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 | 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!
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:
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.
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:
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:
Written by Jay.