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Planning to sit IELTS? All you need to know !

First of all, congratulations on choosing to pursue the journey to NHS. Being the first step, IELTS is an exam most doctors find hard to pass. ‘IELTS difficulty’ is no rare occurrence. Many test takers struggle with similar issues when it comes to the IELTS exam. IELTS test is not that difficult, in fact, IELTS difficulty can be diluted with the right amount of preparation and understanding. Your desired score is very much possible. Be willing to learn the right methods, and put those strategies to practice. Fret not! In this blog, we are addressing the most challenging IELTS test parts and discussing some of the most common IELTS challenges which many of you might face while giving the test.

More about the exam:

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System, which includes 4 sections of Listening, Reading, Writing and speaking. You must take the IELTS ACADEMIC or IELTS ACADEMIC UKVI ( Not IELTS General ) for GMC registration. You are required to score a minimum of 7 in each section with an overall average of 7.5. ( Those applying for FY2 Standalone posts, you will be required to achieve 7.5 in each section with an overall average of 8 ). The exam takes place in paper-based and computer-based formats.

We'll now discuss each section in detail.


The listening section contains 40 questions of various types, which you will have to answer in about 35 minutes. You will be given 1 mark for every correct answer, whereas there's no negative marking for wrong answers. The score will then be converted to a band score with a total of 9.

Materials used-- Cambridge books 11-15 Tips:

  1. You get to hear the recording only once. So make sure you answer questions as you go.

  2. You will be given an ample amount of time between the sub-sections. Use this time to read the questions ahead and not dwell on the questions you have missed.

  3. Remember to look at the heading for the word limit properly.

  4. MCQs and Maps are the hardest. So make sure to practice more of those. Focus on looking at these questions when you are given time between sub-sections.

  5. For MCQs, highlight one crucial word in each of the options beforehand so that when you listen to the recording, it's easy to strike out the wrong choices.

  6. For maps, be well aware of directions. Try to grasp the location of each place with respect to the other.

Computer Vs Paper-Based– In the paper-based exam, you will be given an extra 10 minutes to transfer your answers from the question paper to the answer sheet. However, in the Computer-based version, you will be given only 2 minutes. In my opinion, this does not make much of a difference because you will not be able to "recall" any answers that you have missed. This time is best used to look for any spelling errors as these will be counted as wrong answers.

When are you ready? 👍

When you begin to achieve a constant 7.5 (8 to be on the safer side) or 8.5 in the Cambridge tests, you can consider yourself ready with the listening part.


The reading section contains 3 passages with 40 questions that you will have to answer in 60 minutes. You will be given 1 mark for every correct answer, whereas there's no negative marking for wrong answers. The score will then be converted to a band score with a total of 9.

Materials used-- Cambridge books 11-15 Tips:

  1. Please know that the difficulty of the passages increases as we go further. Hence you will have to divide your time accordingly. My suggestion is to keep 15 minutes for the first passage, 20 minutes for the second passage and 25 minutes for the third passage. You can always flip across the passages anytime you want.

  2. One of the most frequently asked questions is whether to read questions first or the passage itself? To be honest, it is a personal preference. However, I will suggest you read one question and try to find the corresponding line in the passage and underline it. (Instead of reading all questions first and then diving into the passage)

  3. Most of the questions are in chronological order. Meaning if you have found the answer to question 3 and 5, the answer to question 4 is somewhere in between the two.

  4. Yes / No / Not Given OR True/ False/ Not given– Extremely annoying and hard to get right. Keep in mind that if the question means EXACTLY the same thing as the line in the passage, it is a YES. If it means the OPPOSITE, then it's a no. If it is nowhere mentioned – it is "Not Given". Sounds obvious, isn't it? Unfortunately, there's no way around it.

Computer Vs Paper-Based – In Paper Based, annotating is much easier. But you'll have to flip the pages back and forth. In computer-based, the passage and the corresponding questions appear side-by-side and can be viewed simultaneously. You can also underline and add notes to any line by right-clicking.

