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Cambridge IELTS 9 Model Answer (Test 4, Task 2)

Every year several languages die out. Some people think that this is not important because life will be easier if there are fewer languages in the world.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

With globalisation comes an almost inevitable joining together of cultures, experiences and languages. One of the consequences of this is that a great many lesser-spoken languages are dying, as they are no longer required in the context of the modern world. This could be either be seen as a positive or a negative, depending on whether a business or a cultural view is taken.

From a business perspective, moving towards a singular international language is not only sensible, but has in fact already begun. International trade and diplomatic relations are just two key areas that are made easier without a language barrier, and English has already positioned itself as the world’s leading language in these areas. The potential for misunderstanding and misrepresentation is dramatically lowered, and this extends to the public in general, with holidays and wider social communication made all the more possible by a singular, shared language.

On the other hand, culture and tradition is rooted within language. To lose one’s national tongue could be seen as losing one’s identity. If this happens, it could cause no small amount of resentment, in particular towards nations which speak the chosen international language as their first. This could actually lead to diplomatic issues rather than solutions, which is precisely what globalisation is seeking to reduce.

In conclusion, while I am entirely in favour or closer diplomatic relations between countries, I strongly believe that it is extremely important that traditional values and cultures are upheld. Seeing as I am convinced that language and culture are inseparable, I disagree with the idea that life would be better with fewer languages in the world.

(269 words)

A few points:

  1. You don’t need to start with “nowadays” or something that means the same thing!
  2. I don’t think you should put your opinion in the introduction, unless you know you won’t finish in time. Be neutral, acknowledging both sides to the argument, in the introduction, and then present your view in the conclusion.
  3. Remember, if you are running out of time, you must write a conclusion. A good thing to do is to make your second body paragraph in to a list of bullet points, like this:

On the other hand, culture and tradition is rooted within language.

  • Lose language = lose identity
  • Resentment towards some nations
  • Lead to diplomatic issues

Now, write the conclusion and spend some time on it!

You will lose fewer marks for doing this than you will for writing complete body paragraphs without a conclusion!

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Cambridge IELTS 9 Model Answer (Test 4, Task 1)

Test 4 Task 1

The line graph outlines energy consumption in the USA from 1980 to the present day, with further projections up until 2030. Use is recorded in quadrillion units and is divided in to six categories, almost all of which display a general increase over time.

For the entirety of the period covered, petrol and oil usage is the highest. In 1980, 35 quadrillion units were used, and this dipped a little initially before rising steadily to a projected peak of 50 quadrillion units by 2030. This rate of increase is matched by that of coal, whose usage climbs from around 16 quadrillion units to just over 30 quadrillion units over the same period of time. This means that, by 2030, it is expected to be the second-most used fuel, whereas in 1980 natural gas usage was higher, at 20 quadrillion units. However, usage of this fuel is expected to remain at 25 quadrillion units from 2015 until 2030.

At the other end of the spectrum, nuclear fuel and solar / wind fuel usage is not predicted to change drastically, with increases from 3 to 8 and 3 to 6 quadrillion units respectively. In slight contrast, usage of hydropower, which was also 3 quadrillion units in 1980, dropped very slightly to approximately 2.5 quadrillion units in 2011, and it is not expected that this level of usage will change in the future.

(205 words)

A few points.

  1. In the introduction, explain what the X and Y axes display – time and quadrillion units.
  2. If there are any trends that are the same, make reference to that – coal / petrol and oil increase at a very similar rate.
  3. Similarly, highlight contrasts. Coal and Natural Gas change places between 1980 and 2030.
  4. Decide how to group your information. Here, I’ve decided to group three high and three low together in paragraphs.
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Cambridge IELTS 9 Model Answer (Test 3, Task 1)

Test 3 Task 1

The two pie charts from the year 2000 detail historic population age in Yemen in Italy, and there are a further two charts providing a comparative projection for 2050. There are three age groups represented, with both countries displaying a decline in the proportion of younger populations and a converse increase in older populations.

