IELTS – Preparation Tips – The RAMYAM Way

Welcome to Ramyam (Australia) IELTS Coaching!

Now that you’ve decided to do the IELTS test, you have come to the right place. We’ll provide you an effective plan for IELTS preparation and help you achieve the score you need.
Before starting, please remember that IELTS is essentially an English Language test and therefore you must have high level of English knowledge. If you feel that your general proficiency of English is not high, then you should enrol with us for the general bridge course in English to bring up your English language skills.
So, if you have assessed yourself or if you have already completed general bridge course with us, you are now ready to crack the IELTS exam. We’ll look at each area of the IELTS test in detail and help you plan, prepare and achieve high scores across the bands.

Ready, STUDY, and Go!

Introduction

As you probably know, there are four parts to the IELTS test- Writing, Speaking, Reading and Listening. Each of these modules has several possible questions and each of them require a specific skill that you need to acquire.
For instance, the Listening and Reading tests have over 10 different types of questions each. All of these questions requires a different approach, strategy and set of skills.

Understanding the IELTS scoring system

IELTS is graded on a scale of 0-9. You will receive a score for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. These scores are then averaged and this will give you your overall score.  
Below is what the overall band scores 6 – 9 means. Because, if you are on this page you are already be at least band 5.

IELTS Scores

Band
9
People who get Band 9 are classified as ‘Expert users’. This means that you have complete command of the language and you use it with complete accuracy and fluency.
Band
8
If you get a Band 8, you are considered a  ‘Very good’ user of English. You may make a few mistakes when talking or writing about very unfamiliar situations, but overall, you have a very good grasp of the language.
Band
7
IELTS classifies these students as ‘Good users’. Most people who get Band 7 can cope with complex situations in English. If you are a Band 7 student you will make occasional mistakes, but you will be able to perform most everyday tasks without too many problems.
At Ramyam we strongly believe that this is the minimum level you should be at if  you want to study or work in an English-speaking country. And, we’ll help you to achieve this score.
Band
6
Competent user’. If you are Band 6 you can talk and write about familiar situations, such as your family or job, but you struggle to deal with more complex or unfamiliar topics.
If you are at this level, you should certainly try to improve to band 7 and above.

Writing Scores

Writing is judged using four criteria. The examiner will give you a score between 0-9 for each of the criteria and then give you an average overall score.

The four criteria are:

  •   Task Achievement
  •   Coherence and Cohesion
  •   Lexical Resource
  •   Grammatical Range and Accuracy

Speaking Scores

Speaking also has four criteria that you will be assessed on.

They are:

  •   Fluency
  •   Pronunciation
  •   Lexical Resource
  •   Grammatical Range and Accuracy

At Ramyam, we help you understand what these criteria mean so that you can prepare and practice well.

Listening Scores

The listening test always has 40 questions and your score is based on how many of these 40 questions you get correct. The table below shows the listening scores.
This is the same for both Academic and General Training.

Number of correct answers out of 10Band Score
409
39 – 388.5
37 – 358
34 – 337.5
32 – 307
29 – 276.5
26 – 236
22 – 205.5
19 – 165

Reading Scores

The reading test also has 40 questions and your score is again based on how many of these you get correct, however, the scores are different for Academic and General Training, as shown below.

Academic Reading

Number of correct answers out of 10Band Score
40 – 399
38 – 378.5
36 – 358
34 – 337.5
32 – 307
29 – 276.5
26 – 236
22 – 195.5
18 – 155

General Training Reading

Number of correct answers out of 10Band Score
409
398.5
38 – 378
367.5
35 – 347
33 – 326.5
31 – 306
29 – 275.5
26 – 235

How to improve your IELTS Skills

1.   Understand the Different Question Types

There are more than 10 different types of question for Reading and Listening. Again, there are more than 10 different kinds of question on the Writing test.
Knowing these types of questions gives you a big advantage. Here at Ramyam, we help you plan your approach and strategy and sharpen your skills.

2.   Improve Your Vocabulary

Vocabulary is a huge part of the IELTS test. It covers 25% of your total mark in Speaking and Writing. It is also tested in the Reading and Listening tests.

3. Practice English Every Day

When it comes to improving your English, there really is no substitute for practicing a little every day. The more you use English, the more your skills will improve and the higher chance you have of getting the score you need.

4. Practice Tests

You should do IELTS practice tests in order to establish what your current band score is and also to familiarise yourself with the test. But don’t do the tests every day, instead spend your time improving your level of English and your IELTS skills.