When are you ready?👍

When you begin to achieve a constant 8 or 8.5 in the Cambridge tests, you can consider yourself ready with the reading part.


Writing is the most challenging part where many IMGs get stuck at 6.5 eternally. I will give you some crucial tips and tricks to tide over this section smoothly if followed correctly.

This part contains 2 tasks which you will answer in 60 minutes altogether. So try to finish task 1 in 20 minutes and task 2 in 40 minutes.

Materials used--Cambridge books 11-15:

TASK 1- Description

You are given a picture with some information. The task is to write a description, including most of the information and highlighting the given image's most striking features: minimum words – 150.

Types of questions asked

  1. Bars

  2. Pie charts

  3. Line diagrams

  4. Maps

  5. Process diagrams

Structure of the description

Introduction: Paraphrase the question. Don't forget to mention the units used to present the data.

Your overview can be included in the Intro or as a separate paragraph. It must consist of at least 2 of the most striking features. Avoid mentioning numbers in the overview.

Body paragraphs 1 and 2:

  1. Try to make comparisons between data like XYZ is two-thirds/double/triple that of ABC

  2. Use adverbs to describe trends. Example: Rose dramatically / Increased considerably / fell drastically.


  1. It is better to avoid writing a conclusion (people have mixed opinion regarding this)

  2. Use present perfect passive for process diagrams.

TASK 2 – Essay

You will be given a question with two subquestions. You must write an essay of a minimum of 250 words. Do NOT fall short of the required word count!

Types of questions asked

  1. Opinion Essays

  2. Discussion Essays

  3. Advantage Disadvantage essays

  4. Problem Solutions Essay

  5. Direct Questions Essay

The key to scoring a 7 in the writing section is understanding their scoring system.

1. Task Response: The examiner will see how accurately you have answered the given question. It is essential to develop your secondary ideas in support of your main idea. The more you stray away from the question, the lower your score becomes. If you agree with a statement at the introduction, you must maintain the same viewpoint throughout the essay.

2. Coherence and Cohesion: This indicates how easy it is for the reader to understand the flow of ideas. You must use adequate cohesive devices such as the following.

Comparison examples:


Compared with Equally


Furthermore... And/ Also

In addition to/ Besides

Not only...But also


In other words, Put more simply,


In simple terms,

Contrast examples:

In comparison In contrast

On the contrary, Conversely


With regard to, With reference to

As far as ... is concerned... Turning to


For example For instance

To illustrate Such as

Only some of the cohesive devices are listed above. You can find a lot more on google.

Try to include these in your sentences. Having said that, to avoid sounding too mechanical, try to place it in the middle of a sentence instead of the start for a few sentences.


Style 1: For instance, the "Recycle and Reuse" campaign promotes the use of paper bags instead of

plastic shoppers.

Style 2: The "Recycle and Reuse" campaign, for instance, promotes the use of paper bags instead of plastic shoppers.

3. Lexical resource: This refers to your vocabulary and is a straightforward section to score marks. Most of us are under the wrong impression that using highly sophisticated never-heard-before words will fetch you more marks. That's absolutely false. What is expected is that you come up with natural-sounding words that are related to the main topic.

Select your essay topic. You must prepare a topic wise vocabulary list before you start the essay. Around 20-30 words/phrases related to the main issue. Once that is done, try to incorporate these words into the paper.

Example: Let's assume our essay is about Environment. My topic wise vocabulary list will include words like:

  • Energy efficient

  • Biodegradable

  • organic farming

  • Global warming

  • Environment friendly

  • Sustainable development

  • Healthy ecosystem

  • Biodiversity

  • Renewable energy sources

4. Grammar: It's time to refer to your 7th standard English textbooks. You need to understand here that you get 9 points for using a variety of grammar structures correctly, 8 points for attempting to use various forms but making a few mistakes, 7 points for using mainly only complex sentences, and so on. The point? You get more marks for attempting even if you end up making mistakes.

