How can you write more academically? What factors make your writing more academic? These are questions students often ask. They have an idea that increasing their vocabulary can help, but they do not know how best to do this.
Having a wide range of words will help you to express your ideas more easily in your writing. The IELTS writing paper does not expect you to write in the style of academic journals, with difficult technical vocabulary. The topics for the essay are designed so that it is likely you will have some general knowledge on the topic and your own world view on it. Typical topics might be health, technology or the environment.
So where can you go to find some useful vocabulary?
If you have a mobile phone and like learning by apps, the British Council has an app for increasing your IELTS vocabulary. It covers common IELTS topics and has sound files too, so you also get to practise your listening. You can download the free app by following the link below and choosing “word power”:
If you prefer books, try a college library for IELTS vocabulary books from the Cambridge series:
Remember that often the best way to learn vocabulary is to learn in short time intervals daily. Revisit new words every day until you know them well. Think of it like a little daily workout as part of your routine.
Have you taken your IELTS test more than once? Are you struggling to get that magic band 6 or above? The IELTS test is like a gatekeeper which sometimes stops you from reaching your goal of entry to university or immigration to an English speaking country.
How can you succeed next time?
Well, there is no point in just arranging another test in a few weeks as some students do. It can take a few months to raise your band score by a half a band e.g. 5.5 to 6. Language learning is a slow process and if you scored under band 6, you are highly unlikely to succeed a few weeks later, even with intensive study.
So what should you do?
Firstly reflect carefully on your performance in your last test and look at the breakdown of your band result in each of the four skills. See where your weaknesses are by looking at the descriptors that the examiners use to choose your band score. These are publicly available online.
Here is an example (which also has the descriptors in Chinese).
So for example if you scored 5 for “lexical resource” in your speaking test (or writing test) then you should work on improving your vocabulary. Once you have found your weakness, try to set aside time to work on it daily. There are plenty of helpful blogs and materials on our IELTS dojo website for practice.
In both the speaking and writing papers in IELTS the examiner will be looking at your grammar. As well as considering how accurate your grammar is (how many mistakes you make and how those mistakes may affect understanding) the examiner is also thinking about the range of grammar you try and use. If you answer all the questions using very basic grammar and structures you might not make mistakes but you won’t get a high score in grammar.
A good way to think about range of grammar is to think about your use of conditionals. Conditionals are IF clause sentences and the type of conditional you use helps the examiner decide what level your grammar is.
Band 5-6 candidates should be able to use the 1st conditional. 1st conditional sentences describe possible situations.
If Ling uses conditionals in the IELTS exam, he will do well.
Band 6-7 candidates should be able to use the 2nd conditional. 2nd conditional sentences describe impossible or very unlikely situations.
If Klara got a 9.0 in IELTS, she would be delighted.
Band 7-8 candidates should be able to use the 3rd conditional. 3rd conditionals talk about past possibilities.
If Bob had used the 3rd conditional in his IELTS exam last month, he could have got a better score.
Band 8-9 candidates should be able to use mixed conditionals. Mixed conditionals combine different types of Conditional sentence together, most usually 2nd and 3rd conditionals.
If Emi had spent more time studying, she would not be so nervous about the test today.
If Jakob were a good student, he wouldn’t have gone to the party last night.
Obviously conditionals are not the only grammar examiners are looking for but they are important to consider. What kind of conditionals do you use in your speaking and writing?
IELTS is often used as a key to studying overseas. You may know that all universities in the UK accept IELTS but did you know that this is also the case for those in Australia, New Zealand and Canada?
The popularity of IELTS has grown in the USA too and now more than 3,000 educational institutions there accept it as a measurement of proficiency in English.
It’s not just English-speaking countries that accept IELTS either.
Since English is a global language, it is used in education all over the world. This means that even if you want to study in countries such as Germany, Norway or The Netherlands, IELTS can open the door to success.
