My IELTS Experience – 7.5

Listening – 8, Reading – 8, Writing – 6.5, Speaking – 7, Overall – 7.5
Date: 01 February 2018
Module: GT
Center: Wings, BC, Dhanmondi, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

My preparation for the exam was not adequate. I had planned to appear in the exam experimentally, so didn’t take it seriously. And by the way, I am always a last-minute student. In my every exam I always pulled an all-nighter. I flunked many times but I didn’t change my policy, lol. But this time, I didn’t burn the midnight oil, rather I just tried to find out the way how I would be marked! We will talk about that now 🙂

MYTHS

First of all, let’s break some myths:
1. Which is better? BC or IDP? Well, both are same! Examiners of both follow the same instructions and are trained in the exact same way. In addition, their assessments are checked by the authority randomly, so they would not take any risk.
2. The students from English medium can get higher marks easily – a wrong conception. It’s not your medium of instruction – it’s all about the proper usage of English.
3. They just hate us, they don’t want us to get higher marks – another wrong conception. You don’t have any personal clash with them, do you? And again, their assessments are assessed too 🙂
4. If you mention “immigration” for the purpose, you would not get higher marks – same as above!

But yes, you may get a “half band” more in speaking if you appear in a center that is not in a metropolitan city.

Let’s leave all the myths right now, start practicing and seal a decent score 🙂

READING

We will discuss some pretty common topic.

1. Heading Match: One of the harder parts in the reading module is heading matching. Remember, if the paragraph is big, then in most of the cases you will find the title within first or last two lines of the paragraph. So, read those four lines very carefully. But if the paragraph is small, then you need to read the entire paragraph.
2. Line in the paragraph: This one is a bit tougher. You must read the entire paragraph and understand the meaning. I have no tips, sorry!
3. True/False/Not Given: The most confusing part, isn’t it? You will find only a few words can make a huge difference in this part. Don’t just guess, rather read attentively. Let’s see an example:

Passage: Many students wanted to join in this program.
Question: Most of the pupils were willing to join in this program.

The answer will be NG. Here, when it says many, it doesn’t define the number. So, one thousand students among ten thousand students is still many. But most means more than half. In the passage, there is no indication of numbers, so the answer is NG. Let’s see another example:

Passage: ID card is required to travel there.
Question: To travel there, your ID card might be necessary.

The answer is False. It says – required, means this is a MUST, where “might be necessary” means it could be necessary or not – no clear statement. You have to be careful about these tricks.

4. Writer/Scientist name in paragraph 3: When you read the third message, make sure you underline the names that you get. So, when you answer the question and gets a name, you know exactly which places of the passages you need to look at.

If you are concerned about timing, then I would suggest to forget it when you start practicing. You need to focus on solving the problems, doesn’t matter how much time you need. You need to try to solve every question. When you check your answers, figure out what went wrong, why you missed that etc. And when you have a good command of solving problem, maybe after a month, you will start binding the time.

Practice Material:
1. Cambridge Book 9 – 12
2. Sam’s book for IELTS reading

LISTENING

As far as I understand, there is no way other than practicing a lot to improve your listening score. You can watch lots of English movies, but of course without subtitles. You can also install the BBC app on your mobile and listen while you walk or do nothing important. But, don’t just set your headphone and listen blindly – make sure you listen to the recording carefully and try to understand. Once the recording is done, try to speak loudly what you remember from the recording, that will help your speaking too.

When you practice a listening test, I recommend rewinding as many times as you need but try to answer correctly. And like reading, when you check your answers, figure out what went wrong, why you missed that etc. And when you have a good command of solving problem, maybe after a month, you will stop rewinding.

Practice Material:
1. Cambridge Book 9-12
2. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIgELCOfrcYA9jWF4TOJUnQ/videos

SPEAKING

When you practice speaking and writing, don’t just read everything you get internet. Instead, try to understand the factors that you will be marked at. Read this to know about speaking: https://www.ielts.org/-/media/pdfs/speaking-band-descriptors.ashx?la=en

You will see that you will be marked in four criteria. Let’s get a brief:

1. Fluency and Coherence: Fluency means how smoothly you can speak. DO NOT talk too fast or too slow. If you can answer a question very well, still don’t go too fast. Because, in next question, if you go significantly slower, then the examiner may consider your previous reply as a memorized response and that can cost you a penalty. Coherence means how you are linking one sentence to the following sentence. We will know more about this in the writing section.

2. Lexical Resource: This means vocabulary. Here, we have a myth – some people think if you use very uncommon and complex word, they would get higher marks. But remember, speaking is an informal test. You need to use smart words, not complex words. If you use too complex words to show your smartness, the result will be opposite than expected. If you watch movies, you would see what words they normally use. Of course, don’t use “V for Vendetta” movie as an example :p

3. Grammatical range and accuracy: You need to speak grammatically correct sentences. When we speak, we normally miss the grammatical corrections. You will find lots of people, for example, who speaks a lot in English but get less band in speaking test. One of common reason is, their sentences are not grammatically correct. So, don’t ignore grammars.