First of all, in 2000, the majority of people in Yemen were aged 0-14, with 50.1%, compared with 46.3% 15-59 year olds and only 3.6% of people aged 60 plus. In Italy, however, child population is much lower, with only 14.3% of people aged between 0 and 14. This leaves the vast majority of people (61.6%) between 15 and 59, and a much higher proportion (24.1%) of people aged over 60.

Looking ahead to 2050, the Yemeni population is predicted to alter significantly in age, with 15-59 year olds expected to be in the majority, at 57.3%, compared with 37% 0-14 year olds and 5.7% over 60. In Italy, however, the percentage of both 15-59 year olds and 0-14 year olds will have fallen by 2050, with projected figures of 46.2% and 11.5% respectively. This then means that proportion of over 60s will have increased dramatically, almost doubling to 42.3%, which represents by far the largest predicted change.

(179 words)

In this model answer, I have chosen to divide my paragraphs in to 2000 / 2050. However, you could also choose to divide them in to Italy / Yemen. If you do this, then you can use language to describe change over time in each paragraph (increase / decrease). I have also chosen to clearly represent every figure as a percentage, but you could use roughly / approximately etc. and talk about double / half.

 

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Cambridge IELTS 9 Model Answer (Test 2, Task 2)

Some people believe that unpaid community service should be a compulsory part of high school programmes (for example working for a charity, improving the neighbourhood or teachign sports to younger children).

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

It is natural that school curricula will alter and develop over time. At present, the idea that there should be some kind of community-based programme integrated in to school time has been suggested. This could bring about a number of clear advantages, but not without a few potential issues.

Working for one’s local community is without doubt a valuable use of time. If this were part of high school programmes, children and teenagers would learn the value of mutual care and of contributing to the area in which they were born and grew up. It would be grounding for those of higher privilege, and would add diversity to overly-academic schedules, which have come in for criticism in recent times for not being practical enough.

However, there are those who will argue that school time should be spent on more traditional subjects. It is true that mathematics and language skills are integral to a child’s ability to progress in life beyond school, and that a balance of scientific and artistic subjects has always served to enable success in the world of work. It could be said that interference in this balance is unnecessary, and that community-based work should be allocated outside of school time under parental guidance.

In conclusion, I am inclined neither to agree nor disagree to any particular extent. This is principally because, while I appreciate the need for high school children to contribute to society outside of their schools, I am not sure if this should be prioritised above or alongside academic pursuits.

(265 words)

The conclusion – the question says “to what extent do you agree or disagree” – sometimes you will find that you just aren’t sure! As long as you can explain this, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to be in the middle (see the first sentence, but with an explanation).

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Using the future in Writing Task 1

This is a very short tip on using the future in IELTS Writing Task 1. Let’s look at an example chart.

Line Graph Future

This is a typical example of a graph that starts in the past, but ends in the future. This is a bit more tricky than a graph in which all the information is in the past, because you need to change your grammar depending on the section. However, it’s a good opportunity to increase your mark for Grammatical Range and Accuracy. Here’s what we can add in:

Introduction

So, we start with our typical “The graph shows…” section. Something like:

The graph shows financial data, separated in to revenue, charges, borrowings and grants and subsidies, as a monetary figure in millions of dollars. 

So, we have explained the Y axis. we now need to explain the X axis, specifically, that it starts in the past and finishes in the future.

This information runs from 2012 to the present day, and includes a projection for 2016 to 2022.

The word “projection” is a financial word meaning “prediction”. We could also use “estimation”.

Body

So, we could separate our paragraphs in to 1) Past until now and 2) Now in to the future. That would help us divide up the grammar to keep it simple – past in body paragraph 1 and future in body paragraph 2. What are our choices?

  1. will

We can use “will” + infinitive as a simple option. Here’s an example:

From 2016 until 2022, the rates revenue figure will consistently increase from about 1600 million to just under 2500 million.

Fine, but a bit simple, so we can’t use it for the whole paragraph.

