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Success in IELTS? Making a dream come true needs a long term view! - Simon

 Success in IELTS? Making a dream come true needs a long term view ! 
Ask Sally Tsai, PhD candidate in Education Management at Edinburgh University,  ask Troy Chen, on the long road to being a dentist, at James Cook University, Australia – both of them say the same thing: it’s a long road to a high score with IELTS,   
Be positive, but be realistic: start with general English classes with-very importantly a qualified teacher! Work with someone who has a very solid knowledge of grammar and pronunciation –preferably an individual with a good track record in teaching, better, a licensed English teacher; the better the teacher, the better the result. Don’t fall into the trap of supposing IELTS has a formula, or rather, words or grammar a test taker ought, or ought not to use.
As if to illustrate my point, Sally and Troy spoke confidentially-for as long as possible, in each part of the test, which had a very positive effect on their final score. At the same time, they were very expressive: when they disliked something, or someone? Fine! They explained how they felt!
So I’ve discussed Speaking, of course you want a high score for writing? Again, think long term; our research shows that it takes at least three to six months to increase the altitude by half a band; as with writing, you’ll need to learn the question types for task one and two, and what your writing needs to display, in relation to its attention to the task: is it coherently organized ? Equally have you will need a good level of accuracy, variation and sophistication with your grammar and vocabulary.
Using a university word list, with its accompanying audio/ written file is a very useful way to make a positive difference to your Listening Score. Having listened to two or recording s three times a day, even over a short period – say two months, you’ll find it much easier to cope with new vocabulary, and not to mention new accents – a frequent cause of complaint ! However, that problem, can be solved practicing, and don’t forget IELTS Essentials has a lot of information on ways of improving Listening skills.
My colleague has been learning Chinese for twenty years, I’m always asking him what’s the most difficult part, and for the last seven years he’s said the same thing-reading even after all this time! Gladly, though, he offers the same advice, when it comes to tests, improve your technique: skimming, scanning and to lesser degree, reading for detail.
Success in IELTS is not about if, it’s about when. Our team will help you reach your goal. Feel free to come and talk to us. That aside, I hope this has been helpful, my main point is .think long term, and as the IELTS Experts say ‘best wishes’.   

The different papers in IELTS - Gerhard


The listening test focuses on situationally authentic language and tasks.  That means you will get tested on what you are likely to hear and need to understand in an environment where the interaction is in English.
There is no ‘preferred’ accent and listening texts feature native speaker accents from the USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Accents are present, but neutral, and reflect what test takers will experience in real life interactions in English.

General information about listening

There are 40 questions in 4 sections in the test and the test gets progressively more difficult from section 1 to section 4.
Sections 1 and 2 come from a social interaction. Usually, section 1 is an exchange between two speakers and section 2 is a monologue such as a guided tour or a sales presentation.
Sections 3 and 4 come from an academic environment. Section 3 usually has 3 or 4 speakers and section 4 only one.


The reading test is designed for purpose. That means the different versions of the test allows candidates with different purposes to take versions suitable to their needs and requirements.
It is also designed to test a variety of reading skills that test takers are likely to need in real life reading and includes a variety of reading tasks to ensure the test is fit for purpose.
General information about reading
There are 3 sections and 40 questions.  The test lasts for 60 minutes. In the academic version, the reading texts are academic in nature, while they are more social in nature in the general training paper.


Similar to the reading test, the writing test is available in two versions. A big benefit for Asian candidates who are used to use a keyboard for different input functions, the IELTS test is a written exam. That means you won’t waste time trying to find certain keys on the keyboard. This allows candidates to give an accurate reflection of their writing ability without having to worry about typing. The test is marked by a trained IELTS examiner.

General information about writing

The writing test has two parts and lasts 60 minutes.
Both the general training version and the academic version requires the writing of an essay for part 2. It is suggested that candidates spend around 40 minutes on this and many candidates prefers to do task 2 first as the scores are weighted more than task 1.
For task 1, general training candidates write a letter. The academic task 1 is more academic in nature and required the description of for example a graph, a map or a flow chart.


