Frequently asked Questions by YOU!!!
(If you have any questions related to basic information you can search this FAQ database. I am sure that the majority of questions you may have are answered through the numerous lessons in the website. However, the following questions here, are real questions I have received from my students and viewers either on YT or FB and are not answered in the lessons).
Yes, it is fine to use all capital letters. This is taken from the British Council IELTS website:
“As you listen, write your answers on the question paper. At the end of the test, you will have 10 minutes to transfer your answers to the answer sheet in pencil. You may write your answers in lower case or capital letters.”
So if you do have problems with knowing whether to choose capitals or not, this can help.
It’s the same for the reading section, but most of your responses in the reading section come from the text, so you should be able to see if it is capitals or not.
Obviously, this is not an IELTS or English related question, but it is a question that I get asked A LOT! Honestly, I don’t know why people keep asking me this question either on YT or my FB page, since I answer to all questions and comments (people can get to me rather easily), but the truth is–believe it or not–I don’t have a personal facebook account. I know it sounds weird (or a little bit TOO weird) but I was never into facebook at all or any other social media sites for that matter.
When I created my YouTube channel and this website, I knew I had to have a facebook page for that and I was fine with it because I would talk about English and help people with it even more. So, I created a temporary personal account just in order to be able to create the page and then, I merged the two together so now I only have this page in which I invite you to chime in!
To be honest, I really love that I am able to communicate with all of you from wherever you are; this is so exciting! I love answering to questions and comments and helping people and in order to do this, a page is more than enough. It is all I need for my English teaching. I find facebook personal accounts a little bit too invasive for my taste and I’m not comfortable with that at all. 🙂
Don’t just try to memorise new vocabulary. The most effective way to improve your vocabulary is to learn new words into their context. This means that when you see a word you don’t know don’t search for its meaning only but also search for examples; see how it is used in real life situations.
Apart from that, try to learn all the derivatives of the word. For example, if you learn the verb “acquire”, learn the word “acquisition” too, which is the noun. In this way, you learn even more without struggle.
After that, try to use the word by yourself by making your own examples. Use it as you would in your own personal life. If you do that, you are not likely to forget new words. You can find new words by reading english articles online (start with topics that interest you) and focus on unknown words and follow my tips. This is a good way and you don’t even need to buy a book! Good luck!
Well, this is the number one question I receive A LOT. And I have to tell you that every time I am surprised. I mean, the answer to this very general question is obvious: Practice, practice, and… practice! IELTS is an exam assessing your knowledge of English through four thorough sections, magic tricks don’t work here. I’m sorry to break the news for you, but there is no easy way I’m afraid.
Overall, the first thing I suggest to everyone (especially if I don’t know them as students) is that the more you try to learn the language as a whole, the more you can raise your bandscore. Tips and strategies are great, but at the end of the day they are not magic, you know? This exam tests your level of English. This might seem a little too vague as an advice, but it is not. Because you know your weaknesses as a learner. You know which things confuse you; you know if you are not confident about something. So, firstly, work these things out (either it is grammar, syntax or whatever). Don’t pretend they don’t exist.
As you can understand, IELTS is too vast a subject, so I can only try and give you some basic tips and advice about each section here.
Let’s start off with Reading.
1.) I suggest a lot of practice with timing. Timing is the most difficult thing in Reading because it is not enough. So, you have to get used to doing everything quickly and correct. Do practice tests and time yourself. In this way you will know where you stand and where you need to get better.
2.) Read a lot in English. In this way you will get used to reading quickly in another language rather than your own and you will get better without even realizing it. You should start off by reading articles online related on subjects you love and find interesting.
3.) Try to understand the logic and what you need to do in each separate task of Reading. In this way you will be familiar with everything and you will not waste time during your actual practice.
4.) Do not read everything. You will waste valuable time. Train yourself to distinguish the gist of each paragraph along with important specific information.
5.) Always read the instructions carefully and underline key-words in the tasks.
6.) Be careful of paraphrasing. Train yourself so as to recognize same meanings that use different phrasing, different words that is.