5. Get Your Speaking and Writing Assessed

At Ramyam, our qualified trainers assess your speaking and writing. They will be able to tell you your current level, but more importantly, they will be able to tell you what your weaknesses are. You must focus on the things that you are not good at in order to improve.

IELTS Writing Task 1 – Important Information

The following information will help you understand what the IELTS writing test task 1 is and how it is scored.

  1. People doing the Academic test will write a report on a data set, map, or process. People doing General Training will write a letter.
  2. You must write 150 words or more.
  3. You should spend around 20 minutes on this part of the test.
  4. Task 1 is worth 1/3 of your total mark on the Writing test.
  5. You will be assessed in four areas:
    1. Task Achievement (25%)
    2. Coherence and Cohesion (25%)
    3. Lexical Resource (25%)
    4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy (25%)

IELTS Task 1 – Tips

Read the instructions carefully.

Take one minute to read the question a few times and really understand what it is asking you to do. Practice will also help you familiarise yourself with the different types of task 1 question and save you time in the exam.

Re-phrase or Paraphrase the question.

You will lose marks for copying the words in the answer and the examiner is looking to see if you can paraphrase the question. To paraphrase, simply use synonyms to change keywords.

Check your work after you have completed

Checking your work at the end is really important, but many students complain that they don’t have time. You can make this process more efficient by checking your work when you practice and writing down your four or five common mistakes. After a while, you will get to know your more common mistakes and fix them quickly.

Give indications or ‘signpost’ what you are writing about  

These are words and phrases that tell the examiner what you are writing about. They are sometimes also called ‘discourse markers’.

Examples include ‘The graph/table/chart shows…’, ‘The most significant change is….’, ‘Another noticeable change/trend is….’, ‘Overall…’.

Learn to use words that describe change

You will normally have to describe change in your task 1 essay and these more advanced words will help you gain some valuable marks for ‘lexical resource’.

You will pick up easy marks if you know how to accurately describe change. From very small to very large, here are some examples:

Minimal-slight-gradual-moderate-considerable-significant-substantial-enormous-dramatic.

Organise and plan your answer.

This is one of the main differences between students who score well in IELTS writing and those who don’t. It is never a waste of time to plan your answer as this will help you score well by giving a clear and coherent answer.
Familiarise yourself with the different question types and then learn the different structures for each one. For example, a bar chart should look like this:

Paragraph 1- paraphrase question.

Paragraph 2- overview.

Paragraph 3- describe main feature in detail.

Paragraph 4- describe another main feature in detail.

When you have this structure in your head, you will be able to plan an effective answer quickly and easily.

Practice writing overviews.

Your overview is probably the most important paragraph in the whole essay. Write a good one and you are well on your way to getting a good band score.

An overview is a summary of the main features shown in the diagram.

Part of this is identifying the main trends in the diagram. For bar and line charts ask yourself what is increasing, what is decreasing and what is fluctuating? For processes ask yourself how many main stages there are and what are the main changes and outcomes?

Remember that your overview should not include any numbers because you are just describing the most significant aspects in general terms, the detail comes in the next paragraphs.

Use accurate data to describe the main features

As stated before, you won’t use any numbers in the overview section but you will have to use data to describe the main features in subsequent paragraphs. Make sure you choose the correct data and that it is accurate.

Don’t use the same words for percentages and numbers.

For percentages use words like large/small/higher/lower percentage of…

For numbers use words like many/more/most/few and fewer.

Don’t give your opinion or speculate.

IELTS task 1 is not a descriptive essay; descriptive essays are for task 2. Only write exactly what you see and don’t try to give reasons for the data unless explicitly stated in the diagram. You will lose a lot of marks if you do this.You should also not add any new information or draw any conclusions from the data presented.

Don’t use bullet points, notes or abbreviations.

Again, this might be fine in university essays but not in IELTS essays.

Don’t write every number or process you see.

Many students do this and end up spending far too much time on task 1. Remember you will only be asked to write about the most significant features. For example, in a line graph or bar chart question you will only be expected to write about 2 or 3 things. Any more is a waste of time and you won’t get any extra marks for writing about anything else.

Don’t copy words from the question or information from the diagram.

If you do this examiners will not mark these words and it is therefore like writing nothing at all.

To overcome this, familiarise yourself with the common vocabulary used in IELTS writing part 1 and learn synonyms for this information. Also, use synonyms when practicing writing.

