Academic IELTS Test
Tips and Mistakes to Avoid
students, some with very good English skills, take the academic IELTS test
and fail to
achieve the score they had expected or hoped for.
Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses
In order to avoid this and to do the best you can, it is important to:
- Have an understanding of what you need to do in
of the exam
- Have some basic strategies
- Know what you must avoid doing
You will be tested on your writing
In this article, I will provide you with some basic preparation for
each part of the test.
This article focuses on the academic
of IELTS for those intending to study abroad.
The academic writing test is one hour, and there are two parts:
- Task 1: Describe a graph, table, process,
diagram or map
- Task 2: Write an essay
Task 1 Strategies
no more than 20 minutes on this part. This accounts for fewer
marks than the essay, so more of your time should be spent on task 2.
3-5 minutes making sure you understand the graph or diagram and
planning your answer. You have time to do this as you only
write 10-15 sentences to achieve 150 words. Identify key
and patterns in this time.
paragraphs to good effect. Introduce the graph and give an
overview of the main points in the first paragraph. Then use
remaining paragraphs to discuss these main points in more detail.
There are various types of language you
may need to use in this part, depending on what you are asked to
example, if you are asked to describe a graph over time, you will need
to use language of change, whereas if no time is involved, the focus
will be on language of comparison and contrast. If you write
a process, you will need to be able to use the passive voice.
Also, a graph can be in the past, present or future, so you need to use
the appropriate tense.
So make sure that if you are not having IELTS preparation classes, you
check a good IELTS website so you are aware of the differences in
language that may be required.
Leave 3-5 minutes at the end to read
through your answer and check for any mistakes.
Task 2 Strategies
Spend 40 minutes on your essay as this is
worth more marks than task 1.
Spend about 10 minutes at the beginning on
- Making sure you understand the question and
what you need to write about
- Brainstorming ideas and support
- Grouping these ideas into paragraphs
Click here for more information on IELTS writing.
need to show you can write a coherent and cohesive paragraph, so make
sure you have an introduction, body paragraphs and a
Your introduction should have a thesis statement and each paragraph
should focus on one main idea or topic.
Make your essay and paragraphs easy to read by using appropriate
transitions and linking words.
order to achieve a higher score, you will need to show the examiner
that you can use a mix of sentence types, so before the test, make sure
you know how to write simple, compound, and complex sentences correctly.
Most of the time you will find you are using the simple present when
you write your essay as you are likely to be writing about a current
issue in society. However, you will have to make use of other tenses as well, so make
sure you review other common tenses such as the simple past, present perfect and future.
Leave 5 minutes at the end to read through
your answer and check for any mistakes.
The speaking test lasts 11-14 minutes and is divided into 3 sections:
- Part 1: One way general questions (4-5 minutes)
- Part 2: The long turn (3-4 Minutes)
- Part 3: Two way discussion (4-5 minutes)
In this first section of the test, the examiner will ask you questions
around general topics related to your life.
example, you may be asked about your hobbies, family, work, studies,
movies, holidays, pets etc. This is the easiest part of the
Here are some
- What are you studying at the moment?
- What do you usually like to do in your free
- What kind of movies do you like to go and see?
part two of the test, the examiner will give you a card with a topic on
it and you will need to talk about it for two minutes. You
also be given one minute to prepare what you are going to say.
will always be asked to describe something, usually a person, place or
thing e.g. a possession of yours, a family friend, a holiday you went
on, a sports event you attended etc. You will have some
"sub-points" on the card that you can also cover.
Here is an
your best friend
why he/she is your best friend
you met him/her
you usually do together
part 3 of the test, you will have a two-way discussion with the
examiner. This will be on more difficult and abstract topics
the questions you had in part 1. The topic will be related to
card you were given in part 2.
So, for example, you could have questions like these that are related
to the long-turn:
- Do you think it's important to have good
- How has the internet changed the way people
- How do you think friendships will change in the
Click here for more information on IELTS speaking.
give very short answers
Don't just answer 'yes' or 'no' to
questions. The examiner needs to hear you speak, so always
give extra information.
