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As many of you know I am an exam specialist so I have decided to put together a post to highlight some of the common errors some students might make in their exam prep and how to overcome them


When preparing for IELTS and any Cambridge exam etc, we all dream of logging on to our account to see a 'You have scored a 9.0 or an A' after having taken the exam. We all want a top mark but the amount of work involved is immense which many of us truly underestimate. We're talking about hundreds of hours of nose to the books, relentless studying; ohhhh it goes on. It's very easy to want a top mark but the reality soon sinks in when we need a powerful telescope to see the top of the mountain. 

✅ When signing up for any course, not only should you aspire to land a top mark, but be willing to work through that huge pile of food on your plate. 


Many students feel comfort in sticking to material like Vocabulary in Use, Murphy's etc (good books by the way) but the info in those will only get you so far. Even textbooks provide very simplistic language and practice (that way publishers force you to buy more books to line their pockets). As a result, students get slapped in the face with the leather glove of reality when getting a reading or listening task with more complex English than they're used to.

✅ It is tough, it's a pain, it's time-consuming but students MUST get into the habit of using authentic sources such as news articles, journals, boring documentaries to build their topical vocabulary, as well as reading and aural skills.


The student's attitude is vital meaning it must be positive... obviously. Many students do possess a defeatist sense of self which is mightily destructive and results in quitting before even having had a go. Many lack confidence in their skills and are conscious of what classmates might think of their English (the reality is that those other students either feel the same or aren't judging at all). Nobody is making a student feel like that except themselves. Like in every aspect of life, to even have any chance of success, a person needs a can-do attitude. Being negative: you're likely to avoid doing essays, you'll make a mistake and end up being dangerously self-critical, you'll give up quicker on trying to decipher context in a reading task, you won't concentrate as fully when doing a listening.

✅ Are things really that bad? You have had a full breakfast, slept in a bed, speak maybe C1 English, you earn money... yep, you need to train yourself in a new way of thinking. See the learning phase as an adventure rather than a test of what you don't know. Self-pity is one of the worst traits around. Get rid of it. 


If a students is doing FCE and from the outset is getting top marks in everything, well, then they should be doing CAE. But that is rare. Quite often when students start courses, they expect 100% in every task and get disheartened when they don't: it's like an 'all or nothing' attitude. Mastering the FCE or trying to go from an IELTS 6.0 to an 8.5 requires a vast amount of time and effort. And insisting on getting perfect scores 5 minutes into a course of 250 hours is quite irrational. 

✅ A trait of someone who is mentally strong is not to expect results over night but rather to accept that the final goal is a long arduous process with ups and downs along the way. Being responsible with a routine, self-discipline and a positive mindset will guarantee success. 


Of course the previous sections may give the impression that we need to work hard. We do. But I prefer the notion: better to work smart and don't overdo it. Where some students might expect that magic pill by obtaining an A without having even removed the protective plastic film from their textbook, on the other hand, some students go into overdrive and do too much ultimately forgetting everything, panicking, and burning out. A student is not expected to fit 250 hours worth of work into a fortnight... which would defy the law of physics by the way. 

✅ This calls for a bit of common sense. Less is more. Better to learn fewer words and be able to apply them than learn 100 by heart and forget them 5 minutes later. Rather than do five Reading Part 7 tasks, do one and do some self-reflecting afterwards to understand where you might have gone wrong to save making the same mistakes in the following 4 Reading Part 7 tasks... to be done on different days. 

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