Listening, Reading, Writing & Speaking – IELTS Test Format

IELTS tips

The IELTS test is used to assess the abilities of the student like listening, reading, writing and speaking in less than three hours of time. It is a widely accepted test and has two types one is the IELTS Academic and the other is IELTS General training. The listening and speaking sections of both the tests are the same but the subject matter of the reading and writing components differ depending on the type of test you appear for. The listening reading and writing are completed on the same day without any breaks in between them. However, the speaking component can be completed up to a week before or after the other tests which will be informed to you by your test center. The duration of the test is 2 hours and 45 minutes. The test format of all the four sections is described as below.

Listening Section:

The listening section is for 30 minutes and you have to listen to four recordings of native English speakers after which you need to write your answers to a series of questions. In the first recording, you have to listen to a conversation between two people which is set in an everyday social context. In the second one, there will be a monologue which will be set in an everyday social context like a speech about local facilities. The third recording will be a conversation between up to four people in a training or educational contexts like maybe a tutor and a student discussing an assignment. In the fourth recording, you have to listen to a monologue which will be given on an academic subject like a university lecture.

The evaluators look for the evidence of your ability to understand the main ideas and the detailed information along with the attitudes and opinions of speakers, the purpose of an utterance and how well can you follow the development of ideas.

Reading Section

The reading section consists of 60 minutes and has 40 questions which test a wide range of reading skills. You will be expected to read for gist, for main ideas, for details, for skimming, understanding the logical argument and understanding the opinion, attitude, and purpose of the writer.

In the IELTS Academic test of IELTS there will be three long texts which will have descriptive, factual discursive and analytical texts. These would be taken from books, magazines, journals and newspapers. The IELTS General Training test has extracts from books, newspapers, magazines, notices, company handbooks, advertisements, and guidelines. These are the materials which you are likely to encounter on a daily basis in an English speaking environment.

Writing Section

The writing section is for 60 minutes and the topics for the same of general interest and suitable for the test takers entering the undergraduate and postgraduate studies or seeking the professional registration.

IELTS Academic Test:

In the first task you will be given a graph, chart, table or diagram and you will be asked to describe, explain or summarize the information in your own words. You might have to describe and explain data, describe the stages of a process or describe an event. In the second task, you will be asked to write an essay responding to a point of view, an argument or a problem. Both the responses should be in a formal style.

IELTS General Training:

In the first task you will be given a situation and you will have to write a letter requesting the information or explaining the situation. The letter can be personal, formal or semi-formal in style. In the second task you will have to write an essay responding to a point of view, problem or an argument. The essay can be personal.

Speaking Section

The speaking section is of 11-14 minutes and it is used to assess the use of spoken English. In the first part, the examiner will ask you the general questions about yourself and a range of familiar topics such as family, work, home, studies and other interests. This lasts for 4 to 5 minutes. In the second part, you are given a card which asks you to talk about a given topic. You have to speak for two minutes before which you are given a one minute time to prepare. You are then asked one or two questions on the same topic. The third part includes further questions about the topic in part 2 in which you get to discuss more abstract ideas and issues. This again lasts for four to five minutes.

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IELTS Listening Preparation

IELTS tips

There are four sections in the listening test. Each section has 10 questions, making a total of 40 questions. The sections become progressively harder. The answers to the questions come in the same order as the information on the recording. The whole test lasts about 30 minutes, including the instructions, your reading and listening time, and the time allowed for transferring your answers from the questions paper to an answer sheet. The instructions are included on the recording.

IELTS exam preparation can be difficult to find on the Internet. We have best of the  IELTS exam preparation materials and coaching classes.

Section 1

This is a conversation between two speakers on an everyday, social topic. This means that you listen to two people talking to each other about arranging a trip, organising an event, etc. The focus is on listening for specific factual information.

Section 2

This is a talk by one speaker on a general topic. This means that you listen to one person giving information about a public event, a service provided, etc. The focus is on listening for specific factual information.

