Wouldn’t it be nice to speak and write English like a native speaker? Of course, reaching a near-native level of spoken and written fluency is the ultimate goal of the IELTS examination, but it might come as a surprise to learn that those who have English as their mother tongue don’t always manage to scoop the top bands if they find themselves taking the IELTS.
Because the IELTS qualification is so important to securing a place at many educational institutions across the world, and can be an important part of getting a job, it’s not unusual for native speakers or those who have grown-up speaking English to need to prove themselves by taking this competitive exam.
Native English Speakers need Practice too
However, whether you’re a native speaker or are learning English as a second or foreign language, you’ll still need to put in plenty of practice if you want to get the highest possible marks. The elusive band nine is described as an “expert user”, and it might seem hard to understand how a native speaker could be anything less when English is their mother tongue.
If you’ve already started preparing for your IELTS, you’ll be aware that there are a range of different skills which you need to demonstrate in your writing and speaking exams. Paraphrasing is an important technique which enables you to show that you have understood the question and that you have a good range of vocabulary, which enables you to find synonyms quickly and easily. In addition, to score a band 9, you need to be able to use a variety of complex constructions with ease and without hesitation. Having learnt English as a speaker of another language, you’re likely to be well aware of which constructions are particularly difficult for non-native speakers, and will master these in order to demonstrate your impressive skills during the speaking and writing exams. Native English speakers, hailing from countries including Britain, the USA and Australia on the other hand often have little awareness of the grammar of their own language and are far less likely to be aware of the kinds of linguistic constructions and vocabulary required to achieve top marks.
IELTS is all about being able to demonstrate English skills
Getting a band 9 in IELTS isn’t just about showing off your language skills. You’ll also need to be able to demonstrate that you have a sound understanding of the question you’re being asked, and be able to create a thoughtful, well-presented argument. This is tricky for any speaker of English, whether native or not, and being able to fulfil the criteria expected for success at IELTS takes plenty of time, effort and practice. Even if English is your mother tongue, if you don’t prepare adequately, and look closely at what the examiners are looking for, then you are unlikely to achieve a top band.
So, don’t imagine that you’re at a disadvantage if you meet native or near-native English speakers who are also preparing for the IELTS. The chances are that, as a non-native speaker, you’ll have a clear idea of what you need to do to hit the higher bands, and will be motivated to do the work required to get the marks you need. Ensure that you have practised paraphrasing, built a sound vocabulary and have a keen awareness of complex constructions and you should be well on the way to success in your IELTS.