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IELTS Candidate Tips for an Overall Band 8.5

Below are IELTS Tips for Band Score 8.5 from a successful IELTS candidate. These tips are written by Esha who is happy to share her experiences of the IELTS test and her exam preparation with you all. I have added some extra essential tips for the writing test at the bottom of the page to help you guys push your score to band 7 and above.

IELTS Candidate Tips for Overall Band 8.5

I am Esha Chaugule. I recently took IELTS and scored more than I expected. Firstly, I’d like to say a huge THANK YOU. I diligently scoured through every section of this website. They were all tremendously helpful, and I owe my score to you, Liz. I secured 8.5 overall band in my IELTS Test. I would like to share my tips with you, so that you can post them up on the website and hopefully, my tips might help students in the future. (I’ve attached my score card below).

Esha’s IELTS Results

Here are my tips…

Listening Band 9

Initially, I practised online from various websites, but later realised that these are not accurate, are unnecessarily high level, and the answers are sometimes wrong. I realised the only source I can trust is the official IELTS Cambridge books. These are curated exactly like the official IELTS Exams, and thus, provide the most accurate formats and practise questions (comment from Liz – these books are past papers published by IELTS). My biggest tip for Listening would be to read the questions ahead of time. The IELTS exam format gives you time to read questions beforehand, but it might not always be enough (eg. in the last section). Along with the reading time, I would advice to use the “introduction of the section” time and the “answer checking” time as well. Reading questions ahead gives you an idea of what to expect for an answer (i.e., a number, a street name, an adjective, etc.). Focus and concentration play a crucial part of course. Practicing gets you equipped with the Listening test format, accents and your focus increases as well.

  • Tricky part: when the answer to a blank comes way before in the audio, than we expect it to. Thus, we need to keep close attention to everything that’s being said in the audio.


  • Phrases are rephrased in the audio, so reading questions beforehand, to get the gist of what is going to be said, gives you a heads up on when an answer to a blank might be coming up.

Eg. The audio might say: There’s a lot of litter on the beach. This might be harmful for children playing or adults walking on the beach. So, we need people to clean this up from the beach.

The test might have the question: “making sure the beach does not have ________ on it.”

The word “litter” is never repeated after the first time it’s said. Thus, we need to keep close attention to the audio and concentrate to find answers even if the sentences are paraphrased.

Reading Band 9

Again, use only Cambridge Tests for practise. I would advice to read a couple questions first, and try to LOCATE the answers to those questions, by skimming through the passage. Try to identify a particular word or couple words in the question that are unique, and find those in the passage. Begin from the first paragraph, because 90% of the questions come in order.

Tricky parts:

  1. True/False/NG or Yes/No/NG: When not sure about False/NG or No/NG, rephrase the question with the exact opposite meaning, and try to find if that opposite meaning is given in the passage. If it’s given, the answer is False/No. If it’s not given, the answer is NG.
  2. Matching Information/Matching Headings: Read the paragraph in it’s ENTIRETY, get the gist of what it’s trying to convey, match. Sometimes the answer lies in one sentence, other times, you need to read the entire paragraph. When it’s confusing and taking too long, skip, and come back to the question after you’re done with the rest of the questions.

Writing Band 6.5

Not a great score, but I can give my tips. I went through ALL the sections of IELTS Liz Writing. Kept in mind specific words like slightly, marginally, rose, dropped and phrases like “number stood at X”, “number witnessed a peak of X” and “number accounted for X% of the total”. This was for part 1 of course.

Apart from this, just follow Liz’s tips, and you’ll be good to go to score at least 6. I knew I wouldn’t be able to score more than 6.5 in Writing, so I focused more on the other three sections. (Comment from Liz – I’ve added useful tips for Writing Task 2 at the bottom of this post.)

Speaking Band 8.5

I actually completely forgot everything that I had prepared for the Speaking test. I had prepared to incorporate a few high vocab words and complex phrases into my speaking test. But what came out at the time, was a natural conversation and genuine thoughts. I just tried to speak as much as possible, without any pauses. I never ended my answers by myself in section 2 and 3, the examiner did that for me, I just kept speaking while maintaining a coherent logic of my thoughts. I remember using a couple high vocab words, but the rest of it is a blur to me, so I don’t know what kind of grammar I used. Have a strong (but not loud) voice and be confident. A smile goes a long way! (Comment from Liz – here’s a link to my free tips for IELTS speaking)



You’ll get comfortable with the format of these tests, and with the level of questions as well. You’ll know what to listen for during Listening and know what to locate during Reading much easier only with practise.

Liz’s site helped a lot. If you follow only her website diligently and practise from the official Cambridge Tests, you’ll be good to go!

All the best!

Comments from Liz

Well done, Esha! A great overall score and some very useful tips for all future IELTS candidates. I want to stress how important your tip is about using the authentic listening and reading test materials. The only full tests you should use are ones directly offered by IELTS in their books, not ones you find on other websites. I also want to commend your listening tips regarding answers that appear before keywords are given – very well spotted. These questions are so challenging!

EXTRA WRITING TASK 2 TIPS from Liz (Target band 7 plus)

Task Response in writing task 2 is 25% of your marks. Each main point must be relevant to the topic given. Each sentence should be 100% relevant to the main point in the paragraph. Your essay should not contain any padding. So, aim for a focused and highly relevant essay. For all Writing Task 2 tips, click here: Writing Task 2. For writing task 1, it is about task achievement for both Academic reports and GT letters. See this page for tips: Writing Task 1 Tips

Coherence and Cohesion is 25% of your marks and many we forget to focus on this. Using a range of linking devices is crucial. Click: key linking words. You should have an introduction, conclusion and either two or three body paragraphs. This is the easiest marking criterion to get a high score in as long as you plan paragraphing and check your linking words.

Grammar is 25% of your marks. Do not over-complicate your sentences. A complex sentence does not mean a complicated sentence. Just one clause can change a simple sentence to a complex sentence for IELTS tests. Use a range of grammar features, such as noun phrases and noun clauses, and also aim for accuracy with articles (a/the/plurals), word order and prepositions. See this video lesson: Adding a Clause to your Sentence. Remember that too many errors means a lower score.

Vocabulary is 25% of your marks. Don’t try to push fancy, flowery words into your essay because the essay must be in formal style. Words should be suitable, appropriate to the topic and conveying precise meaning. Use phrasal verbs, rather than idioms (which are mostly too informal). Don’t try to over-paraphrase as it’ll lead to too many errors. Spelling counts.

Band Scores – learn more about them. Know the requirements of the band score you are aiming for and what causes your score to go up or down. Click here: IELTS Writing Task 2 Band Scores Explained

Note to Other Successful IELTS Candidates: if you wish to share your tips as Esha has done above, please email me: [email protected]. I can’t promise to post all candidate tips but any that are posted will be deeply appreciated.

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