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!
This is a question that students and friends ask me all the time on our Facebook and our Instagram. When watching a movie or TV show or YouTube video: ‘Should I watch it with English subtitles? Subtitles in my language? Or no subtitles at all?’
‘Just watching and learning is most important,’ I say to avoid thinking about the question. But there are actually good reasons for trying all 3 methods.
But let’s look at the reasons for all 3, based on 10 years of teaching experience and IELTS examining!
And head over to our YouTube Channel to practice if you have time!
Should you subtitle when learning English?
Why English Subtitles are Good
The main reason that it is good to use the English subtitles is that your listening ability is probably not as good as your reading ability.
By watching and reading the subtitles you will be able to match together what the characters are saying with the actual words.
Not only that but the images and story will make some of the vocabulary clearer.
This is very similar to the way that you learned your native language as a kid.
But there is one big difference – as a kid you learned without subtitles and your listening and speaking probably improved faster than your reading and writing.
The big drawback to this approach is related to your listening and pronunciation.
Your listening may get worse because you may become dependent on the subtitles and not improve your listening. This might not happen, but if it does, you could end up with poor listening skills.
Your pronunciation could also get worse. That’s because in English words are not always said the way they are spelled. We don’t say ‘Sit down’ as two separate words – we say ‘Si-down,’ we don’t even pronounce the ‘b’ in ‘comb’ or the ‘k’ in ‘knight’!
Reading the subtitles may focus you too much on the spelling and hurt your pronunciation.
In conclusion, watching with English subtitles is good for improving your language skills (vocabulary, grammar, etc.) but it may hurt your listening and pronunciation.
Why Native Language Subtitles are Good
I have a lot of friends who swear by this method.
One teacher I know, who spoke completely fluent English despite only beginning to learn at age 12, used to watch cartoons in English and figure out from the subtitles in Romanian what the words meant.
There is also a lot of good research to suggest this can be effective.
It works because a clever and active listener can link together the meaning they already understand from the subtitles.
This is supported by research that shows one of the best and most memorable ways to learn English is by making comparisons between your native language and English.
However, there are two very serious drawbacks.
The first one is what happens in the majority of cases: people just read the subtitles in their language and mostly ignore the English. Lots of people even turn down the volume and just read the screen!
The second one is that it encourages you to translate from English back to your language.
This might later hurt your listening comprehension: instead of listening and understanding you will listen, translate and understand.
If you carry over this habit to speaking and writing it will also slow you down. You don’t want to be translating every single word when speaking or writing – it should flow out more naturally.
This might not happen – but you must be very active practicing with the vocabulary that you learn to make sure you don’t end up like an old slow smartphone that takes 5 minutes just to load up Google!
Why No Subtitles at all are Good
This is the way that you learned your native language.
You listened to your parents, friends and teachers. You watched TV shows and movies without subtitles.
This is the most natural way to learn English.
When you learn this way, your pronunciation will be good because you only focus on the sounds, never the spelling of the words.
You will develop excellent listening skills because there will be no help from the subtitles.
However, because this way requires you to be completely independent, it is also much harder.
For a long time it will be confusing and difficult (maybe too difficult!) and you might give up.
Only use this method alone if you are already confident with English, you have lots of free time or you enjoy challenges.
Aristotle said this.
How to Combine Different Ways of Using Subtitles
Aristotle’s quote means that the best method is not at either extreme, but somewhere in the middle – moderation in all things.
Jumping in without any subs at all is a huge challenge – you might give up.
Using just one approach has advantages but also disadvantages. You will end up with one skill – listening or vocabulary – stronger than the other.
You should combine the approaches to make sure that your skills are well-rounded – moderation in all things.
Here are some ideas for how to combine these approaches (all Netflix programming has subtitles and you can also check out this YouTube playlist I made! (be sure to hit the CC button for some of them to turn on the subs!)):
No Sound: Try watching a video on YouTube or Netflix with no sound first. Pay attention to the body language. Try to guess what they are saying. Write down some ideas. Then listen. Take some notes of words they said. Then watch with subtitles and check again. Then watch again with no sound and no subtitles and try to remember what they said. Keep trying variations of this until you know the whole scene by heart!
Native Language First: Watch with subtitles in your native language first so that the meaning is clear. Then make notes on some of the English words used. Try to rewrite the whole thing in English. Keep watching until you fully understand the English.
Eng Subs First: Watch it with English subtitles first. How much can you understand? Make notes in two columns: things you understand and things you don’t understand. Watch it a couple of times with English subtitles and try to move everything into the understand column. Then watch it with your native language subtitles and again try to move everything to the understand column.
No Subs First: Watch it without any subtitles. Write down the things you can and can’t understand. Keep watching it until you understand as much as possible. Then put on the English subtitles and keep watching it. Finally, use your native language subtitles to understand it totally. Watch it from the beginning with no subs again and see the progress you have made!
Switching Throughout: The above 4 ideas work best with short videos that you watch repeatedly. That might be boring. Watch a whole show or movie. But don’t just use one technique. Keep your brain active by changing it up: sometimes no subs, sometimes native language subs and sometimes English subs. Try to enjoy it as well!
Review, Review, Review: All the above ideas will work – my personal guarantee as a teacher and former IELTS examiner. But the most important thing to make real progress is to review. Studying without reviewing is like working out once a week – you won’t see a big difference. Drag yourself back to the gym to exercise again and again and you’ll get stronger. Review the same scenes, movies and shows over and over again until you are confident you understand everything. Then begin to practice using the language you learned. That is the essence of language learning – now stop reading this and just go do it!
Now it’s your turn! Go watch a video and post the link to it in the comments!
