Tag Archives: IELTS test

A best IELTS sample General Training Writing Task 2 essay question.

depositphotos_7932028-Quill-pen-and-ink-well-with-paper-scrollHere’s a sample General Training Writing Task 2 essay question.


You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

Write about the following topic:

Young people often enjoy watching action films with dramatic car chases. Some people say that these types of movies lead to an increase in car accidents among young drivers because they try to copy what they have seen in the films.

Do you agree with the opinion that these sorts of films lead to an increase in the amount of bad driving?  What do you think should be done to encourage young people to drive more safely?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge and/or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

Best IELTS advice for writing effective letters.

depositphotos_7932028-Quill-pen-and-ink-well-with-paper-scroll‘But what will I have to write a letter about?’ was the first question a new student asked me about IELTS Writing Task 1 recently. I’m sure there are many of you who are new to IELTS who are wondering the same thing.

The letter you are required to write in IELTS Task 1 often falls in to one of the following types:

a. You have to APOLOGISE to someone
b. You have to COMPLAIN about something
c. You must REQUEST information
d. You have to THANK someone
e. You have to APPLY FOR A JOB
f. You have to INVITE someone to do something.

Here are some examples of the letter types above:-

a. You are an international student and have borrowed a book from the local public library. You left the book on a bus and when you contacted the bus company, they could not find it.

Write a letter to the librarian explaining the situation and asking what you should do.

b. You are working in the UK for three months and have hired a car for the period. The air conditioner has stopped working. You phoned the car rental company a week ago but it has still not been repaired.

Write a letter to the manager of the car rental company. In your letter:
• Introduce yourself
• Explain the situation
• Say what action you would like the company to take.

c. You are a student who wants to apply to Meridian College. You are experiencing financial problems at the moment.

Write a letter to the Principal of the College explaining your situation and ask for information on scholarships or other means of financial help available.

d. Last month you had a holiday overseas where you stayed with some friends. They have just sent you some photos of your holiday.

Write a letter to your friends. In your letter:
• Thank them for the photos and for the holiday
• Explain why you didn’t write earlier
• Invite them to come and stay with you.

e. You want to apply for a job as a housekeeper for a private home. Write a letter to Mrs. Wilson describing your previous experience and explaining why you would be suitable for the job.

f. You are getting married. Write a letter to an English-speaking friend to invite him/her to the wedding.

In your letter:
• Describe the person you are going to marry
• Tell him/her what will happen on the wedding day
• Explain why it is important for him/her to be at the wedding.

The purpose of the letter you are writing will often determine the type of language you use. Equally important; you must decide if the letter is a formal letter or an informal letter; this will also determine the type of language you use.

In the next post, I will give you some language phrases and expressions to use in the different letter types. For now I would like to give you the four step procedure for writing letters that I give my students.

Step 1
Read and understand the task; understand the topic; the question and the requirements.

Step 2
Plan what you are going to write: greet; state the purpose; give/request information; request action; close and sign off.

Step 3
Write your answer on the answer sheet.
• Write a greeting
• State your purpose (why you are writing)
• Give/request information
• Request action
• Close
• Sign off.

Step 4
Check your writing; check the content; the language; and the presentation.

Understanding WHY you are writing the letter (your purpose) will help keep you on track and make sure you answer the question (marked in Task Achievement).

Don’t forget to check out some of the other posts on formal letters and informal letters on this site.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

Band 9 – The best IELTS score possible.

info-31185_1280I am very proud of the fact that the majority of my students achieve the IELTS Band Score they need first time.  I have also received some excellent feedback in emails from people who have either done a practice IELTS Speaking Test with me on skype or have had some of their IELTS Writing corrected by me.

I really do think that some feedback from a qualified IELTS tutor (either online or offline) is very valuable, even if you have decided to study by yourself or know that your English is of a very high standard already.  To do well in the IELTS test, you need to concentrate both on your level and on the necessary strategies to do the test well.

Recently, I conducted a couple of lessons with a native speaker of English!  Jon is from Liverpool, UK (coincidentally, my hometown, although we didn’t know each other before coming to Australia) and is a psychiatric nurse.  He needed to sit the IELTS General Training test for his permanent residency visa (as a skilled migrant) and felt quite nervous about the test. Needless to say, he’s just scored 9 in his test.  This example does show, though, that even someone with a very high level of English saw the benefit of getting feedback from a qualified IELTS tutor to understand the layout of the test and the necessary strategies.

