Why did I register for the IELTS?

As a student in Mechanical Engineering, I had to take the TOEIC test to enroll in Engineering school, but when I decided to go to Canada it was no longer valid and, more importantly, was not accepted by the university that I wanted to go to.

It was my goal of joining the University of Michigan (Canada)’s prestigious College of Engineering that led me to sitting the IELTS Academic test in October 2016. The minimum score required was 6.5, but my TOEIC score (750/990) corresponded to an IELTS score of 6. I therefore had to go from CEFR level B2 to level C1. First step: register, then revise.

How did I register for the IELTS?

Following my research on the internet, I noted that it was necessary to enroll a while in advance to get the session that suited me best, especially because the oral tests (Speaking) do not necessarily take place on the same day, depending on the exam centre. I thus went to the British Council website soon after to register for the IELTS Academic, which I did by following GlobalExam’s IELTS registration guide, knowing that I would have time to prepare before the exam date.

Note: Although the British Council offers a French version of its website, the registration platform is only available in English!

I could sit the IELTS in my city, at the British Council’s centre in Lyon! I know that the British Council does not have many exam centres in France (only 4 cities), but some of my classmates could sit the exam in other accredited institutions. If you need any help, do not hesitate to contact the British Council!

Having decided to register 2 months in advance (as advised), I managed to get a date that suited me perfectly, but 66% of the places for that session were already taken, so I strongly advise you to register as early as possible!

How did I practise for the IELTS test?

For the first three weeks, I practised with a book that I borrowed from the language centre at my university… Well, I tried! This method was not adapted to me as I prefer to use computers, so I searched for a way to prepare for the IELTS Academic test online.

As a result, I discovered GlobalExam, “a platform offering hours of online training for the IELTS Acadamic and General Training tests”, which seemed very interesting to me! I started with a free training programme to test it out… A success! I was much more motivated to study when using the platform than when I used books so I signed up to the 30 day subscription. I appreciated being able to alternate between targeted exercises and mock exams (taken under real exam conditions), so I could both progress in English and prepare myself for the specific format of the test. I could have really done with this 3 years ago when I was preparing for the TOEIC exam with books. GlobalExam also have many resources available such as vocabulary and grammar study sheets, or tips for your training.

The day when I sat the IELTS Academic test!

Finally, the month of October arrived as did the day of my written exam sections!

Although I did not have the habit at school, I arrived at the exam centre in advance – it’s always safer. It seemed that everyone had adopted the same strategy, in order to have a little margin of time and get into the right frame of mind (by revising, relaxing, etc.)

The examiners first started by calling us up one by one and checking our supporting documents (confirmation letter, ID, etc.). They explained the morning’s schedule to us, and the rules we needed to follow:

  • The three written sections take place in the morning
  • It is impossible to take a break between the different Writing section questions (3 essays)
  • The candidates are only permitted to bring their ID and a bottle of water (without a label) into the exam hall. Food and mobile phones are prohibited, while writing materials are provided. All other personal belongings are left in a locked room.

Anecdote: The invigilators walk between the rows to sharpen pencils!

I sat the written sections on a Thursday, and the oral section on the following Saturday. I will now give you my advice and my impression of each section.

Listening: Thanks to watching my favourite American TV series, and GlobalExam’s practice exercises, I felt comfortable with this section! A word of advice all the same: read the instructions well before the audio excerpt begins and watch out for any trick questions!

Reading: The three texts are rather long and are accompanied by 10 questions each, so there is no time to lose!

Writing: This was the section for which I had undoubtedly revised the least, which was a mistake because I spent 40 minutes writing my argument – Writing Task 2 requires a great deal of concentration!

Speaking: This takes place face-to-face with an examiner who asks you quite general questions. For one of these, you will have several minutes to prepare. I had prepared my answers a little too much – the test is designed to prevent candidates from doing this. Result: I could have done better but I still did alright!

Finally…

I left the written exams feeling quite confident but I was not able to relax until I finished the oral test on the following Saturday!

I received my results by post two weeks later. I managed to get:

  • Listening: 8
  • Reading: 7.5
  • Writing: 6.5
  • Speaking: 6.5

Total: an IELTS score of 7!

Therefore, I can go to the University of Michigan (Canada) next semester!

To all those like me who are going to sit the IELTS test, I advise you, even if you already have a good level of English, to:

  • Learn about the IELTS test format, with the notes for each section, particularly the notes for each exercise
  • Actively prepare yourself!

“The sky is the limit”. Good luck!

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