IELTS preparation | Maximising your IELTS Reading Test Score!

This article will teach you some relevant tips on how to maximise your score in the IELTS Reading Test. Be sure to practice the 3-Steps to improve your reading comprehension and make your preparation time count on test-day! 

IELTS reading test
Get ready to: “knock your opponent of the table”(aka the IELTS exam!) using the following test preparation strategies for IELTS reading.

How can I improve my IELTS reading test score?

A great way to get off to a strong start with your IELTS reading test study is to firstly do some IELTS reading practice tests to find out or ‘diagnose’ what kind of mistakes you are making, and from there where you need to improve.

You might need to focus on increasing your academic vocabulary, improving your grammar or simply your speed of reading and ability to take in the meaning quickly – so tightening up your reading comprehension skills is a great start!

Next, start to read widely from a variety of sources to build up your vocabulary on a range of academic topics and improve your overall reading skills.

IELTS reading tests contain authentic reading passages, so as well as reading IELTS reading tests, articles that can be found in good newspapers, such as:

Also, for more advanced reading material try:

Thirdly and very importantly, it’s not only what you read but how you read! If you just let the information you read ‘go in one ear and out the other,’ and brush over unknown words like they don’t matter, you probably won’t be improving your reading skills much!

If you want suggestions on generalized IELTS study tips (IELTS general and academic), follow the link to the blog here!

3-Steps for IELTS reading practise

In order to achieve a high score in the IELTS reading test, it’s really beneficial to practice your reading comprehension skills using these 3-steps:

Step 1: Skim the passage first

Have a quick look at the whole thing to find out what it’s about and then your mind will start predicting information: read the heading, then the topic or first sentence of each paragraph and quickly speed read through the whole thing.

This will help you with ‘global’ IELTS questions, such as assessing the attitude or the author of the passage or in choosing the best title or heading for the whole passage.

Step 2: Summarise each paragraph as you read

Get into the habit of looking up after each paragraph you have read and then summarise the main idea/points in the paragraph in your own words in just 1-2 sentences.

Not only will this really exercise your brain, it will greatly improve your reading speed and comprehension skills.

Step 3: Keep a record of new vocabulary

After reading an article, note down any new words you have discovered and their meaning on an Excel spread sheet or in a notebook.

Then read this sheet/list everyday whenever you can: before work, during your lunch break, after work, on the train, before bed (!) etc.

IELTS reading test
Even spending a few minutes at the train station reading a news article online, would count as practice towards your IELTS reading exam. 

To note, it’s said that it takes 6 revisits or reviews of a new word or expression in order to remember it properly.

This is at the point where it becomes part of your personal lexicon ( … a new word for you? I will be kind and tell you the meaning this time to help you start your own IELTS reading test vocabulary list!)

A lexicon is the vocabulary of a person, a language or branch of knowledge; it is a countable noun so we can use ’a’ in front of it or put it in plural form by adding ‘s.’ For example: ‘People in the IT industry need to learn a lexicon of computer terms.’

Like I have just done, it is always a good idea to put new words into a sample sentence, so that you ‘engage’ with the word and bring it to life, thus making it easier to retain in your memory.

Overall, widening your academic vocabulary in this way will certainly be helpful for both the IELTS reading test and writing test components.

Even though it might seem like a bit of a ‘hassle’ (something that’s a bit annoying to do and seems like hard work) at the time, you will thank yourself later, and also your overall confidence in your English skills will grow 10-fold!

Making use of your time on test-day

Finally, to achieve a high score in the IELTS reading test, use the full hour to check over your answers once more, even if you have already, or feel confident and that it was ‘easy’.

You may have missed an answer, or made a careless error or an accidental mistake when transferring your answers from the test to the IELTS reading test answer sheet; you might have misread the instructions so you have put 3 words instead of 2, etc.

ielts reading test
Remember: “Practice makes perfect”, so read regularly and stay up-to-date with news items. 

Surprisingly, on test-day it is always quite amazing to observe the number of IELTS test takers who finish early and decide it’s a good idea to have a little sleep or start drawing cartoons when they have finished and are waiting for the hour to be up!

I wonder if they all achieved their target IELTS reading test scores?!

Learn about the format of the IELTS reading test on this informative IELTS Reading Tips article!

Watch the E2 IELTS video below to practice in a real life IELTS Reading mock test!

Do you have any tips for tackling the IELTS reading section? Be sure to let us know what your top strategies are in the comments! 

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

 

Written by Danielle K. 

IELTS General Tips: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing!

Let’s say you’ve passed your IELTS exam with flying colours after 3 attempts! Imagine if you could’ve passed on your first attempt … (perhaps you hadn’t seen anything on IELTS general tips before!) 

IELTS general tips
Put your study hat on and try to anticipate what your expectations are! 

Looking back is easy, but having the foresight to realize your success in the future is more difficult. Hopefully this article from E2Language will equip you with tips and knowledge for success! 

Alright! I know you want to see ALL the best IELTS general tips in one spot … So here they are!

There’s not a lot of free quality IELTS study material on the internet. So, it’s important to have a study strategy and learn some crucial tips that will guide you in the right direction.

The TOP 3 IELTS general tips you can’t miss! 

#1 Know the format

You’ll see this repeated throughout this article and that’s because it’s NO JOKE. Having a familiarity with the types of questions you’ll get on test day will save you the time of figuring out “what is being asked of you” for each task.

#2 Timed Practice 

Whether preparing for writing or speaking, reading or listening, practice with a TIMER! The time restrictions within the exam is often what trips up test takers! Adding this pressure will make you comfortable with responding to questions in a timely manner. 

#3 Strengthen your language skills

Grammar, spelling and vocabulary MATTER! Make sure you use the correct articles, and be careful you don’t record a noun as singular if it was supposed to be plural! These seemingly “little” mistakes can cost you your desired score!

IELTS General Tips for Listening

IELTS general tips
Be prepared to listen carefully to the audio recordings.
TIP #1

Read the questions before the audio starts. This will help you pick out the right information! I used this same tip in my French Language Fluency exam and it made all the difference!

TIP #2

It’s important to write down your answers in the booklet you’re given! TRUST ME! Under that kind of pressure you’ll need the notes! Be sure to transfer them onto the answer sheet correctly.

TIP #3

WRITE IN ALL CAPS. Handwriting is important! Because if the examiner marking your test can’t read your answer, it will be marked as incorrect! Don’t lose points on a question you know the answer for.

TIP #4

If you think you’ve missed an answer … stay focused! You may miss the next if you spend your time freaking out. Move on and try to answer the next question.

TIP #5

Follow directions! If they specify “write no more than one word”, don’t write more than one! It’ll be marked as incorrect! So pay attention to word count specifications!

For more suggestions on IELTS listening check out this blog post here

IELTS General Tips for Reading

PTE speaking preparation

TIP #1

If you don’t already, read plenty of English books and articles in your spare time! Practice summarizing, identifying key information, and main ideas within texts.

