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.

 

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 Academic or IELTS General: What’s the Difference?

A lot of people doing the IELTS aren’t sure of which one to take: IELTS Academic or IELTS General.

Well, it depends on why you are doing the IELTS.

If you are doing it to get into an English-speaking university or professional registration, then you will need to do the IELTS Academic. If you are doing it for migration purposes, then you will need to do the IELTS General.

IELTS Academic or IELTS General
Many test-takers aren’t sure which IELTS test they need!

The IELTS test has 4 parts:

  1. Writing (task 1 & 2)
  2. Reading
  3. Listening
  4. Speaking

Writing Task 2, Listening and Speaking are the same for both IELTS Academic and IELTS general.

Writing task 2 is an essay. You will be given an essay question to answer in 40 minutes by writing at least 250 words.

In the Listening test, you will hear 4 audio recordings and have to answer 40 questions. It lasts between 30-40 minutes.

In the Speaking test, you will be interviewed by an examiner. This test includes 3 parts: the interview, the short presentation and the discussion. It last between 11-14 minutes.

The only difference between the two tests is Writing Task 1 and Reading.

So, how are they different? I’ll start off with writing task 1 and then move onto the reading.

IELTS Academic or IELTS General: Writing Task 1

Academic

Describe and analyse data in one of the following:

  • Bar chart
  • Line graph
  • Pie chart
  • Table
  • Diagram

General

Write a letter in one of the following styles:

  • Formal (to someone you do not know)
  • Semi-formal (to someone you know formally)
  • Informal (to friend or family)

You get 20 minutes to complete both of these tasks and must write at least 150 words for each.

IELTS Academic or IELTS General: Reading

Academic

  • 3 long passages increasing in difficulty
  • Academic style texts (journal articles, text-book extracts)
  • Texts related to academic topics such as science, history, sociology

General

  • 4 short passages increasing in length and difficulty
  • More general /everyday style texts
  • Texts related to social survival (advertisements, notices etc.); workplace survival (job descriptions, employment contracts etc.); general texts (newspapers, magazines, travel brochures etc.)

You get an hour to complete both of these reading tasks (50 minutes of reading time and 10 minutes to transfer your answers onto your answer sheet). Both tests include 40 questions in total.

Which IELTS is for you: IELTS Academic or IELTS General?

Ahmad is applying to get into university in Australia. He wants to study a Master of Business at the University of Melbourne. Although he has graduated from an English-speaking university in Egypt, the University of Melbourne has requested an IELTS test. To be considered for acceptance into the Master’s program, Ahmad will need to complete the Academic IELTS.

Jaspreet is on a Working Holiday visa from India. She has applied for a job with an IT company in London. The company has asked for evidence of Jaspreet’s English ability. Jaspreet should complete the IELTS Academic.

Gabriela is a dentist from Brazil. She now lives in Sydney and wants to apply for registration with the Dental Board of Australia. In order to do so, Gabriela will need to complete the IELTS Academic.

Juan visited Ontario last year and met the love of his life. He now wants to migrate to Canada to be with her. As part of his application for immigration, Juan will need to complete the IELTS General.

If you’re unsure about which test to take, try this article: Why IELTS may be right for you!

If you aren’t sure which one to take, ask the organisation that has requested the IELTS. From there, you can sign up to one of our flexible, online IELTS courses to learn the strategies and methods you’ll need to succeed on the Academic or General IELTS!

Visit E2 IELTS for more preparation videos, like the IELTS General and IELTS Academic Course Overview from E2Language. 

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

 

Written by Jamal Abilmona.

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.

IELTS vs PTE Difficulty: The Writing Sections

IELTS vs PTE – everybody wants to know which test will match their skill set the best. I thought I would begin answering this intimidating question by talking about the differences between the two tests when it comes to the writing sections.

My name is Jay and I am a native English speaker from Australia. I’m also an English teacher. Not only that, but I’m a language expert with a masters degree in applied linguistics from the University of Melbourne.

