First of all, let me apologise: IELTS is supposed to be boring. Sometimes I can’t resist making an interesting lesson about IELTS.
In this post, you’re going to do some practice and learn some tips for IELTS speaking, listening, reading, and writing (while talking about The Avengers).
For speaking, we are going to learn about Part 2 with two different sample answers.
For listening, we are going to focus on Part 1 of IELTS listening and writing down names and letters.
For reading, I’ll show you how to deal with True/False/Not Given questions.
Finally, we will take a look at a possible Writing Task 2 question and writing your main ideas for it.
Let’s go! Here is the full video – watch it and then read the analysis below:
In the speaking I focused on Part 2 Speaking.
The question was:
Talk about a superhero you admire. You should say:
Who it is
Why you admire him/her
Other heroes you admire
Here is my full answer:
The superhero that I want to talk about is Batman and the reason that I admire Batman is because he doesn’t have any superpowers. So in the last movie he was in was the Justice League – he has to come together to protect the world to bat– there’s a battle between good and evil – a threat has come out and they have to try to fight it together. So he needs needs Wonder Woman’s help and he has to go get all these other superheroes to work together to fight the evil threat and again the reason I admire him is cuz he has no superpowers – he’s just a normal kind of crazy, angry, violent man but really amazing because all the other heroes they’re fighting and they’re not gonna die – they’re fine you know, even if they lose they won’t die – just all the people in the world will die but for Batman it’s different he could actually die – all the other superheroes it’s like it doesn’t really matter. Worst case scenario: the other people die, the whole world dies but least they are okay. But Batman it could actually be him who dies.
admire (verb): look up to or respect. “I admire Elon Musk because he dates a lot of celebrities.”
come together (verb): work as part of a team. “If we come together on this, we can accomplish anything.”
a battle between good and evil (noun phrase): a fight between the good guys and the bad guys. “Every Hollywood movie basically boils down to a battle before good and evil.”
threat (noun): Something that could harm or hurt you. “The threat of prison prevents most people from committing crimes.”
work together (verb): work as part of a team (same as above). “If we work as part of a team, we can accomplish anything.”
actually (adverb): in fact or really. “I’m not into superhero movies. Actually, I hate them.”
doesn’t really matter (expression): it is not important. “It doesn’t really matter how long you practice, you’re going to end up with the same score.”
worst case scenario (expression): the worst thing that could possibly happen. “Worst case scenario we will have to find a new place to work.”
I also gave a second example answer for the same question:
I want to talk about another superhero from the Marvel movies and his name is Captain America. Now I’m an American – that isn’t the reason why I like Captain America but it doesn’t hurt. So I like Captain America because in fact actually before the last Avengers movie I didn’t like Captain America he was my least favorite and that was because he’s always on his high horse – he always thinks he’s the best and he’s so self-righteous. He thinks he’s such a good guy and I always hate characters like that. I like characters more like the polar opposite – like a Tony Stark Iron Man – guys who are full of themselves and arrogant and fun but in the last movie I did feel that the actor who plays him – his character – because he’s got so much conviction he believes what he says so much that that I started to respect his character – I even liked his character more than the other characters.
on his high horse (idiom): feels superior/smarter/more ethical that everyone else. “Don’t get on your high horse with me.”
self-righteous (adjective): consider yourself to be right all the time. “Don’t get that self-righteous attitude with me.”
polar opposite (noun): completely different, 100% opposite. “We’re polar opposites – we can’t agree on anything!”
full of themselves (verb phrase): thinking very highly of yourself, arrogant. “My boss is so full of himself – I can’t stand him!”
arrogant (adjective): thinking very highly of yourself, full of yourself. “I’m not arrogant – I’m very humble!”
conviction (noun): believing strongly in something. “One of the key qualities of a leader is conviction.”
I recommend that you take the time to record, write down, and keep practicing your part 2 speaking answers until they get better!
You can also try practicing with my answers to build up your confidence.
Get some help from the Avengers on IELTS!