TIP #2

Know the format! Don’t underestimate the difficulty of this section simply because you’re an avid reader and you feel like the Reading section is the last thing you need to spend time preparing for.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: IELTS success is largely centered around whether or not the test taker knows the format of the test.

TIP #3

Not only should you know the test’s format but practice answering those same type of questions! Having a strategy for each task is as important as knowing what they are.

For more on IELTS reading tips, check out the E2Language article here

IELTS General Tips for Writing

TIP #1

Have an essay structure! This is a tip I use regardless of whether I’m writing in my second language or first! Having a clear structure and flow is CRITICAL. The best way to write is by following a structure!

TIP #2

Practice! Just like summarizing articles try writing about a passage you’ve read! Use a variety of essay question types and recreate your own scenario.

Here are the 5 types of IELTS essay types:

Writing is hard for everyone and it most definitely does NOT come easily. So be patient with yourself. Practice, read it over and try to learn from the mistakes you make.

TIP #3

Don’t forget Task 1! It’s easy to get scared and focus only on practicing for Write Essay. But remember that there are other tasks in IELTS General Writing!

Use videos like this one to prepare for Task 1:

IELTS General Tips for Speaking

Tip #1

Find a TV series in English you like. Or maybe, movies are more your thing. The most important thing is you watch regularly. This is a great way to improve your pronunciation.

Tip #2

Read out loud. Grab a book or pull up an article and find a place you can comfortably read out loud. Listen to yourself.  I promise it’s worth every minute of practice! Sometimes you feel silly but I’m telling you: the better you get the more confident you’ll feel!

Tip #3

Recording yourself as you speak is another great way to evaluate where you’re at. Try answering simple questions about your hobbies, your family, where you grew up, and your favourite movies.

NOTE: Make sure your answers aren’t too short. But don’t make your responses too long it’s easy to get off topic, and it’s more important to directly answer the question.

Now, rewatch the recording. Do you have a “nervous tick”? Maybe you use a certain word or phrase too often when you’re thinking.

Others have a certain sound that they repeat which can make understanding them difficult. Sometimes it’s a “Mmmmh..” or “Urrrrmms”. These ticks are all giveaways that you’re struggling to find the right words.

REMEMBER: Confidence goes a long way. Try to cut back on any habits that make you look hesitant.

PTE Summarize Spoken Text
This guy could be listening carefully to his recordings (…or maybe he’s sleeping)
Tip #4

If you slip up, try not to let that distract you. Keep going! It’s easy to pause or stutter when, in your mind, you’ve realized you’ve made a mistake on the way you pronounced a word.

But focus on what you’re saying. Don’t try to apologize too much. If you can finish your answer and show confidence in your speaking the examiner is less likely to focus on tiny mistakes.

Tip #5

Make eye contact! This is a great way to show your confidence. Try not to end up staring down too often or spend your time looking at the table. I know it can be scary, but you’ve got this!

Tip #6

Another great way to make yourself seem very confident and comfortable speaking the English language is to use common phrases, and slangs.

You may even want to try turning “It is” to “it’s” or “He is” to “He’s”. These little changes will make your speech sound smoother and more natural.

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

Written by: Olivia   

IELTS Coaching: Crack the Top 3 IELTS Conspiracy Theories

Jay’s IELTS coaching article will blow IELTS conspiracy theories right off this planet! (No, not literally!). See for yourself, uncover the truth behind the conspiracies and learn some interesting facts along the way! 

IELTS coaching
A conspiracy theory is a belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for an unexplained event … Caution!

IELTS coaching | Do you know what a conspiracy theory is?

Well, it’s an underground theory that hasn’t been confirmed. Think ALIENS. Think OBAMA’s birth certificate. Think the FAKE moon landing of 1969. (Where is Obama REALLY from? And why is the FLAG blowing on the moon when there is no wind up there!?)

Conspiracy theories are usually a bit of fun. They’re good conversation topics when you have some friends over and everyone goes ‘WOW’ isn’t the world a mysterious and scary place?!

But conspiracy theories relating to IELTS are not fun. They are not fun because whether or not they are true, there are people suffering. I’ve met many, many confused, depressed, zig-zagging students looking for the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”.

My question is: Are any of these conspiracies true?

Let’s look at the top three IELTS conspiracy theories and whether there is any evidence to support them. Remember, we need FACTS and EVIDENCE to prove whether something is TRUE, right?

Let’s lay it all on the table to see what’s what. I’ll stick up for IELTS coaching by playing ‘devil’s advocate’ but please write your own experiences into the comments below!

1. It’s impossible to get over 6.5 for IELTS writing

Did you receive an IELTS 6.5 for your writing? Well so did everyone else. Or, at least, that’s how it seems. There seems to be ANECDOTAL evidence (not statistical evidence) that everyone gets 6.5 for writing. How can this be? Are the IELTS examiners biased? Does the IELTS empire extort you to make money?

Or could it be that most people sit around the 6.5 level with writing?

Not everyone reaches perfection in their second language. Many start and many fail to get past a week’s worth of study. For those people who are more ambitious, they fall on a spectrum of failure and success, or beginner to advanced. Some just become conversational, some become relatively fluent and very, very few make it to the upper limits of what it means to be ‘ADVANCED’.

Take a quick look at the article on IELTS writing task 2 here!

Do you know what a ‘bell curve’ is?

It describes where most people sit on a spectrum. Imagine this one describes IELTS 4.5 to IELTS 9. MOST people would sit around 6.5 for writing. So the fact that IELTS does give 6.5 for writing to most people does make sense. It’s statistically more likely than 4 or 8. The problem for most people is that they need 8. And there’s a BIG difference between an IELTS 6.5 and an 8.

Specifically, to get to an 8 from a 6.5 is like running the 100 meters in 10 seconds rather than 20 seconds. Most people can run the 100 meters in under 20 seconds, but sub-10 is a whole new ball game! It’s tough and requires massive amounts of training!

IELTS coaching
Bell curve: Where do people sit? 

First, your vocabulary has to increase MASSIVELY. An IELTS 6.5 writer would probably know about 10,000 English words. That’s heaps, right? Well, that’s about a third of what a well educated native English speaker knows. So, to estimate, an IELTS 8 writer would know and be able to use about 25,000 words in comparison. That’s more than twice as many words as the 6.5er.

Not only that, but the grammatical differences between an 8 scorer and a 6.5er are significant. While the 8 scorer makes the ‘odd’ grammatical with complex stuff, the 6.5er is making LOTS of errors, and probably making lots of common errors such as PUTTING “S” ON THE END OF PLURAL NOUNS!

In terms of structure, the 8 scorer would have a far more logically connected essay, whereby the introduction flows into paragraph 1, and into paragraph 2 and into the conclusion which then links back to the two paragraphs and back to the conclusion.

