Rules for IELTS test preparation

General rules

Rule 1: Focus on the shortest time period possible (such as 10 minutes) when first learning how to practice a section of a test you are not familiar with. This is especially true when you study the reading section and listening sections in IELTS or TOEFL.

Your goal: To make the time short, so you feel good when you finish.

We often call this a hypnotic secret because your brain is looking for stimulation. Fact: your imagination often wants to be involved in learning. If you get bored or frustrated during the learning process because its “taking too long,” your mind will wander to other places. It is mostly an uncontrollable phenomenon.

Most students report studying for about 10 minutes or less. The idea is to find only 1 or 2 answers and feel the success. This strategy generally begins after you have meet with your coach (Rick) and you are fairly certain you understand how to orient yourself to the passage.

Rule 2: Increase the amount of time you practice only after practicing the test passages becomes comfortable and the number of correct answers you experience has consistently gone up.

Your goal : To slowly increase the amount of time you spend on a particular task (such as writing) or a passage (such as reading) as your skill to practice improves.

Rule 3: The time limits (restrictions) are not important to focus on in the beginning because you will naturally increase your speed. What is important? Becoming comfortable as you practice.

An example of this is speaking part 2, the task card. Most student say it is difficult for them to speak 2 minutes when they begin to practice part 2 of IELTS. Later, when they understand part 2, 2 minutes is often not long enough — ironically, they want to speak longer. Being able to speak 2 to 2 and a half minutes is common for students at a band 6.5 and higher.

Rule 4: Do not concern yourself with the speed you are able to practice going through the test, in the beginning. The speed will naturally increase.

Rules for the reading section

Rule 1: Learning (knowing) all the big (long academic) words in the Reading section is not necessary. What is important? Learning how to use the 3 steps:

A orientation

B scan

C skim

Hint: Most students are very uncomfortable with the reading section in the beginning because of the high level of vocabulary (most of which you will not know) and because you will have limited knowledge of the subject. This is not important. You can find most answers without knowing all the academic words.

Rule 2: Learn all the answers from the back of the book before you begin the practice test. This does not include learning how to spell words as you will probably not use many of the subject-specific academic words once you have finished this test.

Rule 3: Do not spend more than 10 (some people practice for only 5 to 8 minutes) minutes trying to find 1 or more answers when you first begin to practice.

Notice: Your breathing will become shorter and more shallow as you continue trying to solve the problem.

The answer: Do not practice finding answers beyond 10 minutes until you start finding them fasrter and you feel good about the skills you are developing.

Rule 4: You can change the 10 minute rule after your practice becomes comfortable. We focusing on you feeling good while knowing the total time spent in any 1 section of reading will not exceed 15 to 20 minutes.

Rules for the speaking section

Rule 1: Practice speaking introductions to topics and part 1 and part 3 that do not exceed 20 to 30 seconds, then offer details (tell stories). The length of your respond does not matter since the examiner will stop you when he / she wants to.

Hint: we encourage story telling (giving details) that will allow you to offer grammatical range and accuracy. If you remain in present tense and offer lists of (boring) information, your score will probably remain near or below band 6.

Rule 2: When you master part 2, you will notice that speaking 2 minutes becomes easy. However, when you master part 3, you will notice that the examiner’s may interrupt you more. This is typically a good result since it means your score is going up.

Rule 3: Repeat the key words in speaking, especially in part 1 and 3. It will help you stay on topics.

Rule 4: Repeat the key words in speaking, especially in part 1 and 3. It will help you stay on topics. You will naturally paraphrase. However, the more you change key words, for example, a past tense verb form, you may confuse yourself by trying to be too creative.

Note: Creativity at a band 6.5 and below tends to lower scores. If you are confused by this, ask RIck. Creativity is only consistently used when you have begun to master the language. This tends to begin around a band 7.5.

Rule 5: You may ask the examiner the following questions or make these comments during speaking:

01: You can ask him to repeat or paraphrase (change the words)

02: Ask him to speak slower

03. Tell him you do not understand the topic or have no experience with it

Rule 6: The steps you should focus on when preparing and speaking during part 2:

01. You should use the full 1 minute to prepare. If you are confident you are ready after 30 or 40 sections, enjoy a moment of relaxation.

02. When you begin speaking, try to keep your introduction to less than 40 sections. This allows you more than a minute to cover the final portion of the task, part D. High scores (6.5 band and higher) are a result of good story telling because this skill naturally offers you (the candidate) a chance to show grammatical accuracy and range.

Rule 7: When it is possible, in all parts of the speaking, especially during part 2 and 3, wait for the examiner to stop you. He is your guide and he knows what he wants from you. He is the only person who controls your score.

Rules for the writing section

Rule 1: You will need 2 to 5 minutes to orient yourself to task 1. Part of the orientation process is writing paragraph 1 and beginning (or completely) paragraph 2 sentence 1 (and perhaps paragraph 3 sentence 1).

Hint: The task will take about 20 minutes. Once you have chosen how to format the task (make choices about how many paragraphs) the next focus is using a good range of vocabulary and grammar (including sentence structures) . Remember, they are looking for diversity, including complex (subordinated) clauses).

Rule 2: Orientation of writing task 2 will also take about 5 minutes. This includes writing paragraph 1 and at a minimum, writing ideas for the intro sentences of the body paragraphs.

Hint : the goal is not to express your opinion in the essay. Its to offer body paragraph topics that are easy to think of and support. Remember, you are only going to write about 100 words to paragraph. See the template below.

Rule 3: In both task 1 and 2, learning how to apply templates with save time and build confidence. Here is an example of a body paragraph template.

Sentence 1: introductory sentence

Sentence 2: support for sentence 1

Sentence 3: offer and example

Sentence 4: offer more information about that example

Sentence 5: give more information

Sentence 6: conclude

Note: There is not any special template that will work for all the different writing task topics because the task requirements are too diverse. However, as you learn to adapt templates (or use ones offered as you attempt different writing tasks, you will notice yourself becoming more comfortable with this part of orientation.

Here is a sample of a paragraph when you use these 6 sentences:

The topic : Many argue that children should study a foreign language at a young age instead of starting during the college years.

To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Notice S1 P2 (sentence 1 ; paragraph 2) The writer agrees with the opinion stated in the task.

P2

S1 Learning a second or third language before age eight could helps the student develop social skills. S2 The process of studying another language helps us, as humans, to see the world beyond our own family and relatives. S3 An example of this happens often in large cities where students go to primary school and meet other children from different countries. S4 When they begin to learn the native language of a classmate, the experience builds friendships and encourages learning. S5 As a teacher, I see this happen all the time in international schools, and the friendships it births may last a lifetime. S6 In conclusion, when children learn foreign languages, it enriches their education experience.

Rules for the listening section

Rule 1: Similar to practicing reading, in the beginning only practice 1 section at a time. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes.

Rule 2: Learn all the answers from the back of the book before you begin the practice test. This includes practicing how to spell the words correctly. If you misspell words on the test, your answer is wrong.

Rule 3: When you begin orientation for this section during practice (not during the test), remember that if you do not like a section (you feel bad when you look at it), make a not to change this.

Note: Once the recording starts, you cannot review it. This is unlike the other sections. You must keep going. So if you are uncomfortable with a particular section of the test, express this concern to Rick from the beginning.

Yes, how you feel about the test will make a big difference in your actual final test score.

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