Section 3

This is a discussion between two to four speakers on a topic related to ‘academic needs’. This means that you listen to up to four people talking to each other about an assignment for a course, an academic subject in a seminar, etc. The focus is on listening for specific factual information, attitudes and speakers’ opinions.

Section 4

This is a lecture or talk by one speaker on an academic or study-related topic. This means that you listen to a person giving a lecture, a talk, etc. The focus is on listening for main ideas, specific factual information, attitude and speakers’ opinions.

You will be allowed approximately 30 seconds to study the questions before the test begins. You can use this time to check what types of answers are needed (for example, dates, times, names, money, etc.), and pay special attention to the first question.

All the best 🙂

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IELTS Speaking Preparation

IELTS tips

The Speaking Module consists of a face-to-face interview with an examiner. The examiner will lead the candidate through the three parts of the test: an introduction and interview, an individual long turn where the candidate speaks for one to two minutes on a particular topic, and a two-way discussion thematically linked to the individual long turn. This interview will last for approximately 11-14 minutes. The examiner records the interview.



Part 1

Part 1 lasts for 4 to 5 minutes and begins with introduction. The examiner then asks a number of questions about familiar topics such as your studies, work, hobbies, interests, etc.

Part 2

Part 2 lasts 3 to 4 minutes and is based on the candidate giving a short talk. You are giving a card with a familiar topic and several prompts. You then have one minute to make notes on what you want to say before speaking for two minutes on the topic given. You do not have a choice of topic but the topics are based on your own experience, such as a person or place you know, or an event or activity you have experienced. The examiner may ask you a brief question at the end.

Part 3

Part 3 lasts for 4 to 5 minutes. The questions in Part 3 will be connected to the topic of Part 2. They allow you to discuss more abstract issues and ideas. Part 3 is a discussion between you and the examiner.

You are expected to be able to respond to questions on familiar and unfamiliar topics and to speak at length. You are assessed on a nine-band scale for fluency, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

 

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IELTS Writing strategies

IELTS tips

Spend 20 minutes on Task 1 (150 words) and 40 minutes on Task 2 (250 words). Task 2 is longer than Task 1 and is worth twice as many marks.

Task 1


Before you write

  • Read the task and make a mental summary of the key points and overall trends/stages.
  • Why? Because if you misinterpret the data or diagram, you will lose a lot of marks for content.

As you write

  • Introduce the information, in a sentence or two, using your own words.
  • Why? Because if you copy the question, the examiner will not count these words.
  • Summarise the key points and use data to illustrate these.
  • Why? Because you will lose marks if you miss key points or fail to illustrate them.
  • Include an overview of the information – either in your introduction or conclusion.
  • Why? Because you will lose marks if your answer does not contain an overview.

How you write

  • Try to show that you can use your own words (wherever possible) and a range of grammatical structures.
  • Why? Because you will get more marks for vocabulary and grammar if you can do this.
  • Divide your answer into paragraphs and use linkers to connect your ideas.
  • Why? Because you will get more marks if you can organise your answer well and use a range of linking and reference words.

When you have finished

  • Count your words to make sure you have written enough.
  • Why? Because short answers lose marks. (There are no extra marks for long answers.)
  • Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  • Why? Because mistakes in these areas can reduce your marks.

Task 2


Before you write

  • Read the task carefully to decide how many parts it has and what your position is.
  • Why? Because you will lose marks if you do not address all the parts of the question relevantly.
  • Make a quick plan either mentally or on rough paper. Decide on your main ideas.
  • Why? Because the examiner will be looking for a number of clear main ideas.

As you write

  • Introduce your answer in your own words and make your position clear. You may state your position here as well.
  • Why? Because the examiner will not count copied material as part of your total word count.
  • Present your main ideas clearly and use examples to support them.
  • Why? Because you will get more marks if your ideas are clear and well supported.
  • Write a conclusion and re-state your position.
  • Why? Because your examiner will expect to find a logical conclusion and a consistent position.

