Dears,

You will be taking the IELTS exam in a few weeks or month. You have taken the practice courses, some of you has been preparing IELTS test in special courses, and some has been relaying on Lyceum programs focused on preparing for IELTS tests.

However, you have to do few things that maybe you haven’t done before. You have to prepare astudy plan, determining your learning style, and reviewing test-taking strategies. You have also to learn howto relax so that you won’t be nervous during the test. Although you have about the same Englishskills as other students in your course, you will likely to score much higher than some of them on the test. And for good reason: you are betterprepared. You will know what to expect on the test, how you learn best, and what you need to study. If you will follow a study schedule, know how to tackle multiple-choice questions, and know how to calm your nervesso youcan do your best on the test. Obviously, you want to be prepared for the IELTS exam. But good preparation takes a lot more than just taking a practice exam or two. That’s why you must study skills and test-taking strategies.

Study Skills

Maybe it’s been a while since you last studied for an exam, or maybe you have never had to prepare for a test like the IELTS exam. In any case, you may be unsure about the best way to get ready for thisimportant exam. How much time you spend studying each week is important. But how you study is the keyto your success.

Environment and Attitude

To study means “to give one’s attention to learning a subject; to look at with careful attention.” Notice thatthe word attention comes up twice in this definition. To study well, you need to be able to focus all of yourattention on the material. So the first step is to make sure you have the right kind of learning environmentand attitude.

THE RIGHT MOOD

Studying can bring you wonderful rewards. You can gain new knowledge. You can do well on tests like the IELTS exam that enable you to achieve your academic and professional goals. But it can still be difficult toget in the mood to study.After all, studying can be hard work, and you might be worried about how you willscore on the exam.You may have many other things you would rather do, or you might just have trouble gettingstarted. These are all reasons that may lead you to procrastinate—to put off work that you need to do.

But procrastinating can cause lots of trouble at test time. If you procrastinate too much or for too long, youwon’t be prepared for the exam.

One of the best ways to beat procrastination is to use a reward system.We all like to be rewarded for ajob well done. And if we know there’s going to be a reward at the end of our work, it’s easier to get started.So promise yourself a small reward for each study session. For example, you might promise yourself a tripto the gym or a phone call to a good friend as a reward for an hour of study.You might promise to treat yourselfto a movie after you finish a chapter in a test-prep book. Or you could give yourself a nutritious snackafter you finish a difficult lesson. You can also think about the reward you will give yourself when you passthe IELTS exam.Make sure this reward is a big one!

You can also get in the mood for studying by thinking about the short- and long-term rewards you willreceive for your hard work. Keep in mind the benefits you will receive from your IELTS exam study time:

■You will read and write better in English.

■You will understand more of what you hear.

■You will be able to apply to colleges and universities.

■You will get the education you need for a successful future.

Remember, your attitude is very important. It can dramatically affect how much you learn and how wellyou learn it.Make sure that you have a positive attitude. You will study, you will learn, and you will do well.

Your study time will be time well spent.

MOOD BOOSTER

WHENEVER you need help getting motivated to study, try saying the following out loud:

  • I know more today than I did yesterday.
  • I will know more after I study than I know now.
  • Every minute I spend studying will help me achieve my goals.

THE RIGHT CONDITIONS

You can have the best attitude in the world, but if you are tired or distracted, you are going to have difficultystudying. To be at your best, you need to be focused, alert, and calm. That means you need to study underthe right conditions.

Everyone is different, so you need to know what conditions work best for you.Here are some questions to consider:

1. What time of day do you work best—morning, afternoon, or evening? How early in the day or late inthe night can you think clearly?

2. Do you work best in total silence? Or do you prefer music or other noise in the background?

3. If you prefer music, what kind? Classical music often helps people relax because the music is soft andthere are no words. But you may prefer music that energizes you, such as rock-n-roll. Others work bestwith music that has special meaning to them and puts them in a positive state of mind.

4. Where do you like to work? Do you feel most comfortable sitting at the kitchen counter? At the diningroom table? At a desk in your study room or bedroom? (Try to avoid studying in bed. You will probably berelaxed, but you may be too comfortable and fall asleep.) Or do you prefer to study out of the house, inthe library, or a local coffee shop?

