IELTS SPEAKING TIPS
1. In Speaking, don’t try to give a prepared speech, or talk about a different topic from the one you are asked to discuss. Listen carefully to the questions and answer accordingly. Don’t go in another direction!
2. Always speak directly to the Examiner, not to the recording equipment. You are talking to a person, not a computer. Be friendly, and imagine you’re talking to a friend.
3. Whenever you reply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the Examiner’s questions, add more details to your answer. You should always elaborate your answer. ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, are NOT full answers.
4. Remember, you are not being tested on your general knowledge but on your ability to communicate effectively. If you don’t have an opinion on the question, make something up. As long as you speak clearly, the examiner will not care about your opinion.
5. Organise, and link your ideas and sentences appropriately. Talking clearly at normal speed and using a wide range of structures and vocabulary. The more vocabulary you use, the more points you will get. (See point 6 though)
6. In the speaking part, you will be judged on your use of vocabulary. Having a good vocabulary is not just about knowing lots of words and phrases, but also about knowing how to use them.
7. You can be asked to talk about things you like or dislike in all three parts of the IELTS Speaking module. So be prepared to to talk about. If the examiner asked you, ‘Do you like travelling?’, don’t just answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’! Explain why – develop your answer.
8. To do well, you’ll need to be able to express your feelings confidently and correctly, using a variety of expressions, vocabulary, and also using appropriate intonation.
9. Listen to the question carefully and which words are used. You can always exploit the vocabulary in the questions.
10. Intonation! Intonation! Intonation! Using the right intonation that reflects accurately how you feel will get you more marks.
11. If you struggle with intonation, the best way to improve is to listen to how English-speakers say something, as well as what they say. Watch English films and imitate what people are saying when they seem angry, sad, or happy.
12. In all 3 section of the IELTS speaking part, think for a moment before you respond.
13. If you need time to think, use conversation fillers such as, “Let me think for a moment” or “What an interesting question!”.
14. Always think about how you can transfer vocabulary you have learnt to other exam questions. Maybe you learnt a lot vocabulary when studying for the writing part. Use that vocabulary in the speaking too.
15. Some words that are extremely formal or old-fashioned are not often used in speaking, and might also sound inappropriate. If you’ve read a lot of old books, it’s maybe a good idea to check if the vocabulary you have learnt is modern enough to be used when speaking in the IELTS exam.
IELTS LISTENING TIPS
16. Listening, use the example at the beginning of the first section to familiarise yourself with the sound, the situation, and the speakers.
17. At the beginning of each section, read the questions for that section carefully, before the recording starts. This will help you to follow the recording and identify the answers.
18. After completing a section, it is better to look ahead and read the questions for the next section than to worry about the last section.
19. You will sometimes have a list of options to choose from as answers. The possible answers may be listed in alphabetical order and not necessarily in the order you will hear them. Never assume something. Always double check!
20. Be careful to note word limits. If there is the instruction: “Write no more than two words”, then don’t. Writing more than two words means you will receive no marks at all for your answer, even if some of the words are correct. Part of IELTS exam is also seeing how well you respect instructions.
21. Predict the questions – you should also try and have an idea of what kind of information you are listening out for. For example, in section one you often have to listen for names, numbers and addresses. Have a look at the questions in the time you are given and work out what needs to go in the space. A name? Number? An address? You are more likely to catch it then when the answer arises.
22. Look out for paraphrasing – remember that what you hear will most likely not be exactly the same as is written on the exam paper as that would be too easy. The question and the question stems use such things as synonyms so you must listen carefully for these.
23. Keep listening until the recording stops, looking only at the questions that relate to the part being played.
24. There are often pauses in the recording between different sections. Use these to prepare for the next set of questions.
25. Answer Listening questions in the order they appear on the Question Paper. Remember that they normally follow the order of the information in the recording.
26. At the end of the recording you have some time to transfer your answers to the Answer Sheet. Check your grammar and spelling as you do so.
27. Try to listen for keywords or synonyms (words that have the same or nearly the same meaning as another word) to help you identify the answer. For example, in the recording you might hear: “She likes going to the gym and playing tennis.” On your IELTS answer sheet, this could appear as “She is an active person.”
28. You may be asked to write down words that have been spelled out in the recording. In order to do this well, you need to know the English alphabet and how each letter is pronounced (for example, the letter ‘W’ is pronounced as ‘double-u’).
29. Listen carefully for words that indicate which stage of the recording you are listening to, e.g. ‘firstly’, ‘my next point’, ‘to sum up’. These words will help you identify which question you have reached.
