Category Archives: IELTS Preparation

How is the IELTS Writing Test marked?

Power of WordsMany of my students express their concerns about the IELTS Writing Test and how it is marked so I’d like to dedicate this post to that subject.

The IELTS Writing Test is marked by a certified examiner who has been specially trained to mark this part of the test.  In the interests of security, the IELTS Writing assessment criteria are confidential and do not leave the test centre.

There is, however, a public version of the IELTS Writing Band descriptors for both IELTS Writing Task 1 and IELTS Writing Task 2. (Click on the links to find them).

So let’s look at these descriptors in greater detail.

Task achievement (IELTS Writing Task 1)

General Training Writing Task 1: You have to write a letter with a clear purpose and it must contain ALL the information specified in the task.  The letter might be formal or informal depending on the task set.

Academic Writing Task 1: You have to write a report based on some kind of visual information; it could be a graph, a table or a diagram.  It is important to identify and compare the key features and to make sure that you report the data shown accurately.

Task Response (IELTS Writing Task 2)

General Training and Academic Writing Task 2: You are given a prompt, which will either be a question or a statement.  You have to give your point of view on a subject, making sure that you support your ideas with relevant examples.

The following criteria are common to both General Training IELTS Writing Task 2 and Academic Writing Task 2.

Coherence and cohesion: You need to connect your ideas clearly and organise your response into paragraphs.  See my post The Importance of Paragraphs in IELTS Writing.

Vocabulary: You need to have a wide and varied vocabulary and your words need to be used appropriately and spelt correctly.

Grammatical range and accuracy: Obviously, grammatical accuracy is important here and you need to use a variety of simple and complex grammatical structures.  How well you punctuate your writing will also be assessed.

Studying these descriptors will help you understand what an examiner is looking for and some of the key differences between a band 5, a band 6 and a band 7.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

IELTS Writing Task 1 – Formal Letters layout.

Power of WordsIn my post, ‘IELTS preparation – The IELTS Writing Test’, I talked about the importance of knowing the layout of letters and the difference between formal and informal letters for General Training IELTS Writing Task 1.

In this post, I’d like to give you an example of a formal letter.  See my post ‘IELTS Writing Task 1 – Informal Letters’ for an example of an informal letter.

Formal letters

  • Please note that in IELTS Writing Task 1, it will not be necessary to write the address and date.  The instructions usually say Begin your letter ‘Dear…’
  • Do not use short forms (We won’t, I’ll etc) in formal letters or essays. Many native English speakers use them in informal letters and this is considered acceptable.
  • Notice the position of the address, date, greeting and sign-off phrase.
  • You must include all the points that the question asks you to make.

I always recommend that my students purchase Adams & Austen IELTS books. These books contain so many useful practice exercises and sample questions for IELTS Writing.

Don’t forget that if you buy these books here, I will mark an IELTS Task 1 Writing and an IELTS Task 2 Writing from the book you have purchased.

Although I know that many teachers of English (including myself) teach letter layout, as an examiner I notice that there are many candidates who overlook it in their IELTS test.  Keep this example layout and my informal letter layout in mind.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

IELTS Writing Task 1 – Informal Letters layout

Power of WordsIn my post, ‘IELTS preparation – The IELTS Writing Test’, I talked about the importance of knowing the layout of letters and the difference between formal and informal letters for General Training IELTS Writing Task 1.

In this post, I’d like to give you an example of an informal letter.  See my post ‘IELTS Writing Task 1 – Formal Letters’ for an example of a formal letter.

Informal letters

  • Please note that in IELTS Writing Task 1, it will not be necessary to write the address and date.  The instructions usually say Begin your letter ‘Dear…’
  • Notice the position of the address, date, greeting and sign-off phrase.
  • Many native English speakers use short forms (We won’t, I’ll etc) in informal letters and this is considered acceptable.  You need to make sure, however, that you do not use short forms in formal letters or essays.
  • You must include all the points that the question asks you to make.

I always recommend that my students purchase Adams & Austen IELTS books. These books contain so many useful practice exercises and sample questions for IELTS Writing.

Don’t forget that if you buy these books here, I will mark an IELTS Task 1 Writing and an IELTS Task 2 Writing from the book you have purchased.