  • The next question is which grammar structures should I use? I'll give you a simple checklist of a few grammar structures that I used.

  • Brace up for a quick grammar class!

Structure 1: Simple sentences (Subject + Object + Verb)

This is a basic structure. Try to keep these type of sentences to a minimum. Around 2 per essay.

Structure 2: Compound sentences ( 2 independent clauses joined with coordinating conjunction )

It should be the second most common structure.

Structure 3: Complex sentences ( Independent clause + Subordinating conjunction + Dependent clause )

It should be the most common structure in your essay.

Structure 4: Compound-Complex ( Independent clause + Coordinating conjunction + Complex sentence)

Advanced level. One sentence is enough.

Structure 5: First conditional ( if clause + simple present tense and main clause + simple future tense )

One or two sentences are enough. Ideally used for concluding sentence of a paragraph or Problem Solution essays.

Structure 6: Not only + verb ...But also + verb

One sentence per essay.

Note: There are many more grammar structures that you can use. I have just added a few that I learnt.

Coming to the structure of your essay:

I understand there are many youtube channels to help you with this. To be honest, there is no particular format that will guarantee you a band 9. Having seen a lot of videos myself, I have tried to put up a template. The essay should contain 4 paragraphs as follows:

1. Introduction

Sentence 1: Paraphrase the question. Do not add any new information.

Sentence 2: Answer the question/questions briefly. State your opinion if asked. Your introduction should convey the ideas that you will explain in your body paragraph.

Keep your Intro short and crisp. Around 50-70 words max.

2. Body paragraph 1 and 2

Sentence 1: Your first sentence should answer the first part of the question.

Sentence 2 & 3: State your supporting ideas that explain the main idea mentioned in sentence 1.

Sentence 4: State a relevant example

Sentence 5: Concluding sentence to sum up your entire paragraph.

3. Conclusion

Sentence 1: Paraphrase the question. Do not add any new information.

Sentence 2: Briefly sum up the two body paragraphs.

Your introduction and conclusion should mean the same thing and not contain any extra info.

Computer Vs Paper Based: It is easier to edit in computer-based IELTS. Also, the word count is automatically displayed. However, the probability of making spelling mistakes is higher with typing. Make sure that you can type fast enough.

When are you ready? When you have written at least one essay in all the topics given in this link satisfying the above criteria within the given time limit.-


This section consists of the 3 parts. The entire session lasts for around 12-15 minutes.

Materials used: Makkar Cue cards for Speaking

Part 1:

You will be asked questions related to your life/work/studies/hobbies. This session will last 3-4 minutes. Try to elaborate your answers in 2-3 sentences.

Part 2:

You are given a cue card with a topic and a few subquestions. One minute is granted to make notes, and then you must speak for 2 minutes. I used the Makkar Book of cue cards and practised with a friend.

Part 3:

This is a discussion on the topic that appeared in your cue card. Lasts for 3-4 minutes. Again, try to elaborate your answer to include your opinion, reason and preferably an example.

It is advisable to speak in normal accent rather than any fake one

  • If you unable to understand anything told by examiners, you should ask to repeat it

  • Ask any senior teacher for better guidance and keep rooms for improvement

  • Always think before you speak for better result

When are you ready?

When you can confidently speak on all the topics given in the Makkar cue cards. Link for Makkar Speaking pdf:

Disclaimer: The above link is a floating link on Google and PLAB2NHS has no relation to the original uploader of the file. Since the level of difficulty is subjective and is dependent on your personal weaknesses, you must stay aware of your shortcomings which can help you to narrow your focus on what and how to improve. Furthermore, you will find the test more difficult in case you don’t know the exam; learning the strategies linked with each task will assist you to get the score that you want to have.

Hopefully these ideas and Tips would help you prepare well for your Upcoming IELTS.


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