Is IELTS hard?

Why, hello, there!


How are you doing? Is the magical world of IELTS treating you right? I sure hope so because today we are going to dive right into a question that is so common, not just from students of mine but also—on the internet! Oh, the internet. It can be a hindrance or a boon, the choice is up to you.


Today’s question that we are going to examine is: Is IELTS hard?


The Simple Answer


That depends on you. Yes, I know that you already knew that, but did you know this (???) ..... it depends on how you approach the test. I’m being very serious right now. Your mindset toward this test will make or break your score.


If you take it seriously, prepare, and learn how to think like an examiner, boosting your score by at least one band is definitely possible. I cannot guarantee it as I’m not the one taking the test for you (obviously), but I can be sure that with the right preparation (i.e., working with me), you will 100% feel ready, confident, and—dare I say it—excited about taking IELTS. Can you imagine?!


I know it seems almost WEIRD (or worse) to say that you feel excited about IELTS. However, it really isn’t as frightening as it seems. The key ingredient to all of this is knowing how to think like an examiner. Being a candidate, which you are, of course, is half the battle. Knowing how to train yourself to think like an examiner is the other half of the puzzle that will really lead you to that 1 band higher score.


However, let’s get back on track. Is IELTS hard? No, but it does matter in which frame you are viewing the test.


Candidate perspective


The first lens that we are going to take a sneak peek into is the candidate’s perspective— that’s YOU.


A candidate’s job may seem simple at face value but it is not. It requires a lot of investigation. You can, if you wish, think of yourself as a private investigator—except that what you’re investigating into is the life your future self will thank you for—because right now, this very second, is the hard part.


As a candidate, you learn all about the different modules: writing, reading, listening, and speaking. You even visit ielts.org or lorillarena.com/workshops to familiarize yourself with the different parts of the test. You learn there are two types of tests: Academic and General Training. You figure out how long each module of the test is, and maybe you even read some of the practice questions and answers provided on the magical site known as IELTS.org .


BUT—and this is big but—can you fully prepare for every instance of IELTS by just reading information on IELTS.org ? The (less savory) reality is a bit unpleasant because you need to actually put into practice everything you’ve just read about the test. For instance, if you read about the kinds of questions that you can expect, you then have to practice answering simulated questions or prompts in order to adequately prepare for the test. In other words, by doing this, you are giving yourself multiple instances where you have the chance to simulate the testing environment as close as humanly possible.


Creating a testing environment that closely resembles the actual test day is not an easy task. It requires heaps of concentration and planning where you know exactly what your next move will be when whatever variable occurs. In essence, each outlier has been carefully considered, planned, and many trial runs have taken place. After all, IELTS is NOT an exam that you can ace blindly. If you learn nothing else, please let this sink into your brain (and never escape)—IELTS isn’t a test for you to just say, “Oh, I’ll wing it.


IELTS is an intricate exam with many moving parts. It does not remain the same test after test, and the questions are always being changed, modified, or updated to ensure they reflect questions that are relevant.


Once you have a good handle on the background of IELTS: expectations, sample questions, the timing of the test, how it Is graded, etc.—you are firmly on the path to success. But you are not in the express lane for the path to success. Instead, you are squarely in the (for all the travelers out there) non-Clear, non-TSA-Precheck, non-Global Entry lane. This doesn’t meant that you cannot get a 1 band higher score, though. What it does mean is that it will take you longer to get there.


Why put yourself through all of that pain and anguish for studying for IELTS if takes so darn long. There is a far more helpful and efficient way to do this. And it’s called, training your brain to think like an examiner.


Examiner perspective


Why? Well, when we do this, you flip the IELTS script, literally. The question goes from—Is IELTS hard?— to a healthy statement—IELTS is easy to understand and explain! It’s that simple, friend. It is as if there is a switch in your brain that gets flipped on where you go from confusion and a sea of clouds to a bright and clear path with no traffic lights in sight—just you and the open (IELTS) road.


It sounds almost like a fantasy, right? Well, it is not.


Examiners are the people who will mark your exam; therefore, it only makes sense to get to know as much as humanly possible with respect to how it is marked. This requires a healthy dose of exploration and persistence. Instead these workshops, you gain helpful insights about how to frame your responses in order to boost your score by 1 band.


Your (IELTS) picture is only complete when you have the background knowledge of the test—the candidate’s perspective—coupled with the backbone of the exam, the examiner’s perspective. This is the perfect storm—but in a good way!— for you to see results in the form of a band higher score.


Examiners are a rare breed of humans. They eat, sleep, think, and breathe IELTS rubrics. Specifically, thinking like them will shape how you view the exam. How? Well, you will be able to breakdown the rubric into digestible chunks of information that no longer appear to be gibberish. Instead, arming yourself with the knowledge that these rubrics contain, will help you in your goal of attaining a 1 band higher score. The main reason is because you will know which four or five words to focus your attention on (for each band) and learn to ignore the rest—what I like to call noise.


When you think like an examiner, you know what it means to be “flexible” in terms of lexical resource, in both the writing and speaking modules. Hint—they are NOT the same thing for each part of the exam, and knowing the difference will help you SOOOO much! Not knowing the difference, well, I’m sure you can guess what happens.


Training your mind to prepare for the (IELTS) Olympics will change how you view this exam. You will no longer scratch your head in bewilderment over the phrases: lexical resource or grammatical range and accuracy. Heck, you might not even know what lexical resource means. And... newsflash... that’s okay! FYI, folks, it’s not a clumsy phrase used to describe something that is useful (or resourceful—if you’re basing your guess on the noun resource.)


Your quest for your taking over the world—IELTS-style— is only complete when you put both slides of bread, candidate and examiner, in order to form the most appetizing IELTS sandwich.


Candidate + Examiner = IELTS domination


This particular combination is literally amazing! Better yet, this is the combo that you NEED, not wish you could find. You can and will be unstoppable when you take the knowledge of the test and pair it with the robust skills that examiners possess. Together you become the ultimate IELTS superhero. Cape not included.


In A Nutshell


Back to our original question, ladies and gents... Is IELTS hard? Honestly, it’s a matter of how you view it. If you are seeing it through only the candidate’s lens, then yes, IELTS is quite difficult as there are a number of hoops to jump through in order to have a firm grasp of the exam. Remember, the candidate‘s perspective is only half the battle. Preparing your mind to train as an examiner is the other, more critical step, toward achieving IELTS success and, ultimately, mastery.


All hope is not lost, though. This can be mitigated by learning how to train yourself (kind of like how humans train animals)—only we are the ones being trained—not vice versa.


So, what does it take?


Get ready for the recap!


❇️ Prepare yourself with as much information regarding the IELTS candidate portion of the exam.

❇️ This means that you know exactly what is expected of you during each module and what you need to do in order to perform at your optimal level.

❇️ Acknowledge that the candidate’s perspective will only arm you with 50% of what you need to know about the test.

❇️ The more critical component is knowing and understanding that the examiner’s breath of knowledge and extensive training will get you ready for the remaining 50% of the exam.

❇️ The optimal combo stems from this unyielding (IELTS) concoction: 50% candidate‘s perspective + 50% examiner’s perspective

❇️ Ultimately, never underestimate the power of knowing and utilizing both sides.


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Until next time, happy IELTSing!

©2020 by Lori Llarena, The IELTS Whisperer.