IELTS READING TIPS
33. In Academic IELTS Reading, begin by going quickly through each passage to identify features such as the topic, the style, the likely source, the writer’s purpose and the intended reader.
34. As you read, don’t try to understand the precise meaning of every word or phrase. You don’t have time, and those parts of the text might not be tested anyway.
35. Reading tasks sometimes have an example answer. If this is the case, study it and decide why it is correct.
36. Some tasks require you to use words from the text in the answer; in others you should use your own words. Check the instructions carefully.
37. The instructions may also include a word limit, e.g. Use no more than three words. Keep to this by avoiding unnecessary words in your answer.
38. Remember that skimming and scanning are important exam skills. Skimming is the quickest way of finding out what a text, or part of a text is about, and once you know the general subject, it’s easier to read for detail. Scanning is the most efficient way of locating the information you need to answer exam questions.
39. It’s important to underline or highlight key words or phrases in the questions. This helps you to focus on the Information you need to find in the text.
40. Locating information and matching headings tasks are similar. In both, you have to match information to sections of a text.
41. The difference is that headings generally summarise information in a section while locating information questions usually pick out a key point.
42. Use the questions to help guide you through the reading passage. Look for clues in the questions to find the correct part of the passage then read this section carefully.
43. When you have to match paragraph headings to paragraphs, skim each paragraph in turn.
44. Decide what the main point of the paragraph is, then find a heading that means the same things.
IELTS WRITING TIPS
45. In Academic IELTS Writing, you must always keep to the topic set. Never try to prepare sections of text before the exam.
46. Keep to the suggested timing: there are more marks possible for Task 2 than Task 1.
47. Organise and link your ideas and sentences appropriately, using a wide range of language and showing your ability (in Task 2) to discuss ideas and express opinions.
48. If you write less than 150 words in Task 1 or less than 250 in Task 2 you will lose marks, but there is no maximum number of words for either.
49. When you plan your essay, allow plenty of time at the end to check your work.
50. Read the task and make a mental summary of the key points and overall trends/stages. If you misinterpret the data or diagram, you will lose a lot of marks for content.
51. Introduce the information, in a sentence or two, using your own words. If you copy the question, the examiner will not count these words.
52. Summarise the key points and use data to illustrate these. You will lose marks if you miss key points or fail to illustrate them.
53. Include an overview of the information – either in your introduction or conclusion. You will lose marks if your answer does not contain an overview.
54. Try to show that you can use your own words (wherever possible) and a range of grammatical structures. You will get more marks for vocabulary and grammar if you can do this.
55. Divide your answer into paragraphs and use linkers to connect your ideas. You will get more marks if you can organise your answer well and use a range of linking and reference words.
56. Count your words to make sure you have written enough. Short answers lose marks. (There are no extra marks for long answers.)
57. Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation. Mistakes in these areas can reduce your marks.
58. Read the task carefully to decide how many parts it has and what your position is. You will lose marks if you do not address all the parts of the question relevantly.
59. Make a quick plan either mentally or on rough paper. Decide on your main ideas. The examiner will be looking for a number of clear main ideas.
60. Introduce your answer in your own words and make your position clear. You may state your position here as well. The examiner will not count copied material as part of your total word count.
61. Present your main ideas clearly and use examples to support them. You will get more marks if your ideas are clear and well supported.
62. Write a conclusion and re-state your position. Your examiner will expect to find a logical conclusion and a consistent position.
63. Divide your answer into paragraphs and use linkers to connect your ideas. you will get more marks if you can organise your answer well and use a range of linking and reference words.
64. Don’t worry about what you write on the exam sheet – in practice tests, it is common to see students rubbing or crossing things out on the exam paper. Remember that nobody sees or marks what you write here. Don’t waste time getting the spelling correct or anything else. If you do this you’ll get lost – you need to be listening. So just write down what you hear then move on. When you transfer the answers at the end to the answer sheet, you can make sure you have the correct spelling.
65. Use upper or lower case letters – a question often asked is whether you can use upper case letters. This is what it says on the official British Council Website: “You may write your answers in lower case or capital letters”. So you can write all your answers in capital letters if you like. This statement from the British Council suggests, therefore, that you will not be penalised if you write ‘paris’ for example, instead of ‘Paris’ because it says you can use lower case letters. However, it is recommended that you try and use capitalisation correctly to be on the safe side. If you are not sure if the first letter needs capitalisation, then capitalise the whole word.