This would all be done ‘effortlessly’ like you are reading a very well written news article. A 6.5er, by contrast, would probably be writing a bit of a ‘clunky’ essay. It kind of connects, but it kind of doesn’t as well.

The IELTS examiners, for your interest, have a marking tool upon which they base their decision to give you a 6.5 or an 8. It’s not ‘arbitrary’. It’s not ‘guesswork’. They have a framework where they mark you according to:

  • VOCABULARY
  • GRAMMAR
  • STRUCTURE

And whether or not you wrote ON TOPIC.

Contained within each of these criteria are little descriptions such as: Can use collocations.

Can you use collocations? Do you know what they are?

Collocations are a type of vocabulary which you can think of as a ‘natural sounding phrase’ such as an adjective noun combination like “major reason” or “overall well-being”. These are the same phrases that native-speakers use all the time.

In other words, a 6.5er would use English words while an 8 scorer would use ‘natural’ words… or combinations of natural words that sound NORMAL to a native speaker not Google translated.

To put this all into context, it might FEEL unfair when you receive a 6.5 but ask yourself: How good am I compared to a native speaker? Because that’s who you are ultimately being scored against. Your average native English speaker — without preparation — would probably receive an 8 and with some preparation would probably receive an 8.5 or 9.

Making the stretch from 6.5 to 8 is not easy; it’s challenging. There are so many little details in language that can make the difference. And do you know what will help you to achieve an 8? Expert feedback. I can’t stress this enough for IELTS coaching.

2. Taking your IELTS in a non-native English speaking country makes it easier

IELTS Speaking is done via humans… “What?”, you ask… “Humans?!” That’s right. IELTS robots don’t exist just yet. In the meantime, you’re going to have to talk to a human on test day. And you know what? Humans are BIASED. Yes they are. Countless scientific studies have shown just how biased we are. We pre-judge based on just about any characteristic – hair cut, hair colour, hair length, curly hair, straight hair, dyed hair, bald! We are judgmental machines and we do it effortlessly and immediately.

IELTS coaching
Unlike the PTE, your IELTS examiner won’t be a computer!

So what should you do if you live in a country where English is the first language? Because surely it would be more competitive than taking the test where English is poorly spoken.

I know a terrible idea: Take your IELTS test overseas. It’ll cost you at least $2,000 and you know what? The IELTS examiners will use the same set of criteria – or marking tool – that they do in the country which you just left.

That’s right… just like the writing, the IELTS examiners have a guide in front of them that breaks down your speaking into four categories:

1. VOCABULARY
2. GRAMMAR
3. PRONUNCIATION
4. FLUENCY

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, that guide — those criteria — doesn’t change. And HOPEFULLY, the IELTS examiner’s opinion of your speaking — not you — will not change. Be friendly, but know that there are guidelines for your speaking.

You know what you could spend your money on instead of taking a week off work, paying $300 for the same test overseas, accommodation, food and flights? Get some expert speaking feedback from one of the trained IELTS coaching teachers at E2Language!

3. Tick ‘other’ when you register for IELTS so they don’t know what score you want

This is the newest one I’ve heard and the most interesting, not because it’s true or even really plausible but just plain silly. Apparently, if you tick ‘other’ when registering for IELTS then they don’t know what score you need and will be more generous when dishing out the grades. The funny thing is, the examiners never see this information anyway, so it really doesn’t determine anything. It’s just collected data for IELTS to use in whichever way they see fit.

Unless the 1000s of IELTS examiners located around the world are all in on the scam?!

I doubt it very much. But I am interested to see what you think.

What I think is going on from my experience IELTS coaching, is people are frustrated because IELTS don’t provide any indication of where you might have gone wrong on your writing or speaking and that sucks. It would be great to know WHY you scored so poorly in writing, right? Or what you did wrong in speaking? That would be great; but for that to happen IELTS would have to increase the price of the test substantially so that the examiners could return it with comments.

Imagine if IELTS examiners gave your essay back with comments illustrating what you did right and what you did wrong?

That’s called FEEDBACK people, and we offer IELTS coaching in the form of written assessments and expert tutorials and that’s what will get you the elusive IELTS 8.

Be sure to watch the E2 IELTS YouTube channel for IELTS coaching videos on IELTS Writing Task 2: 

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!



Written by Jay.  

IELTS Speaking Preparation Overview | Tips & Topics for IELTS success!

This article on IELTS speaking preparation explores the 3 parts of the IELTS speaking section and provides a list of IELTS topics along with useful tips for test day! 

The speaking section of the IELTS test is included in both the general and academic IELTS. It lasts for less than 15 minutes and includes 3 parts which will be examined in more detail:

Part 1: Interview

Part 2: Presentation

Part 3: Discussion

Interview (IELTS speaking preparation)

In part 1, the examiner will ask you some simple questions about yourself, such as:

  • What did you study?
  • What do you do for work?
  • What’s your hometown like?
  • What kind of food do you like?
  • Do you enjoy going to the movies?

As you can see from these examples, these questions are pretty easy to answer. The trick is, not to give answers that are too short.

For example, if the examiner asks you what kind of food you like, try to elaborate. Rather than just saying: “I like all kinds of food”, you can say something like: “I have eclectic taste in food. I enjoy trying foods from different countries and experiencing their flavours. I especially like Greek, Italian and Thai food”.

Presentation (IELTS speaking preparation)

In part 2, you will be given a task card that looks something like this:

ielts speaking preparation

As you can see from the example, the topic will always be related to a personal experience you have had. You will have 1 minute to note down ideas and then you will be given 2 minutes to speak continuously on the topic.

Discussion (IELTS speaking preparation)

Part 3 is a discussion.

Here, the examiner will ask you some more questions related to the topic of part 2. But these questions will be more abstract and related to your opinion rather than your experience.

For example, based on the topic above, some discussion questions could be:

  • In your opinion, are national celebrations an important part of a country’s identity?
  • Are any traditional celebrations in your country disappearing? Why do you think that is?
  • Do you think these days that celebrations in your country are over-commercialised or have lost their original meaning?

IELTS speaking topics

There are common themes in IELTS speaking topics, though the specifics of each question vary.

See a list of common themes below!

ielts speaking preparation

The examiner is looking for four things:

#1 Fluency and coherence: Your ability to speak fluently without hesitation, repetition or loss of ideas

#2 Lexical resource: The range and accuracy of your vocabulary

#3 Grammatical range and accuracy: Your ability to speak using accurate complex and simple sentences without serious grammatical errors

#4 Pronunciation: Your ability to be understood when you speak

IELTS Speaking Test Tips

Below are some useful tips for test-day preparation:

Tip #1  Develop your answers by giving examples. This means using personal experiences or knowledge to add more information to your answers and keep your speech fluid.

Tip #2  Give your opinion. This will show the examiner that you can think in English and express yourself on a variety of topics.

Tip #3  Keep your speech fluent. Try to stick to things you know so you don’t get stuck. This will also show the examiner that you can speak at length without too much hesitation.