How you write

  • Try to show that you can use your own words (wherever possible) and a range of grammatical structures.
  • Why? Because you will get more marks for vocabulary and grammar if you can do this.
  • Divide your answer into paragraphs and use linkers to connect your ideas.
  • Why? Because you will get more marks if you can organise your answer well and use a range of linking and reference words.

When you have finished

  • Count your words to make sure you have written enough.
  • Why? Because short answers lose marks. (There are no extra marks for long answers.)
  • Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  • Why? Because mistakes in these areas can reduce your marks.
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IELTS Writing Task 1: comparing pie charts

IELTS tips

pie chart

 

1) The pie charts show how many people listened to music in 2000 and 2010. ……

2) The pie charts show the proportion of songs played on different formats in 2000 and 2010. ……

3) More people listened to music on radio in 2010 than in 2000. ……

4) In 2000 nearly a third of songs were played on cassette tape but this amount decreased to about two per cent in 2010. ……

5) The proportion of people listened to music on CD was about the same in 2000 and 2010. ……

6) There was a slight increase in the number of people listening to music on MP3 player from 2000 to 2010. ……

7) In 2000 no one used the Internet to listen to music but in 2010 people used the Internet to listen to a quarter of the total songs. ……

8) In 2010 approximately half of the songs were played using two formats: MP3 player and CD. ……

9) From 2000 to 2010 the number of people listening to music on radio decreased by just over 25 percent. ……

10) From 2000 to 2010 the number of people listening to music on radio decreased to approximately half. ……

Test Tip

Note the way we use prepositions with numbers and dates:

2000   40%
2010   25%

In 2010 the number decreased to 25 per cent. (40 -> 25)
In 2010 the number decreased by 15 per cent. (40 – 15 = 25)
In 2010 the number decreased from 40 per cent. NOT in 40 per cent.
The number dropped to 25 per cent between 2000 and 2010. (40 -> 25)
By 2010 the number had fallen to 25 per cent.

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IELTS Writing Task 1: describing a line graph

IELTS tips

Test Tip

Useful introductory expressions:
The graph shows / indicates / depicts / illustrates
From the graph it is clear
It can be seen from the graph
As can be seen from the graph,
As is shown / illustrated by the graph,
Example: The graph shows the percentage of children using supplements in a place over a year.

Useful time expressions:
over the next… / for the following… (for the following two months… over the next six months…)
from … to / between … and (from June to August… between June and August…)
during (during the first three months…)

Warning!
Per cent is the word form of the symbol %. We can write 10% or 10 per centPercentage is the noun form: The percentage of children using supplements. NOT The percent of children

Note!
You can use a combination of adjective + noun, or verb + adverb, to avoid repeating the same phrase.
Example: There was a sharp decrease in the numbers. The numbers decreased sharply.

Language for graphs


This exercise focuses on some basic language, which you need to describe graphs. Look at the graph below. Following the graph, there are 25 statements about the data.

remain (-ed, -ed)
unchanged, steady, stable, constant, plateau, fixed/static

From January to March the percentage of children using supplements remained fairly static at approximately 10%.
The percentage of children taking dietary supplements was relatively stable during the first two months of the year.
During the first two months, supplement use remained fairly unchanged.


fall (fell, fallen), decrease (-ed, -ed), drop (dropped, dropped), plunge (-ed, -ed), decline (-ed, -ed)
slight (slightly), steady (steadily), gradual (gradually), gentle (gently), slow (slowly)
downward trend

It then fell gradually in March.
There was a slight decrease in the use of dietary supplements in March.
The graph shows a slight decrease in March.
Supplement use experienced a steady decrease in March.
Supplement use decreased slightly in March.



fluctuate (-ed, -ed)
wildly

It went up and down widely over the next two months.
It fluctuated for the following two months.


