How to score band 8 in IELTS

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In this tutorial you will learn how to score a band 8 IELTS score by:

  • knowing what skills you need to achieve a band 8
  • discovering successful ways to improve your English
  • perfecting your IELTS exam taking techniques
  • seeking expert advice to help you achieve your target

Is band 8 a good score in IELTS?

Yes. Very few IELTS candidates score an overall 8.0. It means that in both IELTS listening and IELTS reading you score at least 36 correct answers out of 40 and in speaking and writing your English is practically error free.

How can I get 8 in IELTS?

By working on:

  • Language skills: to significantly improve your spoken and written English as well as listening and reading comprehension. This means working on accuracy and fluency, on your use of grammar in writing and speech, and the range and depth of your vocabulary.
  • Exam skills: strategies to deal with the most challenging parts of the exam in all 4 areas.

Steps to take

  • You need to be very aware of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Know your current level by taking a practice test.
  • Get feedback from experts.
  • Follow their plan. Take a look at feedback from our online course.

Let’s take the four skills tested in the exam to see how that plan might work.

IELTS listening

Listening in the context of the IELTS exam is the part that most involves multi-tasking. You read the questions, then listen and write your answers. The questions test your ability to grasp the general meaning, understand factual detail and speakers’ attitudes and opinions.

Let’s say that your current level gives you a 6.0 or 7.0 in listening. To reach that 8.0, first have a daily listening activity, such as the following:

  • At least 15 or 20 minutes.
  • Listen to things that interest you. Sources from radio to podcasts.
  • Listen with purpose, for example, to get the general idea and write a short summary.
  • Paraphrase what you hear. Start off with short 2 or 3 minutes segments. Write down or record your version of what you heard. Listen again to check.
  • Note down new words and expressions you hear. Review them later by looking up their meanings and working on synonyms, antonyms, collocations, pronunciation.

The student who works at listening purposefully and at the same time is working on vocabulary and grammar, gains so much more than those that just listen to answer test questions. We need to practice tests but don’t let that dominate your studies.

In the IELTS test itself,

  • The harder questions are at the end of the test and any lapse of concentration means you could miss one or more questions. To get an 8.0 you cannot afford that.
  • Many questions are based on synonyms. That’s why working on paraphrasing is so important. Take this simple example. It’s from the 3rd listening activity, the one where 2 or more people are talking about some topic related to studies. In this case, 2 students are discussing a presentation they are preparing with their tutor. The set of questions 21 to 25 is multiple choice. Question 21 asks:

Carla and Rob were surprised to learn that coastal cities 

  • A contain nearly half the world’s population
  • B include most of the world’s largest cities
  • C are growing twice as fast as other cities

You hear:

….Yeah. And cities are growing so quickly – I mean, we know that more than half the world’s population lives in cities now

…..Yeah, though that’s all cities, not just the ones on the coast. But most of the biggest cities are actually built by the sea. I’d not realized that before. 

…..Nor me. …..

Notice how it’s basically a matter of synonyms: most of the biggest cities are …I’d not realized that before 

…..surprised to learn ….the world’s largest cities 

(taken from Cambridge IELTS academic 14, test 1)

IELTS reading

Any advice about the importance of reading as much and as widely as possible is nothing new. All IELTS students will be doing the same.

Identify the types of questions you find most difficult. The test is more demanding as you go from the first through to the third reading passage.

Questions that many find difficult are the Yes/No/Not Given type, especially when it’s a “not given”. The instruction is clear ….if there’s no mention of something, it’s “not given.” Take this example, again from Cambridge IELTS academic 14 test 1.

Q 35. Staff should be allowed to choose when they take breaks during the working day

The text states that working conditions would improve if “certain actions were adopted…...allowing adequate breaks during the working day..”

The use of the passive construction both in the text and question help us to see that it’s “management” that will adopt actions to allow staff adequate breaks, not the staff themselves.

IELTS writing

Planning

This is the part of the test where we need the most help. Both IELTS writing tasks have very clearly defined rules. You need to:

  • Know exactly what each task involves
  • Plan your writing from sentence level up
  • Get feedback 

It’s a step by step process where you need to be very aware of grammatical accuracy, your use of words and phrases as links (for example, although, because) and your choice of appropriate vocabulary (your extensive reading and listening will help here).

What often distinguishes the 8.0 candidate from the 6.0.-7.0 one is the way in which the structure of the essay is closely connected to the candidate’s interpretation or point of view. In task 1 academic for example, many essays are just descriptions of the information shown but do not include an “overview”, a comment on what the data presented really signifies without of course, mentioning information not provided in the graph, table or plan. Always include, probably at the end, a sentence which begins with something like: The graphs clearly show that between 2000 and 2010, internet use in the European Union ….”

Accuracy

When we write something any errors will be clearly seen. Know where your mistakes or weaknesses are and work on them with help as part of the step-by-step essay writing guide.

And, always remember to have time to spare at the end of the test to read through your essays for any errors. These happen in exams. Mistakes we would not usually make. Errors when the subject and verb don’t match (Nobody like exams), word order, prepositions, verb tenses.

IELTS speaking

As with all the skills, the aim is to significantly improve speaking, not just speaking for the IELTS exam.

The best IELTS candidates make hardly any noticeable errors and have a wide-ranging vocabulary. You’re being tested on your accuracy and fluency.

Accuracy

  • Cut out simple errors you may be making with expert help. You may be saying something you think is fine until your error has been pointed out.
  • Work on the more complex structures in the language. This will be especially useful in Part 3 of the test where you have to use more speculative language.
  • One example would be the use of conditionals. Using them correctly and appropriately can impress the examiner. Answering the question: Should all students pay for their university education? With:

No, I don’t think so. It’s not fair because many students don’t have the money. 

will get you a 6.0 or maybe a 7.0, but

Definitely not. If they all had to pay, then many families would not be able to send their kids to university. Friends of mine wouldn’t have gone if they had had to pay for their studies…

will give you an 8.0.

Fluency

Try to learn a set of phrases which you can use for different purposes during the three parts of the speaking test. Using these phrases will make you sound much more fluent and will push your score up:

  • Express an opinion: Well, in my opinion/As far as I can see …/If you ask me, I would …/I’m convinced that 
  • Talk in general terms: Generally speaking/ On the whole/ To a large extent
  • Give examples: A case in point is…/Take for instance/If you look at xxx, for example
  • Tell a story: I remember one time ../I’ll never forget the time I …./Listen to what happened to me once
  • Rephrase: Well what I’m trying to say is ../ What I mean is ../ Well, in other words, what I’m saying is …
  • Go back to the topic: Right, to get back to what I was saying/Now, where was I …?
  • Structure or signpost: To begin with/ I’d like to start off …

Also, we all make mistakes. But you can correct them.

  • Correct an error: Realizing you made a mistake and correcting yourself is very positive. Do not be afraid to do it either by simple correction or with a very brief apology (Sorry …). A simple example could be: I didn’t enjoy mathematics classes at schools. Maybe if we would have had better …sorry ..if we had had better teachers, I would have ….

Practice

  • There are many speaking part 1 and speaking part 2 topics to go through for practice. Do as many as you can. Remember how important it is to read the instructions to part 2 topics very carefully.
  • With each, prepare useful vocabulary to use, including word combinations.

Take a look at some of my recent tutorials to help you prepare for your IELTS exam:

Audio tutorial

You can download or listen to the audio version here:

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