTS

Some students take the test again and again  and do not take the time to understand what they need to do to get a better score. This page is a brief overview to help you understand your role and your responsibilities to ensure a higher score. Read this page VERY carefully.

My Level of English

If you are getting band 5.5 repeatedly and you want band score 7, the problem might be your English. If you are making frequent errors in your English and have limited accuracy, you will struggle to get a high score. It is time for you to be honest with yourself about the level of your own English. You don’t really need a teacher to tell you this. You should know for yourself if your English is accurate and flexible or not.

IELTS is a language test and your band score is based on your level of English. This means if you want a higher score, you need to improve your English. It also means that “tips and techniques” won’t guarantee a big increase in your score. If your English is not strong enough, you won’t get a high score in IELTS.

You can gain awareness of your own level of English in many ways. Here is one way:

Go to the following link in this paragraph which contains vocabulary and an exercise about Crime and Punishment topic. How many words do you know from the lists given? Is your pronunciation accurate? Do you know the spelling? When you do the exercise, do you get many wrong or many right?  If you get some wrong, look at the reason why. If the reason is because you didn’t know enough English – that tells you a lot. Band 9 students will know about 90-100% of the words. Band 8 will probably know about 80-90% (these are rough estimates). See this page: Crime & Punishment Vocabulary Start becoming more aware of your own English language.

Each lesson on this website will help you gain insight into your own English and the mistakes you make. Mistakes are a good way of judging your level:

  • band 8 = most sentences are error free
  • band 7 = few errors
  • band 6 = some errors
  • band 5 = frequent errors

Some mistakes will be made because you didn’t know what the question wanted you to do – this is about technique (explained below). But some of your mistakes will be because you didn’t know enough English. Always review the reason you get answers wrong.

Can tips increase your score?

Tips will only help you if your English is strong enough. If your English is strong, but you are not getting a good score, you will need to review your IELTS exam techniques and your understanding of IELTS.

If your English isn’t strong enough, tips won’t make a big difference. If your English is about band 5.5, then you will probably get between band 5 and 6 in your test.

IELTS Exam Techniques

Yes, of course they can. Techniques are about how to tackle different types of questions and strategies for approaching questions. The more you understand about IELTS questions, IELTS marking criteria, IELTS band score requirements and how to avoid mistakes, the better you will do. Techniques will help you reach your potential. If you have good English, but are not scoring well, techniques will help you push your score higher.

However, techniques are of limited use if the problem is your English language. So, make sure you review your English and have realistic expectations.

Essential Preparation for IELTS

All students should work on two areas:

  1. English language – review your English and try improve it if you have time. Focus on these areas:
    1. paraphrasing – the correct use of synonyms and when not to paraphrase
    2. vocabulary – appropriate to topic
    3. grammar – accurate with a good range
    4. avoiding errors – aiming for accuracy and not aiming to impress
    5. listening practice – bbc, videos, documentaries etc
    6. reading practice – articles, magazines, books (develop speed reading)
    7. speaking practice – topics, pronunciation, explaining ideas
    8. writing practice is best done only in relation to IELTS requirements
  2. IELTS Exam Skills –
    1. review techniques & review strategies for each and every question type
    2. learn to identify keywords and issues
    3. develop skimming and scanning skills for reading
    4. learn to focus on identifying answers in listening
    5. prepare topics:
      1. for speaking, prepare your past memories, hopes, opinions
      2. for writing, prepare world issues based on common and recent topics
    6. learn to manage time
    7. learn about the requirements of the test
    8. learn about marking for speaking and writing
    9. practice full IELTS tests under exam conditions at home
    10. take responsibility for your own training

Useful IELTS Links & Tips

Below is a list of useful links to help you prepare for IELTS.

Good luck in your test !!

Liz 🙂

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  1. Are these higher vocabs in speaking test?

    Colonization era
    Global world
    Stick figures
    Learning capability
    Visual aid

    I’ve been following your posts and comments and I’ve just sat for my speaking test.


    • Yes, they are. But if you use them inappropriately, they would count as a vocabulary mistake. That means if you put them into your answers only so that you can get a higher score, it might not help you. The vocabulary you use should be appropriate to the question, not because you want a higher score.

  2. Tomorrow is my speaking test .. i am so nervous any last minute tips?

  3. Navdeep kaur dhillon says

    1 nesting locations
    2. While
    3evolved over thousands of years
    4 incorporate
    5 same course year after year with little deviation
    6 independently
    7 sense of smell

  4. dear liz,
    I’m really frustrated with ielts. I took the ielts 6 times and every time I get high scores in all different parts of the ielts except for the writing I always get 6 to 6.5 despite of using different types of structures and techniques as well as making sure to answer the question prompt very accurately and not writing the same word more than two times in the whole essay.
    I’m going crazy here
    So the question is what I have to do to get an 8 ?
    Please don’t direct me to the scoring system I have read it and it is not helping.
    Can you help me to improve my writing ?

    • You have to have excellent English to get an 8. Do you have excellent English? For example, you need to avoid grammar mistakes ” despite of using ” = “desire using”. Tips and techniques will help you get your potential score – but they won’t give you excellent English if your English is not excellent. I suggest you review both your English and your techniques. See my advanced lessons for techniques: http://subscriptions.viddler.com/IELTSLizStore. For English you will have to review that yourself. You said you didn’t use the same word more than twice – why? That’s not a good aim at all. Some words will not be paraphrased and will be repeated three, four or five times even. Paraphrasing is not about avoiding repetition, it’s about knowing which words to change and which words NOT to change. Over-paraphrase will result in too many poor choices in vocabulary which will lower your score. Be sensible.

  5. HI,

    I have written IELTS 3 times and able to achieve 7 in all topics. But the required score is 8 in all topics. i need tips for writing and Speaking. please suggest some good material.

    • There are links on the page above for speaking and writing. Please click on the links on the page above. There are over 300 pages of “good materials” on this site for you to use.

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