IELTS Band 7 is the ultimate goal for most international students. A score of IELTS 7.0 or 7.5 is evidence that your English is good enough to join any university course, even at elite Oxbridge and Ivy League institutions. It is also determined by your level of comfort and fluency with the English language in general. A majority of prestigious universities and organisations acknowledge this achievement, which will open up a number of doors for your future education and career.
Although the idea of obtaining a high score in IELTS may seem daunting, it is perfectly achievable. This article tells you exactly what you need to do in order to get IELTS Band 7 in each of the four modules of the test.
THE MARKING SCHEME
In IELTS, you get one point for each correct answer, giving you a ‘raw score’ out of 40. In order to earn band 7 or above, your module score, or ‘sub-score’, can be either 7.0 or 7.5 depending on whether you meet these minimum requirements, or exceed them slightly.
Your overall IELTS score will also be classified as either 7.0 or 7.5 depending on the average band score among each of the four modules. For example, Listening Band 7 + Reading Band 8 + Writing Band 8 + Speaking Band 7 = IELTS 7.5. Learn more about how IELTS scores are calculated in our article: An introduction to IELTS test.
The IELTS listening test will take around 30 minutes to complete and is comprised of four parts. In order to achieve a score of band 7 or above in this test, you will need to answer 30 or above out of 40 questions correctly. Difficulty levels will vary for each question. From training solutions to how to tackle the test itself, here’s some techniques for you to score band 7:
- Predict answers before you listen. During the test, you will be given some time to read the questions before you listen to the recording. In this time, use your training in skim reading to highlight phrases and sentences which contain facts or figures. Doing so can help you to identify the type of information required and leads to ‘targeted listening’.
- Identify parallel meaning. Be ready to make the connection between what the speaker says and what the question asks.
- Check grammar carefully. In sentence completion tasks, you may need to change the speaker’s words to make them fit the question grammatically.
- Practice using different skills at the same time. You will need to use reading, listening and writing skills at the same time during the listening section of IELTS. Simple solutions to help you train in the complexity of the English language before the test is listening to English-speaking podcasts, news and documentaries, all of which are easily accessible online. It might be useful for you to pick out words you don’t understand and make notes of them as you watch and listen. This technique will help train your ears to listen out for specific words.
- Improve your spelling. Your answer may be marked incorrect if not spelt correctly.
The IELTS writing test is made up of two tasks. The test evaluates your ability to write appropriate responses, your competency in English spelling and grammar and how well you structure ideas. You must answer both questions in full to achieve band 7 or above. Here are our tips to help you prepare and achieve this score, including how to structure your answers:
- Always make a paragraph plan before writing. A useful way to plan your answers is by properly analysing each task and writing notes. You could also try underlining key words in the question to help you focus on the task at hand. To manage your time accordingly to achieve greater results, it is advised you spend 20 minutes on Task 1 and 40 minutes on Task 2.
- Avoid repeating the same words too many times. Paraphrase the questions and vary vocabulary as much as possible in both IELTS writing tasks.
- In Task 1, do not attempt to explain or present reasons for the data. You should only describe what it shows.
- In Task 2, remember that you can write about other people’s ideas as well. Practice using reporting verbs and passive structures to give your writing a more academic style.
- Mistakes are much more obvious in writing than in speaking. You should be continuously working to improve your English grammar while preparing for IELTS. Achieving a high score in the IELTS writing test requires you to be proficient in your spelling and grammar. Luckily, you can find many online resources that will teach and help you practise the fundamentals. Apps can also be helpful for your exam preparation, including ‘Practice English Grammar’, ‘Learn English Grammar’ (UK and US edition available) and ‘Grammarly’.
- Be conscious of word count, Task 1 will require a minimum of 150 words, whilst Task 2 requires a minimum of 250. In addition, learn and practise what the word counts look like in your handwriting prior to the test, as you don’t want to use up your time counting words during the exam.