The official IELTS website is a great place to check which universities accept IELTS https://www.ielts.org/about-the-test/who-accepts-ielts-scores. Make sure you check what IELTS band score the university or college you want to attend requires as a minimum for entry. Then, you know what your goal will be.
Apart from study, IELTS scores are accepted for migration (moving to another country to live there) and work purposes. If you plan to move to another country to join your family or to become a permanent resident in an English-speaking country, it is likely that you will need to take an IELTS test.
Similarly, if you are going overseas to work in areas such as medicine (including nursing, of course), engineering, law, construction, hotel and tourism to name but a few, an IELTS test is your best key to opening that door.
Do you want to live, work or study in the UK? The United Kingdom Visa and Immigration Department has made some changes to their English test requirements over the past year.
There is a new test procedure called UKVI (United Kingdom Visa for Immigration) IELTS (International English Language Testing System) which satisfies the immigration requirements of the UK Government to support your visa application.
The test proves your English language ability is good enough to enter university or college, or to work in a business.
The IELTS test itself is exactly the same as the normal IELTS test; same content, same examiners, same scoring system. The only difference is that UKVI has slightly different administrative requirements, specific to UK Visas and Immigration e.g. the Test Report Forms are different, to show that candidates have taken the test at an IELTS UKVI session.
For the candidate, there is a slightly different customer journey on your test day. You will need to have an extra photo taken on the day to prove your identity. This is done by the IELTS staff at your testing centre. Of course, you must bring your identification document too; the same one you used to register for the test.
Another difference for UKVI is that, in the speaking test, there will be a camcorder set up. The camera is set at some distance so that it is not distracting for you. Just try to ignore it and keep your focus on the examiner.
So, first you should check if you need a UK visa at https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa
Perhaps you also want to check what score you need for your visa for the UK. For example, Tier 1 General Visas need IELTS band 7, whereas many visas only need a lower score of band 4 e.g. exceptional talent visas, entrepreneur visa, sportsperson visa, so you need to be specific about your reason for going to the UK.
Remember, you can increase your chances of success by simply being aware of the test content and reading test tips on our website to guide you.
The IELTS Life Skills test is a new test designed to meet UK Visa and Immigration requirements. The test is only in speaking and listening and is not as demanding as a normal IELTS test.
The test is pitched at Common European Framework of Reference(CEFR) Level A1 and CEFR Level B1.
A1 is a very basic user of English. B1 is a user between IELTS band 4 to 5. Both are under the band 6 IELTS score normally needed for university entry.
You need IELTS Life skills A1 if you want a UK visa for the status ‘family of a settled person’ or a sportsperson.
You need IELTS Life Skills B1 if you are in the UK and want to remain there, or if you wish to gain citizenship.
You should check first if you need an IELTS Life Skills test by going to the site https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa
If you need to take the test, the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) website above has details of specific centres where you can take the test worldwide.
Some details about the test:
If you need IELTS Life Skills Test, the best thing you can do is practice as much as you can.Use the free sample tests and then keep practising with a family member or friend with a similar or better level of English speaking than you.
Your vocabulary is very important for the IELTS test and it is especially important in the speaking and writing papers. It’s important that you show you have enough vocabulary to talk and write about different topics in some depth. It’s also important to show how much vocabulary you know.
In the above paragraph the meaning is clear and there are no mistakes in grammar and vocabulary. However, there is a major weakness which would have a negative impact on the final grade. The writer uses ‘important’ too much. Although they use it accurately, using the same vocabulary all the time shows they don’t have a lot of words to choose from. It would be a much better paragraph if the writer used synonyms. For example, ‘important’, ‘vital’, ‘crucial’ and ‘essential’. This would make the paragraph more interesting to read and would also show the writer had a good vocabulary to choose from.
When we are writing and speaking, we all tend to stick to the language we are comfortable with. However, when you are in the IELTS exam try and make sure you use a range of language. For instance, use ‘for instance’ instead of ‘for example’. If you are talking about ‘teenagers’, talk about ‘teens’, ‘adolescents’, ‘young people’ and ‘young adults’.
