Student Tips for Getting IELTS Band 8.5 Overall

My Tips for IELTS Overall 8.5

This page gives you my tips for how I got IELTS band score 8.5 overall in 3 steps. And also my tips for getting band 8 in IELTS writing and band score 9 in IELTS speaking.

by Deeksha

My IELTS Test Results

24th June; United States; First Attempt. I just received my IELTS score:

  • Listening – 7.5
  • Reading – 8.5
  • Writing – 8.0
  • Speaking – 9.0
  • Overall – 8.5

I barely had 5 days to prepare. 70% of my preparation included watching the videos on your blog, answering your sample questions, and going through your tips! For the rest 30%, I printed some of the full-fledged tests and
sample answer sheets from the Cambridge IELTS books and just practised using those.

For anyone of you who has a very little time to prepare, I hope that the process I followed can help you lay out a basic schedule.

My 3 Step Tips for IELTS Band Score 8.5

See my 3 steps:

Step -1 (Know the test)

– Go through the test format.
– Spend some time and understand the question patterns in each segment.
– Keep in mind the time limit for every segment.
– Do an initial sample test (download from IELTS official website) just to see where you stand.

Links:

Step-2 (Prepare using Liz’s blog)

– Go through every one of the 4 segments (L, R, W, S) in this blog, one after the other. Links: Listening Tips, /Reading / Writing T1 /  Writing T2 / Speaking
– In each segment, read every tip and watch every video.
– Make notes of the points that you would like to keep in mind.
– Try and answer every sample question that Liz has laid out there. She has specified at least one sample question for every possible pattern that could appear on the test.
– Look at the answers and compare with yours. Figure out what you got wrong and more importantly, “analyze why you got them wrong.” This helps you understand how you approached the question, and how you should have.

Step-3 (Practice)

– Download all the versions of Cambridge IELTS books (you can just google them out).
– From these books, print out the full-fledged tests and sample answer sheets.
– Take these tests using a clock and write your answers in the sample answer sheets.
– Grade your tests and find out your weak areas.
– Make notes of your analysis and try to keep it in mind during the following tests.

In addition, go through the comments in this blog and find out what the recent test takers said about their tests. Know about the tips that helped them, learn from their experiences and be prepared.

Writing Tips for Band Score 8

On my test:

  1. Write a letter to your friend who is going to stay in your apartment during the next month while you are away on vacation
  2. Tell your friend where to get the keys
  3. Tell your friend about the equipment in your apartment
  4. Tell your friend about some places to visit in the area
  5. Advancement of technology has obliterated libraries and hard copies of books. Do you agree or disagree?

–          Apart from your writing skills and the topic at hand, it may help to do this section in a way that encompasses all the elements that the examiner is looking for. Liz’s writing section mentions specific guidelines for content organization, format, tone, logical reasoning, titles, signatures and many other tips. Go through them and try to follow all those tips as you write. In other words, you will have a shell prepared in your mind even before you know what the questions are. Click here: IELTS GT Letter Tips 

–          I didn’t have time to practice this section at all so I had a bit of an issue managing time on the test. If you have very little time to prepare for IELTS, make sure you squeeze in at least a few writing tests and see where you stand with the time limit.

Speaking Tips for Band Score 9

On my test (to the best of my recollection):

  • –          Where are you from?
  • –          Do you work or study?
  • –          Is there anything significant about the place you were born in?
  • –          Do you enjoy it?
  • –          What is special about it?
  • –          Do you have any challenges at work/school? How do you resolve them?
  • –          Where do you live?
  • –          Where would you like to live in the future?
  • –          Do you usually shop online?
  • –          How is it better than shopping in the stores?
  • –          Is there any difference between living in rural and urban areas?
  • –          How do you cope up with the challenges of urban life?
  • –          What do you do on your birthdays?
  • –          Are your birthdays the same as they were when you were a child?
  • –          Is any specific birthday considered significant in your country?
  • –          Do you have a favorite rock star?
  • –          Would you enjoy meeting your favorite rock star?

Cue card:

  • –          Talk about a crowded place that you visited recently.
  • –          Did you or did you not like it? Why?
  • –          Would you revisit it again in the future?

Go through Liz’s list of sample topics, sample answers (Liz’s Speaking Page), comments from recent test takers (Recent Topics) on this blog and questions from IELTS Cambridge speaking tests. Try to answer them. These should be more than enough to help you familiarize with the test pattern and to understand what to expect on the test. From the comments, I also found out that most of these questions are being repeated so make sure you go through them. Almost all the questions that my examiner (whose name was coincidentally Liz) asked me were also from the above lot.