Tip #4  Ask for clarification. This is not a listening test. If you don’t hear a question, or don’t understand it, it is totally acceptable to ask the examiner to repeat or explain the question. This means you will be able to answer it properly.

Tip #5  Although you need to be prepared, try not to repeat memorized answers. You will come across as robotic and unnatural. The examiner will also know and will change the questions.

Before test-day:

Tip #6  Practice, practice, practice! Role play at home with a friend or family member. Let them be the examiner and you practice answering questions about a variety of different topics. You can also record yourself and listen back to see where you can improve (fluency, vocabulary, etc.).

Tip #7  Read about general topics to broaden your general knowledge. This will help you generate ideas during the test and come up with examples from your own knowledge and experience.

This will have the widening your vocabulary for reading, as well as giving you knowledge that you can then use to generate ideas for your essay. So, read a blog or social media article per day, or watch at least one Ted talk or documentary daily on the topics listed above.

Find further IELTS preparation tips and strategies here

Check out the E2 IELTS YouTube Channel, with loads of methods and strategies including this one on IELTS speaking preparation! 

For more formal test preparation, professional IELTS coaching from experts will help you apply the essay formula to different essay questions. Feedback is another important aspect of preparing for the IELTS writing task.

Learning IELTS online with E2language will provide you with effective methods, practice essays and expert feedback to feel confident and prepared to write your IELTS essay.

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

 

Written by Jamal A. 

 

Olga’s Amazing IELTS Success Story

The following IELTS success story was written by one of our fantastic E2Language IELTS students, Olga. Her story is inspirational and it makes us very proud to have been a part of her journey to IELTS success! Congratulations Olga, and thank you for sharing your story with us!

My life before I became a free and then a paid member of E2Language preparation course can simply be summarized in 3 lines:

  • 4 failed IELTS attempts;
  • 3 failed TOEFL attempts;
  • 1 failed PTE attempt.

Yes, I managed to score all 7s and above in one of the IELTS exams, which many people consider to be a huge success. However, it was a failure in my case because I didn’t get the required 8s in each section to follow my dream and immigrate to Australia. Obviously, I was very upset, and it was clear that I needed to change my preparation strategy in order to finally achieve my so much desired result and become an IELTS success story.

IELTS Success Story
There are a lot of factors that may have affected Olga’s scores. Whatever the reasons, she clearly needed a more effective preparation plan.

Back then, I wanted to give the PTE another try even though my speaking score was extremely low compared to the IELTS one. I knew that I was not the only person facing such a problem, and people on the immigration forum recommended me to join E2Language webinars with a teacher named Jay. No matter how positive their feedback was, I was yet very skeptical for a number of reasons. There were so many English teachers in my life, from those who said I was already too old to pass any language test with the desired score to those who were only interested in me constantly paying for their “invaluable” lessons.

Being naturally curious, I decided to attend one of the webinars with Jay to see if they really were that helpful as people described them. One day I told my boss that I needed to leave work earlier, went home, opened my laptop, downloaded zoom, clicked on the webinar link…and this is where IELTS success story with E2Language started.

Beginning the Pathway to IELTS Success

First of all, I was very impressed with how professionally Jay was dressed up for a free webinar with people he didn’t even know. For many students, it doesn’t really matter how a teacher on the Internet looks as long as he or she provides the service they are being paid for. For me, it was one of the signs that the teacher I was looking at was a well-educated professional who did really want to help me and others without wasting our time while making us feel like we were in the real classroom.

Secondly, I was even more impressed with how easy it became for me to nail one of the most difficult PTE tasks, Fill-in the blanks, using the tips Jay gave us. Moreover, he didn’t mind explaining the same thing over and over again, giving us feedback, answering our questions during the webinar and sharing his own experience of sitting the PTE test a couple of months ago. Who wouldn’t like to join the E2Language course after that?

Becoming an E2Language Member After a Failure

Despite being fascinated with what I saw and learnt at this webinar, I didn’t become an E2Language member. Why? The answer was quite simple. I was already stupid enough to book my next PTE exam before attending a webinar with Jay. What is more, my exam was in 2 or 3 days after the webinar, and I didn’t have enough time to prepare anyway because of work. Let me add one little detail to what I’ve just said. I also booked another IELTS exam…the day after my PTE test.

Wondering how it all went for me? Well, the result was quite predictable. I failed both the PTE and the IELTS exams. Again. I know that life is not always sunshine and rainbows but I didn’t understand why I was chosen to be the one struggling so much for my place under the sun, the Australian sun. Yet I never wanted to give up on my dream and was always ready to fight. After thinking for a while, I emailed Jay to discuss what the best thing for me to do was. He suggested trying the IELTS one more time as my result was already very close to the desired one. I listened to him carefully and finally became a free member of the E2Language course.

IELTS Success Story
Failing the PTE & IELTS yet again was the final straw that finally pushed Olga to become an E2Language member!

I practiced a lot. I attended all free IELTS webinars, all Core skills and even PTE webinars. I watched them all again and again. I was also reading a lot and listening to the radio non-stop. Believe it or not, I went to bed every single day with the headphones in my ears listening to something in English while sleeping. Crazy times but I really wanted to succeed!

However, what I had to face was another failure. Why again? I blamed it on the flu I had on the exam day. It was a less hurtful explanation for me than admitting that my preparation strategy simply didn’t work. I felt miserable, I couldn’t stop crying and it was like I didn’t know English at all. Telling myself that I was aiming for one of the highest possible results didn’t help much as my confidence at that point of time was very low. At the same time, I didn’t want to find a different teacher to help me score higher.

That’s why I decided to become a paid E2Language member instead and finally stepped on the right path towards my success.

How Paid Preparation was Key in Olga’s IELTS Success Story:

Another three months of preparation went pretty fast. I had two tutorials with Jay, and he was always very supportive. I struggled to score 8s for both speaking and writing as my highest scores were always 7.5. I knew that Jay didn’t score above 8 for the IELTS writing in his first try. In fact, he has never been shy about admitting that (though, he wasn’t happy about it!). His score didn’t scare me away though, and we continued to work together finding the best way to pass the exam.

I had to practice so much that for some time it was a real challenge for me to speak Russian. I was thinking in English, dreaming in English and even talking to my parents in English because I really wanted to win my last battle against the IELTS.

April 28th and 29th were my exam dates. When you have to sit the IELTS for the 6th time, it’s becoming quite discouraging. You know the format well and you know what to expect on your test day. However, there were still so many challenges I had to face during my last attempt, from sitting in a stuffy classroom for 3 straight hours to feeling absolutely helpless during the reading section because the questions were too difficult.

I was very concentrated at the exam and tried to do my best but I still wasn’t sure if I could manage to score high.13 days later was the happiest day of my life when I found out that I finally passed the test with the desired marks.

They were as follows:

Listening 8.5

Reading 9.0

Writing 8.0

Speaking 8.0

Overall 8.5

IELTS Success Story
Here is Olga with her final IELTS scores!

