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!

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

 

Written by Jay Merlo.

Paraphrasing Tips for IELTS Writing Task 2

If you’re good at paraphrasing, you’ve already got an essential skill for succeeding on IELTS writing task 2. If you’re not, we’re here to help!

What is paraphrasing?

Paraphrasing is when you take an original idea and re-write it to express the same meaning, but in a different way. This might be by changing words, word forms, sentence structure, or using synonyms. If you think this is just for writing academic papers, think again. We actually paraphrase all the time!

When you read a book, article, or watch a movie and tell your friends about it, you are paraphrasing. When you tell your friend or colleague about a conversation you had with your boss, you are paraphrasing. You are not repeating the original conversation word for word. You are giving them the main idea of the conversation using your own words.

IELTS Writing Task 2: Why do you need to paraphrase?

Paraphrasing is important to the IELTS writing task 2 because your introduction paragraph is basically a paraphrase of the essay prompt. You will need to re-write the essay prompt in your own words to introduce your essay.

Watch Jay break down the IELTS writing task 2 introduction right here:

Three ways to paraphrase for IELTS writing task 2

Before you attempt to paraphrase, you need to make sure that you understand the gist, or meaning of the paragraph. Paraphrasing is more than just changing words. Your paraphrase needs to make sense and still convey the original message. So, you should read the original text a couple of times to make sure you understand the message it conveys. Then turn the ideas over in your mind. Think of how you would express the same ideas to a friend.

Below are three techniques to paraphrase. Rather than exclusively using one of them, a good paraphrase includes all methods. 

  1. Use synonyms

Synonyms are different words that express the same or similar meaning.

For example: Interesting, fascinating, curious and amusing are all synonyms.

But! Some synonyms can have a slightly different meaning. For example, fascinating has a stronger meaning than interesting. So be careful when using synonyms. We need to make sure that the words we are using convey the same level of meaning as the original.

Example:

Original: Many people think that cars should not be allowed in city centres.

Paraphrase: Many people believe that motor vehicles should be banned in urban areas.

*Synonyms

think –> believe

cars –> motor vehicles

should not be allowed –> should be banned

city centres –> urban areas

IELTS writing task 2
More synonyms to add to your vocabulary!
  1. Change the word forms

Another way to paraphrase is to change word forms. For example, changing a noun into a verb, a verb into a noun or an adjective into a noun or vice versa.

Example:

Original: Many people find watching tennis interesting (interesting = adjective).

Paraphrase: Many people have an interest in watching tennis (interest = noun).

Example:

Original: Some people think Facebook is an invasion of privacy (invasion = noun).

Paraphrase: Some people think Facebook has invaded our privacy (has invaded = verb).

  1. Change the sentence structure

A third way to paraphrase is to change sentence structure. This could be by changing the sentence from passive to active or vice versa, or changing the order of the clauses. Let’s have a look.

Active to Passive

Original: The hurricane destroyed the city.

Paraphrase: The city was destroyed by the hurricane.

In the sentence above, the subject (the hurricane) became the object, and the object (the city) became the subject.

To be passive, we also changed the verb destroyed into past perfect (was/were + past participle).

Passive to Active

Original: The public transport system was developed by the city council.

Paraphrase: The city council developed the public transport system.

In the sentence above the subject (the public transport system) became the object, and the object (the city council) became the subject.

 Order of clauses

A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb. Some sentences can be a single clause. Some sentences can be made up of two or more clauses.

For example: It is difficult to say whether the economy will improve.

The two clauses are: It is difficult to say / whether the economy will improve.

 One way to paraphrase is by changing the order of the clauses.

For example: Whether the economy will improve, it is difficult to say.

Let’s look at another example:

Original: During the summer, many people visit the temple.

Paraphrase: Many people visit the temple during the summer.

Paraphrasing an essay prompt to write your introduction

In IELTS Writing Task 2, you write your introduction by paraphrasing the essay prompt. In order to do this, you will need to unpack, or break the essay prompt into parts. Usually, an essay prompt consists of three parts:

A general statement that introduces the topic

A specific statement that gives you the specific idea about the topic

Finally, your instructions/question

IELTS Writing Task 2
We all know that Boromir from Lord of the Rings gives the best advice…

Let’s look at an example:

Nowadays, more and more foreign students are going to English-speaking countries to learn the international language – English. It is undoubtedly true that studying English in an English-speaking country is the best way, but it is not the only way to learn it. Do you agree or disagree with the above statement?