So, here are some of the pointers I gave Jon that he said he found particularly useful.


•    Make sure you note down all your answers on your question paper while the recording is playing.  You can use shorthand and abbreviations if you want to, to make it quicker, you don’t have to worry about it being neat (the Examiner doesn’t see your question paper) but make sure that YOU can read your own handwriting as you are given 10 minutes transfer time at the end of the test to copy your answers to your answer sheet.  Make sure your handwriting on your answer sheet is neat and legible (the Examiner does read this part!)

•    Even native speakers need to concentrate quite hard in the listening test as you only hear it once and if you let your mind wander you can miss hearing an answer.  If your centre uses headphones, make sure that the volume is high enough to block out any distractions but not so loud that the sound is distorted.


•    Never, never, never leave an answer blank.  As a teacher in class, I’d tell students to make sure they understand all their answers fully so that we can talk about why a particular answer is correct / incorrect but this isn’t a lesson; it’s the test.  Remember that if you don’t write anything, you’ve got a 100% chance of scoring zero for that question.  If you write something, it might be correct.  Make an educated guess. (This also applies to the listening test).

•    Underline the key words in each paragraph before you answer the questions.

Writing (Task 1)

•    Make sure you answer the question!  Include all the information required in the bullet points.

•    Try not to include lots of irrelevant details.

Writing (Task 2)

•    Write at least 4 paragraphs (introduction, body and conclusion).  The neatest and most common way to separate paragraphs nowadays is to leave a blank line between paragraphs and to start a new paragraph at the beginning of a line. (When I and the psychiatric nurse were at school, the common trend was to indent the first line of a paragraph).

•    Make sure you plan and write notes (about 8 – 10 points).  Think about how you will connect these points in the essay, make sure they are relevant to your argument and make sure you can explain them or support them with examples.  Writing the points down before you write the essay will keep you focussed and ensure that you don’t forget to write about them.

•    Make sure you don’t write less than 250 words; conversely do NOT write too much (try to set yourself an upper limit of about 280 words, certainly do NOT write more than 300 words).  Your aim is to write a well-structured, grammatically correct essay, more words do not mean more points!

•    Be aware of using appropriate idioms and expressions in your writing (there is a difference between spoken and written English).  For non-native speakers, I would also add that you shouldn’t use a phrase or idiom if you’re not about what it means or how it is used.


•    Maintain eye contact with the Examiner (this is good manners and also helps establish a relationship).

•    Try not to be nervous and be as confident as possible.

•    Use the one-minute preparation time in part 2 to think about what you are going to say and make a few notes.

•    Try to speak about all the points on your card in part 2.

•    If you’re not sure if what you are about to speak about in part 2 really answers the question, tell the Examiner; ‘I’ve been asked to speak about ‘blah’, I’m not sure if this is completely related, but I’m going to speak about ‘blah, blah’.

•    Remember that the Examiner is not trying to ‘catch you out’. You want to do your best and the Examiner also wants you to speak to the best of your ability.  Relax and enjoy it!

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

Create a good impression on the examiner in your IELTS test.

info-31185_1280I remember when I was at school and then at university, I always had an image of examiners as just ‘examiners’.  What I mean to say is that it never used to enter my head that they were just normal people, who loved their family and had hobbies and a life outside of examining.

Just remember that IELTS examiners are simply normal people whose field of expertise is assessing your English language level, in the same way that your field of expertise may be engineering, medicine, hairdressing or being a homemaker.

Bearing in mind that your examiner is a normal human being, you’ve got to consider certain psychological factors.  Of course, what I’m about to do is merely make some observations about human beings in general; these observations are non-official and are in no way part of the IELTS assessment process. I just want you to consider your examiner both ‘as an examiner and a human being’.

Examiners are trained to assess your level of written and spoken English using set criteria from the IELTS examining body.  They are obliged to follow the IELTS assessment criteria strictly but there will always be cases where for example, the examiner may be wavering between giving you a band score 6 or a band score 7 and it could be the tiniest of factors that nudges him/her into giving you the higher (or lower) band score.

So, here we go.  I’m going to give you some tips in no particular order.

Let’s consider the IELTS Speaking Test first:

  • Arrive on time for your Speaking Test; this is common courtesy.  You expect your examiner to be on time, don’t you?

When you are late, it often makes you flustered and stressed, which obviously affects the way you perform in your test.

I’m sure that it can also be quite irritating for the examiner.

