IELTS Test Preparation: A Lesson in Strategy

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

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.

Learn about Jay’s experiences in his IELTS Speaking Exam, on How to get an IELTS 9.

Check out our Free Webinars on YouTube, including our recent IELTS reading webinar:

Do you have any questions about IELTS vocabulary or IELTS preparation? Ask us on our Free Forum!

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

 

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.

IELTS Reading Tips: How to Improve your Score

I once talked to a near-native English speaker who approached me about IELTS reading tips because she failed the reading section. She had a 7.5 band score or higher in the other sections, and frankly we were both shocked with her reading score at first! However, when I asked her how she had prepared for IELTS reading, she just looked at me blankly. It turned out that she hadn’t prepared for this section at all! Why? She is an avid reader and she figured that this alone would be enough to get her through the IELTS reading section with flying colours.

The thing about the IELTS reading test is this: it’s more than just a test of your reading ability. It’s about using a combination of skills to problem-solve and answer a question. Just because you enjoy reading for pleasure, it doesn’t mean you’re all set to ace the test. It’s incredibly important to practice and perfect the reading skills you’ll be tested on, and I’d like to give you a couple of tips to help you get started.

IELTS Reading Tips
Unfortunately, a love of reading doesn’t always translate into a high IELTS reading score.

IELTS Reading Tips: Know the Format!

This one should go without saying, but I’ve met quite a few test-takers who didn’t research the IELTS reading format before they took the test for the first time. Again, they were just relying on their love of reading to translate into the reading skills needed for this section. The thing is though- you only have one hour to read three texts and answer 40 questions. That is a tall order for anyone! You need to spend every minute of this time tackling the content of the questions, not wasting time on working out what the questions are asking in the first place!

It’s quite simple to find the breakdown of the IELTS reading section online, so I won’t go into too much detail here. If you need an explanation of any of the different tasks in particular, I recommend you visit our IELTS reading lessons on YouTube.

Here is a list of the different tasks you will see on the reading section:

  1. Matching Questions
    • Matching Information
    • Matching Headings
    • Matching Features
    • Matching Sentence Endings
  2. Multiple Choice/ Identify Information Tasks
    • A/B/C/D
    • True/False/Not given
    • Yes/No/Not Given
  3. Completion Tasks
    • Sentence Completion Task
    • Summary, Notes, Table, Flow-chart Completion Tasks
    • Diagram Completion Task
  4. Short Answer Task

If any of these tasks are unfamiliar to you (and you haven’t practiced each one extensively!), you are not yet ready to take IELTS. If you want to get a sense of the difficulty of these question types, you can find practice questions for IELTS reading in the E2Language free trial course.

IELTS Reading Tips: Find the “Needle in the Haystack”

In the IELTS reading section, you will be presented with a complete overload of information. It’s your job to sift through this information to find only the most important points. But what are the most important points, and how the heck do you find them? It’s simple:

The most important points in a passage are the ones that relate directly to the questions being asked of you.

Therefore, you can learn everything you need to look for by reading the questions and answer options before you read the text. Just from doing this, you’ll have a sense of what the passage is about.

For example:

A question might read: “What was the primary reason for the fall of the Roman empire?”

Let’s look at the information we now have, thanks to this question:

  1. The text will talk about the fall of the Roman empire
  2. The text will probably identify several reasons contributing to the fall of the Roman empire
  3. It’s our job to find the most important reason for the fall of the Roman empire for this question

See how this information can help us focus our energy on what’s important in the passage already?

The answer options can be helpful too:

The answer options might read:

  1. Economic troubles
  2. Over expansion
  3. The invasion of the Barbarian tribes
  4. The rise of the Eastern Empire
  5. All of the above

By reading the answer options, you already know what to look for when you read the passage. You can then use the process of elimination to find the answer. Make sure you don’t just choose the first answer option you find in the text! Remember, the question is asking for the primary (or most important) reason for the fall of the Roman empire. That means you should be looking for clues in the text that suggest importance. 

For example:

  1. “The biggest contributor to the fall of the Roman empire was likely the rise of the Eastern empire….”
  2. “The Eastern empire appears to be the greatest reason behind the fall of the Roman empire..”
  3. “Although economic troubles and general over expansion contributed to the failing of the Roman empire, the rise of the Eastern empire was the causal factor…”

Note: very rarely will the answer options use the same key words as the passage. This is why it’s incredibly important to work on your vocabulary as much as possible. The more synonyms you know, the better! Get comfortable using a thesaurus when you read and write- it will make a big difference to your vocabulary skill.

IELTS Reading Tips: Make Your Own Practice Test

Although it’s definitely important to try practice questions from reliable sources (like E2Language!) on the internet, there is a lot of junk out there too. Why waste your time? Here is something you should try that will boost your reading skill AND your understanding of how each reading question works:

Step 1:

Go to sciencedaily.com or BBC news and pick an article that interests you.

Step 2:

Read the article carefully, making notes about what you consider the most important points to be.

Step 3:

Write a question about the article you just read using the different IELTS reading question formats.

