Category Archives: IELTS Tips

No more spelling mistakes

Spellings are very important in the IELTS exams. Here are my TOP 5 ways of checking your spellings.

1. Read backwards

When we read a text, we read from left to right and top to bottom. However, we almost always read to understand (or extract meaning) from the text. Therefore, our brains are programmed to focus on meaning when we read from left to right, top to bottom. When you’re checking the text for spelling errors, read the text backwards i.e. bottom to top, right to left. Let’s take an example. Look at the text below. Read it backwards, starting with the last word  “future”. Continue reading

IELTS Writing Task 2: Advantages / disadvantages

When asked to discuss advantages and disadvantages (or benefits and drawbacks) in IELTS Writing Task 2, follow the following structure to organize your essays:

You can use this four-paragraph framework with most Task 2 essays. From this list of possible question wordings, can you choose which other questions you can use this structure with?

Write your answers in the comments below.

Continue reading

Improve your IELTS Writing: Use a thesaurus

Ditch the dictionary. Use a thesaurus.

Thesau-what? A thesaurus is a dictionary of synonyms.

One of the most important tips for IELTS Writing is ‘don’t repeat the same words, use synonyms instead’. But even native speakers find it hard to come up with just the right synonyms to use while writing. Enter the thesaurus.

I am a literature major, and I love writing. And so do most of my friends. And we love the thesaurus. To be a good writer, and not just for the IELTS, it’s important to be able to describe things using different words so that your writing doesn’t sound boring. Consider the following Task 2 question and the first paragraph of a sample answer:


In the last 20 years there have been significant developments in the field of information technology (IT), for example the World Wide Web and communication by email. However, future developments in IT are likely to have more negative effects than positive.

To what extent do you agree or disagree. Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own experience or knowledge. You should write at least 250 words.

Continue reading

Read FT, NY Times news articles for free!

A lot of permium websites have started charging for content. Most offer up to ten articles for free every month, after which one must subscribe to the site to continue reading articles. However, there is a way of reading these premium articles for free. And here’s how:

1. Go to your favorite news website: NY Times, FT, or Economist.

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 13.00.21 Continue reading

How to answer IELTS Speaking Part 2 questions

What happens in the IELTS Speaking Part 2?

In Part 2, the examiner gives you a cue card with written questions.
You have one minute to think about your answer. You can make notes on paper.
Then you have up to two minutes to speak and answer all the questions on your cue card.
At the end, the examiner will ask you one or two follow-up questions on the same topic.

What should I do first?

Read the cue card very carefully, making a mental note of the main questions you have to answer.

How can I use the one-minute thinking time effectively? Continue reading

IELTS Study Tips

A lot of students leave the exam hall having answered less than half the questions. Apart from speaking and writing exams, there is room for making educated guesses.


In the Reading section, give yourself 2-3 minutes at the end to guess answers for all the questions you haven’t found answers to. In the Listening section, you have ten minutes at the end to transfer your answers to the answer sheet. After you have transfered all your answers, fill in any blanks with logical guesses.



IELTS Study Tips

A very large percentage of students don’t read the question carefully. Therefore, they either don’t understand what the examiner wants or only answer half the question.


As you’re reading the question, underline or circle the keywords so you don’t miss anything. Don’t worry about fancy, colorful highlighters – you will only be wasting time switching from pencil to highlighter and back again.



Which is better – An IELTS course or Self-study?

A lot of students ask me this question. Is it better to study at home or join an IELTS course at a local language school.