2. Is + past participle + to + infinitive

There are a few different participles we could use: estimated, predicted, expected, projected. Example:

After 2015, the rates revenue figure is expected to continue its growth, from about 1600 million to just under 2500 million at the end of the period.

Very nice because it’s simple, you can use the same structure but just change the past participle each time, and it includes a passive.

3. Future perfect (will + have + past participle)

Possibly the highest level way to express the future in IELTS. We need to look at the very end of the graph, so that we imagine that the increase / decrease has already happened. This is exactly what we do for present / past perfect as well. We can do this by using “by”. Look at the example:

The rates revenue figure started increasing in 2014, and, by 2022, it will have reached a peak of just under 2500 million.

An excellent piece of grammar to include – just remember to use “by + end of graph / end of increase or decrease” and then talk about the change that will have happened at that point in the future.

 

As always, if you have any questions, please contact me!

 

Simon

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Prepositions in IELTS Task 1 Writing

OK, let’s take a look at a few prepositions, and a really easy way to remember how to use them.

  1. to / from

In task 1, you will use “to” if you are talking about change. So, if something goes up or down, we use “to”. Look at the example:

The number of people rose to 800,000 in 2011.

So, we use “to” for changes, and we use it to describe the second number – the number at the end of the increase / decrease.

We also use “to” with “from” – like from 400,000 to 800,000 – again, we are talking about the end number. If we want to talk about the start number, we use “from”.

2. by

We use “by” similarly to “to”, so when we talk about change. This time, however, we are thinking about the difference between point A and point B. Here’s another example:

Number of people, 2001 = 55

Number of people, 2005 = 60

The number of people rose by 5 from 2001 to 2005.

So, we also use “by” for changes as well, but to talk about difference.

3. at

We use “at” to talk about numbers that haven’t changed over time. Look at this example:

The number remained steady at 25 for about five years.

So, “at” is used in the opposite situation to “to”.

4. with

We use “with” when we just want to talk about one number, at one time, with no changes. Here’s an example:

The highest number was in the 16-25 age group, with 500,000.

Conclusion

So, here’s the simple way to remember:

to – change, second number
from – change, first number
by – change, difference between first and last

at – no change over time

with – one number, no movement in time

Good luck!

 

Simon

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Is the IELTS exam fair?

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while. In a twist of fate though, it’s the most recent post from the brilliant “Secret Teacher” in the Guardian, referring to the stress and pointlessness of the current exam climate in mainstream education that has led me to finally put finger to keyboard (link below). IELTS is the monopoly, THE exam for students wishing to enter our universities. But is it fair? Does it truly live up to its claim that it assesses students’ ability to cope with life at a British university? Do any exams really contribute positively to education?

With the IELTS exam, this is largely a question of time. There have been no significant updates to IELTS in years, and it’s not just the format; most other EFL exams are now available to sit online, which at least more closely mirrors motions that students actually go through in modern universities. IELTS as a paper exam falls down somewhat before you even inspect the content; who handwrites essays? This is a problem in mainstream education as well, but there are arguments for handwriting as a skill with younger students writing in their own language. In EFL, how many students will actually ever use handwriting – especially on an essay level – other than for sticky note reminders on their fridges? Online, yes. Emails for work and to friends, the general language of the Internet, and TYPING essays. But spellchecking and autocorrection is an advanced tool nowadays, with the grammar counterpart not far behind. Surely retaining 25% of marking criteria for grammar and 12.5% for spelling in writing is redundant and provides an unnecessary obstacle to success?

To further compound the problem with the writing paper, task 1 is a ridiculous exercise. Students analyse a graph which looks like it was drawn in the 1980s. No part of this task replicates anything that 99% of these students might actually do at university or in real life. Even the final 1%, the maths / economics students, of which there aren’t many coming in from the typical IELTS countries, wouldn’t realistically analyse a graph in this way, because it in no way requires objective thought, exophoric comparison or real “analysis” anyway.