The biggest benefit of the IELTS speaking exam is that it is one-on-one with an examiner. While this may be intimidating for candidates, it is very important to remember that candidates can ask for repetition and clarification or use conversation repair techniques for which they will be rewarded instead of penalized. This is not possible in exams where the test is done on a computer.
All tests are recorded to ensure that candidates are given a fair mark. The examiner in the room is trained to deliver the test fairly and accurately as well as to score the test accurately and fairly.

General information about speaking

There are 3 parts to the test and it lasts for around 14 minutes. It progresses from personal questions and very familiar topics to less familiar and more general.
In part 1, you will be asked personal questions about familiar topics such as using a mobile phone or the internet, work or study and other similar topics.
In part 2 you are given a topic to speak about for 2 minutes. You have a minute preparation time.
In part 3, you have a discussion with the examiner about a topic related to your part 2 topic. In this part you can ask the examiner to explain their questions, but in part 1 and 2 they are not allowed to.

How are scores reported?

IELTS scores are reported as a band score ranging from 1 to 9 with half points in between.
Each paper is given a separate score and this is converted to an overall score by dividing the total of the four papers by four.
Marking criteria for the speaking and writing modules are available online and candidates can use these to guide their preparation.

The examiners

Examiners are recruited based on very strict requirements and then trained. After the initial training, examiners are constantly monitored and have retraining meetings. This is to ensure that marking is fair and accurate.
Candidates can request a remark of their speaking or writing, but it is highly unlikely that more than a half point increase can be accomplished through this. There are systems in place to ensure that each candidate receives the mark they deserve.

IELTS article for IDP - Mark

I’d like to share with you some of the common errors candidates make when taking IELTS and some easy ways to avoid them. First and foremost, it is important to follow the instructions precisely. Below is a list of what I deem to be 8 of the most common IELTS errors that cost candidates valuable marks in the test.
  1. Notice the word limits in the Reading and Listening modules. If the task says "Not more than 3 words", answering in 4 or more words will definitely cost marks.
  2. Less is bad. The length of a written task is crucial. When instructions mention a minimal number of words (150 for Task 1 and 250 for Task 2), it means that any work shorter than required will be penalised.
  3. Longer essays may not mean higher marks. Another common misconception is that longer essays score better in IELTS. Writing a long essay can indirectly cost marks, because the chances of making mistakes increase with the number of words and sentences. It is better to spend more time planning before you write in order to ensure a higher degree of accuracy.
  4. Changing the topic is wrong. Every so often a candidate is asked to write on a topic, that he/she doesn't understand. To avoid the disaster of missing a whole task, they decide to write on a slightly – or entirely - different topic. The fact is that no matter how well-written the submitted work is, writing on the wrong topic means a very low score. Another similar pitfall is to omit parts of the given topic or ignore the task words (agree, disagree, discuss both views etc.) in your work. Every point the topic and task refer to needs to be covered in order to get a higher score.
  5. Memorising can be bad. Having seen that some topics are sometimes repeated, some candidates with good memories decide to memorise essays. This is a terrible mistake to make because, although the topics may be similar, the task words may be different. The examiners are trained to look for memorized essays and have firm instructions to penalise such essays.
  6. The quality of your ideas is not important. Many candidates think that ideas may be judged as bad or good (whether it is in essay, letter or discussion) and this can harm their score. The truth is that no ideas can be bad; they must be related to the topic/task. It is the way they are expressed that is important.
  7. Accent is not important. Pronunciation is.! IELTS, being a test for non-native English speakers can't penalize people for having an accent. The problem here is that not everyone knows the difference between speaking with an accent and mispronouncing the words. No matter how strong an accent a person has, pronunciation and sentence stress and rhythm are the criteria the examiner is listening for.
  8. Overuse of connective words: Clever candidates know coherence and cohesion are very important in the test, and what better way is there to demonstrate cohesion than to use lots of connective words, right? Wrong.  It’s also important to use word of substitution/reference such as it, this they, their etc.
In conclusion, a word of advice: to stay out of trouble, it is equally important to be aware of the above pitfalls and to practice enough before the exam. Familiarising yourself with the structure and the procedure of the test will build up confidence and ensure you do your best in the exam.
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