Ensure your handwriting is legible*

IELTS examiners will try their best to understand what you have written but sometimes the writing is so untidy that it is impossible to read. If your writing is like this the examiner will not be able to give you a mark for the words they can’t read.

Many of us rely on computers these days and some students don’t realise how bad your handwriting is. Show some of your practice tests to a teacher or friend and ask their opinion. If they can’t read it then an examiner won’t be able to either.

*If you think your handwriting is messy, please opt for the Computer Based IELTS test.

Don’t use informal language.

Remember this is an academic essay and you are expected to write in that style. Avoid phrasal verbs, slang and colloquial language.

Finally, Relax and don’t panic!

Many students open up the exam paper, see something they know nothing about and then panic.

For example, I was teaching a class and the process diagram was about the production of chocolate. ‘But, all I know about chocolate is how to eat it.’ cried most of my students. This is understandable but the IELTS writing tests are not knowledge tests, they are English tests. You are not expected to have knowledge of the diagram, just calmly write about what you see.

IELTS Writing Task 2 Important Information

IELTS Writing Task 2 requires you to write an academic-style essay on a common topic. You have 40 minutes to write at least 250 words.

The following information will help you understand what the IELTS writing test task 2 is about and how it is scored.

  1. You must write an essay in response to a question.
  2. You must write 250 words or more.
  3. You should spend around 40 minutes on this part of the test.
  4. Task 2 is worth 2/3 of your total mark on the Writing test.
  5. General Training and Academic are essentially the same for Task 2, but different for Task 1.
  6. There are certain types of questions you will be asked, such as opinion, discussion etc.
  7. You will be assessed in four areas:
    1. Task Achievement (25%)
    2. Coherence and Cohesion (25%)
    3. Lexical Resource (25%)
    4. Grammatical Range and Accuracy (25%)
  8. The questions will be about common topics that most people in the world should be aware of.

IELTS Task 2  some tips

Analyse and understand the question

You must first analyse the question to understand what exactly the examiner is looking for. Many students in a hurry do not understand the question and end up not answering properly. If you do not answer the question fully, you can’t score higher than a Band 5.

If you want a higher score, you should first identify the question type, then identify the keywords in the question and finally the instructions in order to find out what the examiner wants you to do with the question.  

Plan your answer

The students who get the highest marks plan before they write and they often plan for up to 10 minutes. Planning helps you organise your ideas and structure before you write, saving you time and helping you write a clear essay.

Give a clear Introduction

The introduction should tell the examiner what the rest of the essay is about and also answer the question directly. This tells the examiner that you know what you are doing straight away and helps you write your main body paragraphs.

Elaborate details in the Main Body Paragraphs

This is where you give the examiner more detail. You do this by stating your main points and supporting these with explanations and relevant examples.

Provide a Summary and Conclusion

Here you provide a summary of what you have already said in the rest of the essay.

IELTS Speaking Module

What is the IELTS Speaking Test?

The IELTS Speaking test is broken down into three parts:

  1. Part 1 is about YOU. They will ask you familiar, everyday questions about your life. This will last around 4-5 minutes.
  2. Part 2 is sometimes called the ‘long turn’. You will be given a cue card and you will have 1 minute to prepare your answer. You will then be asked to speak for up to 2 minutes.
  3. Part 3 is more abstract. This is your opportunity to really develop your answers and discuss the issues brought up by the examiner. This will last 4-5 minutes.

What is the Purpose of the IELTS Speaking Test?

It is a test of how well you can communicate through spoken English.

It is not a test of how many big /fancy/ flowery words you know or about your grammar or your British or American accent.

IELTS Speaking part 1:  

You will be asked questions on familiar topics such as your hometown and your family. At Ramyam, we give you lots of sample questions and answers for your practice and preparation.

IELTS Speaking Part 2 

This part of the test allows you to speak for longer on a given topic.

You will be given a card with a particular topic on it, and this will include key points that you should talk about.

IELTS Speaking Part 3 

In part 3 test the examiner will ask further questions which are linked to the topic talked about in part 2.

This part of the test is designed to give you the opportunity to talk about things in a more abstract way.

You will be given one minute to plan and then you will talk for between 1-2 minutes.

Tips for improving your Speaking Part 2 skills

Many consider Speaking Part 2 to be the most difficult part of the IELTS Speaking test because it is a monologue. A monologue is different from the rest of the test because you will be speaking alone, without any questions or help from the examiner.