Adding spelling in as the main criteria for the listening exam on top of this just seems to be deliberately unfair. I know a great many English people can’t spell very well. Does it really matter that much? Is a student going to read back through their lecture notes and penalise themselves for a missing letter, or a misheard minimal pair? Granted, the listening test contains some isolated tasks that replicate real university life, especially the task 4 lecture note-taking, although students were even using their phones to record lectures when I last attended one in 2003. I imagine this is even more common nowadays, and obviously students can replay audio of a lecture again and again if there is any difficulty with comprehension, rather than being told that they “will not hear the recording a second time”.

The reading paper is the worst of the lot. The time pressure is absurd, so much so that students training to take the exam are taught how to AVOID reading, because there isn’t time. They scan, match shapes and numbers and fill in gaps. Not one of the tasks actually requires a critical response, or any in-depth reading, and the third paper is about a technical subject, often from New Scientist, that will in no way match the subject that the student actually wants to study at university. I can honestly say that I can’t find a single redeeming feature about this section of the exam. Why can’t students sit an integrated skills paper, with a reading and summary section, like the ISE exams? Why can’t they answer some critical thinking tasks? The cynical answer to the second part is that it would require IELTS examiners to undergo extra training or retraining in order that they an accurately assess a critical response. Ultimately, I have seen nothing to suggest that Cambridge want to spend a single penny on improvement in any area of the exam, and they are unlikely to as long as they are an accepted monopoly.

In the interests of fairness, I should point out here that the speaking test is quite good. The two-minute presentation and the discussion / opinion-based questions give the students a good work out, although it’s a shame that they don’t adopt an FCE / CAE approach and get two students in at once for a seminar-style discussion. Still, it is a reasonable exam, and the marking emphasis is (correctly) on fluency and ability to communicate rather than being pernickity over minute accuracy.

The danger of exams such as this is that, because they don’t really test ability in realistic situations, teachers then prepare students to pass said exam, rather than upskilling them in real-life tasks. This could be said of secondary school exams as well as IELTS, but this doesn’t make it right. The added external pressures that students receive from governments, workplaces or family, mean that they are also happy to be taught to pass an exam in this way, and they become interested only in this. I can say that I have seen students leave IELTS preparation courses with a lower level of general English ability than they had when they started, but they are happy because they’ve ticked off the entrance criteria for their university of choice. Bearing this in mind, surely IELTS is actually detrimental to a student’s ability to survive at university, and is therefore negatively affecting the skills gaps on university courses that it was put in place to close? And if so, why haven’t universities noticed this?

I imagine that I am writing this in vain, but I am also pretty sure that I’m not the only one having these thoughts. I’d love to hear from more people about their experiences either with EFL or mainstream examinations. I also hope that if this strikes a chord with you, you’ll share it. Maybe someone far more important than I will read it.

 

Simon

Secret Teacher link: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/aug/08/secret-teacher-i-know-my-students-wont-get-the-results-they-deserve

 

 

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IELTS Reading – Guess work?

Anybody out there who has completed an IELTS reading knows that guessing is sometimes unavoidable. It is true that it is better to write something than nothing, but is there such a thing as an educated guess? I have a suggestion.

Let’s look at True / False / Not Given, or Yes / No / Not Given questions. Now, let’s imagine that you have scanned the text, gone through the questions, found the place where the answer is likely to be, and you still can’t find it.

I’ve heard a lot of people saying that they just put “Yes” for everything, or that they randomly guess. I’m going to disagree. I think you should always guess Not Given. Here’s why:

1) If you randomly guess every answer, there is a possibility you will be wrong every time.

2) If you guess the same answer each time, there is a much better chance you will get a minimum of 1 answer correct, as IELTS exams vary the answers between the three options. I have never seen a task in IELTS that doesn’t include at least one answer from each option.

3) Why Not Given? Well, two reasons. Firstly, if you are looking for an answer and you can’t find it, maybe it’s because the answer isn’t there! I think you should trust your ability and have a confident mind. Tell yourself that you didn’t find it because it is Not Given, write it and move on, confidently. Secondly, Not Given answers are a task that is specifically an “IELTS task”. Therefore, the exam papers will always contain at least one answer per task that is “Not Given”.