4. Pronunciations: Note that, the accent is not much important but pronunciation is. Try to pronounce the words as accurately as possible. Listen carefully when you practice listening.

Here is an important note, there is no marking criteria for task response. That means you can go off topic. So, if you don’t have any idea about the topic in question, you can curve the topic and speak with something else. But remember, you need to blend. If you are asked to talk about Antarctica, for instance, and you have no idea about Antarctica but you visited Manali – you can start with something like this: “Well, I have not enough idea about Antarctica – in fact, I didn’t even think about that place. But I visited Manali last year and I believe the weather is almost similar there, especially during the winter.” Then start talking about Manali, try to speak about the part that is closer to Antarctica. This way you are blending the topic and bypassing from Antarctica to Manali, your known place.

Some more tips:
1. First part is a general conversation. That is just quick QA session. I said quick, but don’t go with just YES or NO answer. Try to elaborate your answer at least 2-3 lines. If you are asked about your hometown, then add some more about. For example, My hometown is in the southern part of the country, Barisal, which is actually surrounded by lots of rivers.

2. The second part is cue card part. You will be given a topic and you need to speak for 1 to 2 minutes. You will get one minute to think and take some notes before you start speaking.

In this part, we have another myth. We always think we need to answer all of the questions that appear in the question paper – wrong. If you read the question carefully, you will see it mentioning “You should say:”, not “You MUST say:” (this is another example of T/F/NG question in reading module). The questions are just to help you to make your speech but you are free to skip those questions and make up your own speech.

Nowadays, most of the students memorize some topics as we get lots of questions online and the topics are pretty common. Remember, if you memorize and if you get the topic common, still don’t deliver the speech at rocket speed. You need to act like you are making the speech up. Sometimes a little bit mumbling is good. This is normal when we speak, even in our mother tongue. So, be careful about that.

Now, what if the topic is very uncommon? We speak for 40 seconds and then we start repeating to cover 120 seconds. Well, here you can use a method, called PPF – Past, Present, Future. If you are asked to tell one story, you will tell three stories. Remember, you can go off topic and curve the topic. So, for example, if the cue card is about a place you visited, then you can tell a place you visited 10 years ago (past), a place you visited very recently (present) and a story you wish to visit (future). Now, 40 seconds for each part and you cover 120 seconds 🙂

3. The third part is for showing off. You need to prove yourself in this part. This is part is for discussion. Remember, in this part, the examiner can ask additional questions if s/he wants.

You need to answer your questions at least with 3-4 lines. I will show you a technique to elaborate your answer. You can follow the steps below:
Question: What steps can be taken to reduce the traffic jam?
a. The first sentence is just the response to the question: The government needs to focus more on the improvement of public transports.
b. The second sentence is a supporting sentence: Standard and improved public transports can ensure less private vehicles on the road as people will start using public transports due to cost-effectiveness.
c. The third sentence is an example: In Delhi, for example, the state government worked on their MRT rails last year and as a result, we can see a significant improvement in their traffic situation.
d. The fourth sentence is an alternate situation (if that didn’t happen in the third sentence): If their government didn’t take such steps, then today that metropolitan city would be dead by now.

This is how you can construct your answer in part three.

To improve your speaking, you need to start thinking in English. Have a regular conversation with your friends and family. When you walk on the road, speak with yourself and of course a bit loudly.

You can also use an app called Open Talk which connects you with some random people who also wants to improve their English. Here are the links for android and iOS:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.opentalk&hl=en
https://itunes.apple.com/app/opentalk-be-better-by-talking/id1226049483?mt=8

Here are some links that may help you:

Speaking real examples:
















Some Sample: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaGUE1tdIcaeEooeOok9_Sw/videos

Useful Links:
https://www.ieltsbuddy.com/ielts-speaking-samples.html
https://www.ieltsbuddy.com/ielts-speaking-practice.html

WRITING

The hardest part of the IELTS examination! Here, remember writing task 2 is two times important than task 1. Let’s see why:

Say, you got 7 in writing task 1 and 6 in task 2. Then your mark will be 7 + 6 + 6 = 19 / 3 = 6.33 ~ 6.5. So, you see they count twice the mark of task two. So, you must finish your task 1 within 20 minutes, so you get 40 mins for task 2.

Here an important note. Unlike speaking, you can never go off topic in writing. As the writing task 1 is easier, so we will focus on task 2 in this section.

Remember, you must write 250 words in task 2. But writing more than 250 words would not give you any benefit, but if you write less than 250 words then you would be penalized by half or one band score. So, don’t go for 350 or 400 words. As much as you write, you have more possibilities to do mistakes. In writing, quantity doesn’t matter, quality does.