I’m also naturally curious. I find it interesting to take English language tests, such as the PTE and IELTS. They’re not exactly fun, and it’s definitely not my number one hobby, but I do find it fascinating. (Admittedly, I don’t like spending $300 each time I do it…) Who knows? I might have been in the test center with you that day… I was the guy with the blue Australian passport who people were looking at thinking, “Why is he here?”.

IELTS vs PTE
Here I am discussing my PTE experience with my colleague!

I’ve taken the PTE Academic and the IELTS Academic and as a result I now have very good insights into both tests. Yes, I sat next to you and stared at the PTE computer for three long hours and did ‘Summarize Written Text’ and ‘Summarize Spoken Text ‘and ‘Write Essay’. Yes, I sat beside you and did ‘IELTS Writing Task 1’ and ‘IELTS Writing Task 2’.

Here are some critical differences that you should consider when choosing either the IELTS Academic or PTE Academic with regards to getting higher writing scores. Get ready for an IELTS vs PTE writing showdown! 

IELTS vs PTE Writing – a quick overview

In the PTE Academic you must:

  • Write an argumentative essay of between 200 and 300 words in 20 minutes (Write Essay)
  • Summarize a block of text into a single sentence in 10 minutes (Summarize Written Text)
  • Summarize a spoken lecture into 70 words in 10 minutes (Summarize Spoken Text)

In IELTS Academic you must:

  • Describe a graph/process in at least 150 words in 20 minutes (IELTS Writing Task 1)
  • Write a 250 word essay presented in various formats in 40 minutes (IELTS Writing Task 2)

PTE Write Essay vs IELTS Writing Task 2

Comparing the essays is the most obvious place to start because both tasks are the biggest and most time-consuming.

In PTE Write Essay you have 20 minutes to write a 200-300 word argumentative essay. In IELTS Writing Task 2 you have a number of different essay types that you may see, and you have 40 minutes to write at least 250 words. Overall, I think it’s easier to score a higher mark in PTE Write essay for the following reasons:

In PTE Write Essay there is only ONE type of essay – the argumentative essay. While the question prompts differ slightly, you can always use the same structure for all of your essays. How you organise – or structure – your essay has a massive impact on your overall grade. In this respect, PTE wins a point for easiness because IELTS Writing Task 2 hits you with various question types – agree/disagree, give you opinion, double question etc.

In PTE Write Essay you get 20 minutes to write at least 200 words while in IELTS Writing Task 2 you get 40 minutes to write at least 250 words. Hmmm, that’s 20 more minutes for only 50 more words, right? Well… it’s not that simple: Consider that in the PTE you get to TYPE on a computer! I don’t know about you, but I can type MUCH FASTER than I can write with an old-fashioned grey-lead pencil. What’s more, if you want to change something, delete something or move something then it is super easy. For me, typing 200 words in 20 minutes versus writing 250 words in 40 minutes with a pencil is a no-brainer. I choose the keyboard any day of the week.

PTE: Summarize Written Text AND Summarize Spoken Text vs IELTS Writing Task 1

It’s not quite fair to compare IELTS Writing Task 1, where you have to describe a graph in at least 150 words, with PTE’s Summarize Written Text where you have to write a single sentence of anywhere between 5 and 70 words. So, to make the battle fairer I will add the other writing task in PTE, Summarize Spoken Text, where you have to summarize a spoken lecture into 70 words or fewer.

I must say that when I did the IELTS I had a formula for IELTS Writing Task 1 that made it FAR SIMPLER. I had a plan. I had a structure. I knew exactly where to start and where to end and everything in between (see this blog post!). If you went into the IELTS Academic without a formula for Writing Task 1 then I think you would get a big surprise because A) you wouldn’t know what to write and B) you would waste heaps of time! There’s no doubt that IELTS Writing Task 1 is more complex and challenging than the other two PTE writing tasks – Summarize Written / Spoken Text. However, without that formula you wouldn’t have a chance of scoring above IELTS 7.

See an overview of our IELTS Writing Task 1 formula here:

In Summarize Written Text you have to summarize a block of text into a single sentence. It sounds easy, right? No way… If you do not know your grammar, if you don’t know a ‘subject + verb + object’ sentence when you see one, then you will not score highly on PTE Writing. I see hundreds of PTE students write the most ridiculous snake-like sentences thinking that they have written a single sentence. NOPE!

