Episode Transcript 73: How Much Time Do You Need to Prepare for the IELTS Exam?

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Speaker 1: 00:00 Hello and welcome back to Activate Your IELTS Be Determined. I'm your host, Kristin Espinar of Kristinespinar.com and I help students get a seven + band score and [inaudible] writing and speaking skills. Today I'm going to be answering the question, how much time should you take to prepare for the IELTS exam?

Speaker 2: 00:30 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:42 okay, so before we begin, I want to invite you to download a very special freebie that I created for you. This is a really special freebie called the IELTS writing and speaking preparation plan. This thing is like 30 pages or more and believe me, I spent a lot of time working on it and creating it for you. Now, why did I do this? Because this is the key to getting you on the right track with your IELTS preparation. One thing that I see that students don't do or they make a mistake of not doing is that they don't treat the IELTS preparation like a project and it is a project. It's a big project, one that you need to look at the whole picture and break down into a lot of steps if you want to be able to pass the exam and this freebie helps you do it.

Speaker 1: 01:32 It helps you set a goal, it helps you get organized, it helps you create a study schedule. It helps you to identify your weaknesses and create a plan based on those weaknesses. And of course it has some of my best tips and tricks for IELTS writing and speaking skills. So stop what you're doing right now. You can click the link in the episode notes and download this freebie. Okay. Now in my time as an exam preparation coach, I've noticed that there are few different tracks to take in terms of how long you should prepare for the IELTS exam. The track you decide to take should depend on several considerations. These are things like your starting English level, your future goals, and your ability and time to prepare. So today I'm going to talk about three different tracks that you can use to help you decide how long you need to prepare.

Speaker 1: 02:26 Why? Because taking the exam before you're ready could be a big mistake. It could mean that you lose money. It could be something that creates frustration and overwhelm and it also creates a sense of urgency and this urgency is heightened and it adds stress to your study. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people take the exam again and again and again. Think about how much money you're investing into, something that you're not really prepared for. You need to make sure that you're prepared on exam day so that you're only paying for that exam one time and imagine what it feels like to spend the money, take the exam, not get the results you need. You're obviously gonna feel frustrated and you'll start to going to feel overwhelmed in your preparation. You're not going to know what you need to do, what you did wrong, why and how to dig yourself out of that hole.

Speaker 1: 03:24 It's also going to create that sense of urgency. You're going to feel like I need to get this done and you're going to push yourself harder, but probably in the wrong direction and that's going to add stress to your study. We don't want that to happen. I want you to do it right the first time. I want you to get on track the first time and one of the biggest mistakes that people make is not giving themselves enough time to prep. Prepare in a few episodes. You are actually going to hear from one of my students about how he made this one mistake. He only took two or three months to prepare for the exam and when he didn't get the scores that he wanted, he kept taking the exam with only two months in between each time he took the exam, he was getting the same score for speaking and writing.

Speaker 1: 04:09 So what does this tell you? Well, he wasn't giving himself enough time to improve his speaking and writing skills before he took the exam. Again, it also shows you that it's really hard to improve those skills and it's really hard to do it on your own. If you're struggling like this, you need to stop, identify your weaknesses, and then work to improve. And yes, that might mean that you do need a professional to help you identify your weaknesses. And the truth is it might take more than two months. This is a reality that you may have to face and you may have to think about the other option. If you don't take the time that you need to prepare. Like I said, you're going to continue taking the exam, you're not going to make any progress, you're not going to improve at all, and you're going to waste your money.

Speaker 1: 04:56 So let's talk about the factors that you need to consider in determining the schedule and pace that you should take. The first thing that I want you to think about is your starting English level. So you can ask yourself these questions. How long have you been studying English? Right? Have you been studying your whole life? Have you just been studying in the past few years? Basically what it comes down to is do you have a strong basis in English? If you use the common European framework for languages, you'll know that you need to have between a one and B one or B two you need to have those grammar points down, so you need to have gone through the process of going from A1 to B1 or even B2. You need to have a basic level of English and it should be around an intermediate level, so more than basic you have to have a strong basis for English.

