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.