Check out some of our Summarize Written Text tips here:

Summarize Spoken Text, in contrast, is quite simple in terms of writing, but it does require you to listen to and understand the content of an academic lecture. So, it’s a double-edged sword. If you’re a good listener, you can rest assured that you do not need to write complex sentences. Short, sharp sentences are fine with this task. But, as I said, if the lecture doesn’t sink  in… who knows what will come out!

In short, if you have a formula for IELTS Writing Task 1 and you know your grammar for PTE Summarize Written Text and if you can understand an academic lecture for PTE Summarize Spoken Text, then the challenge is about equal.

IELTS vs PTE – My humble (and informed) opinion…

For this section of the test, PTE comes out as slightly easier but not by much and it’s not a straightforward difference. A good preparation course for IELTS Academic, such as the one on E2Language.com, will give you the methods and formulae you need to crack the exam – especially for IELTS Writing Task 1. But overall, PTE is slightly more forgiving, not least of all because you can type your answers, and if you make a mistake, like I always do, you can easily fix it. 

What are your thoughts on IELTS vs PTE when it comes to the writing sections? Let me know in the comments!

If you have any questions about IELTS vs PTE, check out our free forum and ask away!

 

Written by Jay Merlo.

Our Top Tips for IELTS Success!

Tips for IELTS success – Before Test-Day

The IELTS test can be scary if you’re not prepared. It’s important to prepare yourself by building your skills and not just practicing tests. Though being familiar with the test through practice is important for IELTS success, as it helps you know what to expect on the day, it is just as important to develop language skills such as:

  1. vocabulary
  2. grammar
  3. spelling
  4. pronunciation

There are many ways to do this.

To develop your vocabulary for IELTS success, you need to read, and build an IELTS vocabulary list. Reading is the best way to see how words are used in context and a great way to learn new words and collocations. You don’t have to read complicated books. The best way is to make reading fun by reading things that interest you. If you like fashion, read a fashion magazine like Marie Claire, GQ or Elle. If you like music, read a music magazine such as Rolling Stone, Billboard or Vibe. If you like news and current affairs, read an online newspaper such as the Guardian, New York Times, or the Economist. National Geographic is also a wonderful online and print resource with lots of interesting articles and great new words for you to learn!

When you come across a new word, add it to your word list. Look it up and write the English definition and any synonyms that you find, as well as any words that it collocates with. Keep building this list. Try to use the new words in writing and speaking. You can write a short piece every day; this could be a message or email to a friend, a journal entry, or using a new word in conversation. Word puzzles are also a fun way to improve your vocabulary and your spelling. You are given definitions and you must solve the puzzle by writing the correct word. The more new words you learn, the better you will do in the reading, writing, speaking and listening parts of the IELTS test.

IELTS Success
IELTS success tip: Keep a notebook to record unfamiliar words.

Although the IELTS does not directly test your grammar, you need to use correct grammar in your speaking and writing. Also, in the reading and listening tests, using incorrect grammar in your answers will cost you a point. To develop your grammar, go back to basics! Many second-language speakers, no matter how well they speak English, continue to make basic grammar mistakes. So, learn parts of speech and their functions, (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, articles, prepositions and conjunctions). For extra practice, you can follow our weekly grammar practice activities here:

https://blog.e2language.com/weekly-pte-practice-activities/

Also, be aware of your own weaknesses. If you keep making the same mistakes, focus on practicing these. You can use online resources, or write sentences using these grammar forms and have someone with a native command of English give you constructive feedback. This is key to your IELTS success.

Spelling is also an important part of the writing test, and many spelling mistakes will impact your score. It is also important in the reading and listening tests. When copying your answers from the test paper onto the answer sheet, many candidates misspell the words. Although your answer might be correct, a misspelled word will cost you a point.