A good way to practice this is when someone asks you how you are. From Venezuela to Turkey to Vietnam, whenever anyone is asked how they are the answer is usually ‘Fine’. To practice using as wide a vocabulary as you can you should never be fine. You should be ‘Wonderful,’ ‘Great’, ‘On top of the world’. It’s a simple change but one that can make a big difference.
It is really disappointing not to reach that band 6 or 7 you need to get into university. You probably studied hard for the test and paid a lot of money to take it. How long should you wait before taking the test again?
Some students in Hong Kong don’t get the band they want and come back to take the test as little as two weeks later! Presumably they think that they will get a different, kinder examiner and get the band they need immediately. And perhaps they have money to throw away, because that’s what they are doing.
Learning a language is usually a slow process with great commitment of time and energy to improve and become more fluent. To jump from a band 5 or 5.5 to a band 6 in just two weeks is totally unrealistic. For the average person, it would likely take a few more months of quite intensive study.
If you failed to reach your target band last time, the best thing to do is, firstly, don’t feel like a failure. Look at the deadline date to get IELTS for your university entrance. Then work out a study timetable which includes all four skills of reading, listening, speaking and writing. Usually students are able to self-study well for reading and listening as they can use exam preparation books and online materials with answers to self check. For the skills of speaking and writing, there are detailed tips and examples of what to expect in the writing and speaking tests on this site to help you on your way to success!
Is IELTS easier in some countries than others? Do examiners mark higher in Taiwan or Hong Kong? Or in the UK or Europe?
Many students believe that some countries are easier than others. Some students have reported they have travelled to Taiwan from Hong Kong to do their IELTS or from the UK to China.
The idea is that taking the IELTS test might be easier if the examiners are used to the local way of speaking English e.g. the accent, the common grammar mistakes, difficulties in pronouncing certain words.
Is there any truth in this?
It is certainly the case that most of the examiners working in your country will be used to the local ways of speaking English.
For example, an examiner working in China will be used to the common pronunciation difficulties of Chinese students dropping consonants such as ‘s’ and ‘t’ from the end of words or struggling with ‘r’ and ‘l’ sounds. They will likely find it easier to understand the candidates as they hear the locals speaking English in their daily lives and become used to common mistakes.
The IELTS examiners however, are very strictly standardised to mark to the grading criteria. They undergo regular training. They must pass tests where they have to give sample grades on a wide variety of nationalities speaking and writing English.
Random checks are also done on their grading of real IELTS tests.
This should mean the examiners all mark to the agreed, international standards.
So, is it worth travelling to another country to take your IELTS test?
No, it shouldn’t make any difference where in the world you take your test. The best way to get a good band is to understand how the test works and practice.
Read on for three simple IELTS techniques that could be the difference between getting the band you want and missing out.
IELTS is a complicated test. There are four papers to prepare for and it can be easy to focus on the big issues and forget the little things that can make all the difference between getting the score you want or not.
For example, in the reading and listening papers you need to put your answers on an answer sheet. While this seems very straightforward, you need to remember to give yourself enough time to transfer your answers from the booklet to the answer sheet and check them carefully. It can be easy to accidentally fill in the wrong cell (or box) or to make a basic spelling mistake. Don’t leave everything to the last minute where you have to fill in the answer sheet quickly with no chance to check it.
In writing you should also leave yourself enough time to do a basic check of your spelling, grammar and punctuation. You won’t be able to catch every error but when you are writing quickly and under pressure it’s easy to make simple mistakes. Spending a couple of minutes checking at the end can make all the difference.
In the speaking exam, smile. It makes you feel more confident and it makes the examiner more comfortable. Smiling also makes you feel more positive about yourself and so you will be more likely to be able to do well.
So, in your IELTS exam, don’t forget to: