IELTS LISTENING TEST TIPS

 

TIP 1: THE LISTENING TEST IS TOO FAST!

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Of all the Sub-tests in the IELTS test, this is the one that seems to cause the most problems for students. The reason given is usually that the test goes "so fast". The truth is that the test "goes slower" the higher your level of English!

Practice is absolutely the best method of "slowing down" the listening test. However, even the best of us can lose our way when trying hard. One trick to ensure that you do not get left behind when listening to the test tape is to make sure that you have the "topics" of at least the next two or three questions you have to answer in your mind as you listen. Look ahead at the coming questions at every chance you get. In this way, you are less likely to sit there listening for the answer to a question that has already come and gone.
 


TIP 2: WHERE DO I GET LISTENING PRACTICE?

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OK, so practice is the key. But where can you get listening practice if you are not in an English-speaking country? The best listening practice for IELTS is from professionally-made cassettes or CDs. Our 202 Useful Exercises tapes/CDs give you over 90 minutes of listening practice targeted to the kind of topics you are likely to hear in the test.

But all listening practice is useful. Many students like listening to the news and we agree that this is good practice since the topics of the daily news are often known to you in your own language. This gives you an advantage.

One interesting news service on the web is from the BBC at:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/general/.
The topics are always current and easier to read than most "native English" news services.
 


TIP 3: MAKING NOTES

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Don't forget to use your pen wisely (or pencil if you are not allowed to use a pen in the test centre – it varies, apparently, from centre to centre). That is, make notes as you listen so that you can refer to them in the short periods of silence given throughout the test – and the ten minutes given at the end to transfer your answers to the answer sheet.

By the way, there is nothing to stop you making notes in your own language if you find you can write faster this way, but it can be a problem for some language learners to switch rapidly between thinking in two languages.
 


TIP 4: RATE THE MULTIPLE CHOICE ANSWERS

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Multiple choice questions: everybody's favourite. But with a particular question perhaps you cannot choose at all. Later, when you come back to this question, it might help if you have 'rated' the possible answers as you were listening.

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You don't have to use all the symbols or mark all the possible answers. Just be consistent about their meaning so that when you refer back to the question, you will have a better chance of remembering your first impressions.
 

 


IELTS READING TEST TIPS

 

TIP 1: READ FASTER

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Most low-level students read quite slowly in English, and possibly in their own language. Are you a fast reader in your own language? Not everyone is. If you are a slow reader in your first language, you will be transferring your speed deficiency into your second language. It's not just lack of comprehension either. Often there is a physical 'eye on word' problem. You are not seeing the words fast enough.

So, you should certainly aim to read faster in your own language first. How? Practice of course! Check out how fast you can read a passage of writing in your own language, and keep aiming to be faster. Do this again and again... and again. Make those eyes travel across the page as fast as possible, while still maintaining sense of what you are reading. This is practice for eye movement as much as anything.

When you have improved in your own language, do the same with English passages. Speed speed speed! Get that reading speed up! Make it a game to read as much as you can as fast as you can – at first without any attempt at comprehension. If you wish, you can time yourself by copying passages into Microsoft Word and doing a word count. How many words of English per minute do you read at the moment? Do you know? Keep practising every day. Keep improving your physical eye speed across the page. Later you can pay more attention to comprehension – that is, when you have improved your physical reading speed. After a month of practice, you will have added a very important reading skill to your list – SPEED!
 


TIP 2: WHAT TO READ?

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What are the best passages to read for practice? Some students try hard to improve their reading skills by reading English newspapers. But this is often a mistake. Newspapers contain too much colloquial language – vocabulary which is fortunately missing from the IELTS reading passages. Obviously, the best reading passages for practice are those which are similar to the kinds of passages you will be reading in the actual IELTS test. So, having access to as many IELTS practice test books as possible is a good start. If you don't have any practice books, you should consider investing in your future by buying some today.

If you cannot afford practice books – and for some students this is a real issue – have you contacted your local library? There is a good chance that your library already has practice IELTS books for borrowing. If not, ask the librarian why not? Request that they purchase some today – they are often willing to do so if you make a request.

You can also contact your closest British Council – check where they are

at http://www.britishcouncil.org/where/index.htm

... and visit their reading library.