In part 1 of the listening test, you are being tested on 1 simple things: you ability to listen and write.
The vocabulary is simple so it won’t be a big problem in this part. There also aren’t many distractors or synonyms (which you will find in listening parts 2, 3, and 4(.
If you are trying to get above band 6, you probably need to get all the questions in part 1 correct.
Luckily, it is the easiest section to practice for! Just practice listening and writing.
Here are some ideas for how to practice:
1. Use the video above. Listen and write down the names that I spell out. Remember that the key to listening is repetition.
2. Find another video on YouTube (I recommend BBC One Minute World News). Listen and write down the key words. Listen repeatedly. Or listen and write all the nouns or verbs. Try different ways – just make sure you are listening and writing something.
3. Use an IELTS practice test – but don’t do the whole test! Listen to section 1 again and again. Then read and listen to the tapescript. Focus on the ones that were hard or you got wrong. Figure out why you got it wrong and then practice that. For example, if you always miss the letter ‘s’, listen to a YouTube video and write down all the words with ‘s’.
In my experience as a teacher and IELTS examiner, students struggle the most with True/False/Not Given questions (actually, even native English speakers struggle with them!).
Here’s the same example from the video above:
Avenger’s 4’s first weekend at the box office was the highest grossing for any film ever.
1. Avenger’s 4 made more money than any other superhero movie in its first weekend.
2. Avengers 4 is a popular film.
3. Avengers 4 has made more money than any other film.
The answers are:
3. Not Given
The first one is true because if it made more money that ANY film, that also includes other superhero movies, even though it didn’t mention other superhero movies you can infer this logically.
The second one is true because if a movie makes a ton of money then it has to be popular. This is also logical (common sense).
The third one is not given because even thought it may become true later, it is only talking about the opening weekend – not the total amount of money made.
For True/False/Not Given you need to be careful of: questions that are almost true – but not quite. Those are going to be not given.
Let’s try one more example of a question that is ALMOST true – but not quite:
Dave was an IELTS examiner.
1. Dave worked for the IELTS department at either BC or IDP.
2. Dave is still a current IELTS examiner.
3. Dave also teachers IELTS.
Number 1 is true because BC and IDP are the only two places where you can take IELTS and to do IELTS you obviously have to work for the IELTS department.
Number 2 is false because it says that I was in the past. If it was still true it would say ‘Dave has been an IELTS examiner for years.’
Number 3 is not given. You can assume it is true but it doesn’t actually say it – so false. These are the ones you have to be most careful of – that ones that are ALMOST true.
Here is the question from the video above:
Some people think that governments should have authority over superheroes. To what extent do you agree?
Based on the movie Captain America: Civil War, there are two main sides – what Iron Man (Tony Stark) thinks and Captain America (Steve Rogers).
If Iron Man were taking IELTS he would agree 100% because he thinks governments are elected by the people and the people should have power of the decisions of superheroes.
If Captain America were taking IELTS he would completely disagree because he doesn’t think governments can be trusted and superheroes are more responsible and ethical.
If you were doing it – well why don’t you tell me!
Write your own sample answer in the comments below (using my main ideas or your own). I will give band scores for free for anyone who comments a full sample answer!
One of the questions I hear people asking about most frequently on our Facebook page and our Instagram is about speaking partners.
Everyone wants a speaking partner to help them improve their English. Don’t get me wrong – you should find one if you can!
Unfortunately, most people probably don’t want to talk to you – or at least it is hard to find a partner with a good level of English and something interesting to say.
Fortunately, you don’t need one!
Read below for some tips and activities for improving your IELTS speaking by yourself!
How to Talk to Yourself (and Not Look Crazy)
Amateur Dubbing: Choose a movie or TV show or YouTube video you like (check out this playlist for some ideas). Tap into your inner actor and try acting out what each character is saying. Don’t try to say it exactly the same as in the actual scene but try to keep the meaning more or less the same. Or completely change the meaning and make it funny! Try recording yourself because maybe you’ll become a famous YouTube star doing this.
