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.


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.



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!


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 !!! 🙂

IELTS Cue Card: An Invention

Hi guys,

Yesterday, a student reported this IELTS cue card: Describe an Invention for speaking part 2. IELTS speaking topics can often be repeated so you should definitely prepare for this topic as well as other recent topics and common topics. I’ve provided links below.

An Invention: IELTS Cue Card 

Date: 26th July, 2017

Describe an invention that changed people’s lives.
You should say:
· What it is
· Who invent it
· When it was invented
And explain how it changed people’s life.

Ideas for An Invention Topic:

Tips: Don’t choose something impressive. The examiner will not give you a higher score because your ideas are impressive. Instead, choose something which is easy to talk about. Something which can have plenty of ideas for. If you don’t know who invented it or when – it doesn’t matter. It won’t affect your score at all.

  1. Smart Phones
    1. This is a great topic to choose because there are somany features of a mobile phone that you can talk forever about this. You can also talk about which features you use and why they are useful to you: camera, video, texting, calendar, weather, music player, GPS, web browser (shopping online, online banking etc)
    2. The cue card mentions who invented it – you don’t need to know this information. You can say “I do not know who invented it but some of the top selling brands are “Apple” etc. If you don’t know when it was invented, you can say “I’m not exactly sure when it was invented but most people have been using them for the last decade at least.”
  2. Internet
    1. Another great topic which allows you to take your talk in any direction you want: international business, social media (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter), globalisation, online education etc
  3. TV
    1. You can talk about: news, weather reports, films, soap operas, documentaries and education programs, escapism, relaxation, reality TV, chat shows etc
  4. Modern Transportation
    1. Cars, aeroplanes, trains. You can talk about each type as well as globalisation and tourism

Don’t forget that IELTS speaking part 2 is mostly about you, so add your own details. Tell a story about yourself or someone you know.

If you have any other ideas, please post them in the comments box below.

Useful Links

Click below to open links:

Recently Posted IELTS Speaking Topics

How to Start your IELTS Speaking Part 2 Talk

 All Common IELTS Speaking Topics, Model Answers & Tips

For information and tips about other parts of the IELTS test, click on the relevant links on the Red Bar at the top of my website 🙂

Get my free lessons by email

Subscribe for free to get my new IELTS lessons sent to your email inbox.

Look at your Notes in IELTS Speaking Part 2

Many students ask me if it is ok to look at your notes during your IELTS speaking part 2 talk. Let me explain…

Looking at your Notes

It is important to look at your notes during your talk. You can’t remember everything and this is the reason why you have 1 mins to plan and write notes.

Checking your notes will make sure you keep a logical order and also make sure you don’t forget to talk about something.

Does it lower my score to look at my notes a lot?

No, it doesn’t. You will not get a lower score if you look at your notes a lot.

Of course, it is good to have eye contact with the examiner because it shows confidence. But it won’t affect your score. Your score is based only on your level of English language: fluency, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

Liz’s Advice

Keep checking your notes during your talk. But also look at the examiner. When students talk with their head in their notes, they often lose intonation and don’t speak naturally. So, try to aim for a balance – look at your notes as often as you need but also make sure you speak naturally by looking up at the examiner.

IELTS Speaking Tips & Answers

See my page of speaking tips and model answers for IELTS speaking: IELTS Speaking Main Page

Dreams Topic for IELTS Speaking Part 1

See the model answers for current topic used in IELTS speaking part 1. I’ve written a few model answers for each question so you can see the usual length of answers.

I’ve also written a list of useful words below.


  1. Do you often have dreams?
  2. Do you usually remember your dreams?
  3. Do you think we can learn something from dreams?

