Written July 26, 2008
What Topics Should I Prepare For?
Maybe you intend to sit for the IELTS
test two or three months from now. How can you best choose which topics to
prepare for? Read this page and then, by using the information on this website,
you will be able to work out what
topics to concentrate on.
First, you need to understand a few
things about the test, in general. (These facts are true now but they might
suddenly change at some time in the future.)
- At the moment (2008) in China, about
30 different topics are being used for Part 1.
- These topics and questions are in
the examiner's question book and the examiner is not supposed to make his or
her own questions in Part 1.
- Some changes are made to the Part 1
topics and questions every 4 months. This happens at the first
test of January, the
first test of May and
the first test of September.
- When these changes are made, about 5
new topics are added (with new questions for these topics) and the other 25
topics are repeats of previously used topics. However, sometimes these
previously used topics have a new set of questions, a little different to
the questions that have been used before. At other times, previously used
topics come back with the same questions that have been used before.
- The topic of "Your Work"
or "Your Studies" is always in the test but the questions are
sometimes different to those that were used in the previous four months. But
this does not mean that you will definitely get the "Work/Studies"
topic in your test – you
have a 50% chance of getting this topic as your first topic in Part 1. You
also have a 50% chance of getting a topic related to 'where you live', which
is usually either "Your Hometown" or "Your
Accommodation" ( = The House/Flat/Dormitory you live in).
the 25 topics that are not new, the 5 or 6 topics that were new in the
previous 4 months are most likely to be repeated in the following 4 months,
but this is not certain.
the Part 1
pages on this website to see the
Part 1 questions that are being used now and will continue to be used until
the next change time. Also see the copies of the questions
that have been used previously.
page showing the Current Part 1 Questions will give you a good picture of your
possible Part 1 topics and questions if , a) the month now is not
January, May or September and b) you are going to do the test before
the next Part 1 change time.
best times to do the
test are in the months of April, August and December, when people (such as me)
have gathered information about the current Part 1 questions for almost 4
months. March, July and November are almost equally as good.
worst times to do the
test are in January, May and September because people are still discovering
new information about the Part 1 questions in use at those times –
it takes about 4 or 5 tests before we can get a reasonably good idea of what
Part 1 questions are being used.
very worst time to do
the test is the first test in January, May or September. Doing the test
at any of those times would really giving yourself a disadvantage because
nobody knows what topics & questions are being used in Part 1.
you will see below, the first test in January, May and September are also
the main times when new Part 2/3 topics are introduced into the test, but
these are not the only times when we get new Part 2 topics.
- At the moment (2008), about 60 Part
2 topics are usually in use at any one time and you will get one of these in
- For each Part 2 topic, there is a
set of Part 3 questions in the examiner's question book, divided into three
topics. You will be asked some of the questions from two of these three
topics. These three topics are related (sometimes not very closely related)
to the Part 2 topic. The examiner will probably also make a few of his or
her own questions in Part 3.
- These same Part 2/3 topics are
usually used all over the world at the same time, although I think there are
times when the topics are used in some places a little later than in China.
I think it is unlikely that topics are used somewhere in the world before
they are used in China but it is possible.
- Part 2/3 topics are usually used for
about 12 months (i.e., between 11 and 13 months) and then they are
- By going to the Part
2 Index page on this website, you will see the approximate first
date of usage for all the known Part 2 topics that are being used right now.
These dates are approximate because sometimes a topic is used for a few
tests before anybody reports that they got that topic and I don't know that
a topic exists until someone reports it. You can also see this information
in the Topic
Usage page, which shows the history of the reported usage of the
Part 2 topics.
- The page, Part
2 Index page shows some topics that are labeled as (Probably
no longer used). I use the word, "probably"
because I can never be 100% sure that one of these topics won't suddenly
return to the test. However, I am 99% sure! So, prepare for the topics that
are not labeled as (Probably
no longer used).
- A small number (about 5%) of Part 2
topics are not retired after 12 months –
they continue in the test but I think usually with some changes made at the
12 months point. These changes might be changes to the Part 2 wording or
changes to the questions in Part 3, or both. This is why you will see listed
on this website topic names followed by "(2)", meaning that this
topic is repeated but is different in some ways to the first time it was
used. At other times, old topics come back after they have been retired for
a few months, many months or even a few years, but they also seem to come
back with a few changes, compared to the previous time they were used.
reading the Part 2 Index page you will be able to see which topics will
be more than 12 months old when you do your test. Those topics will probably
be retired before you do your test, but this 90% certain, not 100% certain.
You will also see the most likely
dates when new Part 2 topics are introduced into the test. We see that the
first test of January, May and September are the main times when new
Part 2 topics are introduced but these are not the only times.
Just like the Part 1 questions, it
takes a few tests before I can discover the words of a new Part 2 topic and
the main questions that are being used in a new Part 3.
for both Part 1 and Parts 2/3, the months of January, May and September are
not the best times to do the test, especially the first test in those months.