In this video lesson, I interviewed a REAL IELTS expert and asked him the 10 most frequently asked questions about the test (by students AND IELTS teachers).
Like me, he has has been a teacher for 30 years, taught IELTS for 20 years, and has been an examiner, senior examiner and test day administrator and manager of a UK IELTS test centre.
IELTS FAQs about Band 7
Question 1: How can I get a high score?
- What do high scoring IELTS students do differently?
Max: Ultimately, they are people with very, very, very good English.
Clearly having some IELTS tuition and support can help people to improve their scores.
But essentially, the key to doing well in IELTS is to be a good user of English.
IELTS is a measurement of the quantity and the quality of your English.
Question 2: What is the biggest misunderstanding about IELTS?
Max : I think the biggest misunderstanding about it is that people who have quite good English can magically somehow get very good English, and therefore get the score that they need in a very short period of time. And often that isn’t the case.
It takes time because it takes time to learn a language.
And the process of doing well in IELTS depends on learning English more and better.
Question 3: I have the exam in one month. What should I do?
You cannot prepare for a difficult exam like IELTS in a very short period of time.
The IELTS exam is expensive, and it would be better to wait until you’re ready before you spend the money on the exam.
Question 4: Should I keep taking the test until I pass?
I think people should spend more time improving their English and less time worrying about the exam.
Many students spend most of the time (in between exams) worrying about the exam, and asking people like you ‘How can I pass this exam? What can I do very quickly in the next two weeks?’, not focusing on what they should be focusing on, which is improving the quality of their English.
Obviously having some specialist advice to do with the skills of IELTS is extremely important and helpful. But the main thing has to be the development of the language.
Watch the full interview here
IELTS FAQs about TIME
Question 5: How long will it take to pass the IELTS test?
There are a lot of very experienced as teachers and trainers at your language school. And students tend to come for three months at a time: they do five hours a day, five days a week plus homework. Is that about right?
Yes, so they’re doing 25 hours of tuition a week plus homework. But on top of that, we make them do extra reading outside class and extra listening and they spend a lot of time talking to people as well.
Question 6: How much time should I spend studying IELTS every day?
I think when people say, ‘I do about an hour a day’, that’s fine, that’s great because people are busy with work or studying, but it’ll just take you longer. So even with five hours a day with people who really know what they’re doing, and they’re living in a homestay, I guess, every single opportunity, it still takes a lot of work and a lot of time.
Yes, everybody’s context is different. If you have students who are studying and working in the UK, like doctors or nurses, they have a lot of exposure to English already. And maybe an hour in the evening could be sufficient for them.
Question 7: How can I make faster progress with IELTS?
By constantly taking input from everywhere, constantly reading, constantly listening, constantly writing and speaking at every opportunity that they have.
Question 8: What is the most difficult part of the IELTS test?
Let’s get a bit more specific now. I think the most difficult part of the IELTS test is the writing. Would you agree with that?
I think in general yes. That’s correct, but a lot of people find reading difficult as well.
Let’s talk about specific tips about improving your writing, specifically for IELTS because it is specialized. It isn’t just like writing emails. It’s an academic, analytical description of statistics in Task 1 and then an opinion essay, which arguably, nobody ever does anymore.
IELTS FAQs: How can I improve writing and reading?
Question 9: How can I improve my writing?
I’ll split my answer into two different parts.
- One part has to do with what you do in the Members Academy – it’s very important to have a good teacher who can help you to understand what you need to do with Task 1, how to approach a Task 2, of course. And that kind of support is very, very useful.
- But I think it’s also important that people read a lot because when you read a lot, you constantly see how good academic English is put together. It improves your spelling, it improves your vocabulary, and you understand how to present an argument in English. So yes, I think you need to do both of those things.
You need to have some specialist support of the type that you provide your students with, but you also need to read a lot and probably practice writing as well in your spare time.
I totally agree with how much the importance of reading is underestimated. Because how often do we read the kind of academic articles that we get in the IELTS test? You have to really go out of your way to do that kind of reading and you have to do it intensively, while we’re doing all the other things. Again, it’s just a lot of time, isn’t it?
It is a lot of time but as you say, it works and it’s necessary.
Question 10: How can I read faster in the IELTS test?
You should consider the reading test as three tests not one test.
You should consider it as three 20 minute tests, not as one 1-hour test, because one of the biggest problems people have is they get only about half of the way through the third passage and only answer 30 questions, not 40.
If you can train yourself to read the passage and answer the questions in 20 minutes, done, move on to the next one. Done. I think that that can help people to do the test more quickly.
In terms of reading more quickly, reading is processing information. And any kind of processing can be done faster, you can do it faster, you can train yourself to do it faster. And the way to train yourself to read faster is to read a lot more, to read anything, read newspapers, read novels and read academic texts. Be a reader. Get into the habit of reading different types of materials a lot and you will be able to process information more quickly.
Definitely. And I used to joke that Max could actually answer the IELTS reading questions without looking at the reading, because he was so used to the type of question that is asks.
Do you think, as well as doing all the reading, doing a lot of familiarizing yourself with the test will give you a bit of extra support?
I think knowing the different types of question and practicing the different types of question and knowing that the different types of questions are there to test different reading skills. I think all of that is useful and important.
But at the end of the day, you need to be better at reading in order to do the reading test.
Could you give us a quick example? What are the different types of questions and how do they test different types of reading skills?