I love writing as a teacher because I can see all the weaknesses of my learners and then I am able to focus on them and sort them out. What I want to say is that in writing, experienced examiners can see through your writing, your actual level. So:
1.) Avoid complicated syntax and phrasing unless you 100% sure it is correct. Better be simple and correct than convoluted and wrong.
2.) Always underline what you are asked to write in case you forget during your writing.
3.) Use a draft. Organize a plan with what you need to write before you start.
4.) Be sure that you are organised in terms of paragraphs, cohesion, and coherence. These are all very important in IELTS writing.
5.) Try to use a variety of vocabulary, connecting phrases, and syntax. Use a synonym instead of using the same word all the time.
6.) In task 2 especially, always give explanations for your arguments.
1.) Pronunciation is important. They do not expect you to talk like a native, of course not, but you have to be clearly understood. So, try not to mispronounce words.
2.) You are going to be nervous more or less. So, the more prepared you are, the less nervous you are going to be. Keep in mind that the examiners see lots of people every day, they are tired too. They are on your side, not your enemy. So, if you go in there and just have a friendly conversation with confidence, if you make them forget that they examine which is the ideal, the higher you will score.
3.) There are no right or wrong answers in Speaking. You just have to be able to understand what you are asked and talk about it giving your own opinion or your arguments. They just want to see that you can communicate well and effectively in English and that you can justify and stand up for what you think.
4.) Answer questions on your own and practice a lot. Talk by yourself: practice makes perfect.
5.) In the last part especially, the questions are going to be a little bit more challenging. Earn some time to think by asking “Could you repeat the question please?” Most times, apart from a difficult word or phrase, the question is pretty simple, so don’t get too overwhelmed. I mean, if they ask you what do you think about nuclear energy (and you know nothing about it) you still know that nuclear energy is not something good, right? So, base your answer on that. They do not expect you to be a scientist. Just to talk in English.
6.) Think in English as much as possible. The worst thing you can do is to try to translate in your mind what you would say in your mother language. Avoid that at all costs! Only experienced users can do that easily and even they get confused. Be simple, but think in English. If you think in a language with a different syntax and vocabulary eventually you will get stuck and then you will forget what you started to say in the first place.
7.) Speak as you write. What do I mean by that? When you write there is an intro, main paragraph, and conclusion. Keep that in mind with speaking too. Start with a starting phrase; state your opinion; complete you thoughts with an ending phrase.
8.) Learn standard connecting phrases to help you during speaking especially when you get stuck.
1.) ALWAYS check out the word limit in the instructions
2.) Underline key-words before the Listening starts, esp. words that cannot be paraphrased
3.) Try to predict what is missing in each gap before the recording starts (a number? a noun? a date? etc.)
4.) Try to keep up with the recording as much as you can. Do not insist on questions you missed.
5.) Be careful with paraphrasing: the questions will not be phrased in your paper in the same way you will hear them
6.) If it is multiple choice, read the instructions because you may have to choose two instead of one answer.
7.) The questions of multiple choice tasks will follow the order of the recording but the options may not
8.) Correct spelling is absolutely vital
9.) Always write down the exact words you hear: do not change them.
10.) You are going to hear everything only ONCE, so be focused
11.) Usually in all tasks the numbered questions follow the order of the listening. But, don’t get confused with diagram labelling tasks and similar ones with the letters. (eg. A – G). The recording always follows the order of the numbered questions (eg. 1 – 10) not the order of the letters in the picture.
12.) Learn to recognise paraphrasing
Well, these are some basic tips I can give you generally in all these four sections. As you can see this info is too general, but I hope I helped you. Bear in mind that no matter how much you practice and no matter how many tips you follow, the most important thing along with your practice is to try and learn the language a little bit better as a whole and work on your weaknesses.
During the time that is left you must practice constructively. What I mean by that is to practice the right way. Sometimes, it really doesn’t help to do one practice test after the other when you keep having the same problems and keep making the same mistakes. So, now is the time to actually learn from your mistakes.
If you have problems in Listening or Reading, in order to overcome these problems you have to identify them first: What kind of problems? Do you keep making the same mistakes in certain tasks more than others? (I have videos on specific problems that were actually requested by viewers like you, so these may help). In this case, then instead of calculating bandscores, you should start focusing on mistakes.
