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Question: Dear Teacher Joe, here is my question. I took both the TOEFL and IELTS tests. My TOEFL score was quite good but my IELTS score was below average. Why do you think I got a lower score on IELTS? What can I do to get a better score? Thanks in advance for you answer! From Johnny Johnson.

Answer: Hello Johnny Johnson. I like your name. It has an interesting rhythm to it! The TOEFL and IELTS tests are very different types of test. On the one hand, the TOEFL tests your knowledge of English. The questions are focussed on very specific language and so it is possible to get a good score by preparing carefully. On the other hand, the IELTS test is a test of English proficiency, which means it tests your ability to use English successfully. Knowledge is not enough. You need to be able to use your knowledge under a variety of circumstances.That is much harder to prepare for.

So, what can we do to get a higher score on the IELTS? First of all, my students have discovered that special classes do not help them with the IELTS in the same way they do for the TOEFL. Teachers in IELTS classes talk about specific "tips" for succeeding on the IELTS test, but the tips didn't help my students get a higher score. Rather than focus on special "tips", students must help themselves be more "proficient" in using English. Successful students must do whatever they can to improve their English proficiency. In other words, they must listen to and read as much English as possible. This is the best way to be ready when the test comes.

To prepare for the IELTS, students can also work to improve their English proficiency under test conditions. That means doing lots and lots of practice tests! My most successful students did at least one full practice test every day before the test, for at least two weeks. Doing a practice test, using a timer, is a form of experience. Remember, experience is the best teacher!

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