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the result. I’ve taken so many screenshots of it as a proof that I’m not a loser who always fails English tests. I was really proud of myself and I still am. My last result was my IELTS success story as a student, and Jay’s and the whole E2Language team success story too; not only as English teachers but also as the biggest supporters and motivators on my extremely hard journey to success.

In numbers, my IELTS success story looks like this:

  • 6 IELTS attempts;
  • 3 TOEFL attempts;
  • 2 PTE attempts;
  • 2 times I had to travel overseas to take the IELTS;
  • 2 times I had to travel overseas to take the PTE;
  • 10 failures;
  • 1 success.

It all cost me a lot as well. As you can see, I was quite hesitant to become a paid member because I had already spent tons of money on preparation with different tutors, and it didn’t pay off.

Now I have to admit that buying the E2Language preparation package was the best investment in my success. I could’ve saved so much time and money and become an IELTS success story sooner if I had stopped being stubborn and joined the course earlier! I have no regrets though as the whole “how to pass the IELTS” process has made me so much stronger.

People usually ask about tips and tricks to pass a particular exam. Mine are very short and simple:

  1. Never give up on your dream;
  2. Always believe in yourself;
  3. Find a perfect teacher/source to prepare;
  4. Practice a lot.

Never believe those who say that not all stories have a happy ending. Each story is different. Don’t fight alone. My example shows that the road to success gets much easier once you share it with the truly amazing E2Language team!

Do you want to become and E2Language IELTS success story?

 

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

Written by: Olga

IELTS Preparation: Tips and Strategies | How to Ace the IELTS!

Entering your IELTS exam after adequate preparation is a key component for achieving IELTS success. Start preparing for your IELTS by learning some crucial tips and strategies on how to ace the IELTS! 

So, how do you prepare to ace the IELTS? Check out 5 important tips below and apply our effective strategies to your IELTS preparation! 

ace the ielts

Tip #1 Be realistic about your IELTS preparation 

Taking the IELTS doesn’t have to be scary even though a lot can depend on your success in this high-stakes test. Test preparation doesn’t have to be long, boring, frustrating or exhausting. There are many ways you can prepare to achieve success, after all, preparation is the number one key if you want to ace the IELTS.

Allocate 4 weeks study time 

Firstly, allow yourself a decent amount of time – at least four weeks of devoted study. Spend a couple of days learning the test format. You will really understand the different parts of the test, what’s included, and the timing of each section. This will help you know what to expect on test-day.

Tip #2 Learn the test format  

Knowing the structure of the test format will ensure that you can prepare adequately for each section on the test. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Listening:
  • 30 minutes
  • 4 audio recordings
  • 40 questions
Reading:
  • 60 minutes
  • 4 passages (academic) 3 passages (general)
  • 40 questions
Writing:
  • 60 minutes
  • Task 1: 150 words (20 minutes)
  • Letter (general) – Describe chart/graph (academic)
  • Task 2: 250 words (40 minutes)
  • Essay (general and academic)
Speaking:
  • 11-14 minutes
  • Part 1: Interview (personal information)
  • Part 2: Short presentation (2 minutes)
  • Part 3: Discussion

Allocate formal study time each day to learn methods and apply them to practice. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the types of questions you will encounter in the test. These are very specific to the IELTS, so practice is necessary.

Tip #3 Do some timed practice

Time-management during the test is another major key to achieving a successful result. Once you have learned the parts of the test, and practiced the methods, do some timed practice. Allow yourself 50 minutes to read 3-4 articles and answer 40 questions.

Learn the writing formulas that are very specific to the IELTS. Then, practice writing a letter or chart description in 20 minutes and an essay in 40 minutes. Have a native speaker or an English teacher look over them and give you some feedback.

Practice the three parts of the speaking test. Role-playing with a friend is a good way to do this. This way, you can experience what it’s like to answer questions, create a short presentation, and speak spontaneously about different topics. You need to know you can do all of this before the day of the test to have confidence in your ability to speak, read and write in the allocated time.

Tip #4 Practice topics of interest 

Conduct your own casual study your by reading English articles or listening to English video clips; a great way to enhance much-needed reading and listening skills as well as vocabulary. You can do this on the train on the way to work or school, or on your lunch break, or anytime you have free. Remember, this doesn’t have to be boring!

Find an interesting podcast, or listen to YouTube videos or Ted.com talks on a range of different topics. You might read English articles in magazines or on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. The topic doesn’t matter. As long as you read! It’s always best to stick with something you find interesting, as that’s the best way to actually learn.

How to Ace the IELTS … Read a variety of articles

ace the IELTS

Tip #5 Practice your core English skills

Broaden your writing skills by writing a short summary of what you’ve read or heard. Try to identify the main idea of the reading or talk and think of three main points the writer or speaker mentioned and summarize them. This will help with your paraphrasing skills, vocabulary development, and ability to read and listen critically which are important skills for IELTS success.

Put theory into practice and integrate speaking by talking to your friends or colleagues about something interesting you read about or heard. Tell them what it was about, describe some interesting points, and explain why you found it interesting. This helps you to think spontaneously in English and to incorporate vocabulary that you read or heard. Speaking in a conversational manner helps you to generate ideas, and that is a very useful skill for the IELTS writing and speaking.

For more IELTS Study Tips, try our E2 IELTS YouTube Channel, with loads of methods and strategies including this one on IELTS speaking: How to get an IELTS 9! 

All the best on your road to IELTS success!

To ace the IELTS, register and attend the E2Language IELTS General and Academic Live Classes. And check out E2Language’s Blog to practice IELTS activities

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

 

Written by Jamal.

IELTS Writing Topics & Essay Structure | IELTS Writing Task 2

Passing the IELTS Writing Task can be tough! Here you’ll find some useful IELTS writing topics plus a consistent essay formula that will help structure your essay and paragraphs. 

IELTS Writing Task 2: An overview

The essay writing task is included in both the general and academic IELTS. You will have 40 minutes to write a 250-word response to an essay question. Your essay should include four paragraphs (an introduction, two body paragraphs and a conclusion).

Although there is a consistent essay formula that will help you to structure your essay and paragraphs, you need to be aware of the different types of essay questions there are. The way you use the formula will differ according to the type of question.

IELTS Essay Structure

A typical essay structure looks like this:

IELTS writing topics. preparation, essay structure
It is important to have a planned essay structure for responding to the IELTS writing topics.

You can use this to answer any essay question type, but your essay must be tailor made for the question type.

IELTS Writing Question Types

Below is a list of six of the most common essay question types:

Agree/disagree

The agree/disagree essay question gives you a topic and asks if you agree or disagree with an idea related to that topic. For example:

Less and less parents these days are smacking their children. Some people think that this is leading to a generation of misbehaved children. Do you agree or disagree with this view?