Take your past practice tests and study them deeply. Ask yourself: Why this one here is a mistake? Go and read that part of the text in reading, or listen to it again. See and understand why. Be sure about it. After some time you will see that the reasons of your mistakes are more or less repeated. This is exactly when you start to understand the –sometimes illogical– logic of IELTS. So, if an issue like that arises again, you won’t make it wrong, you will gradually improve.
It really depends on your own personal needs. Some books work well for some people while for others don’t work at all. Usually books published by Cambridge are a safe choice. IELTS Cambridge books (1-9) are very popular. They start from beginners to advanced. Also, Cambridge Trainer is a good book, if you are just starting out. Barron’s IELTS super pack is a good choice especially if you self study. According to your needs, check out the links below:
You can find free practice tests online in the following links: http://www.examsample.com/English-as-a-Second-Language-ESL/international-english-language-testing-system-ielts.html
I am sure you will find something that works for you!
Well, in this case, first of all don’t panic. All they want to see is your ability to communicate naturally and cohesively and your organisation of speech. In case you know nothing of the topic they ask you, then you can base your answer on something similar. It will be better than saying nothing for sure!
For example, if they ask you about horror books and you don’t know anything about it, you can say something like that: “Well, I am not very familiar with this kind of genre, but my favourite book was…” and start talking about that instead.
Just remember to start off by basing your answer on the question in order not to be considered off topic. It will be fine as long as your level of English is good and you can speak naturally. A student of mine did that and achieved a 7 in speaking, although she was extremely nervous. (Her English was very good though).
Before I give you more practical advice, allow me to give you the best advice of all: If you started off on the wrong foot with a foreign language, then erase all that, and start anew. See it like a new game that you can play with it and do lots of exciting things with it but first you have to learn its rules, right? So, instead of being frustrated with English or afraid of it, start loving it and play with it.
Now, let’s be more practical. As I am sure you can understand, there is no easy way, there is no magic rule that you can apply and learn easily. It will require some effort on your side. Some advice I can give you without knowing your level is that since you already know English more or less, then you should probably know your weaknesses. You know your gaps. Things that you are not sure about: you don’t know well. Start working on them. Luckily, you can find so much information online. You can find lots of exercises to do and then check out your mistakes. You don’t have to pay anything if you intend to self-study. You can do this online absolutely for free. All you need is your will.
Start with Grammar. Grammar is very important: it is the core of every language and it will also give you the confidence you need. You will be sure that you use the language correctly, if you know grammar well.
Bear in mind that Speaking is the last section that foreigners acquire, so don’t be disappointed if you can’t speak very well yet. Yet, every new thing you learn, try to use it in speech, too for practice. If you watch american movies try to listen to what they say along with the subtitles.
Also, it really helps to read in English. Start reading online articles that talk about the things you love or find interesting. Then check out vocabulary that you don’t know.
A book will help you as a guidance. I would suggest to buy a coursebook for adults according to your level and work with it consistently and with patience. A book will help you not to get lost with too much information that there is online and will also offer the guidance you need. The golden rules are the following:
1.) Work: there is no easy way, you have to be willing to dedicate some time to play with English. 🙂
2.) Consistency: you have to be consistent in order for your learning method to be effective
3.) Program: Create a program of studying and try to keep it: This will help you be consistent
4.) Organisation: Nothing happens without organisation. At first, everything seems chaotic. You don’t know where to start. If you start things will be easier. The first step is the most difficult. Organise you work and your time. No rush, you have plenty of time. Just one step at a time!
5.) Repetition is the mother of all learning! This is very important. Repeat each week everything you learn. Without repetition you are not going to remember it after some time
6.) Practice: Practice makes perfect. Do lots of exercises on each subject. Then, you will own it.
7.) Will: Well, you know what they say, there’s a will there’s a way!
A very useful site is this one:
You can find millions like that online through Google search and choose the ones you prefer. Good luck!
Well, I know this is a problem but don’t get too anxious about it. There are ways to practice speaking by yourself even without a partner. First of all, try to think in English in your everyday life even if you don’t talk out loud.
