Saturday, 24 June 2017

IELTS FAQ Cafetalk

1.      What are examiners writing during the Speaking test?
During the Speaking section of the IELTS test, you will notice the examiner occasionally writes something down. Don’t worry though, he/she is not writing anything about you, he/she is simply recording the start and finish times of each part of the test (part 1, 2, 3) to ensure all candidates get exactly the same time for each part.

2.      How often should I take the IELTS test?
Research shows that the average IELTS taker improves by 0.5 every 3 months of study. Therefore, it is often a waste of time to take tests too close together (e.g every week or every month), yet I see a lot of students doing this. Whenever possible try to study hard a few months between tests – it’s the smart thing to do.

3.      Why are my Writing scores so different every time I take the test?
Some students are confused as to why in one test they score, for example7.0, for Speaking but in the next test only 6.0. Why!? There are many reasons why this might happen. Probably the most common reason is that your essay had good grammar and vocabulary but it was not precisely on-topic. Or maybe it was on-topic but it was not clearly developed. It is also possible that the examiner made a mistake (if you suspect this, please contact the Tokyo IELTS office about having your writing rechecked).

4.      Why are my Speaking test scores so different?
Wide variation in Speaking test scores is less common but is likely because your performance in each test was very different. This might be because you hadn’t recently practised English, the topic was unfamiliar (especially in Part 3), or you were more/less nervous than before. Again, less likely but possible, the examiner could have made a mistake and given you an incorrect score (too high or too low), in which case contact the IELTS centre.

5.      Do I really need an IELTS teacher?
Most people will need at least some help from a professional IELTS teacher to improve the writing and speaking test scores. If you try to prepare entirely by yourself, you can never know what you are doing right or what you are doing and wrong, and how to get a higher score. Of course, you will improve faster and more effectively if you use a teacher who has examiner experience like me.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Topic knowledge is essential

A lot of students tell me they have trouble with IELTS because they don't know anything about the topics, especially in Speaking and Writing.

Here is a very simple solution:

  1. Find the topics & questions you have little knowledge of (you can also find a list in my book) Common topics include education, tourism, relationships, childcare, arts, travel etc.
  2. Search for news articles online on these topics. Read and study them
  3. Make notes about the vocabulary and main points in the article.
  4. Talk about the article with your speaking practice teacher using the main ideas and vocabulary you learned.
  5. Move onto the next topic/article.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

IELTS スピーキング - 緊張を防ぐ!

Being nervous and trying to relax in the speaking test interview

It’s important to understand that being nervous is perfectly normal – you are in an unfamiliar place talking to a stranger who is asking you difficult questions in a foreign language so of course you are going to be nervous!

Be kind to yourself if you feel nervous – it’s natural.
However, being too nervous does have a negative effect on your speaking ability – you may make more grammar mistakes, you might forget words, stutter and hesitate and give shorter answers than you normally would.

The good news!

Examiners understand that you are nervous; in fact, they generally expect this with every candidate no matter what their level! So don’t worry, allow yourself to be a little nervous, AND try to help yourself to relax a little.

How to be relaxed during the speaking test:
  • Practice breathing slowly and deeply
  • Every time you practice IELTS speaking, practice slow, deep relaxed breathing too (not too slow or you’ll stop breathing!
  •  Hey, this is Japan try doing zazen everyday a week before your test
  • When you are in the waiting room waiting for your test time don’t read IELTS practice books (many candidates do this). There’s nothing you can do now to prepare, get your mind off the test.  Just listen to some relaxing music, practice relaxed breathing, close your eyes think relaxing thoughts (e.g. lying on the beach)
  • Remember you are not there to ‘battle’ with the examiner, he is your friend!
Enjoy speaking in English! It might sound crazy but it is possible to have fun in the speaking test. How often do you get to meet someone and do all the talking!?

Friday, 9 May 2014


Echo the keywords from the question


Q: What are popular types of food in your country?
A: Well, in my country, Japan, the most popular types of food are traditional foods which we call 'washoku'. For example, .....

  • It shows the examiner you have understood the question
  • It helps you think of ideas
  • It helps you stay on topic

  • Every time you are asked a question in English, repeat the question keywords. You don't have to use the same words and grammar, you can use synonyms and different grammar.

Other Examples

Q: What do you normally do when you want to relax?
A: Um, I when I want to relax I normally watch TV or I take a bath.

Q: What kind of jobs involve working outdoors?
A: Let me see, I think there are many jobs that involve outdoor work. For example, ...

Q: How difficult is a police officers job?
A: Well, a police officers job can very difficult but I think it really depends on where he or she works. For example, ...