Model Answers

  1. Do you often have dreams?
    1. Yes, I do. I have quite vivid dreams about things that are going on in my life at the time and I even have nightmares sometimes.
    2. No. I usually sleep very deeply and so I don’t dream at all.
    3. I used to dream all the time but in the last few years I’ve hardly had any dreams at all.
    4. I usually have dreams when I’m upset about something. I guess it’s my subconscious trying to work things out. But other than that, I don’t often dream.
  2.  Do you usually remember your dreams?
    1.  No, they’re usually very vague and I only remember the odd thing or image. But I can never remember the entire dream as they are too abstract.
    2. No, luckily I don’t remember them as they are almost always nightmares.
    3. Yes, I do. I remember almost every dream I have. I keep a dream diary so that I can analyse them later.
  3. Do you think we can learn something from dreams?
    1. No, I don’t. I think dreams are nonsense and not based in reality so I don’t think people should waste their time trying to find a meaning in them.
    2. No, I don’t. I think most people dream because they are not relaxed enough and are not able to enter deep sleep. I don’t think there’s any meaning in what people dream.
    3. Yes, I do. I think our subconscious is trying to figure things out and we can find clues by analysing our dreams.
    4. Yes, I do. I think dreams can reveal hidden messages if we know how to interpret them correctly.
    5. Yes, I do. I know dreaming of a snake means that enemies are close. And if you dream of your teeth falling out, it means a big change will happen in your life. I think dreams are very symbolic.


  • disturbed sleep
  • deep sleep
  • peaceful sleep
  • nightmare
  • daydream
  • vivid dreams
  • vague dreams
  • abstract dreams
  • subconscious thinking / subconscious mind
  • symbolic
  • analyse our dreams
  • nonsense
  • dream diary
  • reveal messages
  • interpret dreams

See all my IELTS Speaking Tips & Model Answers

IELTS Speaking Part 1 Topic

Hi guys,

A speaking part 1 topic this summer is the topic of Dreams. Below you will see some questions for this topic.


In speaking part 1, you will be asked about 12 questions in 4 to 5 mins. This means you will probably be able to give about one or two long sentences for each answer. Always answer directly and always add a bit more information so that the examiner can hear your English.


  1. Do you often have dreams?
  2. Do you usually remember your dreams?
  3. Do you think we can learn something from dreams?


I have posted model answers on this page: Model Answers to Dream Questions


IELTS Speaking Tips

Get all my IELTS speaking tips: IELTS Speaking Tips & Model Answers

IELTS Recent Exam Questions

Get my free lessons by email

Subscribe for free to get my new IELTS lessons sent to your email inbox.

IELTS Speaking Topic for May 2017 with Sample Answers

Below is an IELTS speaking topic for this month, May 2017. It was reported by a few students in their speaking part 1 test.

Robots: IELTS Speaking Part 1 Topic

  1. Do you like robots?
  2. Did you like to watch cartoons about robots when you were a child?
  3. Would you want a robot to work in your home?
  4. What do you think about a robot driving your car?
  5. Would you ever buy a robot?

Sample Answers

These are possible answers to the questions. In IELTS speaking, there is no right or wrong answer. So, I’ve given you three different answers so you can learn technique.

  1. Do you like robots?
    1. Yes, I do. I think, on the whole, they can be very useful as they’re able to do work we can’t do.
    2. No, not really. I’m not very keen on advanced technology and robots take jobs away from normal people.
    3. Definitely. I’m into all kinds of gadgets and robots are top of my list for sure.
  2. Did you like to watch cartoons about robots when you were a child?
    1. Yes, I did. I was huge Transformers fan when I was little. I collected the figurines and even as an adult I love the films.
    2. No, I can’t say I was very interested in cartoons at all. I was so into sport that I didn’t have much time for TV.
  3. What do you think about a robot driving your car?
    1. There is no way on earth I would want a robot in the driver’s seat of my car. They are never 100% reliable.
    2. I think it would be great. I’d be able to sit back, do nothing and enjoy the ride.
    3. I think I’d be continuously nervous waiting for it to break down. I mean, it could cause a serious traffic accident if that happened.

You can find other sample answers and ideas for the other questions written by students in the comments boxes. Notice: Never memorise answers. Just use the ideas and some vocabulary – always express your ideas in your own way.

Vocabulary for the Topic of Robots:

  • breakdown / short circuit / stop working / malfunction
  • never 100% reliable
  • time efficient / able to do work others can’t
  • accurate / more precise than humans
  • able to calculate quickly
  • inexhaustible
  •  driving: quick reaction time / good at steering and manoeuvring vehicles / will not violate road rules / a way to avoid human error /
  • some robots can be easily replaceable / they can be expendable
  • they are obedient and don’t answer back / they follow instructions
  • can be programmed to do different tasks / can be programmes not to hurt people

Examples of Useful Robots Current and Future:

Space Exploration: Robots are sent into space to explore and gather information or materials. They are able to go deeper into space than humans can.

Domestic Chores:  Might one day be useful in doing housework such as hoovering and washing up

Medical Robots: Able to do precise surgery without getting tired or losing concentration. More precise in their movements.