To unpack this prompt, the first sentence is the general statement. Nowadays, more and more foreign students are going to English-speaking countries to learn the international language – English. This tells us what the essay topic is.

The second sentence is the specific statement. It is undoubtedly true that studying English in an English-speaking country is the best way, but it is not the only way to learn it. It gives an opinion about the topic.

The third sentence is the question. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement? This means you have to express your opinion on the second sentence.

So! In order to write your introduction, you need to paraphrase the three parts of this essay prompt.

Let’s look at an example of a paraphrase of each:

Sentence 1: Nowadays, more and more foreign students are going to English-speaking countries to learn the international language – English

Paraphrase: In recent times, a growing number of international students are learning English in English-speaking countries.

Sentence 2: It is undoubtedly true that studying English in an English-speaking country is the best way, but it is not the only way to learn it.

Paraphrase: Although it is beneficial to learn English in a country where it is natively spoken, there are other effective ways to learn it.

Sentence 3: To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement?

Paraphrase: I agree with this statement to a large degree.

Putting it all together:

Original (essay prompt): Nowadays, more and more foreign students are going to English-Speaking countries to learn the “international language – English”. It is undoubtedly true that studying English in an English-speaking country is the best way, but it is not the only way to learn it. Do you agree or disagree with the above statement? 

Paraphrase (introduction): In recent times, a growing number of international students are learning English in English-speaking countries. Although it is most beneficial to learn English in a country where it is natively spoken, there are other effective ways to learn it. I agree with this statement to a large degree.

Practice

Using a combination of the above techniques (synonyms, word forms, sentence structure), write an introduction to the following essay by paraphrasing the prompt below.

The overuse of natural resources ultimately exhausts them. This causes huge harm to the environment. Therefore, the government should discourage people from overusing such resources. To what extent do you support or oppose this idea?

 There are three possible correct answers:

Click here to show/hide answer 1

Exploiting natural resources will ultimately deplete them and lead to environmental harm. Therefore, the overuse of these resources should be discouraged by governments. I totally agree with this statement.
 

Click here to show/hide answer 2

The exploitation of natural resources results in their exhaustion. This causes environmental damage. Thus, governments should encourage people to take care not to overuse these resources. I agree with this to a large extent.

Click here to show/hide answer 3

Natural resources will ultimately be exhausted if we continue to overuse them. It damages the environment and should therefore be discouraged by governments. I agree with this statement to a large degree.

So, more than one paraphrase can be correct. There are many ways to say the same thing. There is also more than one way to paraphrase. The best way to paraphrase for IELTS Writing Task 2 is to use a combination of these techniques (synonyms, sentence structure and clause order).

Practice makes perfect!

Our E2Language IELTS experts can help you learn the rest of the method for IELTS Writing Task 2!

 

Jamal Abilmona is an expert IELTS teacher, curriculum designer and language buff. She has taught English for general and academic purposes in classrooms around the world and currently writes e-learning material for E2Language.com, providing online IELTS preparation for students all around the world.

 

IELTS Test Preparation For Dummies

Ok, we really need to talk about IELTS Test preparation.

As an expert with E2Language, I spend a lot of time answering questions about IELTS test preparation and the best way to go about it. It seems like a lot of people think there is a one-size-fits all magic formula to preparing for the IELTS, and I think it’s time that I dispel this myth once and for all! So, I’m going to hit you with a few hard truths:

Hard truth #1: IELTS test preparation looks different for everyone

Some people are ready to take the IELTS tomorrow, some people have six months of hard work ahead of them, some people may find that the IELTS isn’t even the right test for them. Unfortunately, just because something worked for someone you know, it doesn’t mean it will work for you.

IELTS Test Preparation
IELTS preparation isn’t like physics- there is no universal formula that works every time!

Hard truth #2: Most people need at least a little bit of direction

I know there is a lot of free information out there on the internet, and I know it’s tempting to “teach yourself” using this free information. But trust me, I talk to dozens of people on a daily basis that thought the same thing and wasted hundreds of dollars before recognizing that they needed help. If you don’t truly understand what and where your weaknesses are, how can you overcome them?