Although I know that many teachers of English (including myself) teach letter layout, as an examiner I notice that there are many candidates who overlook it in their IELTS test.  Keep this example layout and my formal letter layout in mind.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

 

Best IELTS preparation – The IELTS Speaking Test.

depositphotos_12630060-Two-businessmen-standing-and-talking-with-speech-bubbles-on-white-backgroundIt’s important to remember that the questions in the IELTS Speaking test are of a general nature and do not require any specialised knowledge.  You have to be ready to talk about anything and of course, you’ll be doing it in English!

The best way to start is to download my free report, Speaking Test Tips from an IELTS Tutor where I give more in-depth tips than in this post.  Next, read through this post to pick up other tips and strategies.

I usually recommend that my students become interested in everything that goes on around them and think about it in English.  Every time you’re having a conversation in your own language, ask yourself, ‘How would I say this in English?’ Make a list of 20 everyday topics and see if you can talk about them in English.  Here are some examples; the weather, your favourite TV programme, your favourite food, a terrible day, a wonderful day etc.

Part 1

In part 1 of the IELTS Speaking test, you will be asked questions about yourself and about familiar topics. Make sure you can talk about the following:

  • your home
  • where you live
  • your family
  • your job (or the course you are studying)
  • your interests and hobbies.

Have a look at my post ‘IELTS Speaking Test Part 1 Sample Questions and Answers’ for more in-depth information.

Part 2

In Part 2, you have to talk about a topic for1-2 minutes.

First of all, think of any topic that interests you and you know about and talk about it for two minutes.  Make sure you time yourself so you know what two minutes feels like.  Check out my post ‘IELTS Speaking Test Part 2 Sample Question and Answer’ to listen to my example (Band Score 9!) of a two-minute talk.

Once you can talk for two minutes about topics you know about, the next step is to choose a topic from one of the topics in my post ‘IELTS Speaking Test Part 2 Sample Questions’ and practise talking for two minutes about that topic.  Again, you should time yourself.

In both cases, you should allow yourself one minute before you begin talking to make notes.  I also think it’s a good idea to record yourself.  When you listen to the recording, see how often you repeat yourself or hesitate.  Your ultimate aim is to speak fluently without much hesitation and without repeating yourself.

Part 3

It is difficult to practise for this part of the speaking test as it is much more flexible.  I suggest you converse with native English speakers as much as possible.

Ask a native English speaker or a friend who speaks good English to actually practise part 3 with you.  A good idea is to show them a topic from part 2 and get them to ask you questions related to that topic area.

Remember that this part of the test lasts 4-5 minutes. See my post ‘IELTS Speaking Test Part 3  Sample Questions and Answers’ for more tips.

In order to improve your English speaking skills, you really must ‘practise, practise and practise.’ If you would like to do a practice IELTS Speaking test with me via skype, please contact me.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

Best IELTS preparation – The IELTS Writing Test.

Power of WordsIn this post, I’d like to give you some tips on how best to study for the IELTS Writing test.

First of all, I suggest you read my post Best IELTS preparation -The IELTS Reading test and make sure you follow my reading tips.  Reading and writing ‘go hand in hand’ and one of the best ways to improve your writing is to read a lot.  Secondly, I suggest you write in English as often as you can, for example:

  • Keep a diary in English; you can use it for day-to-day things but also to write summaries of articles you have read or your opinions about them.
  • Join chat rooms and forums on the internet.
  • Write your daily ‘list of things to do’ and your shopping list etc in English

Planning and organization are extremely important in the IELTS Writing test so keep this in mind whenever you write.

Task 1

Academic

In IELTS Academic Writing Task1, you have to describe information from a graph, chart, diagram or table.

You can find this information in books, magazines and on the internet etc.  You can then imagine it s an IELTS Task 1 and describe it in English.  If you aren’t living in an English speaking country and find it difficult to find English newspapers and magazines, you can still practice.  Simply find the graphical information in your own language but write your description in English.

Don’t forget you are only recommended to spend 20 minutes on this task and that it carries less weight than Task 2.

I always recommend that my students purchase Adams & Austen IELTS books. These books contain so many useful practice exercises and sample questions for IELTS Writing.

General Training

In IELTS General Training Writing Task 1, you have to write a letter.  You are usually expected to request information or explain a situation.  You should practise writing this type of letter to different people; friends, teachers, your landlord, organisations etc.

Make sure that you have familiarised yourself with the following:

  • How a letter is set out
  • How to address the person you are writing to; you don’t start a letter ‘Hi dude’ to a future employer or ‘Dear Sir’ to your best friend.
  • The difference between formal and informal letters and when to use them.
  • Make sure that you write in the correct register.  You should also take care that you stick to the same register, for example ‘I would like to draw your attention to an incident that occurred during my stay at your hotel.  You’re never gonna believe this’.  The final sentence (apart from containing poor grammar) is clearly inappropriate in a formal letter.

