The most useful IELTS tip of them all

For your IELTS Speaking and IELTS Writing, the thing you are being tested on is your ability to express YOURSELF.

You have to find a way of expressing what you, and just you, want to say. This is why you can’t memorize sentence patterns, essay patterns, or ideas. If you are asked a question about the environment, then you have to give YOUR OPINION.

Which means you have to be aware of how to shape a sentence or a paragraph to your needs (and not force an idea into a pre-set pattern).

THE TIP: watch fictional television/movies and read any text of extended length regularly.

In fictional tv, the characters address each other as conversation. You will thus pick up natural speech which will directly impact your IELTS Speaking.

Of course, watching fictional tv/movies is also fun too, so it is productive, but it is not work. Stress won’t help your study. It doesn’t matter which movie or show you watch, so watch whatever you would find fun. In terms of usable IELTS Speaking relevance, there is no such thing as ‘bad English’. So you can learn whilst relaxing.

And don’t take notes! Then you are adding a layer of stress. Don’t worry about concentrating on every inflection and turn of phrase. There will be things you don’t understand and that doesn’t matter. No one is grading you. However, you will pick up enough idioms and turns of phrase to be useful. WATCH WITHOUT SUBTITLES.

But it is like learning a musical instrument. You have to practice it every day or you will forget. So, watch fictional tv/movies every day.

I’m not kidding: I met someone on a bus who spoke fluent English. I was so impressed, I said, ‘You must have lived in America’ (his idioms and style were naturally American). He had never left Taiwan, or taken classes beyond kindergarten. He taught himself fluent English just by watching tv.

All the IELTS lessons and learning stuff is, of course, useful. But watching fiction is more useful.

In terms of IELTS Writing, you can repeat the same trick by reading anything at all. But make it something you are interested in.

If it is novels, read them.

Articles will probably be more useful, but it doesn’t matter what the article is about, because you are trying to intuit how to naturally use language, so read something you are interested in. Then it is fun and not work.

Example IELTS Writing answers are the most directly useful. But read lots of them. And don’t become stuck on patterns and try to copy them. You can absorb English Writing, the same way you can absorb English Speaking.

Read at least 1000 words a day (or about an article’s length). It doesn’t matter what it is about. Don’t take notes. Spend the time you would do that reading another article.

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