IELTS Tips and Advise

Many foreign nurses, especially Filipino nurses, have aspirations of education or advancing their careers in first world English speaking countries like the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, or Canada. For most, the first step to fulfilling this ambition is the IELTS test. Having taken the exam in the U.K. and getting a Band score of 9.0, I would like to share some tips that might help future test takers.

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The Listening module:

In the listening module you will have to answer some multiple choice questions, remember that the information might be expressed in different ways in the recording. Try listening for ideas, not particular words and phrases. When you have to complete short-answer questions, remember that the questions are in the same order as the information in the recording. Always remember to stick to the word limit.

When you have to complete a flow chart, remember to listen for sequencing words such as “then” and “next” as they help you understand the stages of the process.

You will have time at the start of each listening section to Look at the questions. Read all of the information carefully. For notes completion questions you should check how many words you need to write. You should also use the information in the questions to help you predict the type of word you need to listen for (e.g. a number, a date, or a name).

In Section 1 of the IELTS listening exam, you may have to complete a form. Normally, each answer is one or two words. In Section 1, the information is factual; for example, dates, telephone numbers and places. In IELTS Listening exam, when you have to complete sentences, make sure that the word or phrase you write is correct both in terms of meaning and in terms of its grammar. Always remember, if it doesn’t fit grammatically, it’s the wrong answer.

The Reading module:

In the reading module, skimming and scanning are 2 of the most important exam skills. Skimming is the quickest way of finding out what a text, or part of a text is about, and once you know the general subject, it’s easier to read for detail. Scanning is the most efficient way of locating the information you need to answer exam questions. It’s important to underline or highlight key words or phrases in the questions. This helps you to focus on the Information you need to find in the text.

Locating information and Matching headings tasks are similar. In both, you have to match information to sections of a text. The difference is that headings generally summarize information in a section while locating information questions usually pick out a key point.

There will also be True, False, Not Given questions. False VS. Not Given:

  • False means that the information in the question is factually wrong.
  • Not Given means that the information in the statement is impossible to check because it is not mentioned in the text.

Use the questions to help guide you through the reading passage. Look for clues in the questions to find the correct part of the passage then read this section carefully. When you have to match paragraph headings to paragraphs, skim each paragraph in turn. Decide what the main point of the paragraph is, then find a heading that means the same things. It is easy to forget the meaning of new words. Try to work with new words you come across: look at the different related meanings, look up the different word forms and use them in a sentence about yourself. The more you do with a word when you first come across it, the more likely you are to remember its meaning later.

These tips will help a lot for those about to take the exam; but more than anything else, one should stay focused and have a clear mind while taking each module. It is best to have a few minutes to spare to resolve one’s self before each exam. Clarity of mind, a good perception of things at hand, and prayers will do wonders. Good luck and God bless. I’ll be giving some tips on the Writing and Speaking Exam next week.

This is the second part of my IELTS test taking tips which will focus on the Writing and Speaking modules. I hope these tips will help those about to take their exams. Again, Good Luck and God Bless.

The Writing Module:

This exam is probably the one I had most trouble with. Let me share some tips that helped me through it. First off, make good use of modal verbs to frame your ideas like”will” to state your intention (e.g: In this essay I will outline three measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of violent behavior.) Emphatic modal verbs such as “must” and “should” to express a necessity (e.g: In my view, the government must bear some of this responsibility.)The words “can” and “could” to make suggestions (e.g: Firstly, the government can ensure that its policies take the interests of children into account.) Also, the word “would” to indicate the consequences of implementing a suggestion (e.g.: This would ensure that the particular circumstances of each case are properly identified and taken into account.)

Make sure you complete your essay by writing a conclusion, even if this consists of only one sentence. If you are running short of time, it is better to shorten or omit one of your body paragraphs than to fail to complete the task.

One of the most useful strategies for linking points between sentences is to use the demonstrative “this” or “these”. This or these can be used either on its own or followed by a summary word which captures the main point of the preceding sentence.

In IELTS Writing tasks, don’t copy information from the question paper, use your own words. Make sure that you describe the most important information and that your figures are accurate. Check your spelling when you have finished and make sure you have written at least 150 words for Task 1 and at least 250 words for Task 2. In Academic Writing Task 1, don’t forget that you are not expected to give your opinion on the information you are given. You should merely describe the information factually. In Writing Task 2, if the question asks you to “discuss both views” then you need a balanced argument, so make a list of ideas for and against the issue, and then give your opinion (I believe; I think).

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Note that Task 2 counts for twice the marks of Task 1 so spend twice the amount of time on it. It is important to write at least 150 words for Task 1 and 250 words for Task 2.

The Speaking Module:

In the IELTS Speaking exam you will be judged on your use of vocabulary. Having a good vocabulary is not just about knowing lots of words and phrases. You have to know how to use them. If you use slang in the exam, it might sound inappropriate. Equally, some words that are extremely formal or old-fashioned are not often used in speaking, and might also sound inappropriate. You can be asked to talk about things you like or dislike in all three parts of the IELTS Speaking module. To do well, you’ll need to be able to express your feelings confidently and correctly, using a variety of expressions.

You can always exploit the vocabulary in the questions. For example, you might be asked about a time when you watched a play, and then you can use the vocabulary to talk about what you thought about the story or who you were with. Current news may also be a topic your assessor may ask you about.

Always think about how you can transfer vocabulary you have learnt to other exam questions. The correct intonation that reflects accurately how you feel, will improve your marks. If you are telling an exciting story, but your intonation makes you sound bored, the examiner will probably find your story less interesting.

We use different intonation to express different emotions. The best way to improve your intonation is to listen to how English-speakers say something, as well as what they say. You could watch a film and listen carefully to how the characters sound when they are sad, happy, frightened, and so on. Pause the film and imitate them.

In IELTS Speaking exam, when you have to answer questions in Part 1, think for a moment before you respond. You can use conversation fillers such as, “Let me think for a moment” or “What an interesting question!”.In IELTS Speaking exam, when you have to answer questions in Part 1, don’t just give one-word answers. You have to show that you can communicate in English. Try to say several sentences for each answer.