Speaker 1: 05:50 Another thing to consider is do you understand grammatical terms and are you able to study, apply and improve. So depending what country you learned English in, you may have a strong understanding of grammatical terms or you may not. If you don't have a strong understanding of grammatical terms, it's going to be harder to do self study because you're not going to understand certain terms that come into play when you're learning how to build new structures. I have students that kind of intuitively know how to use the language but they don't know what things are like prepositions, phrasal verbs or like past participles. Right, and that's important. When you learn a new structure, you have to learn the parts of the structure and you have to know the names of those structures and this is really important if you're going to be studying on your own because it's going to be up to you to identify the grammar points that you need to work on and it's going to be up to you to take the time to study those, practice those and then apply them to your writing and speaking tasks.

Speaker 1: 06:54 Another thing I want you to consider is have you ever done any academic English preparation before or have you just done general English because these are two different things. General English is good for social English and it's good for building your general English level, but academic English is a total different animal and it's what you need to prepare for the IELTS exam. It's things like strategies and higher level tactics and approaches to formal and academic language. If you haven't studied this, it's going to be big change and it's going to be something that you really need to consider in how you approach your studies. You can't approach it like a general English task. It's not. It's an academic English task. Another thing I want you to think about is your vocabulary. This is kind of like grammar, right? This is one of the building blocks of your language.

Speaker 1: 07:45 So how's your vocabulary? Do you know what academic vocabulary is versus informal vocabulary? And if you do, are you building that on a regular basis? Are you able to use collocations? Well, you see, vocabulary is something that students struggle with and it's something that sometimes they even putting off preparing for the IELTS exam for because they don't feel like they have enough a strong enough vocabulary. But I believe that one of the best ways to prepare for the IELTS writing and speaking skills and tasks is through building your vocabulary. And I teach what's called the Kristin's IELTS Vocabulary Framework in my program, The IELTS Writing and Speaking Experience where you learn the whole process step by step. So if you want to use this framework, I'll be opening up my doors again in January. You can get it. Until then. You want to think about these things.

Speaker 1: 08:38 Make sure that you have a strong vocabulary on a variety of IELTS topics. Make sure that you're starting to build your academic vocabulary on a consistent and regular basis. Make sure you understand what transition words are and how to use them. Make sure that you understand what called collocations are and that you're paying attention to every new collocation that you learn so that you know how to use it correctly. Collocations are tricky and make sure that you're building idiomatic phrases and expressions. That's what's going to boost you to a seven band score or higher. So can you see how building your vocabulary is going to make a huge difference for you? Like I said, building your vocabulary here is like building your grammar. Both are like the building blocks to your preparation and they can make a big difference in your ability to do the writing and speaking tasks.

Speaker 1: 09:29 So think about where you are and how long it will take you to do this. Now think about your future goals. Is there a time that you have to have this done by or is it just an ideal time? This is important because you have to be realistic. How much time do you have? What do you need to accomplish in that time and is it possible? The areas that I see that take the longest to improve are when people have a low level of grammar and vocabulary. If you don't have a strong grammar level that needs to be taken into account and you might not reach your goal as quickly as you would like. Other people need to work only on structure, topic development and giving support. This can be done more quickly in a shorter period of time. So this is why it's important that you evaluate your weaknesses and your strengths.

Speaker 1: 10:17 It will determine how quickly you can get to your result. Finally, you need to take into account the time that you have on a weekly basis to study. So are you a busy professional with a family? If so, it's likely you're going to have less time to be able to commit to your preparation project and you may meet a longer preparation time. Do you have a decent level of English and tons of free time? You can probably clear your calendar and take a more intensive approach, something in between. The only person who knows what you can do is you, you know what you're able to commit to. You know what you're able to stick to. So get to know yourself, your habits, and make a realistic study plan for yourself. How many times a week can you commit to preparation? How many hours can you put into each session each week?

Speaker 1: 11:10 Take that and consider your starting English level and the types of weaknesses you have and make a plan. So here are the three study types that I want to talk about. The first one I'm going to call Fast and Determined. This can take like three to four months of intensive study. And by intensive study I mean like Jean Carlos. If you listened to the last podcast episode, this was where he was doing three to four hours per day and he was doing seven hours on the weekends. This is seven days of study. So did you hear me? Three to four hours per day and seven hours on the weekend. It was like his second job, right? But it's going to get you done on a fast track. The pros of this while intensive study is going to bring you fast results. Just like Jean Carlos, he improved from a five to a 6.5 in writing and speaking in three to four months and he boosted his reading and listening skills by three band scores in just about three months.

