Ten of the best questions submitted to Ask an IELTS Teacher this year:
Question from Kyaw in Myanmar: I don’t know how to handle “other” in line graph caption. What does “other” mean?
Answer: This is a very good question, thank you. First of all, you don’t need to speculate about what’s meant by ‘other’. Often the ‘other’ category will account for only a very small percentage of results, so it may not even be necessary to mention it in your answer.
Question from Hoda in Iran: Is it true that while taking the IELTS Speaking test part 2, the test taker can ask the examiner to change the cue card if he doe not have no clue to talk about the topic? Will he lose any points for that change?
Answer: I’ve never heard of this before so I don’t recommend trying it. The topic in Part 2 is always designed so that anyone can talk about it. If it seems difficult, explain why it’s difficult. You are assessed on the language you produce, not your ability to answer the question. Good luck!
Question from Surya in India: Can we write all listening answers in capital letters?? For example if the answer is “a monsoon”, can we write like this “A MONSOON” and “reduce tension” as “REDUCE TENSION”??
Answer: Writing your answers in capital letters is absolutely fine and will not affect your score. Good luck!
Question from Amelie in France: I would need to know where to find materials/books with samples about IELTS writing tasks 1 and 2. I need to score band 8. I am requested to. Do you know where I can find good samples of writing tasks band 8 and possibly 9? I need to study them carefully and in depth. Thank you so so much!!
Answer: Wow, that’s a high requirement! May I ask which school or organisation requests Band 8? In answer to your question, I do not know of any textbook specifically designed to help you achieve bands 8 or 9, but the Objective IELTS Advanced Self-study Student’s Book includes many answers of the type you’re looking for. Don’t forget to read my article How to Get a Band 8 Score in Academic IELTS and look at the IELTS Writing answers on this site, many of which are Band 8 or above.
Question from Angel in Indonesia: How come to deal with IELTS interview?? Yesterday, I had my first interview… I was so nervous. Actually, I’m a shy person. So, how to resolve it for the next time if I follow the next interview??
Answer: Remember that the examiner is your friend. The examiner wants you to do well. Practice speaking with an older stranger in your own language first to overcome shyness. And good luck!
Question from Len in Viet Nam: Hello teacher! I’m Len and from Viet Nam, I will take IELTS on December 15, 2012. I’m a bit confused about writing task 2. I should or should not give examples in this task.
Answer: You should definitely include examples as they add vital extra support to your main ideas. However, always be aware of time constraints. Two sentences should be enough for any example: one sentence to state the example, and the second sentence to explain it. Good luck!
Question from Amin in Iran: Hi. There are several things that I need to know about the task 1 in writing. First, How to give a good introduction. Then if there are 2 graphs, should I compare them in the body paragraphs or in the introduction. Finally, in conclusion, which is really overwhelming, again what are the most points that I must mention in the conclusion.Thank you very much.
Answer: I suggest you check the following page which should answer your questions: IELTS Writing Task 1: How to Organise Your Answer
Question from Meet in India: Could u tell me what can I say in a topic of “Describe your attitude”?
Answer: “Describe your attitude” means, in other words, “What is your view of?” or “What do you think of?” It’s simply asking for an opinion so you’d reply “Well, in my view…” or “For me, it’s…”
Question from Min in Viet Nam: I’m always get confused when it comes to IELTS Writing task 1, which contains more than 1 graphs. I dont know where to start and what to write. Can you give me advice on this? Thanks a lot.
Answer: Describe each graph in a separate paragraph and then write about the connection between the graphs in your conclusion. Simple!
Question from Amal in Oman: I want to ask you about the academic writing task one. Every time I take IELTS I got band 5 in writing and I don’t know what was my mistake. Can you please give me types of questions that come in task 1 and how can I answer them and get higher score.
Answer: There are plenty of sample Task 1 questions with model answers on this website. Good luck!
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One of the first questions an IELTS candidate must ask is: Do I need a teacher’s help or can I go it alone? As an IELTS teacher, you’d expect me to have a biased view on this! But seriously, there are many important benefits you gain by studying with a teacher. Here are some:
A teacher can help you recognise your strengths and weaknesses.
Sometimes we aren’t good at identifying the areas in which we need to improve. IELTS test-takers will often say they feel nervous about speaking or dislike the pressure of the writing section. In fact, they may be overestimating the difficulty of these sections and might benefit more from acquiring simple strategies for listening and reading. That’s the advantage of preparing with an IELTS teacher: he or she can give you an objective analysis of where you need to concentrate your efforts most.
Only an experienced IELTS teacher can score your writing and speaking answers.
While textbooks may provide guidance in the form of sample student answers, you can only really guess the band score your essays and spoken answers would receive. The knowledge of how IELTS answers are really scored belongs to a select group of people: IELTS examiners and experienced IELTS teachers. Not only can teachers give you an accurate band score in all sections of the test, they can also provide more detailed scores than the test certificate, including individual scores for the various criteria in IELTS Writing and Speaking, and suggestions for improvement.
A good teacher will train you in a range of language skills while preparing you for IELTS.
Preparing for IELTS should not be the objective of your English study! A test is only one temporary factor spurring the development of a skill that you will use for the rest of your life. While ensuring that you get the IELTS test practice you need, a good teacher will also do so much more. This includes pointing out your most frequent grammatical errors, correcting your pronunciation and spelling, and letting you know if what you said is understandable or not. On top of that, your teacher provides an all-round good model of how to use English in everyday communication. Ask yourself if you could get all this from books, the internet or friends, and the answer will almost certainly be No.
