Written Feb. 5, 2010
Predictions of the Topics
Occasionally I get an email asking me, "Where are the 'predictions' on your website"?
The short answer is this: Except for the topics of "Your Work/Studies", "Your Home" and "Your Hometown", all the Current Part 1 topics (and the questions within those topics) are equally likely in your test. (One of the topics, "Your Work/Studies", "Your Home" and "Your Hometown" will definitely be used in your test.)
And all the current Part 2/3 topics are equally likely in your test.
The only time when I usually make "predictions" is just before a change of topics is going to happen, which is every four months. See below for more details on this point.
How to Find the Current Part 1 Topics
How to Find the Current Part 2/3 Topics
That's the short answer. But there are a few more details than that, as I explain below.
In Part 1, you can assume that you have a 50% (or even 60%) chance of getting the "Work/Studies" topic as your first topic. As well as that, you can assume that you have a 25% chance of getting either one of the topics, "Your Home (Accommodation)" or "Your Hometown" as your first topic. In other words, you have a 100% chance of getting one of those three topics as your first topic.
In Part 1, you have an equal chance of getting any of the other Part 1 topics as your second and third Part 1 topics. The examiner is free to choose any current Part 1 topic (but not one of those three topics mentioned above) for your second and third topics.
For your Part 2 topic, you have an equal chance of getting any one of the Part 2 topics that are in current use. Usually there are about 45 different Part 2/3 topics in use at any time. The examiner is free to choose what Part 2/3 topic he or she will use for you.
However, the topics that are due for retirement (at the end of December, the end of April and the end of August each year) are sometimes still used during the next month (January, May or September), at the same time as new topics are being used. That means that during those months, there might be about 60 possible Part 2/3 topics.
Those topics that are labeled as Probably no longer used have a 99% chance of not being in the test. That is, they are retired topics. (I can never say 100% because sometimes there are sudden surprises.) Occasionally, I label a topic as Possibly no longer used, Possibly Still in Use or NOT CONFIRMED AS A NEW TOPIC. These labels basically mean that I am not very sure of the situation. The following page explains those labels a bit more: http://ielts-yasi.englishlab.net/INTRO_TO_INDEX.htm
I also sometimes write "notes" about the current Part 2 topics and you can get more information to help you predict the Part 2/3 topics by reading those notes. Those notes are here: http://ielts-yasi.englishlab.net/NOTES_ABOUT_CURRENT_PART_2_TOPICS-2010.htm
Finally, you can look at the history of what topics were reported as being used (in China) on the different test dates. Sometimes you can see patterns in this information that help you make your own predictions. For 2010, that page is here: http://ielts-yasi.englishlab.net/TOPIC_USAGE_2010.htm
Predictions Before the Topic Change Time
Every four months, about 30% of the Part 1 and Part 2/3 topics are retired and new topics are introduced into the test. The new topics are usually introduced into the test at the first test of every January, the first test of every May and the first test of every September. (However, sometimes there are variations of this, for example, new topics are sometimes introduced one, two or even three tests early. And sometimes a few Part 2/3 topics are suddenly retired at an unpredictable time and replaced by new topics. In addition to that, the Part 2/3 topics that are due for retirement, after one year of usage, are sometimes still used for a few tests after their due retirement date.)
It is just before these change times that I make some predictions. My predictions are usually only correct in some aspects, never 100% accurate. In fact, my guesses last December for the unknown new topics in January were very inaccurate, except for the topics, "A Wild Animal" and "A Park or Garden" reappearing in the test and a topic about art being in the test.
It is now February 5 as I write this. My predictions for the January new topics were shown on this website from the middle of December to the end of January. There were four tests in January. After the test of January 30, 2010, I had gathered enough information about the real new topics and questions to make the "predictions" pages no longer needed. Yes, I am now still discovering new questions that are being used and even still discovering new topics but, in general, this website is starting to show a, more or less accurate picture of the topics and questions that will probably stay in use until the end of April. Of course, I will continue to discover new questions and better details about the already discovered new topics as time goes on, right up until the end of April.
If you want to read the predictions I wrote in December 2009, you can find them here:
Part 1 Predictions: http://ielts-yasi.englishlab.net/Predictions_for_Part_1_Questions_JAN_to_APR_2010.htm
Part 2/3 Predictions: http://ielts-yasi.englishlab.net/JANUARY_2010_PART_2_PREDICTIONS.htm
You can read more about predicting Part 1 questions before the change time on this page: http://ielts-yasi.englishlab.net/PART_ONE_TOPICS_NOT_KNOWN.htm
The Topics are the Same in Every Test Centre
In Mainland China, on any test weekend, there are usually no (big) differences between the topics that are being used in the different test centres. Just assume that any of the possible Part 1 and Part 2/3 topics that are current are possible for you.
On the weekend of your test, you will be wasting your time (!!) asking people on the internet bulletin boards what topics are being used in a particular room at a particular test centre. Your time would be better spent reading this website about the known topics and questions in current use.
Not only that, some of the Part 2/3 topics that each examiner has in his or her question book are changed (rotated) every few hours over each test weekend. This is because each examiner probably only carries, at any one time, about 20 of the (usually) 45 current Part 2/3 topics in his or her question book. So, on your test weekend, your predictions for any particular test centre, especially any particular test room, will be almost completely random and a waste of time.
However, on the first two test weekends following the change times (January, May and September), you might be able to get valuable information about what topics are being used at your test centre. (But don't worry about your particular test room – information about the topics being used at your test centre is more relevant.) For example, on January 9, Chongqing was using new topics much more than other test centres (or even before other test centres had started using the new topics) and this information was on the internet bulletin boards on that test day. See here.
In the whole world, I think the situation is almost the same as in China, although I cannot say for sure because I do not have much information about other countries. However, from the small pieces of information that I do find about other countries, it seems that the same topics are being used all over the world at the same time.
I have also sometimes noticed that a Part 2/3 topic and even a Part 1 topic that has been retired in China are still being used in another country, for example, Australia. However, in general, new Part 1 and new Part 2/3 topics are used all over the world at the same time, even if some topics that are retired in China are also still being used at some places overseas.