But the very best option is to own your own practice books – that way you can read them at any time you can spare, and also make notes in them. The reading passages of all good IELTS practice books will provide you with the vocabulary you need to read and write well in the test. And, of course, the best IELTS practice books are available right here on this website.
 


TIP 3: QUIZ YOURSELF ON EVERY PARAGRAPH

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When you read for practice, always ask yourself these 3 questions at the end of every paragraph:

1)

what was the main idea of the paragraph?

2)

was the first sentence of the paragraph the topic sentence (the sentence which tells you the main idea or topic of the paragraph?)

3)

did the paragraph introduce an entirely new idea, or did it mainly refer back to a previous paragraph i.e. the last paragraph?

Asking yourself these 3 questions will train you to begin thinking in the right way as you read.

Question 1 trains you to remember to read for a paragraph topic.

Question 2 trains you to recognise the topic sentence (wherever it may be found – usually the first or second sentence in the paragraph, but sometimes the concluding or last sentence).

Question 3 trains you think about where the paragraph lies in relation to the rest of the reading passage. Is it moving you forwards? Or is it explaining or mainly adding to a paragraph topic that you have previously read? Use arrows to mark the paragraphs you read as 'forward' or 'backward' leaning paragraphs (or both!)
 


TIP 4: WRITE YOUR ANSWERS WHERE YOU SHOULD!

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Don't write the answers to the Reading Test on the Reading Test Question Paper. You are wasting your time. You are given no time to transfer your Reading Test answers to the Answer Sheet.

We have known students who wrote all their answers on the Question Paper, and effectively scored nothing because they had no time to place their answers on the Answer Sheet!
 


TIP 5: WHERE DO I GET EASY READING PRACTICE?

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Practice is the key. But where can you get reading practice if you are not in an English-speaking country? The best reading practice for IELTS is from IELTS books. Our 202 Useful Exercises book gives you a lot of reading practice targeted to the kind of topics you are likely to receive in the test.

But all reading practice is useful – especially if you are slow. Many students like reading the news online and we agree that this is good practice since the topics of the daily news are often known to you in your own language. This gives you an advantage. One interesting news service on the web is Ananova at http://www.ananova.com/. The topics are easy to read and interesting too!
 

 

 

IELTS WRITING TEST TIPS

 

TIP 1: TASK 1 OR TASK 2 FIRST?

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Some teachers recommend that candidates answer the IELTS Writing Task 2 first and Task 1 last. There is certainly nothing to prevent you from doing this if you wish. However, we do not recommend this approach.

The main argument given for answering Task 2 first is usually that writing an essay is something familiar that you will have done many times before and thus you will get off to a better start – and will have completed the more important task (Task 2) after about 40 minutes, with 20 minutes left to complete the less important Task 1.

The problem with this approach is that it omits the importance of time in the test.

Firstly, you should have had a lot of practice with both types of writing tasks before the test – to claim the essay is easier because it is a more familiar task is... well, to be frank, an amazing statement. (Letter-writing for General Training students a less familiar task? Surely not.) Don't even take the IELTS test unless you are well-practised at answering Task 1 writing task types.

But the real risk is that you will more easily run out of time. Why? Because it is actually easier to write an essay in less than 40 minutes than it is to write a report on a graph or chart etc. – or an adequate letter – in less than 20 minutes.  But the likelihood that you will write this essay in less than 40 minutes if you write it first is not great. If you get stuck on Writing Task 2, you will run out of time and not finish the task. You are less likely to get stuck on the Writing Task 2 essay (assuming you have written many essays). You can time your completion of the essay to the remaining time left much easier than you can time the completion of Writing Task 1 to whatever time remains.

Of course, you can try either method and draw your own conclusions. Some teachers will never agree and that is their right.
 


TIP 2: DON'T USE SMS ENGLISH!

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The use of text messaging language in exam answers is alarming and on the increase. Don't expect a good IELTS writing score if you write in this shorthand style. Is text messaging infecting or liberating the English language? This question is best left to linguists to answer. Who cares? You only care that you get a good score right?

Our advice is to NEVER write in this style EVER – except when text messaging.

Why? Every time you write in English you are giving yourself the opportunity to practise English spelling and English punctuation. Why deny yourself this important practice? Can you write using perfect English spelling and punctuation? No? Then it is senseless for you to 'save time' by writing in text messaging shorthand. You are merely wasting yours by not using it to practice writing properly.