Spelling and pronunciation go hand in hand. To improve your spelling, you need to…..you guessed it: read! This can be anything from a product packet, a billboard, a newspaper, or a buzzfeed article. When you see a new word, or a word that you struggle to spell, practice saying it aloud. Think about how it sounds and associate those sounds with the way it looks. Then add it to your IELTS word list!

Using the three senses of seeing the word, saying the word and writing the word will help your brain remember how to spell it and how to pronounce it. Also, the more you read, the more you see words. Seeing them will commit them to memory and help you to know if the word doesn’t look ‘right’ when you write it. You can further develop your pronunciation using our E2Pronounce app where you can practice your pronunciation and increase your oral fluency.

IELTS Success
IELTS success tip: Reading is an excellent way to improve vocabulary and spelling!

Tips for IELTS Success – Test-Day

Time management is everything!

Reading:

In the reading task, you will be given an hour to read 4 texts, answer 40 questions on the IELTS exam paper, and transfer your answers onto the answer sheet.

It is not uncommon to lose track of time and as a result, not complete the reading task. Many candidates don’t finish the reading task because they don’t manage their time.  It is recommended that you spend about 12 minutes on each reading text – that is almost 50 minutes. This will leave you with 10 minutes to transfer your answers onto your answer sheet.  It is important to know that the first reading passage is the easiest and the fourth one is the hardest. So you don’t want to spend too much time on the first one as you will probably need extra time on the last one.

The important thing to note is that YOU are responsible for keeping track of your time. Even if you haven’t finished answering all of the questions for the first text after 12 minutes, leave it and move on to the second text.  If you spend too much time on text 1, you risk not making it to the fourth and last text, or not finishing transferring your answers onto your answer sheet. An incomplete answer sheet will meet an incomplete score. You will not be allowed to take your phone or your watch into the test centre, but the time will be displayed on a screen. Use this to set your time limit for each reading.

Writing:

In the writing task, you will have 1 hour to write two tasks. The first task should be at least 150 words in length and the second task should be a minimum of 250 words. It is recommended that you spend 20 minutes on task 1 and 40 minutes on task 2. Again, you will be responsible for managing your time here. Take note of when you start task 1 and then stop after 20 minutes, even if you haven’t finished. It is important to move on to make sure you finish task 2 as this counts for double the score.

Listening:

There will be 3-4 different audios and 40 questions in total. Use the reading time before the audio is played to read the questions for that section. When reading the questions, try to predict what you think the answers might be, and think about what types of words you should be listening for (for example, a singular noun, an adjective, a verb?). Also, try to find the keywords in each question. Keywords are usually nouns and verbs. When you find them, circle or underline them. This will help you to focus on keywords rather than reading whole sentences while you’re trying to listen. Also, listen for hint words such as ‘however’ and ‘but’, that might indicate a change in the idea, and to vocal emphasis that might be a clue that this is an important idea.

You will also be given 30 seconds at the end of each audio to check your answers. You will be given 10 minutes to transfer your answers at the end of the listening test. Use this time to check that your answer makes grammatical sense and is spelled correctly. A grammar or spelling mistake will cost you a point. Also take care with your handwriting. If the examiner can’t read your handwriting, you will not get the point. Therefore, it might be better to use all capital letters as this is easier to read.

Speaking:

The main thing to do in the speaking test, is keep talking – the more you talk, the more the examiner can hear your vocabulary, fluency, pronunciation and grammar. If you don’t speak enough, they will find it hard to score you. Listen carefully to what the examiner is asking you and make sure you answer the question. If you don’t understand, it’s ok. You can ask for clarification. This will be seen as evidence of good communication skills rather than as a weakness. If you need time to think, don’t freeze, you can buy yourself time by paraphrasing the question. Be confident. Make eye contact with the examiner and speak naturally, and avoid using memorized answers. Speak up and speak clearly. Take your time and breathe.

IELTS Success
IELTS success tip: Make eye contact and don’t memorize your answers!

Best of luck on your journey to IELTS Success!

 

 

Written By Jamal Abilmona.

IELTS Speaking Tips 101: General IELTS Test Preparation

Okay! Another tips article… and this time we will discuss IELTS Speaking Tips!