As Liz mentioned, they expect you to be casual and test you only for your language and not for your knowledge on the topic at hand. Think about this segment like you just bumped into a fan who would like to know some of your opinions and experiences. Well, you don’t simply meet a fan every day, so this is your chance – talk her ear off! J Be casual, funny, and confident and you’ll do just fine.

Try to book your test in a test center that does not use hallway speakers to play the audio in the listening section. There is a definite distinction in terms of quality compared to headphones. There is always a possibility of noise and distraction. I didn’t know about this while booking my test and I certainly experienced the difference.

Thanks,

Deeksha.

Good Luck!

Liz – Thanks again for the effort you are putting in, to assist so many test-takers all over the world, each with their own questions and training needs. It must feel incredible to know that most of these people credit their success to you. Keep up the good work!

Deeksha.

Message from Liz

Deeksha, you’ve done exceedingly well. Congratulations!! I love your tips! They are logical and very helpful for all IELTS students. Tackling IELTS methodically is essential and Deeksha has really hit the nail on the head !!! 🙂

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Reading Practice Question

Below is a short reading passage with questions to help you practice your IELTS reading TFNG. This topic was reported in the test this month, July 2017.  This is an IELTS Liz reading exercise, not a test paper.

Tips:

  • True = the passage shows the statement is correct
  • False = the passage shows the statement is incorrect
  • Not Given = not enough information is given to know if it is correct or incorrect

Reading Exercise: Pterosaurs

Neither birds nor bats, pterosaurs were reptiles, close cousins of dinosaurs who evolved on a separate branch of the reptile family tree. They were also the first animals after insects to evolve powered flight—not just leaping or gliding, but flapping their wings to generate lift and travel through the air. They evolved into dozens of species. Some were as large as an F-16 fighter jet, and others as small as a paper airplane.

Pterosaurs were an extremely successful group of reptiles. They flourished all through the age of dinosaurs, a period of more than 150 million years. Over time, the earliest pterosaurs—relatively small flying reptiles with sturdy bodies and long tails—evolved into a broad variety of species. Some had long, slender jaws, elaborate head crests, or specialized teeth, and some were extraordinarily large.

This passage is from amnh.org (American Museum of Natural History) See the full reading passage: What is a Pterosaur?

Questions: Are the following statements True/ False or Not Given according to the information in the passage?

  1. Pterosaurs were the first creatures to be able to fly by creating lift.
  2. Pterosaurs were able to fly as high as modern aeroplanes.
  3. The shape and the size of pterosaurs varied over time.

Answers

The answers are now available. Click to see answers: Answers to pterosaur reading exercise

Liz

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IELTS Reading Practice: Google’s Self Drive Car

This is a practice lesson for TFNG questions in IELTS reading.

Google’s Self Driving Car

google-car

Google has finally built its own car from scratch. And it looks similar to a gondola with wheels. The two-seater prototype vehicle is Google’s idea of what the modern automobile should look and feel like if you took the human out of the transportation equation and designed something solely to chauffeur passengers from point A to B.

The car — which was conceived and designed by Google, unlike the ones it previously modified — lacks many of the trappings of a normal car, and that includes three of the most essential parts. It has no steering wheel, no accelerator pedal and no brake pedal. The company that designed the world’s simplest home page also decided to lose the mirrors, the backseat, the glove compartment and the stereo. What’s left are lots of sensors, and a transplant of the self-driving software system Google has built to use on the Toyota Priuses and Lexus SUVs it has trained to drive on highways and city streets over the past five years.

Passage from recode.net

Questions 1-3

Decide if the statements below are true, false or not given according to the information in the passage above.

  1. The Italian gondola was used as a design model for the new car.
  2. The new car is aimed at transporting passengers from one place to another using a chauffeur.
  3. The new car has more features than the modern car.