rise (rose, risen), grow (grew, grown), climb (-ed, -ed), shoot up (shot up, shot up)
dramatic (dramatically), sharp (sharply), significant (significantly), rapid (rapidly)
upward trend

There was a significant increase in the percentage of children taking dietary supplements between June and August.
The period between June and August saw a dramatic growth in the use of dietary supplements.
Between June and August, the percentage of children taking dietary supplements shot up dramatically.
The greatest rise was from June to August when it rose by 22% for two consecutive months from June to August.


peak (-ed, -ed), reach (-ed, -ed)

The percentage of children taking dietary supplements was at its highest level in April.
Supplement use peaked at close to 25% in April.
It reached a peak of 25% in April.


fall (fell, fallen), decrease (-ed, -ed), drop (-ed, -ed)
dramatic (dramatically), sharp (sharply), significant (significantly), rapid (rapidly)

Between August and October, this figure dropped dramatically to 11%.
From August to October, there was a drop of 14% in the percentage of children taking dietary supplements.
Between August and October, There was a considerable fall in the percentage of children using supplements.
This was followed by a sharp drop of 14% over the next two months.
Supplement use experienced a dramatic fall between August and October.


fall (fell, fallen), decrease (-ed, -ed), drop (dropped, dropped), plunge (-ed, -ed), decline (-ed, -ed), reach (-ed, -ed) its lowest point
slight (slightly), steady (steadily), gradual (gradually), gentle (gently), slow (slowly)
downward trend

Between October and December, the decrease in the use of dietary supplements was at a much slower pace than in the previous two months.
Supplement use continued to fall steadily over the next two months until it reached its lowest point in December.
It fell to a low of only 5% in December.

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IELTS Writing Task 1: introduction

IELTS tips

One the hardest part of IELTS writing module is writing the introduction. If you have a good technique for this, then the rest of the task is easy.

The first thing to note is that writing about Tables, Graphs and Diagrams is not the same as writing an essay in IELTS writing task 2:

  • You are NOT asked to give your opinion on the information, but generally to write a report describing the information factually.
  • It is NOT necessary to write an introduction like in an essay for this writing task. You are writing a report, which means that you do NOT begin with a broad general statement about the topic.
  • You do NOT need to write a conclusion which gives any kind of opinion about the significance of the information.

Three steps to keep up

1. Identify the main idea behind the graph or table. This will be the focus of your first sentence.

2. Consider the details of what is being shown – the units of measurement and the time frame – and decide how much you need to include.

3. Consider the language to use – the introductory expressions, the tenses of the verbs, the correct expressions of time and I or measurement etc.

Three possible ways to start

1. Refer to the visual directly (e.g. This graph shows the population of Canada in from 1867 up to 2007.) However, this method is not advisable, since the instructions in the IELIS test will normally give you just this information. If you copy directly from the paper you are wasting time, since the examiner cannot assess your English from a copied sentence.

2. Refer directly to the main message conveyed by the visual (e.g. There was a sharp increase in the population of Canada from 1867 up to 2007.) This way is perfectly acceptable, and shows that you are able to recognise the main concept or message that the graph or table shows.

3. Combine the two (e.g. The graph shows that there was a sharp increase in the population of Canada from 1867 up to 2007.) This is also acceptable, and is often used as a convenient way to start. In order to use this method, it is necessary to use a few fixed expressions, which refer to the text itself, like those below.

Introductory Expression

  • The graph/table shows/indicates/illustrates/reveals/represents…
  • It is clear from the graph/table…
  • It can be seen from the graph/table…
  • As the graph/table shows,…
  • As can be seen from the graph/table,…
  • As is shown by the graph/table,…
  • As is illustrated by the graph/table,…
  • From the graph/table it is clear….

It is always best to avoid using personal pronouns. Instead of saying We can see from the graph…, it is better to use the passive or impersonal constructions.