Here is the band descriptor of writing task 2: https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/IELTS_task_2_Writing_band_descriptors.pdf

You will see the first one is Task Achievement. You need to be always on topic. This is an important part of writing. Other parts are explained in speaking section. Just one little difference, in writing you can use complex words for vocabulary. But you need to make sure you choose the correct synonyms. Besides, while you choose the synonym, the meaning can’t be changed, be careful about that.

So, let’s see how we construct our essay. We will write four paragraphs – introduction, body 1, body 2 and conclusion.

Introduction: In the introduction, we will write three sentences. The first sentence will be a general statement about the question. There won’t be any opinion or decision in this sentence. Just a very general statement about the topic. The second sentence will be paraphrased of the statement in question. To paraphrase, you need to change the voice, switch the clauses and use synonyms. If you search on google on “How to paraphrase a sentence for IELTS writing”, you will see lots of techniques. The third sentence would be the response to the question. If this is a discussion opinion or opinion essay, you need to make your opinion very clear in this sentence. In other words, this sentence should represent what you are going to write in this essay.

If you get a discussion/opinion essay, you can write the last line like this: In this essay, I will discuss both sides of the argument and explain my support on the latter/former view.

For opinion essay: I am completely/partially agree/disagree with this view and I will explain my view in this essay.

For problem/solution essay: In this essay, I am going to discuss some problems of this situation and propose a solution to overcome.

– This way you are making it clear.

Body Paragraph: Here another important note. In each body paragraph, we will discuss only one idea. Remember, if you include more ideas in one paragraph, then the paragraph won’t be well structured. In the body paragraph, we will need 4-5 sentences. The first sentence is the topic sentence, that is your one of the ideas. The second sentence is the supporting sentence. The third sentence is an example. The fourth sentence is if it doesn’t happen according to the third sentence. And if you want, add the fifth sentence – which would be the result of the situation. For details, please check the speaking section above.

Conclusion: Here you can write 2-3 sentences. The first sentence would be a general statement but DO NOT repeat. Use a paraphrased version. In the second sentence, you will include your ideas and support your opinion. DO NOT introduce any new idea in conclusion. It should be same ideas that you discussed in body paragraphs. You can add a third sentence as supporting sentence if you are comfortable.

Cohesive devices: You can boost your mark with cohesive devices in your essay. There are lots of devices you can use. Here are some examples:

Start body paragraph: Firstly, One advantage/idea/problem is, The most significant advantage/problem is, first and foremost
Describing a result: As a result, As a consequence, Therefore, The result of this is
Give a reason: This is because, The reason for this is, This happens because, This is an advantage/disadvantage/problem because
Giving an example: For example, for instance, to illustrate, to illustrate this point
Clarify a point: In other words, That is to say, to clarify, In short
Link ideas: While, Although, Despite, Whereas
Switch arguments: On the other hand, However, Turning to the other side of the argument, Nevertheless
Making another point: Furthermore, In addition, What’s more, Moreover

Improve your vocabulary: To improve vocabulary, you can use a simple trick. Buy some drawing papers and hang on the wall in your room. When you get a new word, just write on that paper with marker or sign pen. So that when you walk or do some household chores, the words will be in front of your eyes and those will be memorized.

Some tips:
1. For first 3-4 minutes, plan your ideas what you are going to write and then start writing.
2. If you don’t find a synonym in the time you write, don’t waste time but just use the same word. But underline those words with a light pencil, so that after finishing the essay you can come back there and find alternative words.
3. DO check the entire essay after you finish.
4. Make sure the spellings are correct
5. Focus on the correct form of punctuations
6, Remember, you would not be penalized for weak sentences but mistakes. So, if you are unsure of the correct form of a sentence, try to make it simple but DO NOT make mistakes.

For writing task, you can practice from here:
Link: https://www.ieltsbuddy.com/ielts-writing-task-2.html
IELTS Questions Sample: http://ieltsliz.com/100-ielts-essay-questions/
Forum: https://www.ieltsbuddy.com/ielts-writing-band-7-forum.html
Forum: https://www.ieltsbuddy.com/ielts-writing-forum.html
Lesson: https://www.ieltsbuddy.com/ielts-writing.html
One of the best channel, especially for writing: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCglDIsg_Z9mE2oT9hsrbzFA/videos
Another best channel, especially for writing: https://www.youtube.com/user/ieltsliz/videos

You can find recent questions here: http://ieltsliz.com/recent-ielts-questions-and-topics/
Some vocabulary here: http://ieltsliz.com/vocabulary/

Here is a great course from Udemy: https://www.udemy.com/mastering-ielts-writing-task-2/

You can download some materials from here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1tzF30unuayhKI6AFPjxe8AejvKYWbmWZ?usp=sharing Study og_cam.pdf, that would be quite useful.

Happy IELTS and get a decent band score. I would be happy if it helps someone 🙂

Disclaimer: I have gained the above experience from Liz, Jay, IELTS Buddy and a Udemy class. All of those are linked in the article.

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