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 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

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.

Read about Jay’s IELTS Success Tips: How to get an IELTS 9 and see for yourself what it takes to increase your IELTS score.

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

Written by Kaia Myers-Stewart.

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 Success Tips: How to get an IELTS 9 in Speaking

Recently, I decided I needed to figure out how possible it really is to get an IELTS 9 in speaking.

I’m the co-founder of E2Language, which provides students with online test preparation for their high stakes English tests. 

I took the IELTS Academic test today. I woke up at 6.30 a.m. I made sure I ate a big breakfast. I had two coffees. I jumped on the train and walked up the street. I had my passport in my pocket. I was ready to go.

I had also been studying for months, which is odd, because I’m a native English speaker, and an English teacher, and a graduate of a masters in applied linguistics. I’m probably the last person who needs to study for his IELTS exam. To put it humbly, it was a bit like Messi training for a friendly soccer match in the park.

Despite that, in order to write unbelievable teaching materials for IELTS, nothing beats taking the test yourself. That’s why I took it. I wanted to understand what truly results in an IELTS 9 for speaking. There must be a magic trick, I thought!

And there is… I’ve found it. But before I tell you the magic trick — which is in fact ‘scientific’ and ‘linguistic’ — first let me tell you about my experience taking the speaking test…

IELTS 9
Face to face can be daunting!

Before the speaking test

I only had to wait an hour after the first three sections of the test before my speaking test was up. I went outside and got some fresh air and had another coffee. My pulse was racing (from caffeine and nerves!).

I was aware of the speaking section, and I had learned some helpful ‘tricks’ and ‘tips’ from books and Youtube videos but nothing truly helpful – no one had thought truly deeply about it. I knew, for instance, that I had to ‘elaborate’ on my answers and speak more than I usually do. I knew that it’s not really ‘a conversation’; it’s more of me talking and the examiner listening. I knew that I had to speak using complex grammar and less common vocabulary. I knew that all of this could help me get an IELTS 9. But that’s about all I knew and I didn’t really understand how. I had some idea that I wanted to impress the examiner, but I didn’t really know how that would be possible. I mean, he or she was going to give me a Task Card and ask me to talk about ‘bicycles’ or ‘festivals’, right? I mean, how are you supposed to show off your language skills with mundane topics you think so little about?

I went up to the registration room, showed my passport and took my seat. Surrounding me were people shivering with fear. I felt sorry for them. I’ve learned other languages and sometimes you’re ‘on’ and sometimes you’re not… It depends what side of the bed you woke up on. It also depends on how good your grammar is and how large your vocabulary is – and how easily it comes to you. It also depends on psychological factors like how confident you are as a person, or whether you’re naturally talkative, or not.

A number of examiners came through and called out obscure names, a person stood up and then they both left. Finally, my name was called. I greeted a short curly haired woman and we walked down a corridor into a classroom. There was a table set up with a stopwatch and a recorder as well as some documents.

My examiner was Vicky, a friendly looking woman with with a lovely smile that showed crooked teeth. I liked her, which helped. I felt like I wanted to talk to her. She seemed nice.

The Interview

The first thing Vicky asked me was whether I was a student or I worked. I responded that “I’m an English teacher”, and she smiled.

I quickly realised that what I had learned and what I teach about IELTS Speaking I wasn’t actually doing. ‘Elaborate!’ I thought to myself. So I went on… ‘Oh, I might tell you a little bit more about that”, I said… and I did go on.

A few more questions came and went. I could see that Vicky liked me. She was interested in me as a person for even though IELTS is big mechanical test, Vicky is still a human being.

The Long Turn

“I’m now going to give you a topic to talk about and you should talk about this topic for 1-2 minutes,” she said, and continued, “here’s a piece of paper for you to prepare.”

I read the topic and went blank. It said:

Talk about a time you were recently angry.

  • Explain the situation.
  • Say where and when it was.
  • Talk about whether or not it was resolved and if so how.

I can’t even remember the final statement.

I sat for 45 seconds and didn’t move. I was lost for words. But I wasn’t lost for words because I didn’t have them – remember, I’m a native English speaker! I was lost for words because the most recent time I was angry was a very personal experience. And Vicky, as lovely as she was, was a complete stranger and I did not want to tell her my personal experiences and my thoughts and emotions, yet it was the only thing that I could think of. My mind kept returning to it. I was completely stuck.