IELTS Test Preparation
Be careful, not all free IELTS information is useful.

Now that the tough love is out of the way, let’s get to my best recommendations for how to tailor your IELTS test preparation so that it suits you.

IELTS Test Preparation Recommendation #1: Figure out your level

The first thing you need to do when you decide you’re going to write IELTS is find out exactly what your current level is. Then you can create an appropriate timeline and some realistic goals. NEVER set your IELTS test date before assessing your level. You will almost certainly regret it. How can you assess your level? Here are a couple of ways:

  • Talk to an expert. At E2Language, we take a lot of things into account before we start working with a student. We look at their previous scores (if there are any), we get a sense of how much they use English in daily life, and we carefully assess each of their skill sets (speaking, writing, listening & reading) to direct their studying and teacher support appropriately. If you are unsure about where your level is and what kind of timeline and time commitments you will need to take on, we can help!

IELTS Test Preparation Recommendation #2: Build on your weaknesses

Once you know what your level is, stop doing practice questions immediately. Although practice questions are useful for teaching you the format of the test, they don’t actually teach you any new skills. Now is the time to focus completely on building up the weak skills you’ve identified. Here are a couple of tips:

  •  If you have issues with the IELTS Speaking section, get a conversation partner (either in person or online) and make sure you talk to them at least once a week. Let them know that they need to be honest in their constructive criticism to help you pinpoint your difficulties (i.e. volume, fluency, grammar, sentence structure). In addition, get comfortable speaking in English by recording yourself talk about a topic for one or two minutes and listening back to yourself to hear what you actually sound like. This tip is more useful than most people realize!
  • If you are struggling with the IELTS writing section, practice organizing essay structure and work on the mechanics of language, like grammar and vocabulary. We have essay writing webinars on YouTube specifically for IELTS, and we have “core skills” videos that teach the basics of grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure. What’s more, all of these lessons are free! Not only that, but if you take on an IELTS course with us, we can provide you with multiple writing assessments to help you improve your writing style and content.

Here is one of our free core skills lectures. You can find more right here.

  •  If you are having difficulty with the IELTS reading section, start reading online news articles every day. Note down important key points and write a small summary of the articles in your own words, focusing on what you consider to be the most important information. Once you get comfortable with this, start scanning articles and trying to pick out keywords before even reading the whole text.
  • If the IELTS listening section is proving challenging for you, start listening to a podcast, audiobook or radio show in English every single day. Familiarize yourself with different accents, write down vocabulary  that are new to you, and listen carefully to the speaker’s intonation and pronunciation. If you are listening to a lecture, write down the key points that the speaker is saying and try to summarize them in your own words. Don’t worry if you have to rewind and listen again at first, that’s part of the learning process!

IELTS Test Preparation Recommendation #3:  Start Practicing Again

Once you have built on your weaknesses, it’s time to start practicing IELTS questions again. This time, you can focus more on understanding the format of the test, that is how the questions and information will be presented to you. This is almost as important as your overall English skill.

Again, use our blog test bank or sign up to one of our courses for access to an extensive bank of IELTS questions written by real IELTS experts. This stage of IELTS test preparation should take you at least a couple of weeks. There are a lot of tasks, and you should be practicing them all multiple times. You shouldn’t be taking the IELTS until you are confident that you’ve seen the entire format and you have a good method for each one. Our YouTube webinar and lesson series can help you out with this too.

Take a look at our webinar for IELTS writing task 1:

IELTS Test Preparation Recommendation #4: Get Expert Feedback

Once you feel ready for the IELTS, it’s incredibly helpful to get feedback about your progress from someone who knows what they’re talking about. This can be a teacher or a tutor in your daily life, or one of our IELTS experts online. Essentially, you need someone who understands your skill level and can add to your success by giving you strategies and feedback once you are almost ready to go. If you decide to do this before taking your test, chances are you will have a lot more knowledge and confidence, making it much more likely for you to succeed on your first try!

What’s the Take Home Message?

Remember, you are a complex and unique individual. Your IELTS test preparation is not going to look the same as your friend’s preparation or your classmate’s preparation. If you want to succeed on your first try, you need to be honest with yourself about your weaknesses and you need to be realistic about your timeline. And if you need help, E2Language has you covered. Don’t fall into the trap of wasting money on five IELTS tests because you wanted to save time and money on preparation. Smart investments always pay off, and proper IELTS test preparation is no exception!