For example, for part 1:
Q: Do you have a big family?
Yes I do. I have my parents, and I also have 3 brothers and 2
sisters. My aunt lives with us as well. So I would say that is
quite a large family. It can get quite noisy in our house, but it's
still a lot of fun!
to the Topic
is important to extend your answers, but at the same time you must be
answering the question or talking about things related to the
topic. You won't gain extra marks for talking for the sake of
if it has nothing to do with what you have been asked!
listen carefully to what the examiner asks you. Again, you don't want
to be talking about something different to what you were asked.
if you don't understand
you don't understand a question or you don't hear it, then ask the
examiner to repeat it. There is nothing wrong with needing to do this a
few times during the test.
for 2 minutes
It will be difficult to talk for 2 minutes
in the long-turn if you just follow exactly what is on the
It is ok to give extra information, so feel free to tell the examiner
everything you can about the topic.
remember you need to keep your talk coherent and organized, so plan
what you can say in the 1 minute preparation time and think of what
extra information you can give.
The reading test takes 60 minutes and there are 3 reading
The passages are genuine readings taken from journal, books, newspapers
Each one is around 700-900 words.
There are a total of 40 questions in the exam.
There is no time to transfer the answer to the answer sheet at the end
so you need to do it during the test.
Reading Test Strategies
all the different question types
are many different types of question you can get in the reading test,
such as multiple choice, sentence completion, matching headings to
paragraphs, identifying a writers views, and several more.
a good website or book and make sure you practice the different kinds
that you may encounter and the different skills required for each type.
Only spend 20 minutes on each
you have not finished, then still move on to the next
can return to any parts that you have not finished if you have time at
And don't spend too much time on one
question. If you cannot get the answer then make a guess and
on – remember you won't lose marks for guessing even if the answer is
read the instructions carefully! These will tell you exactly
you need to do for each question and the maximum number of words you
can use to answer the question.
The only way to get really good at reading
is to keep doing it! Make sure you practice reading as much as
you can to improve
your general reading skills and vocabulary knowledge.
Click here for more information on IELTS reading.
The Listening Test
The listening test lasts 30 minutes and you then have 10 minutes at the
end to transfer your answers to an answer sheet.
It is divided into four sections, and each section is harder than the
Section 1: A conversation between two speakers
Section 2: A speech by one speaker
Section 3: A speech between up to four people
Section 4: A speech by one speaker
through the questions
each section you are given 30 seconds to look through the
questions. Make sure you do this, and do the following to help
follow the listening and fully understand it:
- Underline any key words
- Think about the context i.e. who is speaking
- Guess what some of the answers may be i.e. is
it likely to be the name of a person, a number, a date?
Click here for more information on IELTS listening.
two questions ahead
you are following the listening, don't just look at the next
question. Look at the next two questions. This way,
miss the one, you will still catch the next and it will stop you
aware of the different questions types
with the reading, there are lots of different question types you may
encounter – multiple choice, gap fills, completing diagrams
If you are not having IELTS lessons, then make sure you refer to a good
book or website to practice.
care with your answers
if you are completing a gap fill (as will be the case with section 1 of
the test), your answers must fit correctly into the gap, logically and
The spelling must also be correct, as must be capitalization.
For example, if the answer to a question is 'Monday' and you write
'monday,' your answer will be wrong.
with all the IELTS test, read the instructions carefully! This
will tell you how many words you can use in your answer. If
use more than you are allowed, then it will be wrong.
Practice makes perfect!
sure you practice your listening skills whenever you can. Use
IELTS practice tests, watch English TV, listen to English radio and
speak to people in English when you can.
In this article we
have given a brief overview of what is in each part of the test and
some general tips to help you through the exam.
Nothing is as
good as a lot of practice, though, so make sure you take lessons if you
need to and find practice materials online or in books.
This article was contributed by IELTS
Buddy – Free Online Exam Preparation