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Description of Test

  1. Listening: This section is composed of four subsections. The purpose of listening is to test your listening ability by playing various recordings; each describes different items or situations, such as directions. You will be required to fill in the blank by getting the answer from the recordings.
  1. Reading Comprehension: This section is composed of three passages. The purpose of reading comprehension is to test your reading ability and understanding of text. You will be required to answer a variety of questions and question types.
  1. Writing Section: This section is composed of two writing tasks. In academic IELTS, the first is a graph, chart, table or process. The type is at random and each has a different approach. You will be required to write a report in 150 words describing and summarizing the content of the task. The second task is an essay and must be written in an essay format. The purpose of writing is to test your ability to fluently craft words to display or explain different writing techniques and to answer a question thoroughly, while understanding the text.
  1. Speaking Section: This section is the final section and is tested separately. In this section, you will have a physical examiner who will ask you questions from three parts. The first part is a dialogue. The second is a cue card that requires you to prepare and speak solo for over a minute. And the third is a follow up to part two. Here you will do another dialogue.

Structure of Listening Section

There are four sections on the listening test. Each section has 10 questions, making a total of 40 questions. The sections becomes progressively harder. The answers to the questions come in the same order as the information on the recording. The whole test lasts about 30 minutes, including the instructions, your reading and listening time, and the time allowed for transferring your answers from the questions paper to an answer sheet. The instructions are included on the recording.


  1. Names and numbers are repeated. Be careful of this trap. The test is designed to trip you up by repeating the different numbers and names.
  2. Some letters and word sounds can be used to trap you. Such as “Black Friars” the sound “r” is “ah”. Be careful of this trap.
  3. Be careful not to confuse numbers & letters.
  4. Names have capital letters.
  5. You are given 30 minutes to answer in booklet and 10 minutes to transfer answers to sheet.

Keys to Success

  1. Focus on the:
  • Lecture
  • Two or more people in dialogue
  • Phone conversation
  1. Answer as you listen. Don’t wait.
  2. Underline Keywords.
  3. When it gives you 30 seconds to check. Don’t check. Go on to the next section. Checking Keywords.
  4. Don’t stress! 3 mistakes doesn’t mean 3 lost points. 3 mistakes equals 1pt.
  5. You will be allowed approximately 30 seconds to study the questions before the test begins. Use this time to check what types of answers are needed (for example, dates, times, names, money, etc.)
  6. Pay special attention to first question.

 Format of Listening

  1. Section 1
    1. This is a conversation between two speakers on an everyday, social topic. This means that you listen to two people talking to each other about arranging a trip, organizing an event, etc. The focus is on listening for specific factual information.
  2. Section 2
    1. This is a talk by one speaker on a general topic. This means that you listen to one person giving information about a public event, a service provided, etc. The focus is on listening for specific factual information.
  3. Section 3
    1. This is a discussion between two to four speakers on a topic related to ‘academic needs’. This means that you listen to up to four people talking to each other about an assignment for a course, an academic subject in a seminar, etc. The focus is on listening for specific factual information, attitudes and speakers’ opinions.
  4. Section 4
    1. This is a lecture or talk by one speaker on an academic or study-related topic. This means that you listen to a person giving a lecture, a talk, etc. The focus is on listening for main ideas, specific factual information, attitude and speakers’ opinions.

 Structure of Reading Comprehension

There are 3 passages/sections on the reading test. There is a total of 40 questions each section has different question types. The whole test lasts about 60 minutes, including the instructions, your reading and answering questions. Each passage has 20 minutes to read and answer. The instructions are included before the passage.


  1. The main trap in reading is to fall prey to being overwhelmed by the amount of detail and subject matter of the text.

 Keys to Success

  1. Skimming: This is reading quickly by using a sweeping motion with your eyes. This type of reading is not about trying to locate any particular thing or understanding detail. It is about getting the gist of the passage.
  2. Scanning: This is searching through the text at a fast rate—searching for key words.
  3. Close Read: This is reading a sentence, section, or paragraph closely and being certain of the answer.
  4. Understanding key words & phrases: This is perhaps the most important technique to use correctly. Spotting key words from the questions and then locating them in the passage can lead you to the correct answer.