For example, if the article was about the effect of food advertising on obesity in America, your question could look like this:

Junk food advertisements are found to impact Americans’ health more than healthy eating campaigns.

  1. True
  2. False
  3. Not Given

Or this:

Food advertising has proven to have a profound effect on the …………

Or this:

The advertisement of unhealthy foods in America has led to:

a) Higher obesity in the general public

b) No marked change in obesity since 1990

c) An increase in a sedentary lifestyle, which has been linked to obesity

d) An increase in junk food purchases

e) Both c and d

When you create your own questions with the information you think is most important about the passage, you’re not only practicing your reading-deduction skills, but also the format of the test. You’ll be surprised how effective this trick is. And why is it effective? Because it makes you do the work that the IELTS creators do. And like any work- the task gets easier with practice.

Any questions?

If you have any further questions about IELTS reading (or IELTS academic in general), be sure to visit our free forum! We’re always available to answer your questions.

Make sure you also check out our IELTS practice test webinar for more useful IELTS reading tips.

Do you know any IELTS reading tips If so, we’d love to hear them!

 

Written by: Kaia Myers-Stewart

 

IELTS Reading Advice: Strategies and Tips to Help You Succeed

How does one prepare for the IELTS Reading section?

Picture this, a cold winter’s night, you’re sitting by the fire with a hot cup of cocoa in one hand and a great book in the other. Reading in this romantic setting is enjoyable and enriching. Now picture this, a cold exam room, you are sweating from nerves and fear, the text you are trying to read doesn’t make sense and the words seem jumbled. Reading in this stressful setting is unbearable and unsatisfying. Never fear, this doesn’t have to happen to you. There is a way to find a happy medium between the above two examples. All you need to do is prepare yourself and take on some good advice.

Here is some advice.

IELTS Reading Strategy 1

Don’t over romanticise, in other words be realistic. The chances of you understanding every word you read is just as unrealistic as you running into your dream partner, them dropping to the floor and declaring their undying love for you. IELTS texts are full of wonderfully specialised vocabulary. Don’t be afraid to skip a difficult word, as long as you get the overall meaning that’s what counts. You can practice trying to guess the meaning of unknown words by looking at the overall context of the text and sentence as well as word form- e.g. is it a verb or a noun?

Tip: Build up a vocabulary list

Buy a little book from the $2 shop and name it ‘The vocabulary book’. Keep it with you every time you read. Write down words you don’t understand and look the meaning up later.

IELTS Reading Strategy 2

This one may come as a surprise… but I suggest you READ! Yes, read in your free time, choose a variety of different reading materials, such as the National Geographic, the New Scientist, the Economist, news online, short stories, etc… And don’t forget to invite your new friend ‘The vocabulary book’!

IELTS Reading Strategy 3

This one is important. CATEGORISE. Learning to recognise the type of text you are reading will allow you to answer the question more quickly.

There are four types of IELTS texts:

Analytic texts, which discuss the reasons why something happened, make recommendations or explain a concept.

Descriptive texts, which describe a situation, explain how something is done or categorise something.

Discursive texts, in which different opinions are expressed about an issue.

And narrative texts, which explain a chronological sequence of events.

IELTS Reading Strategy 4

Become a skim champion. Skimming is basically reading quickly, jumping over unimportant or unknown words in order to get a quick overall understanding of what the text is about. You can do this when trying to understand the general idea of a paragraph or to find the answer to a question.

IELTS Reading Strategy 5

Scan. Scanning is useful when you are looking for something specific. You can scan to find the location of answers in the texts by looking out for words, numbers, dates and words beginning with capital letters such as place names.

IELTS Reading
Become a skimming and scanning champion!

IELTS Reading Strategy 6

Focus exactly on what you are asked to do in ‘completion’ type questions.

If the question asks you to complete the note ‘in the…’ and the correct answer is ‘evening’, just use ‘evening’ as your answer; note that ‘in the evening’ would be incorrect

IELTS Reading Strategy 7

Read the IELTS Reading instructions carefully. Don’t try to save time by skipping this part. The instructions give you critical information about how many words the answer should be, what exactly you need to do and so on.

IELTS Reading Strategy 8

Learn to identify parallel phrases. These are different ways of expressing the same thing, such as, “I like to read” and “reading is enjoyable”. Many questions, e.g. YES NO NOT GIVEN questions and gap fills, test your ability to match up a similar phrase in the task with its equivalent in the text.

IELTS Reading Strategy 9

Manage your time. Each text should take you roughly 20 minutes. Try not to spend too much time on one question. If time is running out, do the gap-fills before answering the easy to guess questions such as YES NO NOT GIVEN

Use your time wisely!
Use your time wisely!

IELTS Reading Strategy 10

Last but not least, check your answers. Once finished, if you have time, go over your answers because sometimes you may have missed something.

When learning to read in another language, studies have shown that we abandon most of the micro skills we use for reading such as skimming and scanning, and instead we focus on each and every word. In doing so we become frustrated and therefore the pleasure of reading diminishes.

So my advice is to employ micro skills and take on the above advice. That way when it’s time for you to sit down and take your IELTs test, instead of sweating, you will be smiling.

 

Written by Michelle Anderson