Written Nov. 7,
An Email from a Student Asking How to Prepare for the
Test in Two Months
-- On Tue, 11/6/12, XXXXX> wrote:
Subject: ILELTS SPEAKING
To: "gelin3" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tuesday, November 6, 2012, 11:33 PM
I am your student in the XXXX
class. My name is XXXX (XXXXX). I have only 2 months to prepare my ielts test.
And I am really worried about the speaking test.
Could you give me some advice on how to practise my spoken english?
Whether I should practise all the topics provided on your website?
which topics are more important? What I should do everyday?
I will take the exam on 19th Junary in 2013.
It seems that there will be many new topics and questions.
Are these new questions very difficult ?Please give me some suggestions.Thank you very much!
6th November 2012
I thought I explained in class how to prepare for the test. And I thought I
explained this on my website.
- Read everything on my website, not just the list of current questions in
the test. Especially read the page, "How
to learn to speak English."
- Spend more than half of your time improving your "real"
English, as I explain below, and less than half your time "preparing" for
known current topics and questions. Don't "over-prepare" for the current
topics & questions on my website by memorizing, word-for-word, prepared
answers. Examiners can see overly-prepared answers, they don't like them and
they might reduce your score if you speak overly-prepared answers,
regardless of how good these answers are. So you need to skillfully prepare
for questions but, in the test, appear to be speaking naturally, as if you
had not prepared any answers. Doing this well is a real skill!
- In general, avoid 100% word-for-word memorizing of long pieces of
English but memorizing short sentences and phrases is good and is the
natural way to learn a language.
- Make a study plan for the next two months based on what I write below.
- Everyone should spend some time mimicking some of the listening test
recordings from the Cambridge practice test books (after you have used them
to test your listening and after you learn what any new words mean). Mimic
everything, such as how the speaker links words together and how he or she
puts stress on certain words in sentences – do more than simply mimicking
the pronunciation of each word, although that is very important, of course.
If you think your pronunciation is not good, spend several hours in total on
this. If you think your pronunciation is good, just do a little of this.
This is probably the most
important thing to study for IELTS students!
- Spend some time doing the exercises in good, (preferably imported)
grammar books such as those on my
- Make sure to revise irregular verbs for the past tense & past particles
of these verbs.
- But that will only improve your sentence-making ability, not really your
speaking of these sentences. So also practice using the "Side by
Side" books. (See Booklist). You must use the CDs with these
books – you can't practice speaking by just reading the books, even if you
read aloud. But don't spend too much time just on Books 1 & 2 – try to move
on to Books 3 & 4 after using Books 1 & 2 as review. Books 1 & 2 represent,
more or less, what you have learned in early high school English.
Spend a lot of time on this.
- Practice making your own example sentences using linking words. That is,
sentences. Especially practice using the word, "which" so that, in the
test, you can effortlessly make sentences using "which".
- Read on my website about improving your grammar and about common
mistakes to avoid. See
- Don't spend too much time using books labeled as "IELTS Vocabulary".
Those are mostly for Writing & Reading and many of the words are a little
too formal for the speaking test.
- Use the books listed at Number 8 on my Booklist. (There's a new one of
those, too.) Spend a lot of
time on this. Mimic the contents of the book & self-test for some of the
vocabulary. Don't try to memorize too much of the dialogues, especially any
long sentences. As I wrote above, memorizing short word combinations is
- See this page,
http://ielts-yasi.englishlab.net/VOCABULARY.htm, including the page,
- Do a lot of relatively easy reading on topics that
interest you (not just IELTS reading tests, which might be a bit challenging
- Check out the vocabulary lists on my website & increase your knowledge.
- Read about current & common IELTS topics on the internet.
- Try to get some experience (the more the better) informally
chatting with another Chinese student in English (and avoid speaking
Chinese as much as possible). Have topics or questions to talk about. Some
of these topics should be IELTS topics & questions but you should also
choose whatever is interesting for you to talk about.
exchanging information. Be real & be interesting. If you only study
how to speak but never really use English in speaking as a communication
tool, your "real" speaking ability will improve much slower than if
you did sometimes practice using English as a communication tool.
Yes, there will be a change of topics at the beginning of January. About 1/3 of
the topics will change. The topics that will be retired will probably include
some of the oldest topics that are in use now
but not always! (Look at the "Topic
Usage History" pages to see how some topics have been (temporarily)
retired even after just 4 months of use and some topics stay in the test for
more than 12 months.)
So you can't really predict
what topics will be retired in January.
Maybe I forgot to mention in class that the best times to do the test are, a)
late November and early or mid-December, b)
late March & early or mid-April and c) late
July & early or mid-August because you will have more
information about the currents questions at those times.
You do gain some
advantage by having more information about the questions being used in the test
but this advantage is not as big as you might think. I'm guessing the advantage
for most people is probably about 15% of your score. So if you get 5.5 without
knowing what questions are in use, you would probably have gotten 6.0 after
knowing what questions are being used. [5.5 x 0.15 = 0.825. 5.5 + 0.825 =
6.325 = 6.0). But for a few people the advantage might be 20%. In this case, 5.5
without knowing the questions would give a score of 6.5 after knowing the
questions. (5.5 x 0.2 = 1.1. 5.5 + 1.1 = 6.6 = 6.5). On the other hand, some
people probably just gain a 10% or even a 5% advantage. Remember, if the
examiner clearly sees that you know what questions are in the test, you might
lose points, not gain points!
Concerning what topics to practice more and what topics to practice less, I
suggest looking at all the current topics but spending a
little less time on any topics that will have been in use for a year or more in
January 2013. Also, spend more time on the harder topics because many of the
easier topics might not need much of your practice – it's the harder topics that
will hurt your score if you make too many mistakes or can't speak well on those
I don't know if the new topics in January will be difficult or not – some
probably will be but others won't be too difficult. Some of the "new" topics in
January will actually be repeats of topics that have been used before.