 

Answers

Click below to reveal the answers

Answers
  1. Not Given
    1. There is no mention of what Google used as a  design model. It does mention that it likes like a gondola but not that this was a design model.  So, the answer is NG.
  2. False
    1. The answer comes from “designed something solely to chauffeur passengers from point A to B“. The questions says “The new car is aimed at transporting passengers from one place to another…” this part of the sentence is the same as the passage. The word “chauffer” in the passage is a verb = to transport. So, this part of the sentence is correct.
    2. However, the second part of the question sentence “using a chauffer” is wrong. In the question statement, the word “chauffeur” is a noun and it means a person who is paid to drive the car. The passage clearly contradicts this because the new car has no human driver. Therefore the answer is FALSE.
    3. This question is really testing your vocabulary. Do you know the difference between “chauffer” and “chauffeur” = one is a verb = transport / one is a noun = a person who is a paid driver
    4. A false answer means that part of the question statement is contradicted in the passage. The passage shows that it the statement is written incorrectly.
  3. NG
    1. The passage says that the new car doesn’t have many of the features of the modern car – steering wheel, mirror etc. The passage also says that the new car has many new features such as a lot of new sensors and new software. But the passage does not compare the number of features. The passage does not clearly state that the new car has more features than the modern car. There is plenty of information about the features but no clear comparison of the number of features. This means the answer is NG
    2. Always look out for comparison statements in TFNG questions.

 

More Reading Practice for IELTS

You can find more reading practice and tips on the main reading page: IELTS Reading Lessons & Tips

If you want to learn IELTS writing task 2 or speaking etc, just visit the main pages of this website through the red bar at the top of each page.

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IELTS Reading Skills: Keywords Practice

 

Keywords can help you locate answers in IELTS reading. Try this lesson and see if it helps you.

Can you see the keywords in the question that help you spot the answer in the passage?

Alexander Fleming and Penicillin

Alexander Fleming was born in Ayrshire on 6 August 1881, the son of a farmer. He moved to London at the age of 13 and later trained as a doctor. In 1928, while studying influenza, Fleming noticed that mould had developed accidentally on a set of culture dishes being used to grow the staphylococci germ. The mould had created a bacteria-free circle around itself. Fleming experimented further and decided to call the active substance penicillin. It was two other scientists however, Australian Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, a refugee from Nazi Germany, who developed penicillin further so that it could be produced as a drug. At first supplies of penicillin were very limited, but by the 1940s it was being mass-produced by the American drugs industry.

Notice: This passage is from BBC History. You can read the full article on this page: BBC History Alexander Fleming

Key words

Find the key words in the questions which help you locate the answers:

  1. Where did Fleming study medicine?
    1. (what are this keywords in the question that help you find the answer?
  2. What was Fleming studying when he realised that mould grew on a set of culture dishes?
    1. (what are the keywords in this question that help you find the answer?)
  3. Who gave penicillin its name?
    1. (what keywords in this question help you locate the answer?)

Quote from Fleming: “When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionise all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I suppose that was exactly what I did.“.  

Answers

Click below to reveal the answers:

Answers
  1. keywords:
    1. where – this shows you are looking for a name of a place. So, you should scan the passage for a place name.
    2. other key words are: study medicine – this is paraphrased as “training to be a doctor”
    3. Answer to question: London
  2. keywords
    1. what – this key words shows the answer must be a noun.
    2. culture dishes –  VERY useful key words to locate the answer in the passage. These types of words can’t be paraphrased so you can find them easily and quickly.
    3. Answer to question: influenza
  3. keywords
    1. who: this shows you are looking for a name or names.
    2. other key word: name – this is paraphrased as “call” in the passage.
    3. Answer to question: Fleming

 

You can see that keywords are vitally important to find answers. But be careful as some keywords can be paraphrased so be prepared for that.

I hope you found this lesson useful 🙂

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Transferring Answers in IELTS Listening and Reading

Do you get an extra 10 mins to transfer your answers in IELTS listening and reading? This is extremely important to know.

IELTS Listening: Extra 10 mins

You will listen for 30 mins to a recording and you will answer 40 questions. Your answers will be written on the question paper. You can also make notes and underline on your question paper. At the end of the recording, you will be given 10 mins to transfer your answers from the question paper to the answer sheet.

IELTS Reading: ?

You will be given your reading passages with questions. You will have 1 hour to read the passages and write your answers. Your answer will not be written on the question paper, you MUST write your answers directly onto the answer sheet. You will NOT be given an extra 10 mins to transfer answers. At the end of 1 hour, the invigilator will collect your answer sheet.

Writing Answers: Tips

  • Always pay attention to spelling. If you spell the word wrong, you will lose the point.
  • Pay attention to plurals. If you miss the plural “s”, the answer will be marked wrong.
  • Make sure you put the answer in the right box on the answer sheet. Putting answers in the wrong boxes will affect your score.