15 seconds…

I wrote a single word and then crossed it out.

5 seconds…

I’m going to have to lie…’ I thought to myself.

“Okay,” said Vicky smiling away. “You can start speaking now.”

I spoke and I lied. I used a recent situation where I had been, let’s say, ‘annoyed’, which is not quite angry. But I used that little story and I told an elaborate story that was not at all true. I built a house of cards on top of it. I explained the situation. I said where and when it was. I talked about how I had resolved it. And while I was lying, it dawned upon me that it doesn’t actually matter. You are not being rated on your character. And you have to tell a story. Stories are often fictional.

Keep in mind that: ‘It’s not real life; it’s a test. It’s not a lie; it’s an exaggeration.’

IELTS speaking is much more than a test of your English language skills because there is a social and psychological component to it; you’re not talking to a computer as you are in the PTE Academic. Had I have been speaking to a computer I would have poured my heart out to it and told it everything.

Because you can’t separate language from its content, and content from the language you must be allowed to lie because it is the only fair way that you can say something about a topic that you have no story about.

Vicky stopped me mid-way through my elaborate story. I was shocked. Was she going to judge me? Could she tell that I had just made that story up?

She neither judged nor cared. She just wanted to hear good language being used and I gave her that.

The Discussion

From here, I could see that Vicky was impressed. I had told a good story. I had used intricate vocabulary and fancy grammatical structures. My sentences were flowery and engaging – and very importantly, on topic (even though the topic was make-believe!).

From her IELTS documents she asked me some interesting questions, such as “Do you think that anger affects us physically?”

‘Exaggerate’, I thought to myself and said something like, “Undoubtedly. The scientific literature now fully supports the fact that anger impacts upon the human body. I mean, when you’re angry you can feel it. And this is happening hormonally. Adrenalin is being excreted and your body is priming itself to run. The effect on your heart is particularly profound.”

The combination of the coffee, the hyperbole and the setting was now getting me fired up. I listened like a thief and answered each of her questions politely, intelligently and with a lot of fabrications. I drew upon magazine articles I had read years before and made them sound profound. I drew upon ideas I had had when I was a teenager and made them seem philosophical.

I used vocabulary that I rarely use… And this brings me to the (scientific/linguistic) magic trick.

The (scientific/linguistic) magic trick

There are two ways to talk about the Task Card – in the concrete and in the abstract. Let me compare what would achieve an IELTS 6 (concrete) and what would achieve an IELTS 9 (abstract).

Talk about a time you were recently angry.

  • Explain the situation.
  • Say where and when it was.
  • Talk about whether or not it was resolved and if so how.

Concrete answer – IELTS 6

Train. People. Seat. Old man. Young person. Old man standing. Young person sitting. Old man angry. Me angry. Young person unaware. Old man leave. Young person stay.

These words are what are called ‘concrete nouns’. They are real things. They are things that you can touch. They are things you can see. And they are common words. You sound like everyone else. You are not using less common, more complex vocabulary. If you want to stand out above the rest – above the average (IELTS 9 level) – then you need to use less common, more infrequent language – language that the examiner rarely hears.

Abstract answer – IELTS 9

Train. People. Seat. Old man. Young person. Youth. Impoliteness. Social structures. Ageism. Recklessness. Assumptions. Changing values. Possible resolutions. Mediation. Governmental awareness programs.

These words are called ‘abstract nouns’. They are un-real things. They are things that you cannot touch. They are things that you cannot see. And they are uncommon words. You sound different to everyone else. You put yourself above everyone else. You talk about things that no one else talks about. You extend yourself beyond what’s normal, what’s average. You talk about abstract ideas.

In order to access abstract ideas you need abstract words and abstract words are rare. Vicky wanted me to use words that explained concepts that are interesting and unfamiliar to her. She did not want to hear the same old same old. I can’t imagine how boring it would be to be an IELTS examiner, sitting there every day listening to someone talk about ‘anger’ in mundane ways.

The critical point is: if you want to impress the examiner – which is what you have to do to score a 9 – then you need to speak about abstract concepts. When you speak about abstract concepts you use vocabulary reserved for abstract concepts. As long as you can glue it all together with some simple and some complex grammar then you can rest assured that when you open up your results you will see an IELTS 9 and not an upside down IELTS 9.

Check out our IELTS speaking simulation for more information about how to achieve an IELTS 9:

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

Written by Jay Merlo.