 Strategies for Question types

Yes, No, or Not Given Questions

  1. How to answer
    • Step 1: Deal with Yes versus Not Yes
    • Step 2: If Not Yes, deal with No versus Not Given
  1. Details Approach

  • Read the question carefully and find its key “words” or “phrases.”
  • Locate the key “words” or “phrases” in the passage. Read a sentence before and up to two sentences after where the keys are located and pay attention to transitional words and phrases (for example, however, yet, furthermore…)
  • Return to the question and decide between Yes or Not Yes. If “Yes” move on to the next question. If “Not Yes:”
  • Return to where the keys are located and read again; be on the lookout for contrast transitions (however, but, on the other hand, yet…” If you run into one of them, chances are you are dealing with a “No.”
  • Go back to the question and decide between “No” and “Not Given”

Example Question

Do the following statements reflect the claims of the writer in the reading passage?

YES                             if the statement reflects the claims of the writer

NO                              if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer

NOT GIVEN              if is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this 

4    Thirty per cent of deaths in the United States are caused by smoking-related diseases.   

Look at the key words I highlighted in yellow. These are the words I’m going to SCAN for in the passage. Numbers are especially quick and easy to scan for. Here is the paragraph I found the words I scanned for.

In addition to being responsible for more than 85 per cent of lung cancers, smoking is associated with cancers of, amongst others, the mouth, stomach and kidneys, and is thought to cause about 14 per cent of leukemia and cervical cancers. In 1990, smoking caused more than 84,000 deaths, mainly resulting from such problems as pneumonia, bronchitis and influenza. Smoking, it is believed, is responsible for 30 per cent of all deaths from cancer and clearly represents the most important preventable cause of cancer in countries like the United States today.

First thing, I see “30 per cent”. Notice the yellow highlights the key words – “is responsible” indicates “causes” and we’ve got “30 per cent”. However, the text highlighted in red shows that this percentage is for all deaths from cancer, not “deaths in the United States” as written in question #4. By reading this part carefully, you would see that this statement does not match the writer’s view and therefore you choose the correct answer of “NO”.

  1. List of Headings Questions 
  1. Detail Approach on How to Answer
  • Read the first and the last sentences of a given paragraph only. (We assume that we are dealing with a standard paragraph—4 to 6 short sentences)
    1. Exception 1: Read the entire paragraph if you are dealing with a short paragraph, 3 or fewer sentences.
    2. Exception 2: Read the first two, a sentence in the middle (especially one that is preceded by a contrast or a result transition) and read the last sentence if you are dealing with a long paragraph, 7 or more sentences.
  • Go through your heading list and narrow down to 2-4 potential answer choices AKA “the contenders,” the fewer the better. NOTE: Write DOWN the contenders on a piece of paper. Do NOT rely on your memory only!
  • Read the entire paragraph and focus more on the 1st and last sentences of the paragraph.
  • Go back to “the contenders” and pick the best one.
  • Physically cross this choice out!

Example Question

Questions 1-4. Choose the correct heading for sections A-D and F from the list of headings below. Write the correct number i-ix in boxes 1-4 on your answer sheet.

IThe probable effects of the new international trade agreement
IIThe environmental impact of modern farming
IIIFarming and soil erosion
IVThe effects of government policy in rich countries
VGovernments and management of the environment
VIThe effects of government policy in poor countries
VIIFarming and food output
VIIIThe effects of government policy on food output
IXThe new prospects for world trade
1Paragraph A
2Paragraph B
3Paragraph C
4Paragraph D

Example of Solving:

  1. For question 1, decide between contenders and write down potential answers.
  2. Question 1 Paragraph A is possible iv or ix
  3. Review paragraph A determine the answer
  4. Cross out the choice used.

Structure of Writing Section

IELTS Writing Test lasts for 60 minutes. You will need to write two different tasks, each varies by IELTS General or Academic. Some texts will require one of the following variations: graph, description, process, chart, table, report, discussion, argument, or statement.

IELTS Writing Task 1

In the first part, you are given a task based on some graphic or pictorial information. You are expected to write a descriptive report of at least 150 words on the information provided.

IELTS Writing Task 2

The second task is much more demanding. You are expected to produce a written argument on a given topic and to organize your answer clearly, given some examples to support your points. You will have to write at least 250 words and, as Task 2 is longer than 1, you are advised to spend approximately 40 minutes on this task and 20 minutes on the first one.

IELTS General Writing
If you are planning to take the general test the writing task is different. You are allowed one hour to complete two tasks, of 150 and 250 words, as in the academic test. However, Task 1 is always a letter, while Task 2 is an essay based on a given topic.