Speaker 1: 12:09 Cons, while you basically have to give up your life for awhile. So this isn't somebody for, this isn't for somebody who has kids a full time job, a lot of other things. You have to be realistic, you're just not going to be able to put in that type of preparation. And if you do, you're probably going to have a mental breakdown, right? So you need to give yourself an appropriate time for what you can really and truly commit to. The next one I'm going to call Happy and Busy. Now I don't really like this name. I just translated it from one of my favorite phrases in Spanish. Now remember I'm a native speaker, but I have spent about 20 years learning a second language. My second language is Spanish. That's one of the reasons that I'm a really good IELTS coach is that I understand what you're going through and the process of going of learning a second language because I've been there, so not only have I been a teacher for 14 years, most of that's been official exam preparation.

Speaker 1: 13:05 Not only am I official an examiner for a lot of different exams, not only do I have a master's degree in applied linguistics and I understand the process of second language acquisition, but I've been there. I've been where you are. I absolutely understand what's going on in your head, why you're making the mistakes that you are. What happens when you try to improve your speaking? What happens when you get up and you speak and you don't know what to say and everything's falling out of your mouth. I understand. I've been there like I, my brain has gone through that process. So anyway, that when I lived in Spain, there was this phrase that I learned that I just, I loved. And it meant, it meant when you're like really busy but you're not too busy, you're working kind of at the perfect pace. You're working, you have time to like take a break, but not too big of a break. You're not stressed, you're not going too slow, you're making great strides. You're, it's the perfect pace. I should probably call this the perfect pace. And in Spanish it's called sin pausa, sin prisa [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 14:06 And I loved using that phrase when I lived in Spain because you know, if you're working hard and you just have like a good flow going on, that's it. That's the feeling. And so that's what I'm calling this one. I can't call it Sin Pausa, Sin Prisa, but he said, because there's a lot of you that don't speak Spanish, so I'm just going to call it Happy and Busy. So this is like a six month track, right? And this is where you're going to study two hour sessions, probably three to four times per week. Now the pros of this, well you know, it's going to help you really build your skills because it takes time to build your vocabulary and to target your weaknesses and to work on this. But the cons is it's kind of easy to not take it seriously and it's really easy to just put that commitment aside.

Speaker 1: 14:50 So what you to make sure you do is think about what you can do per week and then you need to make sure that you really and truly integrate that into your schedule. So you have to integrate your study time into your work, schedule, your life, schedule, whatever, and you have to commit to it on a regular basis. Now this is for busy people who want to make real progress in less than a year. And the truth is, the easiest way to do this probably is take a class because you have that commitment there. You have somebody like pushing you to do that commitment. But if you don't want to take a class, you've got to push yourself and you've got to add that commitment into your studies. Okay, and the last one I'm going to call Slow and Steady, right? This is going to be a six to 12 month process.

Speaker 1: 15:36 Again, you're going to have the same problems as I just mentioned before in that it's, it may be hard to make a commitment over a year even if it's just a commitment once or twice a week or three times a week. That's why taking a class could be something that's beneficial for you because then you have like a regular commitment that you're paying for and that someone is going to, that teacher's going to like do the work for you in terms of telling you what to do and pushing you and keeping you on track. But you don't have to take a class. You can do it on your own, but you have to make sure that, again, you find what you can do and you add it to your weekly schedule and you and you have to be serious about that. Don't put anything in place of that.

Speaker 1: 16:21 So I would say take a few hours per week. Commit to one or two days and just block it off on your schedule and commit to that. Now, the goal of this is to slowly build your grammar skills if needed, or your vocabulary skills and to spend a lot of time working with things like authentic texts combined with exam preparation. This is a track for people who are thinking about about the future, but they like to take their time to develop their skills. The pros of this is you do have a lot of time to develop your skills, which is great, but the cons is that without a teacher, it's up to you to stay on track and that can be hard to maintain your rhythm of study and your commitment over a whole year. Okay, so now that we've had to look at these different possible tracks, doesn't that seem doable?

Speaker 1: 17:08 Take time to reflect on your English level, your weaknesses, the goals that you have and the schedule that you have and create something that's doable and sustainable for yourself. Remember, IELTS needs regular practice and commitment. So no matter what you do, you do need to commit to some sort of regular schedule. So to get started with this, make sure that you download my free IELTS writing and speaking preparation plan. It's going to help you get started on making the schedule, identify your goals and weaknesses, and helping you organize this preparation project. Okay? Have a great week and I'll see you in my live session on Facebook this week. If you are interested in that, you can click the link in the episode notes to get signed up in that free live session. Okay, guys, have a great week.

Speaker 2: 18:05 [inaudible].

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