The time has come, you are about to be tested on your spoken English skills for the IELTS exam. In your head you sound great, you’re basically fluent but the moment you open your mouth, the words don’t come out, or when they do it sounds like “blah blah blah.”

What to do? One of the greatest painters of all time, Leonardo da Vinci, said the success of his works were due to the amount of preparation he put into them first.

So in other words, it’s all about the preparation!

IELTS speaking tips
Time poor and stressed? Preparation will help you achieve success on the IELTS!

What is the IELTS examiner looking for?

Fluency, this doesn’t mean you need to speak with a perfect British or American accent, but you should speak clearly and pronounce your words correctly.

IELTS Speaking Tips

Here are some important IELTS Speaking Tips to remember:

Tip #1 Pick an English speaking television series and watch it regularly to help with your articulation and pronunciation.

Tip #2 Read out loud to yourself when you can, this will help identify words you find difficult to pronounce and it will give you more confidence reading in English.

Tip #3 Practice using a range of functional vocabulary such as opinion language to express yourself. For example, ‘I agree with the opinion of …’

Tip #4 Pick out the topics you might talk about (everyday ideas) and practice them in a conversation with someone you know, or record yourself and listen back to see how you sound, and what improvements are needed.

Tip #5 Prepare a list of Linking Words and practice using them before the test, for example: ‘As a matter of fact’ or ‘generally speaking’.

Tip #6 Give examples, this allows you to talk about something you know and gives you the opportunity to add detail to the discussion.

Tip #7 Correct your mistakes with the examiner. If you notice that you made a mistake, correct it straight away (e.g. “I was getting for the train, I mean getting on the train…”).

Read on for in-depth IELTS Speaking tips on pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. 

IELTS Speaking Tips: Pronunciation

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, Peter Piper picked a pickled pepper! These are some of the sentences Australian kids practice in the classroom to help them with articulation and pronunciation.

Pronunciation is sometimes a tricky thing to practice, especially if you don’t have access to conversing with an English speaker. But where there’s a will there’s a way. How? Pick an English speaking series and watch it regularly.

When I was learning German I ended up with a southern accent because the soap opera I used to watch was set in southern Germany. It’s a great way to learn how to pronounce words, listen to the experts.

Now, I suggest you don’t pick a Scottish series, as even the best of us struggle to understand those guys!

Read out loud. Read out loud to yourself when you can, this will help identify words you find difficult to pronounce and it will give you more confidence reading in English.

Sometimes getting stuck on the way you pronounce a word can really affect your confidence, the best way to avoid this is, PRACTICE of course.

But if you do stumble on a word, don’t let it put you off and keep going. If you show confidence in your speaking the examiner will not focus so much on little slip ups.

IELTS speaking tips
Show your confidence and don’t forget to smile! The IELTS examiner is human too!

IELTS Speaking Tips: Grammar and vocabulary

Grammar and vocabulary are also important and count for around 25% of your speaking score.

In the IELTS test, you will be giving your opinion a lot, talking about your likes and dislikes. The IELTS examiner basically wants to know if you can use a range of functional vocabulary such as opinion language to express yourself. For example:

As far as I know …

I agree with the opinion of …

I could be wrong, but …

I’d definitely say that …

I’d guess/imagine that …

I’d say that …

I’m absolutely certain that …

If you want to brush up on your grammar, E2language.com have a wide range of grammar exercises and I highly recommend using them to brush up on your grammar as well as following these IELTS speaking tips.

 IELTS Speaking Tips: IELTS speaking topics

Pick out the topics you might talk about (everyday ideas) and practice them in a conversation with someone you know, or record yourself and listen back to see how you sound, and what improvements are needed. Remember it’s not an academic discussion (UNLESS you are doing the academic IELTS test), they really don’t need to hear you express your opinion about the latest research in Quantum Physics, it’s about you being able to communicate in English with confidence. Use Natural English short forms like “it’s” and not “it is”, and commonly spoken phrases like “I guess” and “I suppose”. Prepare a list of Linking Words and practice using them before the test, for example:

Adding more information:

  • And
  • Also
  • As well as
  • Another reason is

Make sure it’s not too short and sweet.