The examiner will give you a ‘cue card’ with a topic and instructions and you’ll have to talk about the topic for 1 or 2 minutes.

As stated above, you will have 1 minute to prepare before you speak and you are expected to talk for between 1-2 minutes.

You Don’t Have to Talk About Every Bullet Point, The bullet points are there to help you, so if you want to talk about them, please do. But instead of talking on all the bullet points, make sure you talk about what is within the general topic.

Don’t memorise answers.  It is a complete waste of time and leads to some bizzare answers. If the examiner spots this, they will give you a Band 0!

Focus on fluency and pronunciation. Record yourself and listen to yourself. How could you improve your fluency and pronunciation?

Time yourself so you know how much you have to speak in 1-2 minutes.

Use 1 Minute to prepare.  You will not have enough time to write full sentences. You will, however, be able to write keywords. These keywords should guide you through your talk and help if you can’t think of ideas.

Expand Your Ideas. It is much better to fully expand each main idea, than to simply state lots of main ideas and not develop them at all. This will help you give more impressive answers and it is also a better use of your time

Everyone makes grammar and vocabulary mistakes. Even students who get a Band 8, or even 9, make small mistakes. This is totally understandable and you should therefore not panic when you make a mistake.

Being nervous and stressed affects your ideas, pronunciation, fluency and normally leads to further grammar mistakes. When you make a mistake simply forget about it and don’t panic.

There are four parts to the IELTS marks scheme:

  1. Fluency and Coherence
  2. Lexical Resource
  3. Grammatical Range and Accuracy
  4. Pronunciation

IELTS Speaking Topics

In Part 1 of the test, mostly, you’ll be asked about familiar topics, such as:

Your job or studies; Your hometown; Your family; Your home; Your likes and dislikes.

That does not mean that you should prepare memorised answers for these topics. The examiner will know exactly what you’re doing and could lower your score.

In Parts 2 and 3, it is impossible to predict which topics will come up.  However, it is safe to say that while it is impossible to predict what topic you will get in IELTS speaking test, you will not get any ‘difficult topics’ because, it is a test of your English skills, not a test of knowledge. IELTS is an international test and these topics are chosen so that anyone in the world can give a reasonable answer.

There are certainly no common topics for the speaking test. You should therefore never try to memorise answers. If you have been learning English in your text books and in newspapers, then there should be no surprises in the speaking test.

IELTS Reading Test

Both the Academic and General reading test is 60 minutes long

It consists of 40 questions, designed to test a wide range of reading skills. These include reading to summarize, reading for main ideas, reading for detail, skimming, understanding logical argument and recognising writers’ opinions, attitudes and purpose.

IELTS Academic test – passages are taken from books, journals, magazines and newspapers.  They have been selected for a non-specialist audience but are appropriate for people entering university courses or seeking professional registration.

Question types:

Question types include: multiple choice, identifying information, identifying writer’s views/claims, matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, diagram label completion, short-answer questions.

The General Training Reading test I

There are 3 sections. In section 1, you’ll find 3  short factual texts, one of which may be a composite (consisting of 6-8 short texts related by topic. Topics are relevant to everyday life in an English-speaking country.

In section 2, you’ll find 2 short factual texts focusing on work-related issues (eg. applying for jobs, company policies, pay and conditions) and section 3 contains one longer, more complex text on a topic of general interest.

These passages are taken from notices, advertisements, company handbooks, books, magazines and newspapers.

Question types:

Question types include: multiple choice, identifying information, identifying writer’s views/claims, matching information, matching headings, matching features, matching sentence endings, sentence completion, summary completion, note completion, table completion, flow-chart completion, diagram label completion, short-answer questions.

What skills will be tested?

The reading paper will test a number of different skills, including:

  • Completing a diagram, table or summary
  • Tell the difference between main ideas and supporting details
  • Find specific information
  • Identify the writer’s opinion
  • Follows key arguments
  • Identify the writer’s purpose

The reading test is also as much a vocabulary test as it is a reading test because most of the answers will be synonyms or paraphrases of the question.

IELTS Reading Tips

1. Understanding meaning of a word  

It is OK If you don’t understand a word in the reading test.  You can still find the meaning by looking at the words and sentences around it for clues as to its meaning or you can move on and forget about it. You don’t have to understand the meaning of every word.  Focus on the words that are related to the question and don’t worry about the words you don’t understand.

