What do I need to know about IELTS?

Apart from books, what else can you do?

IELTS is taught very badly around the world. There are very few people that can help you with IELTS and these people are IELTS examiners. We only work with IELTS examiners to bring you the best of the best.

How can I prepare for IELTS properly?

One of the IELTS examiners that works with us and gives IELTS classes answers this question.

6 months is a sensible amount of time to prepare. Firstly though, you need to know where you are now so you know how much work you have in front of you. Get an IELTS practice book from here, and do the reading and listening tests. This will give you a very good idea of what your reading and listening scores are at the moment.

Then you need to see what your writing and speaking are like and what you will get if you did the exam tomorrow. This is the difficult part as the only people that can really tell you this are (ex) examiners and the only place we know of where you can find them is here! You can do a writing and speaking test with us and we will give you a very accurate score and highlight what you need to do to get a higher mark. This will cost you around 43 GBP (For a full writing and speaking test).

So, you have your IELTS score. Let’s say you get 7+ in reading, speaking and listening but 6.0 in writing. Now you know which part of the exam you need to work on and whether 6 months is enough or not. If you need to go up 0.5 overall then it is possible. If you need to increase your score by more then you have a lot of work ahead of you. Upmyielts examiners though will also tell you what you need to do to get to, for example, Band 7+ in your writing. Nowhere else does this, or does it accurately and it will save you hundreds of pounds/dollars/euros etc having to do the exam again, and possibly again.

You should have enough time but you need to know where to start from. Good luck.

If you want classes with an IELTS examiner then you can book one here.

Why is IELTS writing so difficult?

There are a number of reasons why IELTS writing is where most people struggle. The IELTS examiners that work with us came up with these 10 reasons.

  1. People don’t write very much anymore so it is skill we are losing.

  2. Teachers avoid teaching writing and set it for homework. They think they should focus on speaking in class and so writing gets neglected. This happens pretty much from school age.

  3. Students don’t think they need to practice it. They are more interested in speaking and listening; they are more fun!

  4. The IELTS writing criteria is incredibly rigid. If you have a problem with articles, for example (and so many people do), this means that very few of their sentences will be grammatically correct. This caps their Grammar score at Band 6.0.

  5. IELTS writing is rounded down. So if you get Band 7 in all the other criteria but Band 6 in Grammar because you can’t use articles properly, you are awarded Band 6.5 (7+7+7+6 is awarded 6.5)

  6. Very few people can teach IELTS writing. The only people that know about it properly/accurately are IELTS examiners who are trained and monitored and retrained and remonitored again and again.

  7. If you do the Academic exam, Task 1 is very tricky and lots of people mess this up because they don’t include all the information they need to. This caps their Task achievement score at Band 4.0.

  8. If you do the General exam, you may need to write in a semi-formal style (Dear Sir/Madam…..I would like to blah blah….). Many people struggle to maintain this all the way through their writing and this loses them Task Achievement marks too. And if they have a problem with articles too, well, they will struggle.

  9. Certain IELTS writing correction services are fake, run by people who know nothing about the exam, give people marks that are far too high, don’t correct most of the mistakes because their English level is too low, and are not run by native or native-like users of English. I have been shown some that are truly awful and they have led people to pay to do the exam only to get far lower than they were led to believe they would get. Home – Upmyielts is where IELTS examiners work if you need real help. You can contact them here or through our Facebook page and you can join our private group if you want.

  10. That is probably enough!!

upmyielts.com and IELTSbooks.org - All you need for IELTS.

An Interview with an IELTS examiner

By upmyielts.com - An IELTSbooks.org partner.

We received over 50 questions from people for this interview. A lot of people asked similar things so we tried to put them together to cover everything. Most came from our private group on FacebookIELTS writing and speaking support”. Feel free to join.

The list of questions

  1. What do you think is the biggest challenge for IELTS candidates in writing?

  2. Why do so many people get 6 or 6.5 in writing?

  3. Why are there so many IELTS teachers stating different ways to do the exam?

  4. Why are there so many IELTS teachers stating different ways to do the exam?

  5. There is so much different information on the importance of research and personal examples in Task 2. Is it necessary to put a personal example and a detailed piece of research into the essay in order to score higher than Band 7?

  6. How can I develop my vocabulary for IELTS writing?

  7. I can’t write 250 words in 40 minutes and plan and check my work.

  8. Is there a template for body paragraphs?

  9. How much do IELTS examiners get paid?

Before we start, can you tell us a little about yourself first and why you became an IELTS examiner?

I work in a university in the UK on our Academic Communication Centre and we have a lot of international students that come to study here. I actually became an IELTS examiner before joining the university though. I worked in a language academy in London and I had a lot of IELTS students doing IELTS courses; it is a big business here in the UK, but I felt that I didn’t have the skills to really help the students. I mean, I could help with their English sure, but IELTS is different so when I was scoring their speaking and, in particular, their writing, I wasn’t sure I was as accurate as I needed to be. I applied to become an IELTS writing and speaking examiner and have been one for over 10 years now.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for IELTS candidates in writing?

Well, as I said, I became an examiner because I felt I couldn’t help my students in the way they needed and this is the biggest problem for a lot of candidates. They can’t find anyone to help them. Not just anyone that speaks English can help the candidates. IELTS is very rigid in its marking criteria and examiners are trained to interpret it correctly. It takes a long time and you aren’t really comfortable with the marking criteria (task 1 and task 2) for your first year or two of examining. This means that normal English teachers across the world (native and non-native) can’t really help with the writing in particular. I work with upmyielts because they are one of the only organisations that I know of that can help with IELTS writing.

