(Updated Feb. 23,  2007)


What Topics and Questions Should You Prepare for Your IELTS Test?

  1. Prepare for the current Part 1 questions. 
  2. Even better than just preparing the current Part 1 questions, you should prepare All Part 1 Questions that have been used since January 2006. This is because the 'current Part 1 questions' list is now not a very reliable predictor of the possible Part 1 questions that you will get.
  3. If the current Part 1 questions will not be current when you do your test, see this page:
  4. Prepare for all the Part 2/3 topics that are not labeled as "Probably No Longer Used".
  5. If you have time, also read the Part 3 questions for the Part 2 topics that are no longer in use. These same, or similar Part 3 questions often come back into the test even after the related Part 2 topic has been retired.


On the Weekend of Your Test

Note that the points written below are my conclusions from what people write on the bulletin boards. I might be wrong on some aspects. Furthermore, the test managers in China might decide to change how they manage the test at any time.

 If you check the internet bulletin boards on the weekend of your test, you should understand the following points:

  1. It seems that each examiner is given a 'new' set of Part 2/3 topic cards at the beginning of each test weekend. There are probably 15 test cards in all. Here, 'new' means a different set of topics from what the examiner used on the previous test weekend.
  2. It seems that after each half-day of testing, the 3 or 4 most frequently used Part 2/3 topics for that half-day are taken out of the examiner's pack and replaced by 3 or 4 different topics. 
  3. It seems that any topic that was taken out of the examiner's pack is not put in again at a later stage on that same test weekend. Therefore, if your test is, for example, on Sunday afternoon, it is probably a waste of time preparing for a topic that was very often used on the Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning of your test weekend. But you cannot be 100% sure which topics were in fact the most frequently used - if a topic was the 5th or 6th most frequently used topic, it will probably stay in the test for the next half day of testing.
  4. It is not clear what happens when a test centre has 3 days of testing because not enough people write on the bulletin boards after they have a Speaking test on a Monday. But it does seem that that the same policy of changing topics after each half-day also applies for Monday testing. 
  5. When new Part 2/3 topics are introduced, it seems that examiners prefer to use these, rather than topics that have been used before. In fact, on the weekends when new topics are being introduced, you probably have about a 60% chance of getting one of the new topics. Furthermore, since these new topics are among the most frequently used, it is most likely that the 3 or 4 most frequently used topics that are taken out of the test pack are mostly, if not all, composed of new topics if new topics were introduced on that test weekend. In other words, a few new Part 2 topics will suddenly appear, will be heavily used for half a day only, and then not be used again during that weekend.


Other Comments

  1. It seems that the test managers aim to have a 'pool' of 60 to 70 Part 2/3 topics that are currently in use as possible Part 2/3 topics. Out of this pool, they choose about 15 topics to begin each test weekend. But, it seems that each test centre might be free to choose which 15 topics to use. Not only that, it is also possible that each examiner has a set of topics that are different to other examiners at the same test centre. In other words, the possibility of which Part 2/3 you get in your test is now (after July 2007) very random!
  2. It seems likely that any one Part 2/3 topic is used for only 12 months and is then 'retired'. However, new topics that are introduced into the test are sometimes very similar to previously retired topics. It is even possible that a retired Part 2 topic is returned exactly the same as it was before, but with a slightly different set of Part 3 questions.