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

 

Written by Kaia Myers-Stewart

Is the IELTS Speaking Test Made For Extraverted Individualists?

Note to ESL learners: This article about the IELTS speaking test contains a lot of complex vocabulary words. Some of them are written more than once. Many of these words are underlined, and this means that you can place your mouse/cursor over a word to see its definition.  Try to check a definition only when a word stops you from understanding the whole sentence you are reading. 

A few months ago, I had the privilege of teaching English at the College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS) in the beautiful and remote country of Bhutan. While I was there, I also had the opportunity to teach an IELTS speaking workshop for the college’s English lecturers. The experience was incredible, and – as is the usually the way with intercultural opportunities –  I learned a heck of a lot more from my students and colleagues than they did from me.

In general, the Bhutanese are friendly, inclusive and community-focused people who place great importance on cultivating relationships. Having previously spent time in Bhutan, I knew this but did not think it would have any bearing on the workshop I had been tasked with: teaching IELTS-specific speaking strategies to my colleagues. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

The IELTS Speaking Test Workshop

On the day of my workshop, I began with a quick summary of each section of the speaking test, starting with the “introduction/interview” component. In the first part of the speaking test, the IELTS examiner will “get to know you”  by asking several questions about you. In addition, they will briefly interview you about one topic relating to your life (e.g. “What is your hometown like?” “How many people live there?” etc.) To get a sense of everyone’s level for this task, I broke my colleagues into pairs and assigned each person the role of  interviewer or interviewee. It was up to the interviewer to ask the interviewee about themselves in the same way an IELTS examiner would on the real test.

IELTS Speaking Test
An interviewer and interviewee waiting for the timer to begin. Photo Credit: Choney Dorji

Let me just preface this by saying that the introduction/interview  part of the speaking test is supposed to take four or five minutes in total. My Bhutanese interviewees lasted less than two minutes. As the room fell silent around me while my timer was still obediently ticking down the minutes, I felt a wave of panic. Had my colleagues misunderstood the exercise? Had I poorly explained the time limit  and made it seem like it was optional? I was dazed for a moment, but then someone spoke up: “Madame, we Bhutanese are not so used to talking about ourselves like this”.

The statement hit me like a ton of bricks, as did the realization that I had completely ignored a fundamental piece of Bhutanese culture; the Bhutanese almost never talk about themselves. You want to talk about the road conditions, the weather or your wife’s delicious cooking? You got it. But if you ask a Bhutanese person how their life is going, they usually re-direct the conversation away from themselves.

Why? Because the Bhutanese are careful not to be too proud, boastful or arrogant, and talking excessively about yourself can be seen as a demonstration of such traits. In a country that is built on modesty, public-service and collectivism, how could I possibly expect my colleagues to abandon their cultural values so easily?

IELTS Speaking Test
This might actually be a picture of the moment where I realized my mistake… Photo Credit: Choney Dorji

It was at that moment that I understood just how much easier it is to succeed on the IELTS speaking test when you come from a culture that values individualism. With individualism comes a sort of forced extraversion in which people are encouraged talk openly and often, using themselves as the reference point for the world around them.

Generally, individualism and extraversion are part and parcel of Western culture. But here is the thing: IELTS takers very rarely come from a Western context. As a matter of fact, a substantial proportion of test-takers come from traditionally collectivist cultures such as India, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Having said that, here is the other thing: English is not just a language. It’s the representation of a culture, one in which individualism and extraversion are both valued and encouraged. It is imperative for us to teach this concept to IELTS hopefuls before they take the test. If IELTS tutors  aren’t aware of a test-taker’s cultural background and its inevitable differences to our own, we will fail our students time and time again.

The road is often difficult and frustrating for newcomers to Western countries, and everything begins with an arbitrary English proficiency exam that is riddled with hidden cultural assumptions. It’s our responsibility to explain these assumptions, just as much as we teach the fundamentals of language proficiency.

What do collectivists need to know about the IELTS speaking test?