This question is related to the topic of smacking children. The idea that not smacking is actually a bad thing. The question is asking if you agree with that idea. Your essay will have to answer that question by giving your opinion and then explaining why with supporting ideas and examples.

Advantage/disadvantage

The advantage/disadvantage essay question gives you a topic, and then asks you to discuss the advantages and disadvantages. A sample advantage/disadvantage essay question looks like this:

Some graduates prefer to travel for a year between graduation and gaining full-time employment. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this.

Here you will need to present both sides of the argument (one per paragraph) with supporting ideas and examples for each.

Discuss both views

The discuss both views question gives you two views or opinions related to a topic and asks you to discuss both. For example:

Some people think it’s the government’s responsibility to tackle environmental issues. Others believe it is up to each individual to be environmentally responsible. Discuss both sides.

Here you need to spend one body paragraph on each opinion, giving explanations and examples for why people may hold each view.

Discuss both views and give your opinion

The discuss both views and give your opinion question is very similar, but instead of just asking you to discuss two views, it also asks you to state which one you agree with. For example:

Some people think it’s better to educate boys and girls in separate schools. However, others believe that boys and girls benefit more from attending the same school. Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

In response to this essay question, you’d need to discuss both opinions (one in each paragraph) and give explanations and examples to support each one. You’d also have to say which one you agree with. You can do that within the body paragraph.

Problem/solution

The problem/solution essay question presents you with an issue which you need to discuss and then provide possible solutions for. For example:

The overpopulation of urban areas has led to numerous problems. Identify one or two serious ones and suggest ways that governments can tackle these problems.

Here you would talk about the problems caused by overpopulation in the first body paragraph, and suggest some government-led solutions in the second body paragraph.

Double question

In the double question essay, you’re actually asked two questions, and you need to make sure you answer both. For example:

Today more people are travelling than ever before. Why is this the case? What are the benefits of travelling for the traveller?

Here you have two questions to answer. 1. Why are people travelling more than before. 2. What are the benefits of travelling. You should spend one paragraph on answering each question.

IELTS Writing Topics

There are common themes in IELTS writing topics, though the specifics of each question vary. Common themes include:

IELTS writing topics

The best way to be ready to write about these topics is to be familiar with them. You will need to generate ideas during the test and come up with examples from your own knowledge and experience.

This is why you should read about general topics to broaden your general knowledge. This will have the double effect of widening your vocabulary and reading skills as well as giving you knowledge that you can then use to generate ideas for your essay.

So, read a blog or social media article or watch a Ted talk and documentary per day on the IELTS writing topics listed above.

For more formal test preparation, professional IELTS coaching from experts will help you apply the essay formula to different essay questions. Feedback is another important aspect of preparing for the IELTS writing task.

Learning IELTS online with E2language will provide you with effective methods, practice essays and expert feedback to feel confident and prepared to write your IELTS essay.

Be sure to watch the E2 IELTS YouTube channel for videos on IELTS Writing Task 2: 

To boost your preparation for IELTS, register and attend the E2Language IELTS General and Academic Live Classes. And check out E2Language’s Blog to practice IELTS activities

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

 

Written by: Jamal 

 

IELTS Study Tips: How to prepare for IELTS Success

There are many ways to prepare for the IELTS. It can seem like a daunting task, but we’re going to give you some helpful IELTS study tips to help you refine your study habits.

#7 IELTS Study Tips

Tip #1 You must focus on building your Core English Skills

A major mistake some IELTS candidates make when preparing for the test is focusing only on mock tests. Many think that the more mock tests they do, the better prepared they will be. This is a misconception.

The test is skill-based, not knowledge-based. This means that each mock test you do will contain different content that you can’t study for. It’s about the quality of your skills, and not the quantity of your mock tests.

Language (and all its parts) is a skill. So, you need to learn reading skills, writing skills, listening skills and speaking skills. You can’t approach building your language skills the same way when you do mock tests. Although familiarity with the test format is half the battle, don’t underestimate the need to develop your language skills.

So, find a good English teacher, take an English course and immerse yourself in the language through books, newspapers, music and movies. Find some English-speaking friends and organise an English only conversation club. The more natural the language becomes to you, the more comfortable you are going to feel in the test.

For practice on your language skills, try our E2 Core Skills YouTube Channel to build your Core English Skills for IELTS in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

IELTS Study Tips: Focus on building your overall language skills!

IELTS Study Tips
Learn 7 IELTS Study Tips for success!

Tip #2 Learn from your weaknesses 

Learning from your mistakes and being conscious of your habits and weaknesses is an important step towards success. As a teacher, I have given written feedback to students who have then submitted another writing sample with the same mistakes!

Take your time to really understand your errors. Are they related to spelling? If so, then practice writing these misspelled words correctly. Are your errors related to verb tense? Then go back and re-learn verb tenses and how to use them correctly. Are your errors related to vocabulary? You get my point. Take your mistakes as opportunities to recognize them, correct them and avoid making them again.

Tip #3 Structure your essay writing

Develop your writing skills by learning how to structure an essay paragraph by paragraph. Practice reading and understanding essay questions. It is easy to go off topic or not directly answer the question. Also, read many different sample essay questions and write sample responses.

The more practice you get writing responses to different IELTS essay questions, the more comfortable you will feel with various topics. Be careful not to memorize sample essays. I have seen many candidates make this mistake. Even if you get the same or similar topic in the test, the focus of the question will be different and therefore the answer will have to specifically address the question.

IELTS examiners know how to spot memorized essays and they will give zero no matter how well written it is. It’s also important to practice handwriting 250 words in timed conditions. Your handwriting must the neat and legible. So, if you don’t feel comfortable with writing by hand, then this is a skill you definitely need to practice!

Tip #4 Practice your speaking

The same goes with speaking. Practice as many sample speaking tests with a friend. Become comfortable speaking about yourself and your experiences. You can have some general answers pre-prepared related to your basic information related to the first part of the test, but this should come out as spontaneous and natural.

Also remember to avoid memorizing presentations for part 2. The examiner will know if you are repeating memorized answers. Remember, you are speaking about yourself, your experiences and your opinion. So try to do this on a daily basis before the exam. Even if it means speaking to yourself!

Tip #5 Read a diverse range of articles 

Read up on general topics such as news, current affairs, science, climate change, animals, history, economics, sociology, etc. The more you read, the more familiar you will become with new vocabulary in context.

IELTS Study Tips
Collect a ‘swipe file’ on articles of interest on different topics.

This help you expand your knowledge of English and feel more comfortable with the reading passages in the test. If you are doing IELTS academic, but have never read an academic passage until the day of the test, you might be in trouble. So, use sites like National Geographic, the Economist, the New Internationalist and Science Daily to become and academic reader.

Tip #6 Learn native-like fluency

Become comfortable with different accents and pronunciation by listening to podcasts and Ted talks. Not only can this help you understand different accents, but is also a great way to expose yourself to new vocabulary and different interesting topics. Remember, the broader your general language and general knowledge, the more comfortable you will be with the language and topics in the test.