IELTS Listening & Reading Lessons

You can find more tips and practice lessons on the main pages. Click to open …

IELTS Listening: Tips & Practice Lessons

IELTS Reading: tips & Practice Lessons

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How I Scored 9 in IELTS Reading

“How I got Band 9 in IELTS Reading.”
Manal got band score 9 in IELTS reading with band score 8.5 overall.  Learn how she did it …
Below are her tips for a high score in GT reading:
 Getting 9 in IELTS reading
Manal’s Story and Tips for Band 9 in Reading
Oh I couldn’t believe in my wildest dreams that I scored a 9.0 in Reading. Reading was one of my weakest areas. After I gave the test, I had a gut feeling telling me that probably I scored a 9.0 in Reading. I even got to check all my answers in Listening as well as Reading.
 I re-took the General test. The first time I attempted this test was in October – that time I scored an overall band score of 8.0 with L – 8.5, Reading – 7.0, W – 8.0, S – 9.0. I retook the test specifically to improve my Reading score so obviously I relentlessly practiced tests from the General section of Cambridge IELTS books. I was aiming for a minimum of 8.0 in reading.
 ————————————————–
Tips for Getting Band Score 9 in IELTS Reading
Here are some tips and strategies which you could post. Please feel free to make any editions necessary. I like to explain things in detail, otherwise I do not feel satisfied. You can make them more brief and concise.
Tip 1
Effective time management I can’t stress enough about it. One thing which I meticulously practiced when I did the reading tests was to enforce a strict time division for each section of Reading. Even though in the cambridge books, it states to keep a minimum of 20 minutes for each section. I’d suggest to keep 15 minutes OR less in Section 1 and 2 and to rely solely on skimming and scanning (I mastered to finish Section 1 and 2 in less than 15 minutes leaving me with ample time to solve Section 3 questions). Keep 30 minutes or more for Section 3- where you will need to do a little bit more than skimming and scanning. I usually managed to have 5-10 minutes for revision.
Tip 2
Do not bother reading the passages. It’s a waste of time.
 
 First, read the questions and circle the keywords and then try to look for those keywords or a synonym / paraphased text in the passage. For Section 1 and 2  – skimming and scanning will be your best friends. 
 I didn’t even waste time reading Section 3. I just read the text associated with the questions. 
 
Tip 3
One strategy that worked for me best was “not to overthink” when you are solving the reading questions and to go with your gut instincts – there is no time to think during the 60 minutes of tackling reading questions. Especially this applies to me, because I tend to overthink and over analyze a lot when I am stressed. I struggled a lot with the true false questions. But as I trained myself not to overthink, if the text is there either it will be the same meaning as the question or opposite. If text is not there – not given. 
Tip 4
For paragraph heading questions, only read the first and last sentence of each paragraph. A synonym or a related keyword in the heading title should be there. I also sometimes to be on the safe side for some questions read the second sentence as well.
Tip 5
Although, you will keep hearing from people practice and practice. I personally believe practice is inefficient if you do not learn from your incorrect answers. So it really helps to look at your mistakes and compare with the correct answers in the answer key and to reflect on where you made the mistake. I feel that way – you learn more efficiently.
Hope that helps.
Manal
Comments from IELTS Liz
Thanks so much for sharing your tips, Manal. I think many students will benefit from this and also be inspired to keep aiming for the higher scores 🙂
Anyone who would like to add more tips, please post them in the comments box below 🙂
Useful Links for IELTS Reading:

Main IELTS Pages

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Capital Letters in IELTS: Will it affect your score?

When to use capital letters in your IELTS listening and reading test. Will you get a lower score if you make a mistake with capital letters? Can you write your answers in all capital letters? What are the rules for capital letters in IELTS? Capital letters in IELTS 2017.

Using Capital Letters for Answers: IELTS Rules

Capital Letters in IELTS Listening and Reading

In IELTS listening and reading, you can write all your answers in capital letters if you want or not.

  • You can write your answers in small letters if you want.
  • You can write in all capital letters.

Examples of capital letters in listening and reading:

  • HOSPITAL = correct / hospital = correct / 9am = correct / 9AM = correct /

Which is best? Capital letters or lower case?

I recommend writing your listening and reading answers in capital letters. It is easier to read and this means it is better for the person marking. Of course, it is your choice. But I advice is to use all capital letters.

Transferring Answers

In IELTS listening, you will be given 10 mins extra to transfer your answers to your answer sheet. Check your answers and check your spelling – then write your answers on the answer sheet.  If your handwriting is poor, write using all capital letters so it is easy to read.

