7.5 in the listening, 8 in the reading, 7 in the writing, 7 in the speaking. FIRST TIME!
Julia shares a really inspiring story of pure hard work, focussed study and determination.
Could you plan your work then work your plan like Julia did?
Put in 8 hours a day in the library?
Julia did all the above, maybe because she had a conditional offer from Cambridge 🙂
Have a listen to the full story, then send me an email if you’re having problems.
You are now listening to the IELTS Podcast.
Ben: 7.5, 8.5 in the listening, 8 in the reading, and 7 in the writing, and 7 in the speaking as well. So very good. Very good.
Julia: Thank you.
Ben: And you’re on your way to Cambridge. Is that right?
Julia: Yes. I have received the conditional offer from Cambridge which ask for the IELTS score. So that’s why I took the IELTS and now I’m waiting for my offer to be confirmed.
Ben: And their requirement was 7.5 overall?
Julia: Yup. They require overall 7.5 and no less than 7 in each element.
Ben: And did you find it easy getting those grades?
Julia: Actually I think it is pretty challenging. Actually I’m really surprised that I can pass the IELTS exam this time. I think it’s kind of challenging.
Ben: How many times have you taken it before?
Julia: 3 times. And for the first 2 times they were before I receive my conditional offer. For the 3rd time I took it after I received my conditional offer.
Ben: Right. And what grades did you get previously?
Julia: They were overall 7 and 6.5 respectively. I got the 6.5 in the second IELTS exam. I don’t know why it’s lower than my first time.
Ben: I see. But was that in the writing or the speaking? Or in both?
Julia: Actually I think for the 2nd time I made progress in the writing part and some decline in the score in the speaking.
Ben: I’m just looking at the emails. You said that you had a schedule drawn up to help you get through the IELTS. To help you prepare for it. Can you tell us a little bit about that schedule please?
Julia: There were about 40 days between I received my conditional offer and took my IELTS exams. So I just made a plan for my study. I think for the first 30 days or so, I merely focused on working on my weak points. I am relatively poor in my writing and speaking. So I just worked to deal with this two parts. And for the next 10 days I just focused on all the 4 parts to make sure I… Even though listening and speaking are my strong points, relatively strong in these 2 parts, but I wanted to make sure that I won’t make some stupid mistakes in these 2 parts.
Ben: I see. You said before that part of your strategy was to focus on your weak points. How did you discover your weak points?
Julia: I think it is shown by the score. My score in speaking and writing were relatively lower than the other 2 parts. And I don’t have an English environment. Even though I can find some listening material, then reading materials, it is kind of hard for me to find opportunity to English and speak English. So that’s why I’m weak in this two parts.
Ben: When I was asking about the weak points I was just seeing if you have managed to focus on a specific weak point in the speaking. For example maybe you have a problem with vocabulary, or maybe it was a confidence thing, or maybe it was a fluency thing. Did you dig that deep? Or maybe were you just thinking “Okay, I scored less in these parts so I’m going to focus my energy just a general improvement for the speaking.”
Julia: For speaking, I think my main problems lies in the grammar. When I speak I think it is very easy for me to make some grammar mistakes. For example, “make or made,” “do or did,” “is or was,” something like that.
Ben: I see. The tenses.
Julia: Sometimes I just can’t speak in not fluent enough.
Ben: How did you overcome that problem?
Julia: I think practice is really important. I practice by… There are lots of simple questions online or in the text books. So I just ask myself those questions and speak to myself. And it’s very important, I think. It’s very useful for me to record my speaking and listening to the recording and trying to find the mistakes.
Ben: When you did listen to yourself, did you discover quite a few errors?
Julia: Yes. I just pick some errors, sometimes grammar mistakes, or some mistakes in the pronunciation, or to improve the content of my speaking. Or to polish the sentences. These kind of things.
Ben: Right. That’s interesting. That’s very good. So you prepared all on your own for every single part?
Julia: Yes, I haven’t gone… I have never taken any classes for IELTS even though I took some online courses and I borrowed some books, and found some online materials. But I did most of the work myself.
Ben: Why didn’t you go to an IELTS academy in China or something like that? Did you just not have time? Or it wasn’t your preference?
Julia: Actually, I think the most important reason is they are very expensive. So I want to save some money.
Ben: I see. How much is the IELTS academy charging in your city?
Julia: You mean in China?
Ben: It depends on the different academies. It depends on the class size, the size of the class. I think it goes from… If you take the big class, maybe 100 person in a class, it’s about… maybe… 2,000 RMB. The Chinese dollars, 2,000 RMB. For maybe 10 or 16 classes… But I don’t think this kind of class will be helpful for me.