Bear in mind that IELTS Speaking Test interviews are scheduled every 20 minutes so if you arrive 15 minutes late, it makes things difficult.

I once heard of a candidate who arrived 40 minutes late and was then rude to the examiner!  Now, the majority of centres will not test a candidate who arrives this late but even if the centre let you take your test; imagine the impression you create if you arrive 40 minutes late and then are rude to the examiner?!

Now, all IELTS examiners are professionals but psychologically, what do you think might happen if the candidate in the previous example were on the border of band 6 and band 7?


As in any interview in life, you’re trying to create a positive image of yourself in the mind of the interviewer.  That doesn’t mean you have to be deferential; the interview is a meeting of two equals, but you should be polite, pleasant and confident.

  • Don’t forget that the Speaking Test is a meeting of two equals; you’re on the same side!  You want to do well in this test and the examiner wants you to perform to the best of your ability so try to relax and enjoy the process.

Inform yourself about what is expected in the different parts of the test; you can find this out on the official IELTS website, then follow the examiner’s cues.

Give full but relevant answers so not only can the examiner see your ability but it helps the interview flow.  The psychological impression you want to create for both of you is that of a team working together on a common project for the next 11-14 minutes.

Let’s move on to talk about the IELTS Writing Test:

  • Remember how your teacher at high school used to tell you to be careful with your handwriting?  Well, clear handwriting creates a positive impression on people in life.  I have terrible handwriting and constantly try to write more neatly as I’m aware of this fact.

Now, handwriting does not affect your band score but again, let’s think about the psychology of the reader.  How do you think someone feels if they’re painfully trying to read a barely legible essay?  Your terrible handwriting could be hiding some of that fantastic vocabulary and grammar you’re using!

  • In my last post, I talked about the descriptors your examiner will be using to mark your writing; see the public versions of these descriptors for Task 1 and Task 2 at www.ielts.org.  You will notice that one of the criteria for assessment, in both Task 1 and Task 2 writing is Coherence and Cohesion.


So here, you’re trying to strike the balance between your writing sounding ‘babyish’ and stilted because you don’t use any cohesive devices and your writing sounding contrived and strange because you overuse or misuse them.


Try to use cohesive devices appropriately.  When you use the word ‘moreover’ do you really mean ‘moreover’.  Don’t just learn a ‘list of good cohesive devices to use’; trust me; I’ve known a lot of people who do this!  Always learn cohesive devices in context and practise using them in context.  Ask native speakers what they understand by the sentence you’ve just written.


Equally important, in my opinion, is to use idiomatic expressions appropriately.  Ask native speakers BEFORE you take the exam about typical idiomatic expressions in English.

As a teacher, I frequently read the expression ‘Every coin has two sides’ in my students’ writing and found myself constantly saying, ‘I know what you mean, but we don’t say it like this in English.’

Do your research!

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

Frequently Asked Questions about the IELTS test part 3.

info-31185_1280In the last two posts, I’ve been answering some frequently asked questions about IELTS.  I’d like to continue to do so in this third and final post on the subject of FAQs about IELTS.  Let’s get on to the next question straightaway.

·         How soon after sitting the test will I get my IELTS result?

The centre where you sat the test will send you your result, usually 13 days after sitting the test; so you receive your results 2 weeks after sitting the test..

I know that waiting for results is horrible but please do try to be patient.  Don’t ask the examiner, ‘Well, how did I do?’ at the end of your speaking test. The examiner will answer ‘You will receive your results in two weeks’ time.’

·         How does IELTS compare with other English language tests?

Over the years, I have had many students ask me how IELTS test scores compare with those of other tests.

The following table shows what is generally expected.

Language School Level * CEF level Cambridge ESOL exams IELTS band TOEFL ® iBT TOEIC ®
Advanced C2 Certificate of Proficiency in English 7.5+
Pre-Advanced C1 Certificate in Advanced English 6.5/7.0 110-120 880
Upper-Intermediate B2 First Certificate in English 5.0/5.5/6.0 87-109
Intermediate B1 Preliminary English Test 3.5/4.0/4.5 57-86 550
Pre-Intermediate A2 Key English Test 3.0
* Please note that different language institutions often have different criteria for their class level placement and different terminology for their levels.

·         How many times will I hear the Listening test?

You will hear the IELTS Listening test only once.  The test is given in stages and the audio pauses to give you time to read the next set of questions before it continues.  There are four sections and you are given one minute at the end of each section to check over your answers etc.

You write your answers onto the question sheet while you are listening and then at the end of the test, you are given ten minutes to transfer your answers to the Answer Sheet.