I think you give yourself a chance of free points this way. Choose Not Given! Be confident!

 

Simon

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A word on IELTS test centres

I don’t know why I haven’t written this before to be honest. Please read this carefully!

It does NOT matter which IELTS centre you take the test at. You will not get a better mark in one centre than another because some centres are “easier”. It is a complete waste of your time and money travelling to a different centre to take the IELTS exam. Stick close to home so that you have more time to get a good night’s sleep and wake up in a familiar place. Please remember these things:

  • The examiners marking you are trained, experienced teachers. They are reassessed every two years and their marking is regularly checked to make sure that they are doing their jobs well.
  • Writing and Speaking tests are double marked so that the final bands are accurate
  • If somebody you know got a good mark at one centre, it’s because they deserved it! It isn’t because they did it at an easy centre.

I hope that this message reaches some people. I know that the IELTS exam is stressful, but the best way is to relax the day before. Extra travelling won’t help.

Good luck!

 

Simon

 

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Cambridge IELTS 9 Writing Model Answer (Test 1, Task 2)

Key:

Background statement – introduction
Thesis statement – introduction

Topic sentence – body
Supporting statements – body
Concluding statement – body

Summarising statement – conclusion
Judgement statement (opinion) – conclusion

Some experts believe that it is better for children to begin learning a foreign language at primary school rather than secondary school.

Do the advantages of this outweigh the disadvantages?

In a world where the concept of physical distance has been greatly reduced due to technological advances and globalisation, it has become increasingly beneficial to be proficient in a second language, especially in the workplace. As a result, there has been some discussion regarding the optimum age for exposure to a second language in schools with many suggesting that earlier is better, a view which, in my opinion, should be supported by education authorities.

Firstly, the idea that children should be introduced to a second language at an early age is supported by the principle of learning speed being inversely proportional to age. There is no doubt that capacity for learning is extremely high at primary education level. Younger children are able to hone pronunciation skills more quickly and in conjunction with their own natural improvement in their first language. Furthermore, fear of failure does not usually manifest itself in 7-11 year-old children, meaning that productive skills can be practised more freely in a low-pressure environment inspired by trial and error, which is proven as an effective language learning method and lends support to second language teaching at primary level. 

On the other hand, there are aspects of language learning that are difficult to study closely at a young age. While grammar is largely acquired naturally in one’s first language, an understanding of a second language is typically more heavily reliant on a mixture of theory and practice, which can be more difficult to encourage in younger pupils with a lower concentration span and less-developed critical thinking skills. In addition, it could be argued that the main focus in primary schools should be on arithmetic and first language proficiency, with the introduction of a second language proceeding the development of these traditional key skills. Accepting other subjects as priorities would naturally delay second language learning, with high school being a natural introduction point for such subjects. 

While it is clear that mathematical skills as well as first language literacy are vital, the importance of speaking a second language surely means that there is more pressure on children to speak two languages at a younger age. As a result, it is my strong feeling that primary school curricula must include an emphasis on encouraging second language exposure as early as possible. 

 

 

 

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IELTS Speaking – Finish your Part 2!

“And…er… that’s it…”

Have you ever finished your two-minute topic like this? How did it feel? I imagine there was a bit of silence as the examiner tried to work out if you had finished. It doesn’t need to be like that (it shouldn’t be like that!) Here are a few ideas to help you.

  • Sequence your ideas

If you are telling a story then you should be looking to use phrases like this:

Beginning

I remember when… / There was this one time… / I’ve got this story about when…

Setting the scene

It was (date) and we were / I was…. / So, I remember that I / we were -ing…

Moving On

Next / After that / Then / The next thing that happened was / So then

Ending

In the end / At the end / So anyway / Finally

Do you know any more?

Remember to finish your final sentence with a decreasing tone to your voice, so that the examiner can hear you have finished.

