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It’s impossible to fail the IELTS exam! This is the very first thing I want to make clear to you today.

IELTS does not include a pass or fail option. You’ll be scored on how well you did on the test, with scores ranging from 1 to 9 for each section: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. After that, you’ll get an overall score based on the outcomes of the four components.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is an exam designed to identify your level of English for working, studying, or migrating to a country where English is the primary language.

During the test, your abilities to listen, read, write, and communicate in English will be evaluated.

Did you know that there are around 1.35 billion people worldwide who speak English either natively or as a second language? That’s a lot of people, right? And we can clearly see the importance of speaking it if we want to improve our employability and career prospects and live or study abroad.

The ability to speak in the local language of the country where you want to work or study offers many advantages. It’s also necessary for getting a job and integrating into the community.

IELTS is the most widely used test for those who want to move to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom. More than 11,000 organizations, universities, schools, and immigration agencies throughout the world recognize it, including 3,400 in the United States.

Most people preparing for IELTS are required to demonstrate an English language level of Band 7+ which, according to the IELTS level descriptors, demonstrates that you are a “Good user” of English. This means that you have operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriate usage, and misunderstandings in some situations. You generally handle complex language well and understand detailed reasoning.

As a tutor who provides IELTS exam preparation classes, I’ve taught countless numbers of students and identified patterns for those who will achieve their desired band level and for those who are likely to fall short of the score they require.

Firstly, let’s look at some of the reasons why students don’t achieve the level they need.

1. They Think There is a Magic Formula for Acing the Exam

This is simply not true! There are two main components, the first is your level of English and the second is understanding the exam and the marking criteria, which can be easily accessible on the official IELTS website. Learning and memorizing phrases, unnatural vocabulary, and even essay scripts will not impress the examiners. The IELTS exam has been designed for you to demonstrate your English level, a real-to-life, level of English. Many times, I have read essays that are just unnatural, and I can guarantee that most “native English users” do not communicate in a such way. So, what do you need to do? 1. Understand the exam and band descriptors.

2. Level up your English, get feedback from a qualified teacher with experience teaching IELTS and/or other official exams, and practice, practice, practice!

2. They Book the Exam When They are Not Ready!

One of the most common reasons students fail their exams is that they schedule them even if they are not prepared. Students who have never taken the test before should be very vigilant. So many take the test in a month, with no prior knowledge of the criteria or the exam, what’s the outcome? They do not receive the required score! Some students, who can afford it, sit the exam to get a feel for it and see how they score, they then use this information to help them develop the skills which have not been graded at the band level they need. If this is your method, then that’s ok, however, let’s look at it like this… would you take your driving test without any lessons or guidance? Most will answer “no”! because they know the risks involved. Would most people take a few classes and then sit their driving test? Probably not, right? A driving examiner would advise against it. It’s the same for a teacher. You’re responsible for your score and that reflects the study, effort, and improvements you make.

3. Poor study ethic

If you have a poor study ethic and don’t have a clear goal in mind. You’re not going to pass either. You’ll need to organize your studies, be consistent, and give each study session you’re all. It has been documented that to move up one band score level in one month, a student needs to complete a minimum of fifteen hours of studying per week. That’s sixty hours of self-study per month. I’m sure you will agree, that’s a lot of commitment, especially if you work full-time, you’re a parent or study full-time… In simple words, you need to plan and commit to a regular study routine if you want to maximize your chances of achieving the band score you need on the IELTS exam.

4. Poor answer development

You’ve heard it said again and again, “read every day”, that’s the key to developing your vocabulary or (lexical range) your grammar and collocations and of course your knowledge. So many times, I’ve given students task 2 questions for writing practice or practice speaking questions and, although their English ability was strong, they could not develop their ideas or present relevant examples. IELTS questions cover everyday style topics such as the environment, education, travel, culture, etc. However, many students just don’t know what to say or can’t think of examples to help them explain their ideas. IELTS is not a knowledge test. You are not being scored on your knowledge, but you do need to have a level of worldly knowledge to help you express an idea or an opinion and link it to the real world. To do this, I encourage you to read widely, each and every day, BBC world news is a great asset, and it covers many of the main topics that IELTS may use. Read blogs, watch documentaries, listen to podcasts and read ezines! This will also help you to be a much more interesting person with lots to chat about when travelling or living abroad and make your IELTS answer development much easier.

5. Not giving importance to writing task 1

Many students comment that they prefer to focus on writing task 2 as it carries more marks. When I reviewed the task 1 writing of students with this outlook, I identified substandard answers, lack of organisation, not using relevant vocabulary, and not fully answering the question. Students should not be misled that task 1 writing is not important, it is! You can produce a great task 2 essay and a poor task 1 and this will result in a band score of less than 6.5. Both tasks need to be valued as important and you must write quality answers for both to achieve your desired band level.

6. Not receiving the correct teacher’s feedback

Speaking English or any language does not automatically qualify you to teach it. Teaching is a profession that requires knowledge, training, and professional assessment in your subject area. This does not mean that a person, not qualified as a teacher, can’t help language learners, however, for important exams such as the IELTS, it is important that you receive the correct feedback and guidance from a qualified tutor with experience preparing students for official exams such as Cambridge exams, IELTS, TOEFL, or TOEIC, etc. Let’s use the example of a qualified and experienced car mechanic compared to your friend who has a car, knows a little about cars, and has occasionally carried out some repairs on their car… Who would you trust more to fix an important problem with your car? Especially, if you needed to drive 3 hours to the airport, the next day… Do you see where I’m coming from with this?


In sum, there is no magic formula to IELTS, but there is a range of important points that you need to be aware of. Firstly, identify your current level, strengths, and weaknesses, create a realistic plan for your preparation, give yourself enough time to prepare before the exam, and work with a tutor that can provide you with the correct feedback to help you improve and achieve the band level you need.

Good Luck with your preparation!

Happy Studying! 😊