Ben: Not with a hundred people in the class. It’s insane. That works out at about 234 euros. That’s quite steep, isn’t it? It’s quite expensive.
Julia: Yeah, they’re very expensive. But I think self-learning can have the same progress and have the same effect.
Ben: How many hours did you put in, did you think? Because you said you practiced a lot at home. Did you have a routine?
Julia: In those 40 days, practicing IELTS became one of the most important part in my life. So I just took most of the day preparing for IELTS. I think about 7 or 8 hours a day.
Ben: Wow. That’s dedication. For 40 days non-stop?
Julia: We celebrated the Spring Festival. So I took several days off for Spring Festival.
Ben: And just completely focused on the IELTS exam?
Julia: Mmm hmm.
Ben: Wow. Very good. Do you have any tips for any other students?
Julia: I think I have some tips for the writing part. I think my strategy might be kind of helpful, maybe. For the writing part, practice is very important. I wrote about 20 essays in 40 days. Actually I think I could have written more but I was a bit lazy. And when I write the essays for the writing part, I just try to cover all the question types. For the part 1, they may give you a table or a line graph, bar graph, or a map. So try to cover all the question tasks. It’s the same for the part 2. They have different kinds of questions. So I think it’s really important to cover all the kinds of… And I think it’s also very important to cover as many topics as possible. It is especially important for part 2. For example, the education, or environment, technology, government… these topics. Because sometimes I find if I come up with some topics that I’m unfamiliar with, I have nothing to say. I don’t know. I don’t have enough examples and arguments to support my opinions. So I think it’s important to cover as many topics as possible for part 2.
Excellent advice. And how did you get ideas for these topics?
Julia: Actually in one of the books that I bought, they just listed some categories such as education… these categories, these topics. So I just take some IELTS questions from this topics and practice.
Ben: I do not understand. In one of the books you’ve had, it had the topics and the categories, it gave you some answers. Or is that what you’re saying? It gave you some answers in the topics? Or some examples of ideas?
Julia: They just gave me questions. The IELTS questions for the writing part.
Ben: Okay. And then from these questions, you’ve created some sample answers?
Julia: Yes. And they provided some sample answers as well. So I can compare my essays with their sample answers and try to find the differences.
Ben: Ah okay. Now I understand. I’ve heard this done before. That students will write down their answer and then compare it to the answer in the book just to see if they’re on the right track. That’s interesting. And what about the other parts of the exam? The reading, and the listening. How did you prepare for those?
Julia: I think I just… I did some exam questions for these 2 parts. Actually I didn’t prepare much for these 2 parts because I don’t think I have much problem with these 2 parts.
Ben: I see.
Julia: Practice is very important.
Ben: The main focus of your preparation was speaking and writing. And for those… Did you have any feedback for your writing? Did you have anybody looking at your essays? Or were you just self-checking them?
Julia: Yes, actually I ask some of my friends and my English teachers in High School to help me check some of my essays.
Ben: That’s a good idea. Did they find lots of mistakes or just a couple?
Julia: I think at the beginning there are quite a lot of mistakes. But I think I made some progress after the preparation and practices. So there are less and less mistakes.
Ben: Excellent. So when are you going to the U.K.? Are you excited?
Julia: Yes, I’m really excited. But I think I still have a lot of work to do. I still need to have a lot of preparation to do before I go to U.K.
Ben: When are you going?
Julia: Maybe September or October. I think the school starts in October. So maybe at the end of September.
Ben: Have you been to the U.K. before?
Ben: Alright. Well, take your coat because it’s going to be raining, especially in October. What are you going to do for your preparation from now until October? Lots of listening?
Julia: I am going to continue to learn English because I think even though I’ve passed the IELTS exam, my English skill is not good enough for the daily use, I think. And I have a reading list. I want to read some books. And actually I haven’t come up with a detailed plan because I’ve just finished my IELTS exam.
Ben: I see. So you’re taking a break? And then you’ll go ahead with the preparation once again. That’s really good and I’m really happy that you got the IELTS exam and you’re going to Cambridge. I wish you all the best. I’m sure you’re going to have absolutely tons of success in the U.K. I’m sure.
Julia: Thank you very much.
Ben: You speak very clearly. Yeah, you definitely have lots of success, I’m convinced. And if you do have a problem, Julia, just send me an email and I’ll try to check your writing or whatever. Okay?
Julia: Thank you.
Ben: You’re welcome. You’re welcome.
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