(Actually, we believe text messaging IS liberating the language – but we are here to help you score well in the IELTS test, not speculate about language direction.)
 


TIP 3: DON'T SPLIT WORDS

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A quick and easy way to INSTANTLY improve your writing – and eradicate (rid yourself of) a major writing problem you probably have – is to never split words at the end of a line. I say "you probably have" this problem because we see so many students splitting words incorrectly.

There are rules for doing this – where you can and where you can't split words. Computers know these rules, and the rules are quite complex, but you are not a computer and you do not have to remember or even learn these rules. Simply train yourself to write a word that will not fit within the space left at the end of a line... at the start of the new line.

Problem solved! And there is no danger of you losing marks for no good reason.
 


TIP 4: BECOME A COPY-CAT!

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This IELTS Writing Task tip is taken from the 101 Helpful Hints for IELTS course book which contains many other helpful hints – as you would expect!

Practice is the key to success, and one very good way to practice writing is to copy passages of other people's writing – i.e. reading passages from IELTS practice books, essays, passages from other textbooks – anything you like. The point is to copy English and at the same time think about the structure of the sentences you are writing. Watch how the sentence takes shape as you write. If you are of a grammatical mind, you might be able to 'see' how the grammar dictates the shape of the sentence. For instance – the previous sentence is a conditional sentence. Notice how it is constructed.

Of course, you don't HAVE to think grammar as you write. Just do as all English children do when they are learning to write – copy out passages. (You probably did just the same in your own language, didn't you?)

Copy and examine a good amount of English at least once every day!
 



IELTS SPEAKING TEST TIPS

 

TIP 1: IMAGINE YOU ARE A TEACHER

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Whenever you have to speak for a minute or so – as you do in the Speaking Sub-test – a mental trick when you practise is to pretend that you are a teacher.

Imagine that you are in front of a classroom full of adoring students (it doesn't happen often, but this is imagination) and they are waiting on your every word – you are a star!

Speaking while imagining an attentive audience will help you overcome that possible fear of thinking that what you are saying is 'boring'. The IELTS examiner will be very interested in what you say, so get used to being positively appraised while you practise.

Go for a walk; lock yourself in the bathroom or the garden shed and practise speaking for at least 1-2 minutes on a topic of your choice, imagining you are in front of an audience of listeners who applaud every word you say. Just don't expect the examiner to be quite as enthusiastic!
 


TIP 2: ALWAYS ANSWER IN FULL

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The examiner cannot conduct the Speaking Test as a normal conversation. You may not be aware of it, but the examiner is bound by a set text of questions - at least in the first part of the text; the test becomes more fluid later.

So don't expect the examiner to 'help' you answer the questions. You MUST make every attempt to answer the questions you are asked IN FULL. Answer just 'yes' or 'no' and you will have lost your opportunity to show what you are capable of.

Hey! It's your test. YOU have to do the work. So give an adequate answer to each question or expect a lower mark.
 


TIP 3: VISIT THE TEST ROOM

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Yes, visit the Speaking Test room at your IELTS Test Centre before the test.

If possible, take the trip and accustom yourself to the surroundings. You will perform better on the day if you are consciously and subconsciously aware of the room(s) in which you are to do the work.

This is especially true of the Speaking Test, although you might not believe us!  But it is a psychologically verifiable fact that performance of any mental act is enhanced if the environment is made more comfortable.
 


TIP 4: CHOLINE

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Although we do not believe that taking vitamins or other non-prescribed drugs is an effective substitute for language practice, it is astonishing how many people have discovered positive mental effects from taking the supplement choline. Some people take choline before speaking to improve their memory and vocabulary, and to help with working out crossword puzzles. They speak of increased memory capacity and learning rates.

Perhaps these persons were previously choline deficient in their diet, although it is unlikely. Suffice to say, choline is a relatively harmless dietary supplement – although allergies to choline are possible – and it can definitely increase one's mental and even physical capabilities. Check it out on the 'web'.

We can take no responsibility for mentioning this supplement, therefore, as with all non-prescribed substances, it is essential to check with your doctor first in case your particular condition forbids its use.