5. What do you like to have around you when you work? Do you feel most comfortable in your favoritechair? Do you like to have pictures of family and friends around?

6. What kind of lighting do you prefer? Does soft light make you sleepy? Do you need bright light? If it’stoo bright, you may feel uncomfortable. If it’s too dark, you may feel sleepy. Remember that poorlighting can also strain your eyes and give you a headache.

7. How does eating affect you? Do you feel most energized right after a meal? Or does eating tend tomake you feel sleepy? Which foods give you a lot of energy? Which slow you down?

8. Can you put problems or other pressing concerns out of your mind to focus on a different task? Howcan you minimize distractions so you can fully focus on your work?Think carefully about each of these questions.Write down your answers so you can develop a good studyplan. For example, say you work best in the morning but need total silence to work. Similarly, if you have trouble concentrating when you are hungry, schedule study time for shortly after meals, or be sure to start your study sessions with a healthy snack.

THE RIGHT TOOLS

Help make your study session successful by having the right learning tools. As you study for the IELTS exam,

have:

■a good English-language dictionary

■paper or legal pads

■pencils (and a pencil sharpener) or pens

■a highlighter, or several, in different colors

■index or other note cards

■folders or notebooks

■a calendar or Personal Digital Assistant

Keep your personal preferences in mind. Perhaps you like to write with a certain kind of pen or on a certain kind of paper. If so, make sure you have that pen or paper with you when you study. It will help you feel more comfortable and relaxed as you work.

Learning How You Learn

Imagine that you need directions to a restaurant you’ve never been to before. Which of the following would you do?

■ Ask someone how to get there.

■ Look on a map.

■ List step-by-step directions.

■ Draw a map or copy someone’s written directions.

Most people learn in a variety of ways. They learn by seeing, hearing, doing, and organizing information from the world around them. But most of us tend to use one of these ways more than the others. That’s our dominant (strongest) learning style. How you would handle getting directions, for example, suggests which learning style you use most often:

Visual. Visual learners learn best by seeing. If you would look at a map for directions, you are probably a visual learner. You understand ideas best when they are in pictures or graphs. You may learn better by using different colors as you take notes. Use a highlighter (or several, in different colors) as you read to mark important ideas. Mapping and diagramming ideas are good learning strategies for visual learners.

■ Auditory. Auditory learners learn best by listening. If you would ask someone to tell you directions, you are probably an auditory learner. You would probably rather listen to a lecture than read a textbook, and you may learn better by reading aloud. Try recording your notes on a tape player and listening to your tapes. You may also benefit from listening to programs in English on the radio.

Kinesthetic. Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing. (Kinesthetic means feeling the movements of the body). They like to keep their hands and bodies moving. If you would draw a map or copy down directions, you are probably a kinesthetic learner. You will benefit from interacting with the material you are studying. Underline, take notes, and create note cards. Recopying material will help you remember it.

■ Sequential. Sequential learners learn best by putting things in order. If you would create a step-by-step list of driving directions, you are probably a sequential learner. You may learn better by creating outlines and grouping ideas together into categories.

Think carefully about how you learn. Which is your dominant learning style?

WHATEVER your general learning style, most of us learn to speak and understand language best by listening. So as you practice understanding spoken English, close your eyes and listen. Let your ears do the work of understanding what you hear. The more familiar you become with the sounds and rhythms of the language, the more quickly you will learn. Spend as much time as possible around people speaking English. Go to places where you will see and hear English, such as to plays or to the cinema.

Learning to read in English takes longer than learning to speak. Fortunately, the more you listen to and speak in English, the easier it will be to write it. But the best thing to do to improve your English writing skills is to read.

Read as much as you can in English to learn the structure and style of the language. Rent movies based on novels. Watch the film to build your listening skills, and then read the book to improve your reading comprehension and writing skills. Good novel/movie combinations to try are those by John Grisham, including:

A Time to Kill The Firm

The Client The Pelican Brief

Of course, there’s more to movie adaptations than legal thrillers. Here are some more good choices, from classicsto contemporary, from American to world literature:

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Cider House Rules by John Irving

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

You can also read English versions of books that you have already read in your native language. The plot andcharacters will already be familiar to you, so you will be able to understand more as you read.

To be continued.