Mirror Pep Talk: I know, I know, you already spend a few hours a day talking to yourself in the mirror. Here are some ideas about what you can say to yourself: your to-do list for the day, give yourself a pep talk, insult yourself, give a summary of what you did that day, tell the mirror your darkest secrets, practice failing to say tongue twisters. If you’ve got any other creepy ideas please keep them to yourself!
Pause and Predict: When watching something on TV or the internet (interviews are really good for this) – pause it and predict aloud what they will say next. After you listen to their response, practice repeating it (not word for word, but try to repeat the basic meaning).
Bore a Pet: Talk to your cat/dog/fish. You will feel less embarrassed even though you are basically still talking to yourself. Use a Part 2 Speaking Cue card to practice.
A Song a Day: Learn a song a day. Put the lyrics on your phone and sing it throughout the day softly until you’ve completely learned. Use every break you can to do this – in the shower, waiting for the bus, etc. If you don’t want to use a song – maybe learn part of a famous speech or scene from a film.
IELTS Speaking Tests: The examiner is basically just a tape recorder reading questions off a piece of paper – you can replace them with a piece of paper! Read and answer the questions yourself. Record yourself and go back and try to do better the next time!
Going to Bed: Research has shows that practicing in your head can be just as effective as physical practice. In experiments, basketball players that imagined themselves shooting improved as much as ones who were actually shooting. The best time to do this is at night as your brain will continue the practice through your sleep. Think in English. Have a conversation or remember a conversation you had earlier as you drift off to sleep…
Dictation Diary: Start a speech dictation diary of your daily activities. This will work well because you will repeat a lot of the same words every day (brush my teeth, not bother to shower, etc) and get better at saying those. You will also work in new vocabulary each day (met my future wife today, had terrible diarrhoea, etc.)
Simple, Simple: Read one of our sample answers aloud. Read it until it is 100% accurate. This will help you improve for the speaking test format and your pronunciation. You can read it into a transcription program like voice dictation in Google drive to make sure you are saying the words correctly. Try it with a passage from a book as well.
Practice IELTS Speaking Tests: Use these practice speaking tests on YouTube. Pause before Nguyen answers the question. Say your own answer. Listen to hers and take some notes on good vocabulary and grammar. Practice saying hers a few times before moving on to the next question. Do this at least once a day and you’ll improve a ton!
Say the Song: Listen to a song and try to say (not sing, haha) the lyrics after pausing the song. It will sound embarrassing but so what?
Translation Comparison: Write down a conversation that you had in your native language. Try to translate it into English and read it aloud. This will help you make comparisons between your native language and English. Combine this with #7 Going to Bed.
Word Game: Start by saying one word (monkey). Add another (A monkey) and keep going adding 1 word to the sentence each time until the sentence is long (A monkey and a donkey walk into a bar and get into an argument with the bartender about a banana). You could also do this with phrases, not individual words.
Morning / Evening Routine: Describe everything you can see in the room around you when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed. Once you finish with one room, try another room in your house/apartment/school. If you’re lonely trying having a conversation with your bed, chair, blanket, toilet, significant other, etc.
Act it Out First: Google a script for a movie or TV show that you like. Try acting out the different parts with the script. Then watch the show and see how it is different. Try acting it out again. Record yourself so that someone can have a laugh.
Choose Your Top 3
There are a lot of amazing activities for you to try! There are probably too many. It’s better to choose a top 3 and focus on getting good at them.
Then come back to this post when you feel like you need a new activity.
Here are some sample notes I took on my Top 3 Speaking Activities Without a Partner. If you can’t decide, feel free to take my notes and make them your own!
Top 3 IELTS speaking activities without a partner
Oh and if you’re still reading (and haven’t starting talking to yourself yet!) don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube!
Comment Below: Do you need an IELTS speaking partner?
My English isn’t that great and I’m looking to practice with someone…
Yes, I really need to talk with another intermediate level student!
Yeah, I’m an upper-intermediate and I need someone to practice with!