IELTS Speaking Part 1

If you come from a culture that places emphasis on community harmony,  it’s important to know that you will not be judged for talking about yourself on the IELTS speaking test. IELTS assesses your English proficiency based how well you can express yourself when speaking about a topic that relates to you. It’s crucial to practice talking about your personal experiences, background, goals and so forth so that you aren’t going to run out of things to say to your interviewer! Five minutes is a long time when you have nothing to say.

IELTS Speaking Test
It’s safe to assume that your IELTS examiner won’t judge you for talking about yourself! Photo Credit: Choney Dorji

IELTS Speaking Part 2

If you come from a storytelling culture, you probably need to practice keeping your sentences short and concise. In part 2 of the speaking test, you have two minutes to read a topic on a card and make notes. You must then speak about the topic consistently for 1-2 minutes. In my workshop, I thought this task would be no problem for my colleagues because Bhutan is a nation built on storytelling; in fact it’s not uncommon for someone to spend hours presenting a single point in a workplace meeting! However, I quickly realized that this style of expression does not necessarily translate well to the IELTS criteria.

In Dzongkha (Bhutan’s national language), you almost always express one idea many different ways and, in addition, you must constantly communicate your respect if you are talking to someone with (any!) authority. In fact, a request that is not prefaced by at least five minutes of polite conversation could be considered quite disrespectful. Although I really enjoyed receiving class assignments from my students that began with the salutation “Dearest most respected and appreciated Madame”, I also had to explain to them that English is a language of “getting to the point”.

This applies when it comes to your IELTS presentation too; you must speak in an organized fashion that includes an introductory sentence, key points and a concluding sentence, and you must be careful not to dwell too much on a single point, as you have only 2 minutes to cover every point written on your card.

IELTS Speaking Test
IELTS speaking part 2: Here we are coming up with some keywords for our speaking topic. Photo Credit: Choney Dorji

IELTS Speaking Part 3

If you come from a culture that traditionally “lives in the moment”, you may need to work on developing your abstract side. Western culture places a lot of importance on what we consider to be “critical thinking, in which individuals consider abstract ideas from different perspectives. Part 3 of the IELTS speaking test employs this concept and requires test-takers to discuss several abstract questions about the topic they presented in part 2. For example, if the topic was “Describe a friend from childhood”, you might be asked “What does friendship mean to you?” or “What does it mean to be a good friend”?

In Bhutan, most people live gloriously in the moment. The future is rarely discussed, and pre-made plans almost never work out because more important things come up at the last minute. This mentality creates a context of concreteness where everyday conversations revolve a lot around what is happening “right now” in the physical world.

Thus, some of my colleagues had difficulty discussing abstract ideas like the “meaning” of friendship at length– and often chose to give concrete examples from their daily lives instead (i.e. “For me, a good friend is someone who calls me every day”). While this approach is certainly not “wrong”, it usually doesn’t take long to describe the concrete aspects of an idea, and therefore many people will run out things to say long before their time is up.

In order to succeed in Part 3, it’s important to practice speaking about intangible ideas like emotions, thoughts and values. For example: “For me, a good friend is someone who displays loyalty to me and listens to me when nobody else will”.

For more IELTS speaking test tips, check out the video Jay made after he recently took IELTS himself!

* Check out the full E2 IELTS YouTube channel for more IELTS tips, methods and strategies.

Conclusion

Overall, I want to emphasize that just because test-takers will benefit from learning the cultural assumptions of the IELTS speaking test, it doesn’t mean that one approach to communication is “better” than another; one is not “right” and the other “wrong”. Rather, it’s important to recognize that there are significant differences in how we use language to communicate based on the cultural norms we have adopted. 

The IELTS speaking test was created by native English speakers with the intention of measuring “English proficiency”, and it would seem that Western cultural values are integral to this definition of proficiency. Thus, IELTS caters well to extraverted individualists, and I think it’s important for test-takers to know this in order to succeed.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to magically transform into something you’re not. You just need to adopt some strategies to help you meet the test requirements. That’s where we can help you out! Sign up to an E2Language IELTS preparation course and let us show you how to maximize your IELTS speaking success on the first try.

 

Written by Kaia Myers-Stewart.

How to Develop Your IELTS Vocabulary

The development of comprehensive IELTS vocabulary is crucial to your IELTS score.

