Breaking The IELTS Barrier


By Rohit Jain, Co-founder, ufaber 


International English Language Testing System, famously abbreviated as IELTS, is one of the barriers that you need to break through to be able to join an ivy-league college or pursue a career in 65 countries, including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It is a 2-hour 45-min test aimed at assessing the English language proficiency of students and professionals. The test has become increasingly popular among Indian students over the past few decades, mainly due to the IELTS Scholarship, which helps students get admissions in top international institutions.

IELTS uses bands to score and the test has a total of 9 bands. A recent report released by the IELTS official website showed that around 45% of Indian candidates score a band of 5.5-6, which is generally considered to be average. So how can one score above 6 and get into the best colleges abroad?

The IELTS exam has 4 sections, namely listening, reading, writing, and speaking. We will go through each section to understand the hurdles countered by the aspirant.


Listening Test

This test majorly entails listening to audio tracks and answering the questions that follow, based on the comprehension of the audio track.

Challenges faced – However, this proves to be tough for a majority of Indian candidates, as we’ve been conditioned listening to different accents right from our school days.

Common Mistakes– The word ‘hostel’ might sound us to as ’hostile’ while listening to audio in their accent.

How to overcome – this hurdle can be overcome by listening to as many English podcasts or audio clips to eventually get a grasp of the accent. Patience is the key here, as listening isn’t a skill that can be achieved within a fortnight.


Reading Test 

Remember your school days, when the first page of your English exam used, to begin with –‘Please read the following passage for your comprehension and answer the following questions’? Reading Test in IELTS is similar where you get 60 minutes to comprehend the passage and attempt the questions that follow. The ideal reading speed is 350 words/minute. The questions appear in the following format:


  • multiple choice
  • matching
  • sentence completion
  • summary/note/table/flow-chart completion
  • diagram label completion
  • short-answer questions


Challenges faced – This will seem like a herculean task to aspirants who don’t read regularly and lack the patience to read, but then there’s nothing much to worry about here.


Common mistakes – The reason behind the task being herculean for the aspirants who don’t have the practice to read is simply because they lack the patience to read thoroughly the article and not able to scan the answers for the questions.


How to overcome – Reading newspapers especially the editorial column can be of great help, since reading long articles will first induce the patience of reading. Then, the candidate has to work on his speed of reading, which is nowadays aided by the availability of multiple mock tests online, which are time-bound. With a timer ticking on the screen, will give the aspirant a good practice of reading the passage with precision and accuracy. These online sites have multiple progress trackers as well, which can easily recognize your grey areas and help you improve scan the answers from the passage.


Writing test

In this test, the candidate’s understanding of what is being asked, originality, precision, cohesiveness, coherence, vocabulary, and grammar is tested.

Challenges – Candidates tend to use extra words making it wordier and this reflects an image of inefficiency to the examiner. Again, while writing we have to be careful about maintaining consistency of the content flow, for example – after a paragraph of writing advantages the next rightly should be about disadvantages followed by the conclusion.


How to overcome – the economy of words is the most important thing when it comes to writing crisp content to deliver the best impact. Increasing the vocabulary of words plays an essential role, as with the right choice of word set we can write concisely. For example, let us look at this sentence- ‘If the company and/or its workforce resists change, it will only hamper the company’s growth and success, the result of which will likely be other changes such as restructuring and layoffs’. This sentence is wordy and has 32 words in total and can be written concise like – Resistance to change will only hamper the company’s growth and success, likely resulting in other changes such as restructuring and layoffs.” And now this has 21 words.


Speaking test 

The IELTS speaking test consists of a short in-person interview. The test consists of three parts, namely: speaking about yourself, responding to a topic, and sharing your opinion. Your English communication evaluation will be based on your grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary. The speaking tests last for 11-15 minutes.


Challenges faced – To qualify this test, one needs to have a good practice of conversing in English. With the increase in English media consumption on entertainment apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc., slangs have entered our vocabulary and dictionary which holds a high probability of using them involuntarily in the interview. Apart from this, we are a country of 29 states, out of which every Indian’s pronunciation of English will be distinct. Many people find conversing in English with a stranger to be a nightmare and lose confidence.


Common Mistakes – Usage of slangs while speaking.


How to overcome – Start conversing in English with your friends, relatives, colleagues or family who will empathize with you and can correct your pronunciation. There is another way, if one doesn’t find a partner, prepare chits on multiple topics say sports, politics, history, etc. and randomly pick any one of them to speak about the topic in front of your friend. This will help in gathering the confidence to speak right.

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