Don’t forget you are only recommended to spend 20 minutes on this task and that it carries less weight than Task 2.

I always recommend that my students purchase Adams & Austen IELTS books. These books contain so many useful practice exercises and sample questions for IELTS Writing.

Task 2

IELTS Academic and General Training Writing Task 2 are quite similar in many ways.

The main difference is that Task 2 Academic requires a stronger approach to providing arguments, evidence and justifying opinions.  Despite being less demanding in these three areas, Task 2 General Training still requires you to respond appropriately to the question and write a coherent essay.

Here are my tips for both Academic and General Training Task 2:

  • Practise, practise, practise.  .

I always recommend that my students purchase Adams & Austen IELTS books. These books contain so many useful practice exercises and sample questions for IELTS Writing.

Don’t forget that if you buy these books here, I will mark an IELTS Task 1 Writing and an IELTS Task 2 Writing from the book you have purchased.

  • You are recommended to spend 40 minutes on this task and don’t forget it carries more weight than Task 1.  You should aim to spend this amount of time on task 2 questions also when you practise (the first few practice essays may take a little longer).  As an IELTS examiner, I have seen many examples of students running out of time; probably because they haven’t practised writing an essay in 40 minutes.
  • Count your words so that you learn what 250 words ‘looks and feels like’.

Also read my post How can I do self-study practice IELTS Writing Tests? and follow the tips to get the greatest benefit from your IELTS Writing practice.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

The best way to improve your IELTS Reading skills.

reader-310398_150A very common question I get from my IELTS students is ‘How do I improve my reading skills?’

Initially I always answer this question with a question, ‘Let me ask you something, do you read or understand every word when you’re reading in your own language?’

The answer is always ‘No’ which means that you already have some reading skills and strategies in your own language for understanding a text even if you don’t read/understand every word.

All we have to do now is use these same reading skills when we read in English.  The language may be different but the skills are basically the same.

So what are these skills?

The four reading skills I’m going to discuss in this post are ‘Skimming’, ‘Scanning’, ‘Extensive reading’ and ‘Intensive reading’.

Skimming

Skimming is used when we want to understand the main idea or ‘gist’.  You basically run your eyes over the text and gather the important information.  You don’t need to understand every word when you skim read.

In ‘real life’, we often skim read newspapers to get the general news.  In the IELTS Reading Test, it is usually to get the main idea of the passage as in my post Tips for answering different question task types in the IELTS Reading Test.

Scanning

Scanning is used when we need to find a particular piece of information.  You basically run your eyes over the text and look specifically for the particular piece of information you need.  As with skimming, you don’t need to understand every word when you scan read.

In ‘real life’, we use scanning for timetables or a guide to an exhibition or conference. In the IELTS Reading Test, it is to get specific information required in certain task types as in my post Tips for answering different question task types in the IELTS Reading Test.

The next two types of reading are used to improve your reading skills in general.

 

Extensive reading

Extensive reading is usually used for longer texts for pleasure.  It is not necessary to understand every word; you are reading for enjoyment, to generally improve your reading speed and to get a general understanding.

I always tell my students to read what actually interests them in their free time.  So, sure, if you like reading novels and literature in your own language then read novels and literature in English.  If you don’t, read magazines in English or comics or whatever you read in your own language.  I’ve seen too many students unsuccessfully try to read Charles Dickens in English when they’ve never read a novel in their own language.

Intensive reading

Intensive reading is different from the other types of reading we’ve discussed in that it is important to understand each word and fact.  It is basically accurate reading used for detailed understanding. We usually use intensive reading on shorter texts to gain specific information.

We use Intensive Reading when we are checking bank statements of for reading a documents we are about to sign.

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Skimming and Scanning are strategies you will actually use when doing IELTS Reading Tests.  Extensive and Intensive Reading will be strategies you will implement when trying to improve your reading skills in general.

There are varioius ways to practise these strategies.  Over the years, I have taught from many different IELTS books and I always recommend that my students purchase Adams & Austen IELTS books. These books contain so many useful practice exercises for IELTS.

Don’t forget that if you buy these books here, I will mark an IELTS Task 1 Writing and an IELTS Task 2 Writing from the book you have purchased.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!