For example:

Question:” Where did you grow up”

Answer: “In my parents’ house”

Better would be:

Answer: “I grew up in Finland, and I had a lovely childhood. I lived in an old cottage just outside Finnagoo Forest, with both my parents, two brothers and a dog called Pablo.”

Remember, however, that very long answers are not always good answers. It’s rather easy to go off topic and lose coherence. It is ok to give short answers sometimes too.

If you happen to get a question you don’t know very much about, just give a short answer by saying you don’t know a lot about that topic and then wait for the next question.

A great way to give yourself time to think about the question is to repeat/reformulate the question.

For instance in In parts 1 and 3 you are not given any thinking time: you are supposed to start speaking immediately, so a way to give yourself a bit more time is to just repeat the question. “What did I enjoy about my last holiday? Let me see…”

Another great tip is to give examples, this allows you to talk about something you know and gives you the opportunity to add detail to the discussion.

IELTS Speaking Tips: Some extra little tips and hints!

  • Be sure to correct your mistakes, if you notice you made a mistake correct it straight away (i.e. “I was getting for the train, I mean getting on the train…”)
  • If you don’t understand the question to be sure to ask the Examiner to explain further.
  • Make eye contact, make sure you don’t end up having a conversation with the table, acknowledge the Examiner and look at them during the conversation.
  • Speak ONLY English immediately before the exam. Try to talk to someone or talk to yourself (ideally in your head) “man this is nerve-racking, I can’t wait to go for a victory coffee afterward.”
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Practice English with a friend before your IELTS Speaking evaluation, and remember to include them in your ‘victory coffee’ afterwards!

If you are really serious about getting the best possible result for your IELTS test, I would highly recommend signing up to e2language.com. You will have access to one on one IELTS coaching.

Our IELTS teachers are very qualified and passionate about getting you the score you need. You will also have access to a wide range of test questions, grammar exercises, IELTS secrets to success, webinars and much more.

For some more secrets to success check out this link to the E2 IELTS channel.

Remember that the right preparation can get you the right results! Tally your familiarity of IELTS Speaking by getting the most out of Jay’s experiences in his article: IELTS Speaking: How to get an IELTS 9.

Have you taken IELTS? How did you prepare for the IELTS Speaking Section?

Follow our social media for more IELTS resources and updates!

Written by: Michelle Anderson

IELTS Preparation: How to Ace the IELTS

Although this article is about the IELTS test, E2Language.com designs and delivers materials and expert advice for a variety of English-language proficiency tests including IELTS preparation course. While there are many different reasons people take these various tests, there is also a commonality among test takers. The three most common reasons people take an English-language proficiency test are: (a) to obtain meaningful employment in an English-speaking environment; (b) to study at a tertiary institution in an English-speaking environment, and/or (c) to emigrate to a country with English-language proficiency targets for its prospective migrants. In other words, test takers would like to reunite with loved ones and family, get meaningful employment in an English-speaking environment and/or continue their studies at an English-speaking institution. Clearly, there is a lot of pressure on test takers to do well. Their happiness and livelihoods could depend on it!

The IELTS is by far the world’s most popular high-stakes proficiency test, as it is accepted by more governments, companies and institutions than any other test. As a result, IELTS preparation is one of E2 Language’s most popular courses. Among the most common comments and questions we get from our students: “I got an IELTS 5.0 on my first attempt, but I need a 7.0. What can I do for my IELTS preparation?” Others complain that IELTS 6.5 is the score they’ve been stuck on forever (i.e. they’ve done the IELTS several times and continually get the same result) . It can be disheartening to write proficiency tests over and over again and not achieve the score you need. What can be done? Here are a few things you can do to improve your English while you get ready to sit the IELTS:

IELTS Preparation Books

Firstly, students have to be realistic about how much they can improve their score through test prep alone. In addition to the necessary test preparation, students may need time to develop the proficiency that they’ll need to succeed. Reading English-language books for pleasure and watching movies in English may be as important as sifting through essay samples from an IELTS test prep booklet. Obviously you’ll want to focus on the IELTS tasks and the language and skills that are essential for a top score, but when you want to relax and unwind, it’d be a good idea to choose English-language relaxation tools. Let’s say, for example, that your friend has been doing some IELTS coaching in Delhi, India. You’d probably want her to help you with your own IELTS preparation, but she is a full-time tutor; she doesn’t want to work all day and then help you with your listening skills. She wants to relax and watch a good movie. You should go to the cinema with her and have a good time watching an English-language movie that you can both enjoy. That will keep your friend happy and help you develop those essential skills.