2. Practice your reading skills by reading what you like

IELTS reading texts can be a little boring and you are more likely to read regularly if you read about something you are interested in. Reading for pleasure a little every day will not only improve your English skills but also improve your vocabulary. There are thousands of blogs, newspapers, magazines, and newspapers to choose from online. Practice makes perfect.

3. Read and follow instructions carefully  

Reading instructions very carefully is  especially true in the reading and listening tests because they give very specific instructions. If you don’t read and follow these instructions exactly, you will get the question wrong.

If the answer asks for two words only and the answer is Blue and Pink, you should write ‘blue’, pink’, not ‘blue and pink’ because it then becomes three words and therefore incorrect.

Finally, one word only means just one word. We should, therefore, be very careful with articles like ‘a’ and ‘an’. For example, the text might say ‘a cyclone’, but if it asks for one word simply write ‘cyclone’. ‘A Cyclone’ is two words and is therefore wrong.

5. Don’t panic

Some of the questions will be easy and some will be extremely difficult. The key is not to panic when trying to answer a difficult one.

The wrong thing to do is spend a large amount of time on a question and fail to spend enough time on the rest of the questions. You can always come back to the difficult questions later and answering the other questions will often help you.

6. Brush up your Vocabulary

In many ways, the reading test is more of a vocabulary test than a reading test. They will use synonyms and paraphrase sentences to test how wide your vocabulary is.  

Reading is the best way to improve your vocabulary. Memorising lists of words is not as effective as seeing words in context. When you see a new word you don’t understand, try to guess the meaning from context. This means that you try to guess the meaning based on the words and sentences around it.

7. Timing is crucial

If you spend too much time on one question you will leave less time for the other questions, however, if you try to do the test too quickly you will miss information and may get confused. Usually you should spend 16 – 17 minutes to read and answer the questions and 3-4 minutes to transfer and check your answers.

8. This is a test of English not your Subject Knowledge  

The IELTS is a test of your English language skills and not your own knowledge about the topic!  Your knowledge of the topic should not influence your answers. Please answer based on what is required from reading the text only and don’t make assumptions based on your own knowledge.  

9. Don’t leave blanks

Don’t leave blanks in the IELTS reading test. Even if you don’t know the answer, make sure you attempt every question. You may get some marks for attempting and anyway you have nothing to lose by completing all the questions.

IELTS – Listening TEST

Test format-  30 minutes

You will have 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers to the answer sheet provided.

It is divided into 4 parts.  You’ll hear recorded monologues and conversations by a range of native speakers,  and write your answers to a series of questions. A variety of voices and native-speaker accents are used and each section is heard only once.

Section 1 is about a conversation between two people set in an everyday social context.

Section 2 is a monologue set in an everyday social context, e.g. a speech about local facilities.

Section 3 is about a conversation between up to four people set in an educational or training context, e.g. a university tutor and a student discussing an assignment.

Section 4 is again a monologue but on an academic subject.

There are 40 questions in total. Each question carries 1 mark.

Listening is exactly the same for Academic and General Training.

Listening Module – Tips

Practice

When you practice for improving your listening skills follow the 90/10 rule that is 10% IELTS past test papers and 90% listening to real life conversations. If you listen to just 20 or 30 minutes of English every day the right way, it is far more effective than listening to past tests. It will not only improve your listening skills, but your overall level of English.

Predict

  • When you see the questions try to predict the answer before youhear it because this makes it easier to get the correct answer. For example, if the possible answer had a $ sign in front of it, we would automatically know that we need to be listening for an amount of money.

Synonyms and Paraphrasing

Many of the answers may not be a direct match to the keywords in the question. It could be a synonym or a paraphrase of those words. So you need to practice thinking about synonyms for the words you see in the question.   

Listen for connected words and sounds

  • Native English speakers talk quickly and link several words and sounds together. So sometimes a sentence might sound different when spoken quickly. Learn to listen carefully and aware of connected speech.

Learn to take down fast Notes  

  • When a professor gives a lecture he will not slow down or wait for you. You must therefore learn to take notes quickly using short-forms and then transcribe them into full comprehensive sentences.   

Practice Active listening.

IELTS listening should always be active. When you listen passively you tend to ‘switch off’, but in active listening you are actually thinking and doing something when you are listening. This is a skill you should practice every day to improve your listening ability.

For more tips and details to achieve a high band score in IELTS – contact Ramyam (Australia) IELTS Coaching Centre now!

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