Get my free lessons by email

Subscribe for free to get my new IELTS lessons sent to your email inbox.

How I Scored 9 in IELTS Speaking

Nouman got Band Score 9 in IELTS Speaking this year, 2017. Below he shares his experience and tips of how he got 9 in IELTS speaking. You can find useful links for IELTS at the end of this article.

All students taking GT or Academic IELTS will take the same speaking test. There is only one speaking test for all students.

Band Score 9 in IELTS Speaking

How I scored Band 9 in IELTS Speaking

I believe I managed to score a 9 with continuous practice and being myself in the test. The best thing is not to feel shy when you speak about any particular topic. Do not think that your thoughts might be too little or simple to express.  Some of us may believe that if we are not full of knowledge, we may not be able to impress the examiner.  In speaking module however, knowledge of the topic is not a big deal. The thoughts presented may just be of a lay man and do not need to reflect an in-depth understanding of the subject.

I never crammed any specific topics however; I did gather my thoughts for topics which I would have found difficult to talk about. For example, I have not been visiting many historical places in the past. The one or two that I have visited, I made sure that I gather sufficient thoughts about those places to talk about. Important thing is that those thoughts were purely my own and not learnt from a book or Wikipedia. Gathering own thoughts in your own words is important.

Well done to you, Nouman, and thanks so much for sharing your tips!!! Liz

Liz’s Comments and Summary:

Nouman’s band score 9 advice is excellent. Here are his points in a list with some extra tips for IELTS Speaking:

  • don’t be shy
  • enjoy the chat with the examiner
  • your ideas are not important – your knowledge is not being tested
  • say your ideas with confidence and showcase your language skills
  • simple ideas explained using excellent English can get you band score 9
  • review topics
  • think of your experiences relating to the topics
  • if the topic is a museum, think of museums you have been to or would like to go to
  • remember your past experiences
  • speak from the heart – your English is better when you do that
  • learn to express yourself using your own language
  • imagine talking about your experienced and your views

Scoring 9 in Reading

Learn how one student scored band score 9 in IELTS reading: How I Scored 9 in Reading

Useful Links for IELTS Speaking

Click on the links to open them:

  1. Tips: Should I speaking fast or slow?
  2. How to start your talk in IELTS speaking part 2
  3. Asking the examiner questions
  4. Tips & Answers: All IELTS Speaking Model Answers & Tips

Main IELTS Pages

Develop your IELTS skills with tips, lessons, free videos and more.

Get my free lessons by email

Subscribe for free to get my new IELTS lessons sent to your email inbox.

New IELTS Speaking Topic February 2017: Riots

Riot: New IELTS Speaking Topic Feb 2017

The topic of Riots is a new IELTS speaking topic for February 2017. It appeared this month in IELTS speaking part 2 and part 3. Below are sample questions and ideas for the topic.

I’ll upload a pdf file to download later this week with the vocab and tips below.

Meaning: Riot & Demonstration

Lets look at the meaning of “riot” and “demonstration”.  Below you can see two pictures, one of a riot and one of a demonstration.

Riot:a violent disturbance by a crowd of people (in public areas), sometimes a violent protest

ielts riot topic 2017

Demonstration or street protest: an action by a mass or group of people in favour of or against something. This is often in the form of a peaceful march (a walk) with signs and messages.

deomonstration vocab ielts

Connection between demonstrations and riots

As you can see there are similarities, they both involve a group of people gathering in public. A demonstration might start peacefully but as strong emotions rise and people become angry, it may turn violent and become a riot.

Most people go to demonstrations because they want to share their message to the world and have peaceful intentions. However, some people go there because they want to start violence and their intention is not related to a message but an opportunity to start trouble. So, people’s intentions and aims are deeply involved in the difference between riots and demonstrations.

