UNDERSTAND IELTS

  1. IELTS is a testing system:
    1. As with any system, there is both process and logic. The process of IELTS involves intense testing of four skill areas: reading, writing, listening and speaking.
      1. Reading: The IELTS reading test takes one hour. Candidates need to to read three set texts of between 500 and 900 words each. Reading texts and associated questions become increasingly difficult as you progress. Within the 60 minute time limit, you must complete 40 questions and record them on the answer sheet supplied. Many examinees complain the test is too intense and that there is insufficient time to complete. It is therefore essential that effective time allocation is practiced with a series of simulated practice tests before the actual exam day. This helps to develop effective time allocation skills as well as improving one’s ability to skim read, scan and understand the main points of the text. There are several answer types in the test. These include:
        1. Summary completion
        2. Matching headings to paragraphs
        3. Identifying the writer’s views
        4. Multiple choice
        5. Selecting factors
        6. Table completion
        7. Matching causes and effects
        8. Sentence completion
        9. Short answer questions
      2. Writing: You are allowed one hour to complete the writing test. In this time you will complete two tasks.
        1. Task one: You are required to write a report of 150 words based on graphic information provided in the question paper. The graphic information is often one of five forms: a line graph, bar graph, pie chart, table or diagram that illustrates a process. You must summarise the information in the graph or describe the process illustrated. Task one should be completed within 20 minutes. The type of language used in this task needs to be appropriate for report writing in general.
        2. Task two: is in essay form, with 250 words to be written within 40 minutes. The topic will be supplied in the question paper. Task two has a higher weighting in the allocation of marks and so it is important you attempt to keep to the 40 minute time limitation. Your hand writing must also be neat and legible so as ensure the best score possible.
      3. Listening: The IELTS listening test takes approximately 30 minutes. Listening material is played out only once for examinees, after which a series of questions must be answered. Questions are split into four sections. The range in order of increasing difficulty. The first two sections cover topics of general interest, for example, a report of a stollen handbag or a set of instructions on a simple or common task. The first section of the listening piece will be in the form of a dialogue. The second section is a monologue. Sections three and four touch on education and training related topics. This may often be in the form of a lecture or discussion between two or more people. As you listen to the recorded material, you should write answers on a question book supplied. Once the recording finishes, examinees have ten minutes to copy answers onto an answer sheet.
      4. Speaking: The speaking test lasts 15 minutes and takes the form of an interview. The interview is largely informal and will cover aspects of past and present activities and your future ambitions. The interviewer guides the conversation by way of a series of questions which are designed to bring out your opinions and ideas. There are generally four parts to the interview: general questions about you; discussion topics from everyday life; role plays; and a discussion of your goals and ambitions. There may be a prompting for you to conclude if time permits. Although examinees often have a good level of English proficiency outside the exam room, they sometimes fail to achieve their best because of stress, fear, anxiety or distractions. Confidence and calmness are therefore highly desirable when undertaking a speaking exam.
        1. The logic of IELTS is an important thing to grasp. IELTS is essentially designed to measure your ability to communicate in English across a wide range of academic and social settings. For this reason, you need to adjust your mind to fit into the logic of English. This includes the way you think and the way you communicate.
          1. The way to think in English:
            1. Language and culture are tightly linked. One influences the other and vice versa. Languages and cultures are also dynamic, as they change over time and can be shaped by a range of external and internal factors in a society. It is essential that you try and develop a feeling for the logic of English and an appreciation of the culture of English speaking socieities.
            2. Whilst there are differences between US, UK and other English speaking societies, there are also significant similarities. Most importantly, the differences that exist between English speaking cultures and your own are likely to be far greater than between the various English speaking societies.
            3. Achieving a higher score in IELTS testing is thus much easier to achieve the more you move away from the logic of your native language and more into the English speaking world’s way of thinking and communicating. This is subtle, and also largely subconcious, but is necessary if you are to achieve a higher score.
            4. You can begin to train your mind to adapt to the logic of the English language by questioning the assumptions you make in your own society, and those in the English speaking world. As you read and listen to texts in English, start to question in your own mind the layers of meaning underneath the surface. There are surface meanings that are easily able to be interpreted and understood, but there are also layers of meaning hidden beneath the surface. By appreciating these and attempting to communicate with those layers of assumed meaning in mind, you will gradually learn to communicate the English language way. By understanding the logic of English in this way, you are sure to achieve a better result in your IELTS exams.
          2. The way to communicate effectively and confidently:
            1. Achieving a good score in IELTS speaking and writing involves good communication techniques and approaches. Simply speaking or writing in English is not enough to do well in an IELTS exam. Rather, you must ensure that your words are getting through to the reader or the listener in a way that they understand and comprehend clearly.
            2. The problem with good communication, and therefore the reason some people do not do as well in their IELTS exams as they should, is that there can be many detractors. A dectractor is something that can limit your communication and result in the other person not understanding you, or having a bad impression of the way you communicate.
            3. Detractors occur in written and verbal communication alike. Imagine a situation where you are writing quickly in order to meet the deadline. You may forget the examiner needs to read and assess dozens of answers. Suppose the examiner was tired, bothered and wanting to finish up and take a break. If your writing is untidy and missing key words because you were in a hurry to finish, the examiner will more likely be assessing your paper more harshly, thereby resulting in a lower mark. Your full potential in the IELTS exam is therefore not realised and the score is lower than what you should achieve.
            4. Similarly, there may be a situation in the spoken exam whereby you are stressed or agitated because of factors beyond your control. The assessor may similarly be distracted and bothered by things. This level of agitation adds to the tension of the testing environment. Your ability to communicate well and to achieve a better result therefore requires that you influence the atmosphere in the exam. This means calming the situation with your confidence and your simple but clear language.
            5. Effective communication in IELTS exams therefore relies on you taking control of the situation and bringing calm to the exam situation. It is your responsibility to do this, not the examiners’. If you do this successfully, you will leave a good impression with the examiner and more likely a much better result.
          3. IELTS is communication, not regurgitation – ROTE LEARNING WON’T HELP!
            1. Cramming will help only so far. What is more important is taking a body of knowledge of vocabulary, key expressions and grammar and making good, clear, concise and simple communication. Therefore, balance is essential. A mass of vocabulary will help you to widen your potential in understanding difficult and more specialised texts. However, knowing the words alone is not enough.
            2. You need to assimilate the knowledge. Be comfortable with the knowledge by giving yourself lots of opportunities to practice written and verbal communication whilst at the same time attempting to rapidly increase your vocabulary. It should be a two stage process – cram to expand your vocabulary, then practice speaking and writing tests to improve your comfort, fluency and familiarity with a wide range of new words and expressions.
            3. The key is to rapidly expand your vocabulary whilst at the same time improving your comfort level in English verbal and written communication.

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