Why do so many people get 6 or 6.5 in writing?

Well, this is partly because of my previous answer about finding a teacher. There are lots of other reasons though. I don’t know why but people don’t invest in themselves. They think they can self-study for IELTS and, unless you have a very high level of English and maybe live in an English-speaking country, self-studying is the worst way to prepare. If you self-study, how can you be sure that what you write is correct or not? How do you know if you are answering the question fully? How do you know if your vocabulary and grammar are accurate? So many people get 6 in the Grammar criteria because they can’t use articles or prepositions. A lot of people get Band 6 in Lexical Resource because they use archaic vocabulary that is confusing or, especially, out of context. You see lots on Instagram where “IELTS experts” say “Don’t say ‘very strong’, say ‘forceful’. Then, in the exam, the student writes “The man was forceful” which has a very different meaning. I also wrote a piece here for this website about the 3 main things that I see that stop people getting the score they need in IELTS writing. It is pretty accurate.

Why are there so many IELTS teachers stating different ways to do Task 2?

Yes, this is something I see too but there are many different ways to answer an IELTS question. There is no correct way. However, there are a number of wrong ways and a lot of IELTS ‘experts’ are actually guessing what you need to do while happily taking your money. I see some candidates try to use ‘templates’ that they have memorised. They have this amazing (although often very archaic) vocabulary while they present the memorized parts but it all falls apart when they have to write independently. Some candidates list points. What I mean is that if they have been asked for the advantages and disadvantages of something, they just list them with no development. This caps their Task Achievement at Band 6.0.

The way I recommend, and what upmyielts.com recommends is to present one idea in each body paragraph, extend it, then add a real-life example to it to support it. This will ensure that you are developing your ideas and hitting the Band 7+ criteria for Task Achievement.

There is so much different information on the importance of research and personal examples in Task 2. Is it necessary to put a personal example and a detailed piece of research into the essay in order to score higher than Band 7?

To get into Band 7.0 for Task Achievement, you need to support what you write. Band 6.0 writers will present their ideas but the support will either be very short or not detailed enough. One way to get around this and get into the top Bands is by supporting your ideas with a personal (possibly invented) example or some research. To get into Band 7.0 for Task Achievement, you need to

“present, extend and support your main ideas”

A logical way to do this is by supporting your idea with something like

  • “The University of Sussex recently published a paper saying that……..”

  • “The Times newspaper in the UK recently published an article stating that……”

  • “My nephew was…….+ personal example”

These may be invented examples but IELTS is an English test so no one is ever going to check whether what you write is true or not. With support like this, you will be

1) supporting your ideas (Task Achievement)

2) using a wider range of vocabulary because you will have to be more specific (Lexical Resource)

3) using a wider range of grammar as you will be talking about specific things, probably in the past. For example, you would need to use reported speech after “The University of Sussex recently published a paper saying that……..”

Using personal examples or research covers a lot of the Band 7+ criteria.

How can I develop my vocabulary for IELTS writing?

This depends really. Reading is the best way to develop your vocabulary. Nothing else is as efficient as reading in English. Read something you enjoy about a topic that interests you. While reading, if a word/phrase you don’t know comes up 2 or 3 times, then it may be worth making a note of it. Then check its meaning, and make some sentences using it. It will then become part of your vocabulary.

However, and this is something that I see a lot in IELTS, do not use language that you are not familiar with. People seem to try and learn word lists to increase their vocabulary but all they do is learn a list of words out of context as I said before. English collocation is very rigid. You cannot change one word for another very easily in English. Reading a book presents you with English in context though and it is highly recommended.

I can’t write 250 words in 40 minutes and plan and check my work.

IELTS writing is a real test of writing efficiency and practice is very important here. It is very easy to see the candidates that didn’t plan their writing as they lose coherence at times and add in extra ideas that are undeveloped. So, planning is key to writing efficiently. You also have to remember a couple of things.

1) IELTS does not penalise underlength answers. If you write 240 words, you don’t lose any marks. Years ago, if you wrote under 240 words then you lost Task Achievement marks but that is not the case today.

2) IELTS deems 250 words the minimum needed to write a Band 9 answer. Therefore, it is possible to get into Band 7+ by writing 240 words, for example. What you need to work on is answering the question, supporting your ideas and using what you know accurately.

Is there a template for body paragraphs?

Template? No. Structure? Yes. In your body paragraphs (only write 2), you need to

  1. introduce your idea

  2. extend it by explaining it further

  3. add a real-life (or invented) example to support it

  4. stop yourself from adding more to the paragraph!

If you can do this, then you are hitting the higher bands in the criteria.

How much do IELTS examiners get paid?

Ha, well, it depends on which country you work in. IELTS marking has moved online now so it isn’t paid as much as it was. It used to be very lucrative if you were fast and accurate (100 USD an hour or more). It isn’t so lucrative now but you can do it from your home which is a bonus.

Thank you for all your questions. If you have any more then put them in the comments below or you can send them to us at our Facebook page or through our Contact Us page. You can also email us at admin@upmyielts.com. We will pass them on to an IELTS examiner to answer

We only work with IELTS examiners so if you want your IELTS writing evaluated then you can buy a Full IELTS writing test or a Task 1 or Task 2.

upmyielts is where the examiners work for you and IELTSbooks.org is where you can buy your books.