Reasons for riots

  1. people are provoked by police and turn angry
  2. society has broken down and rules no longer count
  3. an opportunity for violent people to enjoy themselves and cause trouble
  4. poverty and unemployment which creates desperation and anger towards the government and state
  5. government brutality towards a person or a group of people causing anger and violent protests
  6. once there is a trigger and anger turns violent, it starts building and grows in violence becoming a riot
  7. sometimes violent people see this as a chance to be violent because their identity is hidden in a group

Recent Riots and Demonstrations Worldwide:

France Riot: Violent protests over alleged police brutality that began in the mainly immigrant suburbs earlier this month spread to central Paris and other cities on Wednesday night (15th February 2017) and 49 people were arrested. Link: A newspaper article with video about this riot:

Greece: A protest which turned violent due to austerity measures in Greece, Dec 2015. Link: A newspaper article:

USA: Protests and demonstrations caused by Trump’s inauguration as President. Link: World Wide Protests: Riots in America:

Sri Lanka: The information below was written by a student called Thoshanka, who posted it on my Recent IELTS Exams Questions page. Thanks, Thoshanka.

Sri Lanka

I would like to share the following on riots if it may help anyone for their speaking test. I’m from Sri Lanka. My country accounts for a tale of woe in riots in 1983. In brief, the dominating ethnic group in the country Singhalese started attacking the minority of Tamils in the country based on the reason where an ambush by the LTTE (Tamil militant group) killed a number of Army soldiers. 

The violence in the country created such horrific consequences on people they burnt people’s houses and it was called “race riots”. People encountered great inconveniences due to the curfew that was imposed every now and then. It was an era of darkness until the Govt intervened and took necessary measures to control the situation.

Vocabulary and Collocations for Riots and Demonstrations Topic:

tear gas = gas that irritates the eyes and is sometimes used by police in riot control

police brutality = violence by the police

the protest drew people = the protest attracted people

normal life skidded to a halt = normal life stopped abruptly

molotov cocktails = a bottle which contains liquid that is flammable and acts like a fire bomb

looting = stealing goods from shops and houses during a riot or war

clash (between police and protesters) = violent confrontation

placards = signs which are carried and contain a message

outbreaks of violence = sudden occurrence of violence

participate in a demonstration = take part in …

This topic is very difficult to deal with in IELTS speaking so you definitely need to prepare for it. Hopefully the above comments will help you in part 2 and 3. Below are typical questions with some suggestions for ideas.

Riots: IELTS Speaking Part 2 Topic 2017

Riot: IELTS Cue Card February 2017

A time when you heard about riots in another country

  • what did you hear
  • when did you hear it
  • how did it make you feel to hear about it
  • what suggestions can you make for reducing riots

what you can talk about in your talk:

  1. talk about the news program when you heard about it or a person who told you about it
  2. talk about what happened in the riot
  3. when you heard it, where you were, who was with you
  4. talk about how you felt (confused, angry, frightened) and why you felt that
  5. talk about if you agree with riots or think they are wrong
  6. talk about why demonstrations are better as a way to deal with social problems and problems of justice
  7. talk about common attitudes in your country toward violence
  8. talk about how social problems or justice problems can be solved to reduce riots
    1. increase employment
    2. increase benefits
    3. investigate injustice
    4. control and monitor known violent people who participate in riots and encourage others to violence
    5. better police training to deal with riots and violence
    6. harsher punishment for those who participate in violence

You can add any information you want to your talk. Although there are only about 4 prompts, my suggestions create 8. Always expand your talk.

What happens if you can’t remember any riots in speaking part 2?

You can choose to talk about something close to the topic but explain that at the start of your talk “I haven’t been following news and don’t know about riots, so I’m going to tell you about a problem which happened recently in my country…” You won’t lose marks for doing this!!

Riots 2017: IELTS Speaking Part 3 Questions & Sample Answers

What are the advantages and disadvantages of riots?

There are few advantages but one is that sometimes social or injustice problems are solved quicker and more attention is brought to the issues. On the whole, riots are wrong and this is because they disrupt social order, cause damage to property, can result in deaths or serious injury. Also there are economic drawbacks, such as businesses having to close and lose business or tourists deciding not to go to that country.

Notice: If you think there are no advantages, just say that. The examiner is looking for you to take control of the question and express your views clearly – that will give you a high score.

How do riots affect society?

Riots have a really negative impact on society. People feel that rules are breaking down which means they feel threatened and feel less confidence in their police or government. Another problem is that riots can increase prejudice against groups of people which in turn can make people feel unsafe and sometimes lead to more violence.

IELTS Tips and Model Answers

You can find more useful IELTS tips and model answers on the main pages of my website:

Main IELTS Pages

Develop your IELTS skills with tips, lessons, free videos and more.

Get my free lessons by email

Subscribe for free to get my new IELTS lessons sent to your email inbox.