Monday, 31 December 2012

IELTS Study links

Links for getting ideas      Online debate/discussions Find ideas to Writing and Speaking questions       

Reading Material Easy to read news stories        Amazon Penguin Readers
Japan today

Listening       Guardian Audio      Oxford Spell test

Online Skype Speaking practice

Grammar Quizzes        Prepositions with verbs Articles Prepositions Verb-prepositions combinations list Verb-prepositions combinations quiz

Vocabulary Academic word list Academic Keyword List Academic vocabulary synonyms quiz   List common verb/preposition collocations Adjectives and Adverbs in Academic Sample sentences   Academic collocation list    IELTS Collocations test


Task 1 Sample Essays Many IELTS sample tasks & essays IELTS Exam Answer sheets   Many free model academic essays IELTS Test Outline British Council IELTS Preparation Community writing practice site   Popular Japanese/ English study sites Proof-reading practice Paraphrasing introduction & practice


Iphone & Ipad Apps

Oxford Bookworms Interactive reading & listening

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Write overview with introduction

It's better to write the overview (概要) with the introduction. (Note: you must write an overview)

  • Reason: If you wait until the end of your essay to write the overview you might run out of time!  

Here is an example introduction and overview together for the graph above...

The two graphs provide information on home types for people living in a European country in 1991 and 2007. Overall, we can clearly see from the graphs that the majority of homes were owned, and that there was an increase in owned homes and the number of 'social renting' homes during the sixteen year period.

Remember; spend
around 2 minutes per sentence!

Sunday, 22 July 2012


Common Mistakes Japanese Make

There are many differences between Japanese and English grammar and vocabulary.

8 common mistakes Japanese make in IELTS

  1. Least/Lowest e.x. “The least lowest number of students was in Denmark at 18,000”  Low, lower, lowest = level/ rank/ height of something e.g. low cost, low amount   Little, less, least = Not as much e.g. There is little time, It is less important
  2. All/each e.x. “There were increases in sales in each all countries” "All" is plural and "each" is singular. There is also a very small change in meaning -- "each" emphasizes the individual members of a set/group.
  3. Almost e.x. “Almost (all) Japanese can eat natto” In Japanese 殆ど can be used in many situations, but “almost” is usually used with other words in English (all, everyday etc.)      
  4. Until/by e.x. “There was an increase in sales by until 2009 when sales began to fall”  By = deadline e.x. You must finish this report by until Wednesday Until = Length of time remaining e.g. You have until Wednesday to finish this report
  5. About e.x. “In this essay I will discuss about ....... Some verbs cannot use “about”   〇 Talk, argue, think, dream, laugh X discuss, consider, describe, teach 
  6. Know e.x. “I went to America and there I could know learn a lot about American culture.” In Japanese 知っている can be used in many situations, but “know” has a more specific meaning in English. Use more specific words like learn, understand, be aware of, notice etc.
  7. Easy e.x. "people easy to It is easy for people to take the train in Tokyo",  Japan easy It is easy to get a bank account”
  8. Most/Most of e.x. “most of Japanese live in Tokyo and Osaka”. Most = general, unknown subjects e.g. Japanese, women etc. Most of = specific, known subjects e.g. my friends, students in this class

Try to understand these mistakes and avoid them.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Generating Ideas

Many people have difficulty coming up with ideas in the Speaking test, especially for Part 3.

Here are some techniques for generating ideas quickly;

  • Questioning Technique
In your head ask questions about the question (what, how, when, where, why) as you speak to keep your ideas flowing.

What are the advantages of being famous?

Well, I think there are many advantages to being famous, but I guess the main advantage is that (what) you can make a lot of money. 
(how) Famous people tend to be highly valued for a special skill or talent that few people have, so they are paid a great deal for being so unique. 
(when) Of course, it usually takes a long time to become famous, depending on the type of fame, you know; a sports star, a movie star or a famous artist has to work very hard for a number of years before he or she can earn a high income.

  • Use a simple structure
1. Idea "I think one of the best ways to ..."/ "Most people in my country..."
2. Reason "The main reason for this is..."/ "This is basically because..."
3. Example "For example, recently ..."/ "A good example is..."
4. Result "So, I think by doing this ..."/ "As a result,..."

  • Make "if" or "however" sentences to describe the opposite side

If there were no famous people I think the world would be a more boring place because people like to have an interest in people they admire and aspire to be like. It can be enjoyable to learn about famous people's lives without having a relationship with them like, you know, our family and friends.

Remember; try to give as many relevant details as possible for every answer.