Okay, so for example, you have those matching heading questions where they give you a list of eight or nine things with Roman numbers and then you have to match them to the passages. Now, that type of question is there specifically to see if you have the skill of reading a paragraph quite quickly. And generalizing – What is this particular paragraph about? And then choosing the correct heading.
True, False, Not Given questions, on the other hand, test a completely different skill, which is to find exactly some piece of information in the text and decide what it means.
And other types of questions are testing other skills and awareness of that. And the ability to do that is useful. And it’s the kind of thing that I know you pass on to your students.
Could you explain more about the different Reading text types?
A lot of IELTS reading passages are either about problems, or they are pieces of research. Now, I don’t think we’ve got time to go through all of this now, because it’s the topic of a lesson properly. But in very general terms, if you’re reading about a problem you’ve got to be looking for the causes of the problem. You’ve got to be looking for effects of the problems, and you’ve got to be looking for solutions of the problems. And if you read the passage very quickly to identify those things, you find the basic meaning of the whole passage.
And guess what? Most of the questions will be about causes and effects and solutions and the same thing with research passages in research passages: there is a certain fixed structure of information which you can look for when you read the passage.
Question 11: There are so many things I need to do. Where do I start?
With so many materials available on the internet, how do you know where to start?
How do you know what IELTS materials to use and what to ignore?
I think this is a very, very important question Fiona because it’s not that there’s so much stuff on the internet – the materials, the amount of materials is absolutely vast. But the quality is very, very variable. And I think that’s where somebody like you is very helpful and useful to students really, because you act as a filter.
You can direct your students to the things which are high quality and which are going to help and support them and direct them away from the things which are not so useful.
Question 12: How can I improve my vocabulary for IELTS?
How can we use advanced vocabulary accurately? Should we be learning lists? Is there a strategy for that?
I think there are several strategies. I mean, one thing that students can usefully do is to use certain academic vocabulary when they’re writing about any topic, you know, so the vocabulary for solutions, for example, to ‘address’ a problem to ‘tackle’ a problem, to ‘take steps to solve’ a problem, this kind of learning this kind of academic vocabulary and learning it can be very, very useful.
Also, I think it helps students to use some good topic based vocabulary and to take some time to learn the vocabulary around the environment, for example, to choose a certain amount of words every week, maybe six or eight, to memorize them to use them in the speaking to try and include them in their Task 2.
So that I think there are sort of three different approaches that people can use to enrich their vocabulary. And this is my experience that both in speaking and writing, students can improve their vocabulary a lot very, very quickly. And they can improve them to the extent where they’ll get a higher score in the exam.
That’s all about collocation as well, and collocation comes from noticing what words come together and learning words that come together.
I think that’s a very important point Fiona. There are lots of students have what I call a ‘single item approach’ to vocabulary, so they will focus on one word. But that simply isn’t how people should learn English people should learn English from collocations phrases, because that’s how English is expressed by native speakers.
Question 13: Where can I get ideas for IELTS writing?
How do I get ideas to express myself in writing? There are so many topics to consider for Task 2 – how do I get those ideas, those arguments, those opinions?
I think that actually isn’t so difficult. And I think most people actually have more ideas and more resources in their heads than they think they have. What they need is practice of getting those ideas out and expressing them. Where do ideas come from? People who understand what’s happening in the world, people who follow current events, people who read a lot, have a lot more ideas than people who don’t.
It’s about reading newspapers and knowing what’s controversial and the ideas in favor and against – that all comes from reading,
Particularly with Task 2 in Writing. A lot of the Task 2s are about current global issues and people who are aware of what the issues are and have thought about them and read about them have a big, big advantage.
I think there’s a slight confusion in the actual question where it says asks you to use examples from your own experience. And then people tend to just then talk about more like, ‘Oh, this happened to my friend’, but actually what they want is you to think more about the big picture, isn’t it?
I believe so. Yes. I would say it’s better to talk about global ideas.
There is a lot of misinformation about IELTS on the internet.
I hope that this interview has shown you that the test is simply a measurement of your English, and this is what you should always focus on – improving your English.
Tips and strategies will help you maximise your score but without a good level of English, it will take longer to see results.
Perhaps the best advice is to stop worrying about scores and results, and focus on enjoying the journey and enjoying the language so that you stay motivated and want to keep going.
Max is Principal of Colchester English Study Centre.
The school is based in a beautiful building in the heart of an historic town, just 50 minutes from London.
It caters for a variety of students and specialises in IELTS preparation.
I’ve answered most of these questions somewhere on my blog. Here are the key lessons:
- How long will it take me to pass IELTS?: 12 factors that influence the length of time it takes to improve your IELTS Band Score.
- How can I improve my IELTS score? How to get Band 7 in the IELTS test.
- Should I keep taking the test until I pass? What to do if you’re stuck on a plateau.
- How can I make faster progress in IELTS? This blog helps you improve your IELTS mindset.
- How can I read faster in IELTS? 10 time-management techniques.
- How can I improve my vocabulary for IELTS? 28 ways to build your IELTS vocabulary.
- Where do I start? Get my 28-day IELTS study plan..
Do you need motivation, high-quality materials, a roadmap, feedback, guidance and an IELTS specialist teacher?
Upgrade to the Members Academy today.
Get instant access to all courses, challenges, boot camps, live classes, interactive and engaging classes, 1:1 support, and a friendly tight-knit community of like-minded learners to get you to Band 7+.