I have had a lot of experience with language tests. I took EIKEN in middle school, TOEFL in university, then the IELTS Academic exam before my first study abroad, and finally the TOEIC during my last year of university. Bear in mind, I'm a native speaker. In fact, I teach English.
Throughout my career as an English teacher, I have guided many students through taking their own English proficiency tests. Furthermore, I have studied in English-speaking universities, taught English to non-native speakers, and lived in Canada for the last 4 years.
But NONE of that matters. In one month, I have to take the IELTS General Training exam for immigration purposes. I'm still nervous!
“Even if English is your first language, or you consider yourself a native speaker, you should still practise for IELTS before taking the test.”*
English proficiency tests require a separate set of skills from communicating fluently in English. Believe it or not, being a fluent speaker doesn't guarantee a great score.
English testing abilities
Tests require many different abilities. Here's a list of things I have to do to succeed in the IELTS:
- take notes while listening;
- retain large amounts of information in my working memory;
- use that information to answer questions in a short period of time;
- speed-read while comprehending the subject;
- write two essays totaling 500 words in under 60 minutes;
- speak about any subject for two minutes;
- in my speech, I can’t go over time;
- and I have to include an introduction, a clear thesis, a body, and a conclusion in my speech.
All of this, and I need to understand different English accents, such as American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, British, and Indian accents.
So here's my advice:
Take as many practice tests as you can to become really familiar and comfortable with it. If you know what to expect, and what they're expecting from you, you'll be able to relax and do your best.
To my knowledge, no English test is easy. As I always tell my students, start preparing early and don’t wait until the last minute!
*“IELTS for Native English Speakers: Tips to Get a Top Score.” IELTS Australia, 11 Aug. 2020, ielts.com.au/articles/ielts-for-native-english-speakers/.