Secondly, students need to do study outside of the normal bounds of a IELTS-prep classroom. In addition to the reading for pleasure discussed above, self-guided study is an essential part of improving your overall language skills and proficiency. Make lists of important vocabulary or grammatical structures as you encounter them in your day-to-day life. Join an online forum like Quora.com and ask questions about English-language conventions, common usage and other mysteries that your typical ESL books have failed to adequately answer. Depending on where you are in the world, you can even join a local ESL support group and talk with other test takers about your difficulties and triumphs. Local libraries are still a great place to meet and organize such groups.

Thirdly, you need to be prepared for the style and format of the test. Not only that, you need to experience the time constraints and pressure that the test provides. Truly, you should log on to E2Language.com and sign up for an online course that will help you continue your journey to English proficiency. While spending all your free time on IELTS test prep is likely to drive you mad, doing absolutely no test prep will not serve you well either. Even highly proficient users of English have difficulty on the IELTS because of its time constraints, demanding tasks and the pressure of performing. Our online tools and one-on-one personalized instruction will always fit your schedule. We’re better than a bricks-and-mortar school because we’ve got experienced teachers and materials developers delivering up-to-date tasks and providing personalized and professional feedback. Don’t just buy a $19.99 IELTS test prep book of speaking topics with answers, visit E2Language.com and join today.

Whether you need an IELTS 6.0, 7.0 or even 8.0, we have your solution!

 

Written by Shawn Hupka.

What really is Blended Learning?

In this article, we will explain the concept of Blended Learning which is one of the main concepts behind E2Language.

A student that took a recent IELTS test asked the question: “is three hours of well-designed teacher-guided online English language learning as effective as thirty hours of teacher-led classroom learning?”[1] This question begs another: is the online learning environment better suited to the teacher-led or the teacher-guided approach?[2] With the shift to new ways of delivering English language test preparation, teaching and learning, are 1 to 1 sessions with an IELTS tutor online more beneficial than taking IELTS classes with a group of 20 or 30 other students?

These questions are very broad, of course. The effectiveness of different teaching and learning approaches is affected by the age, learning objectives and educational background of students. Nevertheless, using high-stakes English language exam preparation (PTE Academic, IELTS, TOEIC, TOEFL and OET) as the focus of this article, we examine how over-reliance on a teacher-centred approach (whether via video or in a classroom) can affect the quality of online learning outcomes.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching and learning is an iterative and dynamic communication process. The idea that teachers teach and that students, hopefully, learn neglects that teaching and learning is a two-way communication loop. This means that the teacher is also learning. Through direct teacher-student interactions, a good teacher will be sensitive to the student’s learning path, speed of knowledge acquisition and the depth of their comprehension. The pace and depth of knowledge transfer is continuously adjusted to achieve better learning outcomes for students.[3]

However, rather than taking a holistic approach as advocated by the teaching and learning literature, in practice, the online education revolution has been heavily weighted towards the student-side of the equation.[4] New technologies have been introduced to incorporate and distribute richer media and materials to students; or to shift basic testing and assessment online. To a great degree, the online education revolution has side stepped the role of the teacher. While student-centred activities have migrated online, new teaching approaches by and large haven’t.

Why is this the case?