The Test Format
It takes the makers of IELTS (Cambridge) an average of 2 years to make every test. Each question has to go through dozens of people before it is finally approved – let’s study the test with the same attention to detail! If you want to learn more about IELTS from former examiners you can check out our YouTube Channel or our Facebook Group.
IELTS Listening is a 30 minute test of your English listening ability and there are 4 parts.
There are 40 total questions and each part has 10 questions.
You will conduct the test in a room full of other candidates and will be provided with your own personal pair of headphones (that you can’t keep!).
You cannot leave the room to go to the toilet during the test because it would disturb other test takers.
Write your answers on the test itself. At the end of the 30 minute test, you will have 10 minutes to transfer your answers from the test paper to the answer sheet.
IELTS Listening Part 1
In part 1, you will hear an informal conversation typically asking for information or making a purchase.
Some examples of conversations that you might hear in part 1 listening include:
Someone asking about a job vacancy over the telephone (at a restaurant, office, The White House, etc.)
Someone book a service (a hall for a party, a hotel room, a bus ticket, a plane ticket, a holiday trip, etc.)
Someone asking for information about a service or place (a guided tour, an amusement park, a school, etc.)
This is the easiest part of the listening exam because it is only testing one thing: your ability to write what you hear.
You just have to be able to write down names, numbers, spellings, and simple vocabulary.
Here is what part 1 typically looks like (it is almost always a gap-fill):
Pay close attention to the instructions because it will tell you how many words/numbers you can write for this question: ONE WORD AND/OR A NUMBER.
This will not always be the same so make sure you carefully read and circle the instructions.
To do better on these types of questions you can check out the 6 basic tips here.
IELTS Listening Part 2
In part 2, you will hear one person typically talking about a public event or attraction.
Some examples of conversations that you might hear in part 2 listening include:
Someone giving information about an event (a museum opening, a concert, a fundraising event, etc.)
Someone explaining something (how to get around campus for new students, the details of a guided tour, a project they are involved in, etc.)
In this section the exam begins to become more difficult.
The vocabulary is a little more difficult and there will be more distractors and paraphrases/synonyms.
Here are 2 examples of a listening part 2:
The synonyms and distractors make part 2 really challenging. All the keywords might be paraphrased. The listening might mention options A, B, and C but only 1 of them is coffect.
For example, take a look at this question:
Here are some paraphrases from the tapescript:
‘Most rapidly growing’ changes to ‘has seen the largest increase in population’
‘Group of residents’ changes to ‘demographic’
‘Sheepmarket area’ changes to ‘Sheepmarket and its surrounding community’
‘Young professional people’ changes to ‘young professionals’
‘Students from the university’ changes to ‘young people who are still studying’
‘Employees in the local market’ changes to ‘the local workforce’
The listening will also probably mention all 3 options: A, B, and C.
Maybe the speaker talks about how there are tons of new young professionals first, then about how that has helped the local workforce expand then back to mention how many young professional people there are now before finally saying that this is overshadowed by the number of new university students. Good luck with that!
They could talk about the options in any order so be really careful before circling your final answer!
IELTS Listening Part 3
In part 3, you will hear a discussion usually involving 2 people, but which could be as many as 4 people.
Some examples of conversations that you might hear in part 3 listening include:
A discussion of an academic project or research (a teacher discussing the results of a project with a student, a teacher giving a student advice or an overview of a subject area, two students planning to do a project together, etc.)
The difficulty usually also increases in this section because there will be even more distractors, paraphrases and because the vocabulary is more academic and challenging.
Here are 3 examples of listening part 3:
Just like in part 2, a lot of the keywords will be paraphrased or changed.
There will also be distractors – answers that are mentioned and could be correct, but are not.
The main difference between part 2 and 3 is that in part 3 the vocabulary will be more academic and you might have a harder time understanding everything you hear.
IELTS Listening Part 4
In part 4, you will hear part of a lecture on an academic subject.
Some examples of the subjects talked about in the lectures include:
Astronomy, history, political science, biology, marine biology, geology, neuroscience, psychology, art history, literature, physiology, etc.
You can see from the list above that many of the topics are related to science.
A lot of my students think this is the most difficult listening passage.
The biggest challenge in part 4 is the difficult vocabulary related to an academic field. It is a professor’s lecture – even native English speakers have to listen very carefully to understand it well!
For example, in this question:
Here is some difficult vocabulary that you might hear related to noise in cities: urban noise pollution, rising decibel levels, neurological effects of noise, personal sensitivity levels to noise, increasingly pertinent problem, abnormal sleep patterns, more acute stress levels, subjective perception of a sound, research methodology, and much more!
If you are interested in reading a lot of academic vocabulary related to noise you can check out this article.
The Question Types
There are 10 different questions types on the listening test.
Labeling a Plan/Map/Diagram
Completing a Form
Completing a Table
Completing a Sentence
Completing a Summary
Completing a Flowchart
Short Answer Questions
In order to do well on the test, you should be familiar with all the types of question so that you feel comfortable during the test. This is one reason to do lots of practice tests.
To do really well on the test, you need to put in a lot of work practicing specific types of questions repeatedly in order to improve your listening skills.
How to Score the IELTS Listening Test
The listening test has 40 questions and each one counts for 1 point. You can get half-bands, for example a 6.5 or 8.5.
Here is a chart provided by the official IELTS page on how the scores are marked:
However, the scores vary slightly based on the difficulty of the test that week.
In general those numbers give you a rough idea of what your score will be.
Do a few practice tests and if the results are similar you should expect to get a similar score on your actual test.
If you are not close to the score you want, don’t waste your money – spend some more time improving your listening first!
How to Improve your Listening Skills
There is a difference between testing and improving your IELTS listening skills.
To test your IELTS listening, do a practice test and add up your points. Use the chart above to figure out what your score is. Now you know how much you have to improve.
Best of luck!
Comment any questions that you have below!