Tip #7 Know the test tips and strategies

Finally, learn the test tips and strategies and apply them to practice tests. This will help you learn how to manage your time and how to use it effectively to complete each section of the test. One key to success in the test comes down to time-management and test tricks, but this will only take you so far on the road to success if your language skills aren’t up to scratch!

Take time to learn the parts of the test individually. For example, understand the reading test – how many passages there are, how long they are, how many questions there are, the types of questions there are, etc. All of this will help you to know how to manage your time. Learning the question types will also help you to have no surprises on test-day. Once you feel comfortable answering True, False, Not Given questions for example, then you won’t be afraid of them when you see them on test-day.

For more IELTS Study Tips, try our E2 IELTS YouTube Channel, with loads of methods and strategies including this one on IELTS Speaking!

To boost your preparation for IELTS, register and attend the E2Language IELTS General and Academic Live Classes. And check out E2Language’s Blog to practice IELTS activities

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

 

Written by: Jamal 

IELTS Listening Tips: How to Boost your Score!

Having the right amount of IELTS preparation is critical for your success. In this article, Jamal provides some crucial IELTS listening tips to improve your score! 

IELTS Listening Tips: An Overview

There are four parts to the IELTS listening test. Each part is about a different topic and gets increasingly more difficult.

The first audio is usually an informal dialogue in a social or everyday situation. For example, a conversation about opening a bank account, or someone inquiring about accommodation or a training course.

The second audio is usually a non-academic monologue. This could be one person giving information on something such as a guided museum tour, information about a conference or tourist information.

The third audio is usually a discussion (between 3-4 people) related to education/training. This may be a discussion between 2 students and a tutor about a group assignment, or among a group of students talking about a project.

The fourth and final audio is usually a university style lecture. This could be related to any academic topic.

Remember to speak to the examiner immediately if you’re having audio problems! 

IELTS listening tips
Listen carefully to the audio sounds, if you cannot hear the audio well, you might need to invest in some bigger ears!

Summary of the Listening Test

  1.  Part 1 – Social context (2 speakers)
  2.  Part 2 – Social context (1 speaker)
  3.  Part 3 – Education/training (2-4 speakers)
  4.  Part 4 – Academic context (1 speaker)

No specialist subject knowledge is necessary. All the answers you need will be provided in the recordings.

The total test time is 40 minutes: 30 minutes of listening, and 10 minutes to transfer your answers from the test sheet onto the answer sheet. There will be 40 questions in total.

Helpful Hints for IELTS Listening

The IELTS listening answer sheet is a very important piece of paper! Your listening scores are calculated according you what you have written on your answer sheet. Therefore, you must make sure you have completed your answer sheet before the end of the time allocated and filled it in correctly!

When transferring your answers from your test booklet to your answer sheet, there are some important things to consider.

Hint #1 Grammar

Incorrect grammar will cost you points. So, be careful with things like plural and singular nouns. There may be clues such as an indefinite article in front of the blank space for the answer which would indicate the answer is a singular noun. Also, be careful with tenses and subject/verb agreement. If the answer is second person singular, don’t forget the ‘s’ at the end of the noun.

Take care with verb tenses. An incorrect noun form or verb tense will be considered an incorrect answer (even if your answer is right!). Capitalization of proper nouns is also important. For example, names of countries, cities or geographical locations (among other things) must be capitalized. For example, if you write “Australia” as “australia” your answer will be marked as incorrect.

Hint #2 Spelling

The same goes for spelling. Incorrect spelling will be marked as an incorrect answer. So, take care.

Hint #3 Handwriting

Although you may feel rushed for time, handwriting is important. If the examiner cannot read what you have written, it will be marked incorrect.

Hint #4 Use all capitals

If you have messy handwriting, or aren’t sure which words you need to capitalize, it might be safer to write your answers in all CAPITALS. For one, words written in all capitals are usually neater and easier to read. Also, you don’t have to worry about losing marks for not capitalizing a word that needs to be capitalized.

Our E2 IELTS YouTube Channel has some useful IELTS Listening tips, including this one:

IELTS Listening Tips

Here are some important IELTS listening tips to remember:

Tip #1: You will be given some time to read the questions before each recording is played. Read the questions very carefully as you will hear each recording only once, so you want to be familiar with the questions before you hear the recording

Tip #2: As you listen, write your answers in your test booklet and then transfer them at the end of the listening test. You will be given 10 minutes to do this. Be sure to check that you have transferred your answers correctly and remember to check your spelling and grammar. Also, be sure to complete your answer sheet. An incomplete answer sheet means and incomplete score.

Tip #3: Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything you hear. Listen out for the keywords from the questions and focus on what you need to be listening out for.

Tip #4: If you miss a question, don’t dwell on it because you may miss the answer to the next one. So, if you miss one, move on.

Tip #5: Make sure you follow the word count in the instructions of each question. For example, if the instructions say “write no more than one word” and you write “the train” instead of “train”, your answer will be marked as incorrect.

Tip #6: There is no negative marking, so you will just get a zero for an incorrect or incomplete answer.

Tip #7: Always cross check your answers from your answer sheet to your listening booklet.

The IELTS Listening and Reading Test Sheet

IELTS Listening Tips
See this sample of the IELTS Listening and Reading answer sheet from the British Council.

To do well in the IELTS Listening Test, register and attend the E2Language IELTS General and Academic Live Classes. And check out the E2Language Blog IELTS activities for more practice!

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

 

Written by Jamal A.

The Impossible IELTS: My IELTS Writing Test Disaster

I have a very embarrassing story to tell you about the IELTS writing test. I just received my IELTS Academic results after a 13 day wait and around 32 years of preparation. But before I tell you what my results are, let me tell you a bit about myself.

A little bit about Jay from E2Language (me!)

My name is Jay and I’m a native English speaker; I was born and raised in an English speaking household in Australia.

IELTS Writing Test
This is me!

I have always had a passion for language. I read hungrily as a child. When I graduated from high school I was top of my class in English. I studied English literature in my undergraduate degree where I read the classics. I received a teaching diploma in English and last year I graduated with a masters degree with first class honours in applied linguistics from the University of Melbourne – a top ranked university with a top 10 linguistics program in the world – where I now give annual guest lectures. While studying for my masters degree I also published peer-reviewed academic literature on English language learning.

Importantly, I have taught English for nine years at high schools and universities in Australia and overseas and now I teach online for E2Language – arguably the world’s most sophisticated online English test preparation website. Some of my IELTS and PTE Webinars have reached over 100,000 viewers, received excellent reviews and have helped thousands of people from around the world pass their English exams.