In IELTS reading, you will not get 10 extra mins to transfer your answers. You must write your answers directly on your answer sheet. But it is completely your choice how to write your answers. The most important factor is not clear writing. Use all capital letters if your handwriting isn’t clear.

Capital Letters in IELTS Writing

In IELTS Writing, you can choose to write your essay in capital letters. But I wouldn’t recommend it because:

  1. you have a strict time limit and it takes too long to write in capital letters
  2. you WILL be marked on punctuation so the use of capital letters and lower case is important to show. You must have a capital letter at the start of a sentence, for example.

So, write your essay in lower case and remember to use capital letters when appropriate. The examiner will mark you down if you use capital letters incorrectly. Here is a list of typical words that use capital letters:

When to use capital letters in English grammar

  • Days/ Months = Thursday / September
  • Names and Titles = Mrs J Blogs / Dr Author Jones
  • Countries / Cities = India / Vietnam / Paris / Hong Kong
  • Names of Places = University of London
  • Acronyms = BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
  • Start of a Sentence = “The majority of people use cars to go to work these days. However, it would be better if they used healthier means of transport such as the bicycle.”

Biggest Mistake with Capital Letters

  • but / because / and
    • These linking words NEVER start with a capital letter because they should NEVER be used to start a sentence. See my page of linking words for writing task 2 to learn tips and get a useful list: IELTS Writing Task 2 Linking Words

What about speaking part 2? Well, the notes you make for your talk are not marked and only you see them. The examiner will not check them or mark them. So, don’t write sentences or bother with punctuation, just write words, ideas and tips to help you present a good talk.

More IELTS Tips

What about using a pen or pencil? Click on this link: IELTS Pen or Pencil

How are words counted in IELTS Listening? Click on this link: How Words are Counted in IELTS

Can I use “I” or “my” in writing task 2? Click on this link: How to express your opinion in IELTS WT2

Tips & Practice for Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking:

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IELTS Reading Paragraph Information: Whaling

This passage is similar to the level of GT passage 3 and just below academic level. However, it is a useful passage for academic students because it will help develop skills without too much heavy academic vocabulary.

This IELTS reading practice requires you to match information to a particular paragraph. Read instructions carefully.

A Brief History of Whaling

A) People have been whaling for thousands of years. Norwegians were among the first to hunt whales, as early as 4,000 years ago. The Japanese may have been doing so even earlier.

B) Traditions as varied as the Inuit (who hunted in the Arctic Ocean), Basque (who hunted in the Atlantic), and Japanese (who hunted in the Pacific) relied on whales to provide material goods, as well as part of their cultural identity.

C) Nearly every part of the whale was used. Meat, skin, blubber, and organs were eaten as an important source of protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Baleen was woven into baskets and used as fishing line. In warmer climates, baleen was also used as a roofing material. Bones were used primarily for tool making and carving ceremonial items such as masks.

D) During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, whaling gained popularity throughout Northern Europe. Whale oil and baleen (sometimes called whalebone, although it’s not bone at all) were valuable commodities. Whale oil comes from the blubber of right and bowhead whales, and the head cavity of sperm whales. It was used primarily for oil lamps. Corsets and hoop skirts were constructed from whalebone.

Questions 1-5

The reading passage has 4 paragraphs. Which paragraph contains the following information? Letters may be used more than once. Write the correct letter (A-D) as your answer.

  1.  Whaling became common in Northern Europe.
  2. A variety of different cultures have used whales to furnish important supplies.
  3. The Japanese probably started hunting before anyone else.
  4. Whale oil was used for lighting.
  5. The body of a dead whale was used for many purposes and little was wasted.

You can download a free pdf copy of the passage and questions: ielts-reading-history-of-whaling

Answers

Click below to open the answers for the above IELTS reading practice.

Answers
  1. D = Information about Northern Europe and whaling is contained in A (Norway) and D. However, information about whaling being common is contained only in D = gained popularity.
  1. B = Paragraph B contains the names of different cultures. It contains the words ‘provide material goods’ which can be paraphrased to mean ‘furnish important supplies’.
  1. A = Paragraphs A and B contain information about the Japanese. However, paragraph A contains information about the beginning of whaling and the last sentence in paragraph A contains the exact information.
  1. D = Paragraph D contains information about whale oil which was ‘used primarily for oil lamps’.
  1. C = Both paragraphs C and D contain information about the uses of whale. The first sentence of paragraph C, gives further information about not wasting the body.

Passage from: National Geographic  http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/news/big-fish-history-whaling/?ar_ 

 

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