In 2017, the journalist from Estudar Fora Priscila Bellini shared here on the portal her experience studying for the TOEFL in just one week. And I was overwhelmed by the challenge: would it be possible to do the same and prepare for IELTS in seven days?
The honest answer is that it was difficult, yes. But it was not impossible. Do you want to know the preparation step by step? In the end, I count the result.
Rather, to put it in context: IELTS is one of the main exams used to prove proficiency in the English language – widely used in professional contexts and also when applying for a course abroad.
Step 1: Calibration
I started my preparation on the Saturday before my test – the oral exam was already scheduled for Friday.
It is important to note here that I did not start from scratch: I already knew a little about the IELTS structure and had already read the Estudar Fora e-book about the exam. So, my first decision was to understand what my biggest difficulties were and what section/type of question I should focus my efforts on.
I then accessed one of the free simulations on the IELTS website and tried to solve it in the sequence that would be followed on the day of the race, with time scheduled. In this simulation, I detected my greatest difficulty: almost all the spelling questions (the famous “saying”) had been wrong.
To remove the doubt, I did another simulation and identified all the question models that had more doubts. This prepared me for the definition of my study strategy, which I developed the next day.
Step 2: Strategy Definition
The next day, I woke up and started planning my study week. Then, I believe that the candidate has two paths:
Option 1: Who is aiming for an intermediate score, between 5 and 6
In this case, with just a week of preparation, I wouldn’t look much at the issues I have the most difficulty with. I would focus all my efforts on guaranteeing those issues where I already have more facility/knowledge so that, in the end, result, they are compensated.
Bearing in mind, however, that many universities require that none of the skills ( Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing ) have a very low or zero score. But even within the different skills, there are models of different and, one might say, more or less complex questions. So I would focus on training all the skills, but with an emphasis on the issues where I already feel easier.
Option 2: Who is aiming for a high score, between 7 and 9
There is not much choice: you have to stand out in the details. So, I chose to focus precisely on the issues where I had the most difficulty improving my performance and not be below 7 in any section.
As I had already seen that my biggest difficulty was spelling issues, I set aside at least an hour a day in my week’s schedule to train just that. Two more hours were to train Speaking because I knew that nervousness would get me when I was face to face with the examiner (yes, unlike TOEFL, the oral exam at IELTS is face to face with an examiner). And the rest of the time, about two hours, I would study one section a day and end with a mock exam.
In order not to get lost, I wrote down all these time divisions in my Google calendar (which is also synchronized with the cell phone, so I would receive alarms when I start each study section).
Step 3: Study for IELTS in seven days
I started with Writing – I did four essays early in the morning – two shorter and two longer, as would be requested in the exam. Since it would be very exhausting to write four essays in a row, I interspersed the essays with Speaking training, which was lighter. In the afternoon, I found several videos on YouTube that would help me with spelling issues. Finally, I set my timer and did another full simulation – including two more essays – in the exact time that would be required in the race.
The days that followed were at this pace – alternating exercises from different sections and, even during the hours of rest, watching a series or listening to an English podcast. For those who are very accustomed to American English, I suggest trying Downtown Abbey (it’s great to increase vocabulary); Sherlock (it’s okay to come back to try to understand everything Cumberbatch said), and Doctor Who, a British classic.
Step 4: On the day of the race, get in the mood
On Friday, Speaking’s day, I was super nervous, so I was talking to myself almost all the way – answering questions on topics that I knew could come up.
It was not time to be ashamed: I was speaking, aloud, pronouncing the words well, even though I was in the middle of the street and on the subway. I talked about my interests, my family, my favorite food … In the video below, we talked a little about the common themes of IELTS Speaking, and, believe me, I went through each one of them at least once.
After Speaking, which was on Friday afternoon, I confess that I took some of the weight off my back and decided not to study anymore. Instead, I went to watch a movie (also in English) and read some posts on Quora (for those who don’t know, it’s a social network of questions and answers – addictive!), Also in English.
On the day of the written test, I was much more relaxed. Many people say that it is important to read or hear something in English before entering the room, but for me, it was important to relax a little while talking to people who, like me, were in the waiting room and to abstract from the tension knowing the plans that they had when taking the exam. This relaxation helped me to enter the test with ease, which was very important for me to last the entire exam.
See what it was like to study for IELTS in seven days…
In the end, it worked. I got a final score of 8 (out of 9), and my lowest score was 7, in Writing. And guess what, you know the saying? It was my best Listening question 😉