I’m a very advanced speaker and I need someone who is at the same level!
No need! I can just use the activities above!
So many students spend so long trying to improve their pronunciation for IELTS speaking but never get any better.
Here’s a solution that I guarantee will work for everyone who tries it!
Do you know how telemarketers in India improve their pronunciation to be understood by native English speakers over the phone?
Many of them practice speaking into dictation software on a computer.
They say a sentence. The computer writes it. They say it again and again and again until it is 100% correct.
Talk to your phone. It is your annoying friend who corrects everything you say.
In the past, voice dictation software was poor. But now the quality is really good!
If there’s a mistake in what is written, it is because of your pronunciation. It is not the phone’s fault!
Check out the video below to see exactly what you should be doing:
This is such a valuable tool for you!
All you have to do is practice speaking into a computer or phone until your pronunciation is accurate.
This will guarantee you at least a 6 for pronunciation because the examiner will be able to understand you – just like the phone!
*A little warning – this won’t get you to a Band 9 for pronunciation because the phone will still understand some words mispronounced and because you might speak a little slowly and not link together sounds naturally, which is needed for the highest band scores.
5 Programs/Apps for Voice Dictation
Google voice search: If you use a phone that runs on Android (Samsung, Sony, LG, HTC, etc) click on the microphone image in the search bar (you can install this on your computer as well: http://bit.ly/2xYVbwA).
Google docs dictation: If you already use Google Drive (drive.google.com) just create a new doc and choose Tools>Voice Typing. Start talking nonsense!
Siri: If you have a mac or an iPhone then you have Siri already. Try doing an internet search or asking Siri to “make a note” or “set a reminder” for you (https://www.apple.com/ios/siri/).
Windows Speech Recognition: Just like Apple Dictation, you can set this up if your computer runs windows: http://bit.ly/2iuWkWc
10 Speech Dictation Practice Ideas
Start a speech dictation diary of your daily activities. This will work well because you will repeat a lot of the same words every day (brush my teeth, not bother to shower, etc) and get better at saying those. You will also work in new vocabulary each day (met my future wife today, had terrible diarrhoea, etc.)
Read one of our sample answers aloud. Read it until it is 100% accurate. This will help you improve for the speaking test format and your pronunciation.
Read aloud one of your favourite passages from a book (or a quote or something from the news).
Use this practice speaking test on YouTube. Pause before Nguyen answers the question. Say your own answer again and again until the computer gets it 100% correct.
Listen to a song and try to say (not sing, haha) the lyrics after pausing the song. This will improve your ability to hear song lyrics, which is a very valuable IELTS skill 😉
Write down a conversation that you had in your native language. Try to translate it into English and read it aloud. This will help you make comparisons between your native language and English.
Start by saying one word (monkey). Make sure it is recorded correctly. Add another (A monkey) and keep going adding 1 word to the sentence each time until the sentence is long (A monkey and a donkey walk into a bar and get into an argument with the bartender about a banana). You could also do this with phrases, not individual words.
Make 10 bold predictions about the future. Repeat them until they are written 100% correct. For example, Donald Trump will become king of the world.
Describe everything you can see in the room around you. Keep repeating it until it is correct. Once you finish with one room, try another room in your house/apartment/school.
Watch a movie or TV show and repeat your favourite lines into a google drive document. Keep different docs for different shows with collections of your favourite quotes.
Top 3 Notes
All those ideas are amazing but you should try to focus on using a few and making them daily habits.
Here are my top 3 to focus on every day:
Top 3 IELTS speaking activities to improve pronunciation
Now it’s Your Turn!
Comment below an idea for a sentence that people can say into their phone:
I think I can! I think I can!
I’m going to get band 10 on IELTS!
Whatever you put your mind to, you can do it!
I feel weird talking to my phone…
Will you marry me, Siri?
I want to tell you a story about how I learned how to decide if students should be studying IELTS or just improving their English based on what score they need and when.
Dave, your friendly, neighborhood former IELTS examiner!