For example, in your spare time while you think about something, try to do that in English. We have millions of thoughts everyday in our mother language of course, but instead of thinking “Ugh, I have to go to work now” in your native language, try to do that in English as much as you can. See it like a game.
In Part 1 of Speaking the examiner is going to ask you some personal questions. All IELTS books with practice tests give you some of the questions you might be asked, but you can find lots of them online, too. So, take some time and answer the questions by yourself many times for practice. The same goes with Part 2 and 3. And now you are going to ask me, “yes, but who is going to correct me if I’ m wrong?” You are right, but keep in mind that what they want to see is if you are able to understand and communicate well. So, if you are prepared through practicing by answering questions and doing practice tests you won’t have a problem.
Also, if you work on the weaknesses on grammar you might eliminate other mistakes too. Just keep in mind that Speaking is in a way like writing orally. You have to answer the question to the point; be specific; use vocabulary; and always conclude with your main thought or idea. It will also help greatly if you record yourself and then listen to how you talk. In this way, you will be able to identify your problems more easily and correct them.
I know that a speaking partner is important and this advice is not ideal, but if you don’t have a partner, there are still ways to help yourself, sometimes even better if you practice enough.
IELTS BAND SCALE
9: Expert User –> You have full command of the language
8: Very Good User –> You have full command of the language with occasional inaccuracies.
7: Good User–> You have operational command of the language but inaccuracies still occur.
6: Competent User–> You have effective command of the language in general, but inappropriate expressions, inaccuracies, and misunderstandings still occur.
5: Modest User–> You have partial command of the language and you are able to understand the overall meaning in most situations but you are susceptible to many mistakes.
4: Limited User–> You can handle basic communication in familiar situations but you cannot use complex language and misunderstandings occur often along with mistakes.
3: Extremely Limited User–> You can only understand the general meaning of familiar situations. You have trouble communicating in English.
2: Intermittent User–> You cannot really communicate in English and you can understand only the most basic information.
1: Non-User–> You have no ability to use the language apart from a few words.
0: Did not attempt the test–> You have not provided any information in order to be assessed.
Whatever your level is, don’t get disheartened! You can definitely raise your band score with the right preparation. There are tips that will help you improve your performance in each section almost instantly in this website. Good luck!
After a full stop (period), you always start with an upper case. When you start a sentence, you always start with an upper case. When you write down names, countries, names of places, addresses, etc. you always use an upper case. Other than that, you write with lower case. In the answersheet, you can either write with all capitals or with all lower except for the first letter of the first word. Both are accepted.
First of all, in order to find a solution for something, you have to identify the problem. What I want to say is, have you noticed in which tasks you tend to make most mistakes? Or this happens with every task? If you have noticed that this happens with specific tasks only, in this website I examine each and every Reading task in detail along with common problems, so you will be able to get some help. If you think that this happens in general with any task, then what I can say -without knowing what kind of mistakes you make- is that maybe you are confused with paraphrasing.
Paraphrasing is a huge issue with IELTS Reading and this is where most students make mistakes and get confused. You must be very careful because the answers are almost always paraphrased. So, you have to train yourself to recognize the correct information that refers to the original text.
In paraphrasing, they use different words to describe the same meaning. If we take into account that there are a lot of different tasks and not enough time, it is no wonder that you make mistakes. You just have to get used to paraphrased information.
One tip I can give you is to underline both in text and in tasks key words and phrases that CANNOT be paraphrased. Such words are scientific terminology, philosophical ideas, terms, names etc. This will help you to identify where the information is located in the text and then decide what to answer according to what you are asked to do in the task. These words that cannot be paraphrased can be your guide.
Reading tasks are supposed to be tricky. If you add the shortage of time upon that, mistakes are bound to happen. You can eliminate them by thinking smartly and by using the time to your advantage through skimming and scanning.
No, they don’t. Task 2 is worth twice as much as Task 1. So, you really need to pay attention to that and make sure that you have plenty of time to write it.
Here is a table you can use to mark yourself in Listening and Reading practice tests (keep in mind that these are only approximate values):
IELTS was created by the University of Cambridge, British Council and IDP. There is no difference whatsoever among the three in relation to the exams and scoring. The exam is the same level of difficulty worldwide. So, whichever you choose it makes no real difference.