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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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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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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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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