Sunday, 13 May 2012

Book Review: Step Up To IELTS - Self-Study Student's Book by Vanessa Jakeman and Clare McDowell

Living in an English speaking country and using English for everything, those things are still not enough for me. Whenever bumping into any academic fields, I need a recognised certificate. I had tried to avoid an international certificate as long as I could – for at least 5 or 6 years I think – simply because I didn’t need one for all sorts.

I just wish life is always that simple . Unfortunately, it is not. The need for an international certificate is coming and hitting me back now. For better or for worse, I should get high scores for at least one international English test system this year. Also, an international certificate could help prove my stand in the effort of a fresh life-kickoff. After all those considerations, I select IELTS as the target. My strategy is self-studying (the best and also the hardest method) and the score expectation is between 7 and 8 (band 7 or higher).

With all those introductions, I just want to let people know that from now on, my blog will also contain some self reviews on IELTS books, learning strategies, learning sources or English tips. By forcing myself to update the learning progress regularly on this blog, I hope it would also motivate and keep me up to the end of learning journey. Just hope that I’m strong enough to not drop the plan in the middle

I have begun studying since March (two months ago) actually. After researching all necessary tips and resources on forums, I had built up good steps for my entire journey though. While there are enormous learning tips and strategies on over Internet, I just emphasize one thing here - All roads lead to Rome. If you’re on the way to get an English certificate too, just pick up your own strategy and go with it to the end. That is also my thorough guideline for self. Even though I need a certificate, I don’t just study for a certificate. Eventually, I will try to review and catch up as much knowledge as I can during the studying time. I suppose it’s always good to replay what was known but forgot or misunderstood now. Therefore, materials used in my list can be both at basic and advance.

The first book I kicked off was “Step Up To IELTS - Self-Study Student's Book by Vanessa Jakeman and Clare McDowell”

This book is really a great start for learners like me who have no experiences of IELST test. After finishing 16 units in this book, I want to jot down some self reviews here and hope they’re going to help those who need it later.

Personally I think there are two phases in IELTS practices. The first one is upgrading separate skills (listening, writing, reading and speaking). The rest is trying doing sample tests. However, I added one buffering step to familiarizing myself with the test format before doing everything else.  And this book satisfies my need.

When we do self studying, it’s very ambiguous to tell how much time we need to finish a unit, especially with English, most of adult learners more or less got some fundamentals before. In my case, I spent around 3 to 6 hours a day just to do one unit in this book. Those hours are still not enough if I count my time to reiterate vocabulary learning. With that lengthy time spending, yet I actually didn’t study any new knowledge from the book at all. The reason it cost me that time was because I really focused on systematizing and rebuilding carefully in my mind one more time what I had. It was like digging up my childhood memory and ensuring all of its aspects were still as new as it just happened yesterday. Many people categorize this book into IELTS score band 5.5 to 6.5. For me, I don’t know my score band for now, so I can’t advise more on this part. However, if you want to know IELTS format and English tips around each section in the test, this book is for you.

- The book reminds a lot of grammar points in another perspective of practical usage, not focus on heavy theories
- The book also stimulates vocabulary and pronunciation studying at higher level (concentrate on intonation and phonetic to correct yourself)
- Some good tips for reading and writing tests were given

The most challenge of self studying is training speaking skill. While most of people are trying to find some other learners on Internet and cooperate in this part, you still can do that by your own. If you are alone, make sure to force yourself to record and listen again. By doing that, you need to notice inadequate pronunciations and correct them next time. Don’t bother to jump fast, you may need to practice one exercise again and again until it is smooth enough (at least enough to you at that point of time). Living in English speaking community is an advantage if you also pay attention to fix pronunciation in your daily conversations.

Dictionaries – a factor can’t be missed in language learning. There are a plenty of online dictionaries too. After a long time attempting many of them, I like the most. The reason is its phonetic system is completely matched with the one I’d been taught from high school. Many other sites introduced new systems, but I don’t really impress. Moreover, the word explanation and sound on Collins are very accurate too.  If you are not used to phonetic concept, you may want to reference more here the time, I also use Google Translate or Google Search. However, they’re just supplements, not the main resources. Each of them can help in some particular cases, for instance, Google Web Search is pretty good to look up for English trends, structures or idioms; Google Image Search are good for visuals. Oh, talking about visual search, here is one of the impressive websites to me Anyway, just pick up the most suitable websites for you and use them. As long as you like them, you can make use of them. After all, they were built to support learners, so at some aspect, they all are helpful.

If you want to use e-book version, here are some mirrors from

Please note that I’m not the owner of those links or materials.

You can also buy high quality package from Amazon

That was my first step, hope it makes a good base for the next one. I also hope you can find the book you need here. Good luck on your journey too!


  1. Hi there! This article could not be written much better!
    Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept talking about this. I am going to send this post to him.
    Fairly certain he'll have a great read. Thanks for sharing!
    My site ; Ielts singapore

  2. Hi there, thanks for the praise and wish all the best to your roommate's endeavor!


Thanks for leaving your comments

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...