Re-Visiting the Old ‘Teacher-Led/Student-Centred’ Debate

For a long time, a classical debate in the field of education is whether teacher-led or student-led learning is more effective? Is knowledge transfer more effective when a teacher stands in front of a classroom explaining and illustrating ideas- a method where students play a more passive role? Or, is the learning process more effective when students a take an active role and greater responsibility for acquiring knowledge at a pace and depth that better suits their individual requirements?[5]

These questions, of course, represent extreme positions on a continuum. Teaching and learning is a social interaction between teachers, individual students and groups of similarly situated students. To the extent that some optimal position exists somewhere in between differs for each and every student. On one hand, if students are not actively engaged in the learning process, they feel disconnected and quickly become bored. Effective knowledge transfer fails. On the other hand, if students are left too much to their own devices, they loose direction, confidence and the motivation to continue to learn.

In the online English language test preparation space, student support is heavily materials focused, not engaging and often completely without guidance. As a result, students quickly become bored and find it extremely difficult to maintain the motivation necessary to complete online test preparation programs. The extremely low retention rates isn’t very different from other more general courses offered online.[6] When left without proper guidance, many students have a tendency to waste time reinforcing skills they have already mastered rather than focusing on weaker skills.

The Internet and Blended Learning

Somewhere between the extremes described above, new technologies, tools and teaching approaches have emerged enabling new ways to find that elusive balance between teacher and student. The journey towards finding that balance has resulted in different concepts surrounding ‘blended learning’ also emerging.

First Generation Blended Learning

The first generation, and still the dominant understanding of what blended learning is, tends to place the teacher in front of a class or audience using a teacher-led approach, in the first instance. To the extent blending does occur, it is weighted heavily to the student side of the equation. The internet is used to provide new ways of distributing and providing access to digital materials not to mention the management of these materials and related media.

The teacher-led function occurs independently of the student-centred activities. Blending exists only to the extent that the new technologies are used to support the teacher-led approach.

New Generation Blended Learning

A more sophisticated concept of blended learning has evolved in recent years focusing on more sophisticated ways to better integrate the teacher side of the equation. With new tools and technologies, more efficient and effective ways of knowledge transfer are possible. At the same time, more sophisticated ways of designing and digitising materials to be more engaging also strengthens the student-centred side of the equation.

Combining the two, technology can be constructive rather than disruptive. A ‘constructive’ digital platform is one that provides benefits to all parties. This can only be achieved with good governance and guidance on the part of the teacher. The student has a role to play in meeting the terms of the student/teacher compact. This side of the bargain is more easily kept if students are engaged by the technology they are expected to interact with.

Seeking the Optimal Blend: Teacher Guided, Student-Led Learning

When more balanced blended learning approach is pursued in curriculum and lesson design, it should seek a more coherent balancing of strategic ‘guidance’ and constructive ‘engagement’. The new technologies can facilitate both provided that curricula is well designed involving a mixture of student informed guidance drawn from diagnostic assessment and face to face interaction as well as highly engaging, interactive, self-supporting teaching materials.

Rather than 30 hours of passive, classroom learning reinforced with un-engaging, static learning materials, studies suggest that 3 hours of 1 on 1 guidance integrated with well-scaffolded and engaging digitally delivered materials can generate as efficient and effective learning outcomes.[7] Further, rather than the one size fits all classroom approach, a more direct two-way interaction between teacher and student allows the teacher to better calibrate the speed and depth of knowledge transfer to individual student needs much better.

Studies show that well designed and scaffolded learning materials provide a more efficient path forward enabling students to self-direct their learning more effectively. The teacher is responsible for ensuring that students stay on that path and assist where weaknesses in understanding are flagged or identified.

 

[1] Palloff, R. M., Pratt, K. (2013) Lessons from the Virtual Classroom (2nd Ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[2] Richards, J.C., Rodgers, T.S. (2013) Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (3rd Ed). Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press

[3] Innovation and Change in English Language Education. By Ken Hyland, Lillian L C Wong, 2013 Routledge Milton park

[4] Teaching & Researching: Language Learning Strategies. By Rebecca L. Oxfor

[5] Sheppard, C. and Gilbert, J. (1991) “Course design, teaching method and student epistemology” 22(3) Higher Education 229-249.

[6] http://static.duolingo.com/s3/DuolingoReport_Final.pdf

[7] Allen, E. & Seaman, J. (2013) Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States.Wellesley, MA: Babson College.

 

Written by: Tom Connors