I failed the IELTS writing test

Despite all of my training, education and passion for the English language, I failed the IELTS writing test. (Well… that’s not exactly true because you can’t really ‘fail’ the IELTS, but I feel like I’ve failed.) I scored 6.5. While I was very surprised I was not that worried because luckily for me — and perhaps unlike you — my immediate future does not depend on this result. I took the IELTS because I am an English teacher who wanted to have the experience of doing the test, to gain valuable insights into the test and to ‘put myself in your shoes’, so to speak, so I can help you to pass your test more easily and more quickly.

Hmmm, that’s awkward.

It would be even more awkward had I not taken the PTE Academic three months earlier. In that test I scored a perfect 90, or 100%, in writing, which I consider to be a true reflection of my abilities.

Here’s my PTE-A report card:

My PTE Academic report card where I scored a perfect 90 in all the skills including writing:

IELTS Writing Test
My PTE Academic Scores

How the IELTS writing test affected my confidence

If the IELTS Academic were the only measurement of my English abilities then I think my confidence would now be destroyed. Could I continue to teach English, for example? I can only imagine the damage a disappointing English grade would do to a non-native English speaker’s self-confidence especially if they were planning to move to an English speaking country to start a new job or to enter university or to speak with the locals. To learn a second language is to always be unsure because it’s unnatural. And to be told that you are substandard would hurt a lot, I imagine, because we trust the validity of the results we receive from credible institutions such as Cambridge University or Pearson.

I don’t want you to think that the PTE Academic is the better or easier test though. That’s not my point. Indeed, my colleague, who is a native English speaker with a native Canadian accent scored poorly on the speaking section due to – we believe – a technological fault, which you can read about in her PTE speaking test article. She has since taken it again and scored a perfect PTE 90 but there was certainly an issue there.

By now you’re probably thinking that perhaps Jay didn’t prepare properly for his IELTS or that Jay probably doesn’t understand the IELTS marking criteria. Firstly, I did prepare; as I said, I’ve been preparing for 32 years and I understand full well what the IELTS writing test criteria are.

Hmmm, the criteria are actually a great place to begin to understand what may have gone wrong and I’m sorry to bore you but this is absolutely critical. If you don’t understand the criteria, you should – they are what the examiners look for in your writing.

Here are the criteria and why I struggle to accept that I scored so poorly on each:

Task Achievement: This means “Did you describe the graph accurately (in Task 1)?” and “Did you write about the essay topic (in Task 2)?” The answer to both of these questions is without a doubt. I am utterly convinced that my graph description was very accurate and my essay was completely on the money.

Lexical Resource: This means “word choice”. I believe that I was articulate and meaningful throughout both tasks. My word choices were precise and purposeful.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy: This means “grammar”. I have always thought – at least until now – that my grammar was perfect. How could I possibly have lost a single point here? After all I am acutely aware of subject-verb agreement, prepositional phrases and unclear antecedents. I wrote both short, simple sentences and longer, more complex sentences.

Coherence and Cohesion: This means “Did you structure your graph description and essay well?” While my graph description was perfectly structured (I am supremely confident of that), I must admit something to you…

My IELTS Writing Test Confession

In the essay, I wrote below the word count and I sat there for ten minutes thinking how easy it was to write that essay. 10 minutes before the hour was up, I glanced at the piece of paper which I had filled from top to bottom and thought my job was done. Then I looked more closely and saw the instruction “You must write at least 250 words.” I assumed that my essay was over 250 words but I thought I’d better check. My blood pressure shot up as I did some rough math. My estimate came to 187 words. I needed at least another 63 words! And I only had ten minutes left! I needed to write another paragraph and I needed to do it fast. All of a sudden the fact that I was a native English speaker with extensive experience studying and teaching English became completely irrelevant. I were one of you and the test became very real.

However, I’m good under pressure. Strangely, I’ve always liked exams. Where some people freeze, other people fly and that’s what I did. I whipped up another relevant and logical paragraph that fitted neatly into my essay and I drew a big arrow to it on the other page.

Could this formatting issue have been my downfall? Did the examiner see a big arrow and presume that I was a 6.5 despite the fact that my essay was entirely logical from beginning to end, paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, word to word, first capital letter to final full stop? Did the examiner see the arrow and then doubt my Task 1? Did the examiner see the arrow and lose faith in my grammar, vocabulary and topical relevance?

There are some other broader possibilities of why I failed that are worth considering:

Illegible handwriting – the examiner couldn’t read your writing.

While my handwriting is not particularly “neat”, it is legible. In fact, I tested it on my colleagues at E2Language and they could all read my writing easily. (Mind you, I have not written with a grey-lead pencil since I was twelve!)

IELTS Writing Test
It’s possible (but highly unlikely!) that my handwriting was illegible to the IELTS examiner.

Word count – you didn’t write enough words.

After my little mishap, I counted every single word and both tasks were definitely within the word limits.

Formality – you wrote too informally “dude”.

That’s ridic’ ‘coz I know what’s right and wrong talkin’ in particular joints. (Actually, I took a socio-linguistics class on this.)

Too wordy – you wrote such verbose, turgid and academic prose that the poor examiner could not decipher it.

Did I? I thought it was clear and meaningful. And even if it were “verbose”, it should never be indecipherable because one would hope that the examiner were an absolute expert in the English language, right?

Incomprehensible ideas – you wrote such profound and “other-worldly” nonsense that the examiner didn’t know what you were going on about.

But… no. No. No! My ideas were straightforward and relevant.

Your ‘style’ was off – you did not write using short and long sentences or use discourse markers such as ‘however’ or ‘therefore’.

Well, this is an interesting point because what constitutes ‘good writing’ is debatable. I am indeed a lover of short sentences. I am not a fan of long winded sentences that make absolutely no sense but look incredibly amazing. And I am certainly not a fan of the overuse of discourse markers such as ‘however’ and ‘moreover’; I think they should be used sparingly. To wit, my style of writing, which is to use short sharp sentences, is backed by research in cognitive science (or so says Harvard professor Steven Pinker, the premier linguist in the world, in his most recent book).

You can find IELTS writing test lessons like this one on the E2 IELTS Youtube Channel:

My Conclusions

In conclusion… I have no idea why I scored 6.5 in IELTS writing considering that what you are reading now is how I write in real life and how I wrote in my IELTS exam. But I will say this: Let complacency be a lesson to you. Count your words! One thing that may have resulted in my 6.5 could have been that cursed arrow, which, if the case, I believe to be unfair. Subtracting 28% off an overall mark because of formatting seems over the top…

Listen: if you scored poorly on the IELTS writing test, then don’t feel bad about it. ‘It happens to the best of us’ as they say. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. But before you try again, come and speak to us about what we can do to help you out. The IELTS is an incredibly complex and challenging test. Language is a complex and challenging phenomenon! While we have our cracks, that is where our light gets in. As far as I know, we are the only organisation that requires its teachers to take these tests. We are real where others are not.

Note: I applied for an IELTS rescore and my IELTS writing test score was increased from a 6.5 to a 7.5. I plan on taking IELTS again soon so I can have another shot at an IELTS 9 on the writing test!

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Written by Jay Merlo.