The only way to make real progress for students who are stuck at band score 6-6.5 is deliberate practice. This means planned or purposeful study by identifying your weak areas and focusing on them in a structured way. In the IELTS world, the best way to do this is to break down a large task into smaller, more achievable targets or goals. This is actually quite easy to do in the reading test because we know the individual skills needed to perform well in the exam, and we also know the individual task types, described in this post.
Firstly, you must use authentic practice materials, otherwise it is almost impossible to assess your weaknesses and build the skills you need. So, use test materials that reflect the real test and force you to use and improve your reading skills.
Just doing more test practice is not the best way to improve your score – since you are not identifying and working on your weaknesses. To do this, review previous practice tests you have done and make a note of the number of questions you got wrong in each section. This will help to show you whether your weak areas are in a particular section or question type. You can use the table below:
If you tend to make more mistakes in section 2 and 3, for example, the problem is linked to a lack of vocabulary, in which case you must build up your language skills first and stop doing test practice. Alternatively, if you have problems with particular question types, such as Yes, No, Not Given, then look again at the correct answers and understand why your answer is wrong. This methodology will help you to see patterns and correct any misunderstandings you may have about the purpose of these questions.
Tips to achieve band score 7 and above:
- Develop your reading skills first (skimming, scanning and timing) before doing practice tests.
- Build your vocabulary by reading widely on topics related to IELTS reading. If your range of vocabulary is limited, you will not be able to recognise synonyms and parallel expressions, or use referencing to follow a complete idea to the right answer.
- If you find section 3 difficult and make more mistakes, then don’t worry about completing these passages in 20 minutes. Take your time and focus on accuracy and getting the right answers before you practice for speed.
- Practise as regularly as possible.
- Use only authentic test materials and official courses (by Cambridge or similar publishers). Avoid online material which often contains mistakes and do not reflect the real reading test.