An organised programme of study helps to prevent procrastination.
What is ‘procrastination’? We’re all guilty of it, even if we don’t know the word. Procrastination means putting off or postponing those things we know we must do. It affects us at school, at work, and of course when preparing for a test like IELTS. Studying in a classroom with classmates and a teacher and following a syllabus provide what psychologists call ‘extrinsic motivation’, in other words, an external source of motivation – essential if your own levels of motivation aren’t always high.
In IELTS, practice makes perfect.
In all areas of life, our confidence in our own ability increases with practice. This in turn leads to better performance in pressure situations such as exams. While textbooks will allow you to practice the listening, reading and writing modules of IELTS, the only way to gain authentic practice of the IELTS speaking module is with a teacher. An experienced IELTS teacher knows how to play the examiner’s role, including the kind of help that can be given and when to prompt you to speak more. Try gaining practice with a variety of teachers – different ages, accents, and personalities – to reduce the likelihood of nerves when you meet your first IELTS examiner.
What do you think? Do you have a really great (or bad) IELTS teacher? What have you learned from a teacher that you couldn’t learn by yourself? Tell us below.
With more than a million test-takers annually, more and more publishers are getting into the IELTS textbook market, with varying results. Choosing a coursebook for a group of students is a serious responsibility because, along with the teacher, the book may well be the most important influence on their test preparation over the following months. I’ve taught groups using all the most common IELTS textbooks, and these are the five I’ve found to be most reliable:
Focus on IELTS (New Edition) (Longman)
Focus on IELTS has long been a popular choice for teachers and it’s easy to see why. There’s a good balance between authentic Academic IELTS test items and meaningful group exercises, while the inclusion of a grammar reference guide and extra writing practice make this a solid friend for classroom use. The new edition corrects most of the mistakes in the first edition and adds more EAP elements such as critical thinking and reflective learning. One remaining drawback is the lack of a version with full answer key and scripts. Also available in a Foundation edition that introduces test practice more gradually. Rating 9/10
Objective IELTS Intermediate/Advanced (Cambridge)
One unique aspect of the Objective series is that test practice exercises are mostly written to focus students’ attention on a particular item type. There’s also an attractive presentation, discussion-led format, and strong grammar coverage throughout both books. The inclusion of test items from both the Academic and General Training modules in both books can be either a blessing or a curse depending on your teaching situation. A self-study student’s book with answer key and scripts is available for a slightly higher price, and there’s a teacher’s book with regular practice tests. Be warned: the level of questions in Objective IELTS Advanced is extremely challenging. Rating 8/10
Over the years I’ve been asked countless times which IELTS textbooks are best for independent study. For me, the main criteria are a full answer section, preferably one with explanations of answers, and an approach to the test that breaks down strategies into simple steps that learners can follow. Here are five textbooks I’ve recommended many times in the past:
Focus on Academic Skills for IELTS (Longman)
At first glance this seems to be a supplement to Focus on IELTS, but it’s actually a radically different kind of coursebook, one very well suited to self-study. Test strategies are broken down into easy-to-follow processes, and authentic test items are supplemented with directions in blue text. There’s also a full answer key. The new edition of the book includes both audio CDs and is therefore an even more complete package than the first edition. The only drawback is that it’s a little too process-oriented for classroom situations. Rating 9/10
Grammar for IELTS/Vocabulary for IELTS (Cambridge)
Independent learners will appreciate these self-study guides from Cambridge which focus on grammar and vocabulary with an academic dimension. Suitable for all low- to high-intermediate-level students. Both books come with an audio CD, which means that test-takers are activating more than just their reading and writing skills. Of course, it is ideal if these books can be supplemented with opportunities for spoken output such as a group lesson or study buddy. Rating 8/10
Textbooks, lessons, and the test fee itself – getting your IELTS requirement can be an expensive business. If your budget is rather tight, you might be interested in the following hints and tips. All of them are completely free and some don’t even require you to use English!
1. Go online
Do a simple online search for IELTS and you’ll find that there are hundreds of sites offering free IELTS advice and practice. That’s almost certainly how you got here. But why is there so much available for free online? The answer is simple. Most websites make money from advertising, or their authors want to sell their own books online. Of course the quality of such sites varies, so be sure to check the author’s credentials before you invest too much faith in a particular site. If the author has several years of real-world IELTS teaching experience, that’s a good sign that they know the test inside-out. Also look for student testimonials, trackbacks and publications as further evidence of a site you can trust.
2. Find an IELTS study buddy
While it’s possible to prepare for the Listening and Reading modules of IELTS on your own, there really is no substitute for another human being when it comes to preparing for the Speaking (and, to a lesser extent, Writing) module of the test. Some people insist that you practice with a native speaker, preferably one with knowledge of IELTS, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that practicing with another English learner can be just as beneficial. One reason for this is that pairs of learners form better strategies for negotiating meaning. Native teachers can be a little too good at guessing what you want to say, while a non-native partner is more likely to tell you when they don’t understand, so you know when you’ve said something unclear. If you can’t find an IELTS study buddy at your school, some IELTS websites have forums in which you can search for a like-minded partner.
3. Take a free IELTS demo test
It’s worth checking your local IELTS schools to see if they offer a free IELTS demo test. Some organisations such as SI-UK offer a sample test for free as a level check and you may even get some study tips from a trained IELTS teacher. This is a great way to get some last-minute practice if you plan to take the real test soon, as well as an effective way to check out what a school is like before you spend any money on lessons.