Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Are you worried about anxiety on the IELTS Exam?

Are you afraid that you will become nervous and anxious on the IELTS Speaking test and the IELTS Writing test?

Maybe your mind will go blank during the Listening test and you won’t be able to focus on what you are hearing from the audio track?

Anxiety is a real problem for many IELTS students especially if you have already taken the exam and you didn’t get the score you needed.

Don’t worry! You don’t need to let it take over your exam.

The first step is being well prepared.

Preparation is your foundation.

You need to prepare with someone who knows the exam or with a high-quality course where you’ll learn the right strategies that will allow you to walk into the exam with confidence.

Today I will show you three things you can do to keep your anxiety under control and get the IELTS score you need.

Tip #1) Know where it is likely to occur

In order to prevent anxiety from throwing you off, you should know where on the test you are likely to start to feel anxious.

What parts of the test trigger your anxiety and why?

This is easier for people who have already taken the exam but if you work with a qualified IELTS professional, that person can help you anticipate anxiety-provoking test sections and help you learn what to do when anxiety comes up depending on where you are in the test.

For example, on the Reading test there are two situations that will probably provoke anxiety.

What should do in these situations?

  • Situation #1: You don’t understand every word you read.
    • IELTS doesn’t expect you to know every word. Don’t let one word distract you and throw you into anxiety. Keep moving forward with the passage.
  • Situation #2: You don’t have enough time to complete the full Reading test
    • Go back to the strategies that you should have learned during your IELTS preparation. You must have a solid strategy to complete the reading on time. This strategy will be a solid foundation and will give you a resource to turn to when you get anxious.

Tip #2) Notice when you are feeling anxious

The key to not letting any emotion or feeling take over is to recognize and acknowledge when you are feeling something. In this case, notice when anxiety occurs in your body.

Are your palms starting to sweat? Is your stomach nauseous?

Is your heart beating fast?

Don’t ignore this when you notice it.

It’s a natural way that your body is reacting to a big test where the stakes for you are high.

Accept the fact that you are feeling anxious so that you can start to move past it.

Take a few deep breaths. Feel your feet on the ground. Spend a few seconds coming into the present. Then move forward.

Tip #3) Use your anxiety to increase your score

This may be counter-intuitive but on some parts of the test you can use your anxiety as an opportunity to show your language resources such as vocabulary, flexibility, and fluency.

You can also show that you know how to use your sense of humor in English.

Let’s get more specific.

On the Speaking test, what should you do if your mind goes blank?

Instead of freezing, getting quiet, saying “um” and “uh” or letting your anxiety ruin your test, try articulating what is happening to the examiner.

Use an idiom or a native phrase to do it.

Use rhythm and feeling in your voice to increase your pronunciation score also.

You can say:

  • “I am sorry. My mind just went blank.” (great native idiom)
  • “Give me a second. It’s on the tip of my tongue.” (this means you almost have the answer)
  • “I am blanking on this topic right now. Let me see… (now tell a personal story if you can)

If you use advanced language like this with some feeling in your voice, you might be able to use the moment of anxiety to move your vocabulary and/or pronunciation scores from a 6 to a 7.

To get a 7 on vocabulary in the Speaking test you need to have phrases that natives actually use.

To get a 7 on pronunciation you should avoid sounding like a robot.

You should sound like a real human being with life in your voice.

Your voice should show some emotion.

A moment of anxiety is a great opportunity to do all of these things and increase your speaking score.

Here’s the key thing to remember

When you experience anxiety on the IELTS it doesn’t have to bring your score down. Don’t fear it. Know when it’s likely to occur.

Be well prepared so that you know exactly what to do.

Use it to increase your score.

Everyone experiences anxiety on the IELTS.

The candidates who know how to make use of it skillfully will be the ones who get the score they need.

What do you think about anxiety on the IELTS?

Have you experienced it before?

What happened and how did you react to it? What will you do differently next time?

Let us know in the comments below.

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