Here are some sequencers you could use when giving your opinion about something

Statement – your main topic

Well, I think / I reckon / Basically / I believe that…

Support

I guess that’s because / It’s all down to /

Sequencing – moving on

Also / I also think / Furthermore / Not only that, but

Ending

So, basically I / So yeah, that’s what I think / In brief / To recap / To put it simply

Let’s have a look at a couple of examples. The sequencing language is in bold. Read and think about what the topic is. Do you think the speaker would be successful? Try reading some of the sentences aloud – practise saying some of the sentences more and more quickly, but focus on a natural rhythm – remember, fluency DOES NOT mean speed!

1. Telling a story

I remember when I went to a really nice park with my best friend. It was about 4 years ago, I think, in the Summer, and… it was hot… So anyway, I remember we were walking along through like a forest-y bit, y’know, and then we realised that… it was… we were all alone and it was actually a bit dark. I…er… then I said to him, like, something like “This is a bit creepy – do you wanna get outta here?” and then he was like “Wait, did you here something?” and then there was like a creaking sound, which was really scary. So the next thing that happened was we were looking around trying to work out what was going on, and we saw some bushes moving. I think we were just creeped out because we were young and making each other more and more excited…er… scared. Anywaythen we like walked really slowly up to the er… bush, and we were crouching so that it was likely anyone would see us! Aaaaand… when my friend finally plucked up the courage to look in the hedge, in the end it was just two squirrels fighting – it was so embarrassing!

2. Giving an opinion

Well, I think that video games will pretty much take over our lives, to be honest because…well… technology and virtual reality has become so important in every day life. You can see examples of this in cinema, the home, even the street…all around us. Anyway, I think kids have come to expect a certain level of reality and…of absorption… immersion in a game. They, y’know… get bored and stuff really quickly… and  I guess it’s all down to what you’re used to. I reckon not only that, but that we’ll have VR headsets and 3d gaming in most first world houses within the next ten years, and then kids will refuse to leave the house. Also that kind of technology will be used in the workplace – y’know, for meetings and conferences, so people will go out less. So, to put it simply, I guess that technology has become the most important… thing in our lives, yeah.

Remember – your speaking test isn’t just about grammar, or speaking quickly. It’s also about being able to have a conversation in English, and part of that is signalling to other people either that you want to continue speaking, or that you are about to finish.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

 

Simon

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The IELTS Exam

Not sure what to expect? Not sure if you want to, or need to do the IELTS exam? This article will tell you what you need to know – I promise not to make it confusing!

IELTS

IELTS (pronounced “eye-yelts”) stands for International English Language Testing System is an exam that is internationally recognised by universities, immigration departments, professional organisations and a large number of businesses. While there are other well-known English Exams (FCE, CAE, CPE, TOEFL, TOEIC), IELTS remains the most widely recognised and therefore a very good choice for you if you want certification of your English level.

What’s in the exam?

Below is an overview of what exams you will do, and what you can expect to find in the papers:

Listening

The Listening paper is in 4 parts, and lasts 30 minutes. At the end, you have 10 minutes to write your answers on an answer sheet (see example here)

IELTS Listening Answer Sheet

 

You will only hear each recording once, but you will have some time to look at the questions before you listen, and then to check your answers after listening. Spelling is very important – even a single letter wrong will mean that the answer is marked wrong. Have a look at my spelling article for the listening paper here: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-ov

  • Part 1 is a conversation between two people. You will have to listen for personal details – names (which will be spelt), numbers, dates, addresses etc. This is the easiest part of the exam.
  • Part 2 is somebody talking to a group of people, giving information semi-formally. This could be directions, dates, a map, a table to complete or some multiple choice questions.
  • Part 3 is a conversation involving three people – usually some university students with a tutor. The subject will be academic. you can expect multiple choice and sentence completion here.
  • Part 4 is the most difficult part, and is part of a lecture about something academic. You will need to complete lecture notes, flow diagrams and sentences with words you here.

Reading

The reading paper is in three parts. Usually, the third text is the most difficult. Each text is about 800 words and the exam lasts one hour. The answer sheet is very similar, but unlike the listening you do not get extra time to transfer your answers.