The IELTS reading section of the test is separated into three parts, with a total of 40 questions. You are given one hour to complete this section. You will also need to answer a minimum of 30 questions correctly (out of 40) to achieve band 7 or above. Here are our top tips on how you can achieve this:
- Skim-read quickly. Try to find the main idea of each passage and of each paragraph. Don’t read all the supporting details. Ignore any unfamiliar words at this stage. Ensure you spend time nurturing this skill, as you must take in information as you quickly read it. Skim reading without practise will prohibit you from processing important information accordingly. You are tested on your ability to efficiently locate answers during the time given, and understand the sentences containing key information. This is where training your scanning skills will come in handy.
- Identify key words. Scan the passage and the questions for words you know will be in the passage such as names of people, names of places, and dates.
- Identify paraphrase. Look for similar meaning between what the passage says and what the question asks. Participants with a wide vocabulary are at a huge advantage, and more likely to score band 7 or above. This is because the IELTS reading test is designed to assess how varied your vocabulary is by using the following components correctly in sentences:
- Synonyms – words or a phrase that means almost the same as another word or phrase. E.g. ‘important’ and ‘essential’, or ‘positive’ and ‘optimistic’
- Paraphrasing – expressing something using different words
- Singular nouns – naming one person, place or object
- Plural nouns – naming more than one person, place or object
- Manage time. Some questions will be extremely difficult so you should concentrate first on the questions that are easiest for you to answer. Take no more than 60 seconds to consider your answer before moving on to the next question.
- Expand your vocabulary. You will find the academic module of IELTS Reading much easier if you expand your academic vocabulary. This academic word list is a great place to start. To best prepare, you should comprehensively read and research words, phrases, and all elements of the English vocabulary, to train yourself in the foundations of the language and how it is structured. There are many useful online resources and apps to help your learning. The British Council provide useful and free online vocabulary tests. Vocabulary.com is an excellent vocabulary training app which works as a dictionary and allows you to practise and make a list of words you would like to learn. In addition, you can also make your own notes of various words and context surrounding these words, such as their meaning, examples of using them in a sentence, or pictures associated with them.
The speaking section of the test will take 11-14 minutes in total and has three parts. You will be required to speak fluently and at length to score well in this section. The speaking section is an opportunity for you to vocally showcase your hard work and dedication to learning the English language. To improve your chances of achieving band 7 or above, when speaking with the examiner, first make sure you speak more than they do, and ensure you are expressive and as fluent as possible. You will be assessed on your ability to communicate accordingly, therefore it is important you have immediate answers ready:
- Memorise some checking questions. Be ready to use these when you don’t understand the examiner’s question. Examples include: I didn’t catch that, sorry; Are you asking… ; I’m not sure what you mean exactly.
- Avoid ‘parroting’ (repeating back) the words in the question. Always attempt to rephrase in your answer or use a substitution such as ‘Yes, I do.’
- Avoid silence or hesitation. Being silent is worse than making mistakes! Memorise some ‘filler expressions’ for use when you can’t come up with any ideas. Examples: That’s an interesting question; Let me think; What I want to say is…
- In Part 2, try to keep talking for two minutes. This is more important than answering all parts of the question. The question prompts on the card are only there to help you, not direct you.
- In Part 3, try comparing different ideas and opinions. This should help you to keep talking even when you don’t have any strong views of your own. You may want to practise improving your confidence in both presentation and conversational skills with a native English speaker, friend or family member, and someone you might know who is taking the IELTS test too.
Finally, some tips that will serve you well no matter which band score you are aiming for…
- Don’t Panic – It is natural to feel apprehensive before and during the IELTS test. Before you take the test, ensure you are well rested and practise calming techniques to ensure your mind is clear of stress before the exam. During the test, if you are unable to answer a question, try to not waste time panicking. It is important you try and attempt every question, however, if you are stuck, quickly move on to the next question to avoid wasting time and causing yourself further stress.
- Read Instructions Carefully – Ensure you read and follow the instructions on the Listening, Reading and Writing sections carefully. Make sure you understand every question and what is expected of you from the test. This is crucial if you want to achieve high marks.
- Take Practice Tests – In addition to preparation tips given throughout this guide, it is essential you study practice papers to prepare yourself for the exam. You can find IELTS Practice Tests here.