Most of the above expressions can be followed by a clause starting with that.

Several of the above expressions can be followed by a noun or noun phrase.

Several of the above expressions must be followed by a main clause.

Warnings

1. Avoid using the phrase: according to the graph. This is because the phrase according togenerally means that the information comes from another person or source, and not from our own knowledge. (For example, According to Handbook, the Archaic Period started around 7000 BCE and ended around 1200 BCE.)
In the case of a graph or table that is shown, the information is there right in front of you, the writer, and also the reader, and so you know it does not come from another source.

2. The expressions as can be seen from the graph or as is shown/illustrated by the table do NOTcontain the dummy subject it. Avoid these expressions if you think you are going to forget this unusual grammar.

3. Avoid using the word presents. It requires a sophisticated summarising noun to follow. (For example: The graph presents an overview of the population growth of Canada between 1867 and 2007.)

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IELTS Exam Tip 6

IELTS tips

Listening Tip

In IELTS Listening exam, when you have to complete sentences, make sure that the word or phrase you write is correct both in terms of meaning and in terms of its grammar.

If it doesn’t fit grammatically, it’s the wrong answer.

Reading Tip

It is easy to forget the meaning of new words. Try to work with new words you come across: look at the different related meanings, look up the different word forms and use them in a sentence about yourself.

The more you do with a word when you first come across it, the more likely you are to remember its meaning later.

Writing Tip

In Writing Task 2, if the question asks you to “discuss both views” then you need a balanced argument, so make a list of ideas for and against the issue, and then give your opinion (I believe; I think).

Note that Task 2 counts for twice the marks of Task 1 so spend twice the amount of time on it. It is important to write at least 150 words for Task 1 and 250 words for Task 2.

Speaking Tip

In IELTS Speaking exam, when you have to answer questions in Part 1, don’t just give one-word answers. You have to show that you can communicate in English. Try to say several sentences for each answer.

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IELTS Exam Tip 5

IELTS tips

Listening Tip

In Section 1 of the IELTS listening exam, you may have to complete a form. Normally, each answer is one or two words.

In Section 1, the information is factual; for example, datestelephone numbers and places.

Reading Tip

In IELTS Reading exam, follow the instructions carefully. In tasks that ask you to summarize, the following instructions apply:

1) You are told how many words you can use in your answer.

2) Numbers can be written using words or figures. A number or symbol counts as one word.

3) Hyphenated words count as single words.

Writing Tip

In Academic Writing Task 1, don’t forget that you are not expected to give your opinion on the information you are given.

You should merely describe the information factually.

Speaking Tip

In IELTS Speaking exam, when you have to answer questions in Part 1, think for a moment before you respond.

You can use conversation fillers such as, “Let me think for a moment” or “What an interesting question!”.

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IELTS Exam Tip 4

IELTS tips

Listening Tip

You will have time at the start of each listening section to Look at the questions. Read all of the information carefully.

For notes completion questions you should check how many words you need to write.

You should also use the information in the questions to help you predict the type of word you need to listen for (e.g. a number, a date, or a name).

Reading Tip

When you have to match paragraph headings to paragraphs, skim each paragraph in turn.

Decide what the main point of the paragraph is, then find a heading that means the same things.

Writing Tip

In IELTS Writing tasks, don’t copy information from the question paper, use your own words. Make sure that you describe the most important information and that your figures are accurate.

Check your spelling when you have finished and make sure you have written at least 150 words for Task 1 and at least 250 words for Task 2.

Speaking Tip

The correct intonation that reflects accurately how you feel, will improve your marks.

If you are telling an exciting story, but your intonation makes you sound bored, the examiner will probably find your story less interesting.

We use different intonation to express different emotions. The best way to improve your intonation is to listen to how English-speakers say something, as well as what they say.

You could watch a film and listen carefully to how the characters sound when they are sad, happy, frightened, and so on. Pause the film and imitate them.

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