As a teacher at British Council we test student’s level in order to put them in the correct class. It’s very important and one of the most important questions is: should this student be studying IELTS or improving their English first?
That sounds obvious but few students understand that IELTS is a test made to measure English language ability and it will do just that – measure your ability.
I was lucky when I first started level testing because I had an amazing and experienced teacher who showed me, like a doctor, exactly how to diagnose students.
What she showed me was basically this: after you know their English level, find out what score they need and when they need it. If they are far away from their goal – put them in general English. If they are close to their goal – an IELTS class.
These are general rules and there are exceptions depending on your ability and determination (Leo Tolstoy became fluent in Ancient Greek in just six months for a challenge, but he’s probably a lot smarter than you are).
Take a look at the chart on the left to get an idea of how long it will take.
I want to point out 2 things about this chart.
First, this is based on the official IELTS and CEFR website. Most examiners would say that the link between level and band score is not totally accurate. An intermediate student could easily get around a 6 and and upper-intermediate could get around a 7.
Second, the jumps between levels get larger. It takes longer to go from band 6 to 7 than it does from band 5 to 6.
It is always possible to get a score that is better than what you deserve (though it is more likely to get one that is lower than what you deserve).
Very few students understand this. They think if they moved up a point in a year they can expect to keep doing that until they get to band 9.
That’s not how it works. Read below for some examples of how long it will take you to move up to the next band score or level.
Example #1: Elementary Level (A1)
This is a really low level of English and students at this level should only expect to get around a 3 to 4 on IELTS.
Many students at this level come in asking for a 6.5 – that isn’t a realistic goal.
If an elementary student wants a 6.5 in a few months, I tell them the truth: it is impossible.
In these cases, I always put students into general English.
What this means for you: If you are an elementary level student you should not be studying IELTS unless if you need below a 4. You should be improving your English.
Let me repeat myself: at this level you should not be studying IELTS – you should be improving your English in general.
Maybe you think you can study IELTS to improve your English. You’re wrong and you can read about why here: Why you Shouldn’t Study IELTS to Improve your English.
The good news for you elementary students is that moving from elementary to pre-intermediate won’t take that long. It’s simply a matter of learning new vocabulary and practicing using it with some different types of grammar and you’ll be there in under a year!
In summary: to get up to 6+ will take you at minimum of 2 years of study and likely longer. Under 6 is possible inside of 1 or 2 years.
Example #2: Pre-Intermediate Level (A2)
As your English level increases, it will begin to take longer and longer to improve and reach the next level. Think of it like a staircase where the next step gets bigger and bigger.
A pre-intermediate student can expect a score in the 4 range, possibly up to 5.
This means if you are pre-intermediate and you want a 6.5 you are very far from your score and should not be studying IELTS (for more information read why here).
If you need a 5.5, possibly even a 6, you can try studying IELTS but there is a very low chance you will reach your desired score.
This might depend on your time frame. If you want a 6.5 or 7 in 3 months it is not possible. But if you have a full year to prepare you will have a better chance of getting a 6.
For these students, unless if they need a score below a 6, I always recommend improving their English, not studying IELTS.
The good news is that going from pre-intermediate to intermediate level is very possible. It is not as easy as going from elementary to pre-intermediate, but most students can do it by working hard within 1-2 years.
Example #3: Intermediate (B1)
If you want are at the intermediate level you should expect a score in the 5 range, possibly up to band 6.
This means that 6.5 is a possibility, but very rare.
If a student is Intermediate level and needs a 6.5 in a few months then I would recommend they study IELTS because this score is possible.
If they want a 6.5, there is a slight chance they could get there, especially if they are good in reading in listening. Many students get 6 for speaking and writing and 7 for reading and listening and end up with a 6.5 overall.
Students who want to get a 6.5 need to spend some time (at least 6 months to a year) improving their English in order to have a good chance of getting that score.
Moving from intermediate level to upper-intermediate is a huge jump up.
Upper-intermediate is where you English becomes more natural; it is sometimes known as the ‘dinner party’ level. I could have a good conversation at a dinner party with an upper-intermediate student.