For more information on what to expect, have a look at my reading article here: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-1P

REMEMBER: If the exam paper asks you to write “True, False, or Not Given”, then write exactly that. T, F and NG are not acceptable. Similarly, if you asked to write A-G instead of words, make sure you do this! Spelling is important again.

Writing

The writing paper is in two parts.

Part 1

This part is 20 minutes and 150 words long. You will need to report the most important numbers and percentages from one of the following:

  • A bar graph

bar_graph_example

  • A line graph

line_example1

  • A pie chart

pie2

  • A table

uOtWljXUC_8hn9P5WoB0Qzl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBVvK0kTmF0xjctABnaLJIm9

There is also a chance you will get a paper asking you to describe a process of how something works or is done.

ielts-process-bricks

 

In part 1, you are only reporting facts. This means you don’t put your opinion, and you don’t write a conclusion

 

Part 2

In part 2, you are given 40 minutes to write 250 words about an academic topic, giving your opinion. You could be asked to write about advantages and disadvantages, agreeing or disagreeing, benefits and drawbacks or problems and solutions. For each of these, you must write:

  • An introduction
  • Two or three body paragraphs
  • A conclusion

With both parts of the writing, the word count is very important. If you write less than 150 / 250 words, you will lose marks. The examiners will mark you in the following areas:

Task Achievement

  • Did you answer all parts of the question?
  • Did you reach the word limit?
  • Is your paragraphing clear?

Coherence / Cohesion

  • Do your sentences and paragraphs connect together logically?
  • Do you use linking words and ideas?
  • Are the words in your sentences in the correct order?

Lexical (Vocabulary) Resource

  • Have you used a good range of vocabulary without repeating yourself?
  • Is the vocabulary related to the topic and the task?
  • Is your spelling good?

Grammatical Range and Accuracy

  • Is your grammar correct?
  • Have you used a range of different grammatical structures?

Remember to put your opinion at the end of part 2. For more information see my articles on writing: Introductions: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4J Body paragraphs: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-4P Conclusions: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-5f

Speaking

The speaking test is the final part of the exam. It can happen any time within seven days of the other papers. It is split in to three parts, and lasts a total of 11-14 minutes.

Part 1

This is like an introduction. You will be asked some general questions about your life, studies, interests etc. Make your answers as full and friendly as you can!

Part 2

In this section, you are given a topic and one minute to prepare. You then need to speak for two minutes. The subject will always be something related to your experience. For some examples, look here: http://www.goodluckielts.com/IELTS-speaking-topics-2.html

For each topic, it is important to answer every part of the question. You must speak for a minimum of one minute – of course, two minutes is better.

Part 3

This part is a discussion. The examiner will ask you some more questions related to the topic from part 2. This time, the questions will be more global, and they may engage you in a conversation. Look at the follow-up questions here (the first parts are examples of part 2): http://www.ielts-exam.net/ielts_speaking_samples/386/ Again, try to give full answers and include reasons for your answers.

In the speaking, the examiners are marking you on the following:

Fluency / Coherence

  • Can you speak without much hesitation?
  • Do your sentences make sense?
  • Do you have a natural rhythm?

Lexical (Vocabulary) Resource

  • Do you have a wide range of vocabulary?
  • Can you use topic-specific vocabulary in a number of situations?
  • Can you explain yourself if you don’t know a word?

Grammatical Range and Accuracy

  • Can you use grammar accurately?
  • Can you make the right choices in order to communicate the meaning you want?
  • Can you use a wide range of different grammatical structures?

Pronunciation

  • Can you pronounce words correctly?
  • Do you use connected speech and natural contractions?
  • Do you have a natural tone and range of pitches?
  • Do you sound “English”?

Take a look here for some advice: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-1v (fluency) and here http://wp.me/p2RmnE-5l (Questions)

What are the possible marks?