Vocabulary is one of the building blocks of language and a necessary requirement for success in the IELTS. Being ready for the IELTS requires a lot of preparation, including understanding the test, knowing the strategies, and practicing. In addition to all of that, you need vocabulary. It is essential for the reading section, the listening section, for writing a good essay and for being able to speak impressively in the speaking test. To do well, you need to know words. It is believed that it takes 15-20 exposures to a new word for it to become part of your vocabulary. So here are my top 10 methods for integrating new words into your English library.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Read, read, read!

The more you read, the more words you’ll be exposed to. This is essential for IELTS preparation, and for increasing your English fluency. Reading doesn’t have to be boring. Read about things that interest you: Food, gardening, fashion, celebrity news, economics, science, politics, etc. As you read, you will discover new words in context. You can infer the meaning of new words from the context of the sentence. If not, then look the word up in an English to English dictionary.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Use an English to English dictionary and thesaurus.

You can use hard copies or online versions such as dictionary.com and thesaurus.com.  When you come across a new word, look it up in the dictionary. An online dictionary will give you the definition and will let you hear the pronunciation. It’s important not to just use a translation tool. A translation may be helpful for you to understand the meaning of the word in your native language, but it will not help you integrate the word into your English mental library. You need to be able to think of the word in English, and not rely on a translation. Otherwise you will be thinking of the word in your own language and will have difficulty recovering it in English when you need it. Then use the thesaurus to find synonyms. You don’t have to memorise every synonym (there may be too many). Choose a couple of interesting ones and add them to your vocabulary journal.

IELTS Vocabulary

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Use a vocabulary journal.

This can be a little notebook that you keep with you where you record new words that you hear or read. Steps 4-7 will explain useful ways to use a vocabulary journal.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Organise your journal thematically.

Group words together that relate to a similar topic to make it easier to remember and relate them. These categories could be food, hobbies, nature, society, etc.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: List the different forms of the word.

For example its noun, verb, adjective and adverb form, as well as its past participle. Let’s take the word “manage”. It is a verb. The noun form is “management”, the adjective is “manageable” and the adverb is “manageably”. The past participle is “managed. Now you know five new words instead of one! This will impress your IELTS examiner and increase your mental word bank. A dictionary will usually give you the different word forms abbreviated as (n) for noun (v) for verb, (adj) for adjective and (adv) for adverb.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Collocate!

List words that the word collocates with. For example, manage effectively; manage competently; efficient management; competent management, etc.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Write, write, write!

Writing helps to ingrain new words into your memory. When we hear and see a new word, it becomes part of our passive Our passive vocabulary includes words that we can understand but not use. We want to make new words part of our active vocabulary. This means we can both understand and use new words. To do this, we need to use them! One way is to write sentences using the new word in two or more of its word forms. Even better, integrate reading with writing by writing a short summary of an article you have read using 2 or 3 new words from the article in their various forms. Remember to check your spelling! At the end of each week, go back to your list. Pick 10 words from that week and write a short story, even if it’s just 100 words. It can be a personal reflection, a review of something you read that week, or a practice IELTS essay.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Listen!

Hearing words in context will help you hear how words are used and also familiarise you with their pronunciation. Watch music videos or short movie clips on YouTube with English subtitles. When you hear a word that you don’t know, or have difficulty pronouncing, play it again and sound it out. Also, Ted ESL and Ted Ed are great sources for interesting and inspiring talks on a variety of topics. You can watch videos and read the transcripts to see the spelling of new words that you hear in the talks. This will help you understand the pronunciation of words, how they are used in context, and how they are spelt.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Learn a word a day.

Check the English Learner’s Dictionary word of the day for a new word each day with the definition, pronunciation, word form and example sentences. Add them to your journal list and use them in your journal writing and IELTS writing practice.

IELTS Vocabulary Tip: Speak!

Incorporate the new words into your everyday conversation. Talk to your friends about a movie you saw or an article you read, or a hobby you did, using new words you learned that week. The best way to remember words is to use them! This will grow your vocabulary and make the word part of your mental word bank. This will increase your speaking fluency which will help you in the IELTS speaking test, and in your everyday English development.

Check out our free webinars on YouTube, including our recent IELTS reading webinar:

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Written by Jamal Abilmona.

Jamal Abilmona is an expert IELTS teacher, curriculum designer and language buff. She has taught English for general and academic purposes in classrooms around the world and currently writes e-learning material for E2Language.com.