How to get a Band 9 for Listening and Reading of IELTS?

I recently took an IELTS exam, and I only had a week to review (because I got the test dates wrong, oh well).

Then, I saw one of my ex-colleagues post on Facebook about wanting to write a book called: 第一次考雅思就上手 (roughly translates to: Perfecting IELTS the First Time Around). Brilliant!

He hasn’t written the book yet, but he was kind enough to lend me his Cambridge IELTS Practice Exams.

Also British Council also has a Road to IELTS website which contains a lot of videos for tips and tricks, and practice exams.

And that’s how I reviewed.

“Practice makes perfect”, right? So I set the timer on my phone, and took 1 practice exam after another, until I got Band 9.


There is a trick to the Listening part, if you pay close attention you’ll notice that the answers are pronounced with emphasis.

Also you are given time to read the questions before the recording is played. So take this time to look for keywords and think of their synonyms. And listen for them during the recording.

Be careful of distractions though. Sometimes, the recording will purposely say something that’s seems like the answer, but isn’t.

You are then given time to transfer your answers to the Answer Sheet, when doing so, write the whole word instead of abbreviations (in case you get the abbreviations wrong), and check for spelling and grammar. Try to write exactly what you hear, and don’t rephrase.


For the Reading Part, it was actually harder than I thought. When I took my first practice exam, I only got Band 7.5.

For Academic Reading, you will be given 3 passages to read that are from books, journals or newspapers that are of academic nature. That means, a lot of the words or vocabularies used are actually quite technical, and to be honest, some are actually quite a snooze to read.

The passages are actually quite long, between 1 to 1 and a half pages, so it’s very important to pick up your pace.

Try to skim or scan for information. What I do is go to the questions first, so I know what kind of information I’m looking for in the text. And once again, think of synonyms, the words will almost never appear as is in the text.

There are different question types: fill in the blank, multiple choice and True, False, Not Given. For me, the hardest is the True, False, Not Given one. Because you have to really make sure that the information is really not mentioned anywhere in the passage. Do not deduce, or you might make a mistake.

I have tried some Brain Training apps before, such as Elevate and Peak (which I will write more about in another post), and they have games that will actually train your reading speed.

Elevate’s reading game is gorgeous and it gives you a passage to read at increasing speed, and afterwards, it will ask you some questions to make sure you really understood. For me, that is actually quite similar to the IELTS Reading exam.

My Results

I have to admit, I was quite nervous when I took my IELTS exam.

For the Listening part, I try to pay as close attention as possible. And since I practiced using the Cambridge material, I was already used to the accent of the speaker.

For the Reading part, I actually finished reading and answering everything in 20 minutes. And then I went to the bathroom, the examiner was surprised that I was finished, and told me that I still had 40 minutes. So I went back and reread everything again in 20 minutes, then I spent the rest of the time praying in my head, because I obsessive like that.

And yes, I did get Band 9 for both Listening and Reading.

It’s funny, when I was doing my review, I wrote some tips, rather mantras, down:

  • Stay Humble
  • Keep Calm
  • The questions are not as easy as you think.
  • Don’t get caught off guard.
  • Prepare, Prepare
  • Take Practice Exams
  • Pray
  • Aim for 8.5 or 9
  • Don’t get distracted.
  • Use the time
  • Listen carefully

That’s it, I hope that helps a little bit for future IELTS takers!

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