IELTS is marked from 0.0 to 9.0, with marks going up in stages of 0.5. If you want to do the following, these are often needed:

Foundation course – 4.5-5.0
Undergraduate course – 5.0-6.0
Masters Course – 6.0-7.0
PhD – 7.0-8.0

If you want to see how these match (approximately) to the CEFR scale, have a look below:

cefr2011a

In your language classes, A1 = Elementary, A2 = Pre-Intermediate, B1 – Intermediate, B2 = Upper Intermediate, C1 = Advanced and C2 = proficient.

When should I take IELTS classes?

Before you start studying for the exam, you need to have a good level of general English. Because of this, it isn’t a good idea to have IELTS classes until you have finished / nearly finished Intermediate level.

When you are ready, it is important to have these classes. You need to practise specific techniques and use real exams before you will be ready to sit the exam.

 

I hope this information has helped you. For information about booking and sitting the exam, have a look here: http://www.ielts.org/test_centre_search/search_results.aspx

 

Simon

 

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Thinking Hats – can you present a balanced opinion?

One of the most difficult things to do in another language is think critically, evaluate a statement, and present an argument – in speaking or in writing – that is balanced. One of the skills you need to learn is the ability to think “What would someone else say about this?” and then present an idea that could be the opposite of your own. Let’s look at an example – an IELTS question I saw recently:

Increasing the price of petrol is the best way to solve growing traffic and pollution problems. To what extent do you agree or disagree? What other measures do you think might be effective?

The chances are that you look at this question and think “Yes” or “No” quite quickly. But are these the only options?

Meet Dr Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats:

Poster_Six_Thinking_Hats

The idea here is to put on a hat and deliberately think in a different way depending on the hat’s colour. Let’s try it. The easiest, and often the automatic thoughts, are yellow – positive and black – negative.

Yellow: This is a positive step. The benefits of this are that fewer people would be able to rely on petrol and would have to seek alternative modes of transport, thus decreasing traffic.

Black: This is not an appropriate solution to the problem. It will serve to widen the class gap and leave many people currently reliant on petrol-based transport unemployed.

Red: The increase in price would cause significant stress in those already struggling financially.

Green: While this is not a viable solution, the possibility of making carpool lanes more widespread would encourage people to share one vehicle, rather than all drive separately.

White: Statistics show that the amount of cars on the road is increasing year on year. However, it would be difficult to implement a sudden price rise without providing a figure related to affordability versus need.

Blue: While carpooling and financial incentive are possible, they will ultimately fail, as car ownership has become part of human consciousness, and this will be almost impossible to change.

So, you can see that you have 6 possibilities:

  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Considering emotions
  • Alternatives
  • Summary
  • Statistics – available and required

If we expand these hats a bit, there are several words that you can use as “triggers” for critical thinking. Have a look at the picture below. You may need a dictionary!

Hatmap

OK, now have a look at these two statements:

  1. School buildings have no future – the advances of the internet mean that all forms of education and study are now able to be done from home.
  2. Strict punishments should be put in place for the parents of children who commit crimes.

Try and write six sentences for each – one sentence for each hat.

A note for IELTS

Where can we use these hats? Think about the written exam:

White – Part 1. You can only use the white hat in part 1!
Black / Yellow – Part 2, body paragraphs. Ideally, one body paragraph should contain a black idea, and the other a yellow idea.
Blue – Part 2, conclusion. In your conclusion, you summarise the main ideas and then present your final view.
Green – A paragraph about solutions would be green. You definitely can’t use the green hat in your conclusion!
Red – A paragraph about personal experience or public reaction to an idea would be red. Don’t forget how something would make people feel, or affect them.

Now take a look at the next article, which shows how the colours fit together in an IELTS writing task: http://wp.me/p2RmnE-pI

A note for Teachers

I’ve found these work well in IELTS classes – once students have read about them and you’ve done some soft practice as a class, you can get them to either work in groups, with one hat per group, or get them to produce six sentences on their own. After that, they can share and compare. I’ve also found that an activity that works well is getting them to read out their sentences without saying which hat they were intending to use, and seeing if students can match the correct hat to the sentence.

Enjoy, and remember: email me at simonrichardsonenglish@gmail.com with questions, sentences etc!

Simon