I’m not going to mince words here and say it depends on a lot of factors. The bottomline is that it is always better to take a course. And here’s why I strongly believe this is the best way to succeed at IELTS:

1. You get a real, live teacher 2-3 times a week who can answer all your questions.

2. Joining a group of people who have the same goal as you is more motivating than studying on your own. Continue reading

IELTS Study Plan: Some Ideas

Your IELTS study plan will depend on several criteria:

1. Your motivation

This is definitely the most crucial of all criteria. Ask yourself why you want / need to take the IELTS. If you can find a good reason, then no amount of distractions will stop you from achieving your aim (hopefully :) )

2. The right materials

There is a lot of information on the internet that can help you prepare for the IELTS exam. But not all of it is useful information. I decided to create this website because I didn’t want my students to waste time trying to find one nugget of useful information in the sea of data available on the web. But this is not the only website I recommend. See my blogroll for other very useful IELTS related websites. Once you’ve found the right materials, it’s time to assemble a plan. Continue reading

IELTS Listening – Get the most out of Ted Ed

In an earlier post, I talked about watching Ted Ed videos to improve your listening skills and boost your vocabulary at the same time. I’ll try to post an interesting Ted Ed video every week – something related to the IELTS topic list.

To get the most out of these videos, I recommend the following:

1. Go to

2. In the top right corner, you will see a Register button. Click on this and register for the website. You don’t have to do this, but it’s useful to log in and save your favorite videos and answers on the site for future reference. Note that you can use your facebook account to login.

3. Choose a video you want to watch. I’ll be posting a video every week which will be useful from the IELTS point of view.

4. Before you start watching the video, click on ‘Think” in the right margin next to the video. Continue reading

IELTS – What should you read?

There’s a LOT of material on the internet related to IELTS and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in a maze of websites.

For an exam such as the IELTS, it is important for students to read on a variety of topics. However, this does not necessarily mean reading everything on the internet. I advise my students to bookmark two or three websites and visit them everyday. I recommend bookmarking:

1. The Economist: This news site is often a source of texts used in IELTS Reading exams. A lot of the topics you will come across are common topics for IELTS Speaking Part 3 and IELTS Writing Part 2. Even if you read only one news article a day, spend time underlining / highlighting useful vocabulary, looking up its meaning and usage (See how to learn IELTS vocabulary). Continue reading

IELTS – What should you listen to?

The IELTS Listening exam is the biggest enemy for many students. Students complain that they only get to listen to the recording once, or the various accents used are different from their teacher’s accent, or the speakers speak too fast, or that the vocabulary used in the IELTS exams is too difficult.

Really, the only way to develop your listening skills is to think about how you listen in real life, in your language.

  • Do you listen to anything more than once? How many times do your friends or family repeat the same conversation for you? How many times do you listen to a dialogue on TV? Only once. 
  • Do you listen to a variety of acccents? Accents differ not just from country to country but from region to region in every country. Vietnamese spoken in Saigon is different from Vietnamese spoken in Hanoi. Arabic spoken in Jeddah is slightly different from Arabic spoken in Riyadh. Russian in Moscow is different from that spoken in St. Petersburg. Even the English spoken in London is different from that in Scotland.
  • Do you listen to varying speeds of speech? Do your friends speaking in a cafe speak at the same speed as a news reader on TV?
  • Do you listen to people using different kinds of vocabulary? Taking the above example again, do friends talking about the weather use the same words as a weatherman on TV?

Continue reading

IELTS band scores decoded

So you know that at the end of two weeks of hand-wringing, IELTS will send you your results. And on this piece of magic parchment will be a number – hopefully somewhere between 6 and 9 – that will determine whether or not you can study at the university of your dreams.

Here are the band descriptors that detail everything you need to know about these mysterious scores. If you have any questions, ask away in the comments below. Click the image to make it larger.

Continue reading

Spelling in IELTS

Too many students lose marks in the Reading, Listening, and Writing sections because of poor spelling. A few misspelled words can mean the difference between 6.5 and 7. And if you are targeting a band score higher than 7, I highly recommend you work on your spellings.

Here’s what I tell my students:

1. Learn the spellings: Note down IELTS-related vocabulary in vocabulary notebook that allows you to focus on spelling. Here’s a great spelling saver I usually give my students. Continue reading