Once upon a time, preparing for an exam meant finding a quiet spot in a library or at home, sitting at a desk and concentrating on the work in hand – which was, literally, a book, essay or assignment on the table in front of you. These days, with all the demands of our increasingly busy lives, finding time for that kind of study is hard. It’s easy to make excuses but is that really the case?
Modern technology enables us to be digitally connected on the go 24/7. This means in theory we can study anytime, anywhere with just a smartphone. This amazing, mobile technology means we can be on a bus, in a bank queue, walking down a busy street or doing the grocery shopping and STILL be using that time to study or revise. The variety of study options that digital technology has given us is revolutionary.
So let’s look at some of the creative ways you can use your smartphone to improve your general English AND prepare for the IELTS exam.
First of all, a smartphone also functions as an MP3 player so you can upload content to listen to through headphones. Why not use your commute to work or time on the treadmill at the gym to improve your listening comprehension skills and vocabulary by choosing an audiobook instead of the usual music tracks you listen to? Or get your creative ideas flowing in preparation for the Writing and Speaking tests by listening to interesting podcasts about current affairs? TED Talks are a great starting point. You can also use the voice recorder to yourself speaking, in order to play back and analyse your strengths and weaknesses or focus on improving your pronunciation.
Using your smartphone as a mini-tablet, you can choose from a huge variety of language learning apps, many of which are free to download. They range from apps specifically for IELTS exam preparation for serious study to fun games that will boost your vocabulary and improve your fluency. Some apps enable you to make your own digital flashcards.
An interactive feature available for smartphones is Skype, which allows you to have real-time conversations with or without video. Why not schedule a regular time to have a Skype chat with someone – it could be a friend, a fellow student or even an online tutor or coach. Alternatives to Skype are Messenger, What’s App and Facetime.
And then there’s the huge wide world of the Internet to be accessed via your smartphone, thanks to free wifi which is just about everywhere. The possibilities, like the educational and language learning websites on there, are endless. There are online dictionaries where you can see the word or phrase in context, pronunciation pages where you can click to hear a word or sentence, grammar handbooks and ‘thesauruses’ (correct plural: thesauri!) There’s Google translate to help you find the meaning of words or phrases you don’t know or you can watch the latest Hollywood movies with English subtitles for exposure to informal English. There are countless English language and IELTS related tutorials and language lessons on YouTube with more added each day. Subscribe to the contributors you like for regular updates and create your own playlists. There are thousands of bloggers writing about all sorts of issues and topics so if you like reading, you are guaranteed to find stimulating articles that appeal to your interests. Sites like IELTS Express offer regular webinars – a live meeting that takes place over the web. It may be a presentation, discussion, demonstration or instructional session. These are a great way to ask questions, participate in discussion and interact with other students and tutors.
And talking of interacting with others, let’s not forget the most popular aspect of the internet – social media. Facebook pages like Oxford IELTS at IELTS.Express are a fantastic opportunity to network with others in a similar situation to you. You can join forums, request advice, share useful links, find online study groups, you could even get creative and make your own videos to share with others or become a vlogger and start your own social media channel!
There are probably many more creative ways of using your smartphone as a study aid that I haven’t thought of. Why not suggest some? Leave your comments in the thread below.
Chances are, since you are reading this blog, you already know a bit about IELTS Edge. But did you know that in addition to the weekly blog, we offer regular webinars, a resources hub and a Facebook page?
Click below for your free downloadable resource. This week’s resource is a list of online resources you can access with your smartphone or tablet.