·         Will I be penalised if I make a spelling mistake in the Listening test?

It depends.  In general, spelling is not important in the Listening test, providing that the spelling mistake is minor and it is clear that you have understood the audio.  If a word is spelt out for you, however, you must spell it correctly.

·         Do I have a choice of questions in the IELTS Writing test?

No, there are two questions and you must answer both of them.  To score well, you must COMPLETE both tasks.  I have seen many cases where candidates have spent too much time on Task 1 and therefore only written a few lines for Task 2.

Your writing Band Score is an average of your Task 1 score and your Task 2 score so it’s important to spend only 20 minutes on Task 1 and leave yourself 40 minutes for the longer Task 2, which accounts for 60% or your overall score.

·         Is it possible to take a computerised version of the IELTS test?

At the time of writing, a computerised version of the test () is available for the Academic Module only (not for the General Training Module) at certain centres.

The centres offering CB IELTS are listed below.  You should contact the centre for further details.

Bangladesh, Dhaka – British Council more information
Egypt, Alexandria – British Council more information
Egypt, Cairo Agouza – British Council more information
India, New Delhi – British Council more information
India, New Delhi – IDP Education Australia more information
Italy, Milan – British Council more information
Jordan, Amman – British Council more information
Kenya, Nairobi – Australian University Studies Institute  more information
UAE, Abu Dhabi – British Council more information
UAE, Dubai – British Council more information
Vietnam, Hanoi – British Council more information

The listening, reading and writing tests are taken online but the speaking test is conducted with an interviewer face to face.

The listening and reading tests are marked by computer and the writing responses are marked by qualified IELTS examiners.

There is absolutely no advantage to taking either the paper version of IELTS or CB IELTS; the fees are the same, the writing and speaking are assessed in the same way and the results are sent out at the same time.  It is purely a matter of personal preference.

Hope that’s answered some of the questions that you may have.  If you have any more questions that I haven’t answered here, please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

Frequently Asked Questions about the IELTS test part 2.

info-31185_1280In my last post, I started discussing some of the questions I have been asked most frequently about IELTS.  In this post, I’d like to continue doing that.  So, let’s get on to the next question.

·         Where can I sit IELTS?

There are over 500 centres all over the world where you can sit for IELTS.   Visit the official IELTS website to find your nearest test centre.

If you use this link, you can also find out the dates you can sit the test and information about registration and test fees.

·         How often can I take the test and how long do I have to wait before taking another test?

You can take the test as many times as you want and there is no waiting period between tests.  Before 1st May 2006, it was necessary to wait 3 months before re-sitting an IELTS test but that is no longer the case.

·         Is my IELTS Band Score valid for life?

Unfortunately not!  You get a Test Report Form after you sit IELTS with your results.  The Test Report Form (TRF) is usually valid for 2 years but some institutions may ask you to prove that you have maintained your level of English if your result is almost 2 years old.  If the TRF is more than 2 years old, you will be required to sit the test again to prove your level of English

·         How do I decide whether to take the Academic version or the General Training version? What’s the difference?

If you want to do a degree course you MUST take the Academic version.  The Academic version  has been specifically designed to assess whether you are ready to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level in English.

The General Training version is for Immigration purposes and if you want to do a diploma level course.  The General Training version is designed to assess your English survival skills in a social and more general educational context.

·         What score do I need to get into university?

This is a very difficult question to answer as it depends on the institution and the course you wish to study.  You need to get advice from the university you wish to apply to.  In my experience, most universities seem to require a score of at lease 6.5 overall with at least a score of 6 in each sub-test (listening, reading, writing and speaking).

Sometimes courses may ask for a higher score, especially if they have a heavy emphasis on language.  When I was teaching at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, UK, I had a Japanese student who wanted to study linguistics at an English University.  She was required to get a minimum of 7.5 IELTS band score.

·         What score do I need to emigrate to Australia, New Zealand or Canada?

Again, a difficult question to answer as there are so many variables such as your education and the work skills you have.  Immigration departments also re-assess the desirability of certain skill sets.

I have lived in Australia since 2001; when I first arrived, students informed me that I.T. was very desirable for immigration purposes, until recently it was hospitality and at the time of writing, there appears to be an emphasis on the medical profession.

The feedback I have received here in Australia is that a score of somewhere between 5.0 and 7.0 seems to be required depending on the factors mentioned in the previous paragraphs.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!info-31185_1280