To move from intermediate to upper-intermediate you should plan to spend at least 1 – 2 years. For many students, you are more likely to need 3 – 4 years of intensive study to reach upper-intermediate level.
Example #4: Upper-Intermediate (B2)
At Upper-Intermediate you should expect a band score in the 6 range, but possibly up to a 7.
Getting to this level is a huge accomplishment and you should be really proud of your level. It can take many years to get here!
Students at this level are usually ready to study IELTS rather than just improve their English.
The only situations where I would recommend someone continue to improve their English rather than study IELTS is if they need above a 7.
In that case, you probably need at least another couple of years of study in order to get that band score.
But, many students are able to get 7 overall (or even higher) because of the difference between skills. Most students have stronger listening and reading skills so it is very common for students to get 6s for speaking and writing and 8s for listening and reading, which averages out to a band 7 overall.
If you are at the upper-intermediate level and you need an 7 – it is possible, but only if you are a very strong upper-intermediate and you can get great scores for listening and reading.
Example #5: Advanced (C1)
At the advanced level you should expect a band score around band 7, including 7, 7.5, and 8.
This level means that your English is becoming very natural and similar to a native speaker.
The best way of thinking of this level is thinking about your native language. Now think about being slightly worse in English than your native language.
How long do you think that will take you?
For many people, this level is unattainable. Some study their whole lives and never reach it.
If you want to get to this level you need to practice all the time and show real dedication or go live abroad and immerse yourself in English every day.
It’s hard to give a realistic time frame for this level, and these IELTS bands, because it takes a lot of time and hard work but varies by learner more than the other levels.
Keep your head down, work hard, and enjoy the journey without focusing too much on the finish line because it is probably years away!
The more you think about getting band 8, rather than just getting better at English, the less likely you will be to ever get band 8.
Example #6: Master (C2)
Once you have your black belt in English you are looking at an 8, 8.5 or 9.
You are essentially a native speaker though you might make some mistakes. Obviously at this level you don’t really need to study IELTS.
You can just take the test and you’ll probably get a score that’s good enough.
However, there is 1 reason why you might want to study IELTS.
There are a lot of tricky little elements to IELTS, especially in the writing test, that can even cause native English speakers to get lower scores than what they deserve.
You might want to take a short course or review some key elements of test strategy just to be safe. Some students are at band 8 but they don’t know how to do the test so they get a 7 or 6. That means with just a little bit of study they could move up 1 or 2 full band scores!
Overall or at Least in Every Band?
Another factor that has a huge impact on how long it takes to get your score is whether you need an overall band score or a minimum in each category or a combination of both.
It is very common for schools to ask for a 6.5 overall and nothing lower than a 6 in every category.
This means your skills have to be well-rounded. You won’t be able to get away with really good listening and reading scores and poor speaking or writing scores. If one of your skills is weaker than the others, it might take you longer to make sure every skill is good enough.
Generally, if you need to get at least 6 or 6.5 or 7 in every category, it will take you longer to prepare and you might have to take the test multiple times. This means it is even more important that you figure out your current scores and come up with a good study plan.
On the other hand, if you only need an overall score you have a better chance of getting the score you want.
You should check with the school, company or immigration office to find out if you just need an overall score or a minimum in each skill.
There Are Levels Above Master
Not a lot of people know this because the new CEFR levels have not been released yet and are still being worked on.
I have talked personally with one of the researchers and was interested to learn that the next CEFR will detail levels above Master (C2).
Don’t worry – these are not going to be part of IELTS. There won’t be a band 10 and 11!
But if you are interested the other levels are called ‘G’ and include Translator (G1), Bilingual (G2) and Confident User (G3).
Let’s hope these don’t become part of IELTS anytime soon…
Comment below: How long until you need your IELTS score?
Here’s some help getting started with your comments:
I really need it by …
If I don’t have my score around … then I will have to …
It’s important for me to get my score by …
It’s flexible for me. Anytime in the next … months/years.