Example of Writing Task #1 Process of building a Water Clock



*This example is taken from Thompson IELTS Test 4 pg. 128.

Example Essay for Water Clock Process Task

The process for building a water clock is pretty straightforward. All it takes is a firm stand with two plastic bottles taped to it. The primary purpose of the stand is to keep the balance of the plastic bottles. As soon as the initial step is taken (the bottles taped to the stand), the whole set should be placed under a water faucet, but just before opening the tap, we should place a hole in the bottom of the upper bottle, while cutting off the whole neck of the lower one. The water faucet is opened as soon as we cover the hole at the bottom of the plastic placed on the top so that water fills the bottle to overflow through a straw glued onto the opposite end of the bottle. Next, the moment water begins to overflow, we should let it drip into the second bottle, measuring it on the level-per-minute standard. This is perhaps the utmost important step in building our easy-to-build water clock. Upon the termination of the step, the second bottle is emptied and the process is repeated to monitor timings of different activities.

Graph, Tables, and Charts Terms & Strategy Descriptions

  • It remains steady: when the line doesn’t change: It remain static trough: to reach a peak, to reach
  • The apex: to reach the highest point erratic movement: Unpredictable movement
  • A gradual rise:
  • A gradual decline
  • The line falls precipitously.
  • Precipitous mountain trails of the Rocky Mountains are covered by a pristine blanket of snow at all times.
  • To plummet, to plunge, to take a plunge, to take a plummet: to take a precipitous fall.
  • To level off= to come back to normal and stay stable
  • A sharp recovery: dramatic comeback
  • After a dramatic decline, it faces a sharp recovery and levels off to the end of the period.
  • A plateau: a crest= a high point
  • To take a plunge; to plunge: to plummet: to take a precipitous fall=to fall sharply: to crash (there is usually no come back)
  • To soar
  • Precede
  • Preceded by years of negligence, their cat died of malnutrition.
  • Convergence: Come together to one point
  • Divergence: get away from the point
  • Spasmodic: Sporadic: Fitful: with unplanned on and off periods
  • Relentless: ceaseless: perpetuating: never-ending: fleeting, ephemeral, transient, short-lived
  • My employment at JP Morgan was only ephemeral. I was fired the moment I was late to work
  • After years of their sporadic relationship, Victor and Tamara broke up permanently.


After a short (insignificant, slight) decline, the graph remains steady and then it picks back up, reaching its apex at (Give the figure)

  • Plunge: Drops suddenly
  • Hit the bottom
  • Reach the apex
  • Go up a little
  • Go down slightly


  • Another drawback with Milankovich theory is the sudden rise in temperature that preceded the solar radiation that was supposed to cause it. 
  • The best things and the worst things about living in London in a three year period people’s concern regarding some issues (litter, air quality, and noise).

Example #1 of Chart Writing Task


*Example taken from Thompson IELTS Test 5 pg. 148.

The charts represent issues of concern and things that Londoners like about inhabiting the city in a three year period, while the graph shows the responses of Londoners to a survey regarding the major problems of living in the city—noise, air quality, and pollution in the aforementioned period.

The charts represent results of a survey conducted on teachers in U.K. schools in which they responded to questions regarding reasons why their students matriculate to courses in foreign languages. However, the second chart shows the recent changes in people’s reasons for learning.

A glimpse over the first graph illustrates that there is an overall increase in the trend of speed camera fines starting the initiation of the plan till finally reaching the apex at the end of the period, while the trend of the fatalities seems rather flat in spite of occasional minor changes.

Example #2 of Chart Writing Task


*Example taken from Thompson IELTS Test 3 pg. 108.

British traffic and road safety authorities came up with the method of introducing speed cameras in order to monitor drivers’ speed, hoping to put an end to the drastic incline in road accident casualties. Looking at the graphs closer we see an eight fold increase in the fines collected of speedy drivers through installation of speed cameras over the eight year period. However, ironically, we see little changes in the number of fatalities in this period, promoting 60% of respondents to a survey believe that the implementation of the plan is useless, while 71% of the same people claim that the implementation is to increase income for the central government. The respondents’ answers varied greatly regarding this issue but with majority of them describing dissatisfaction with the aforementioned plan. We see only less than one third of people in the study supporting the move as a feasible (practical, pragmatic, realistic) method to thwart (impede, inhibit, prevent) road accidents, with merely 26% claiming that the plan’s main purpose is road safety as well as comfort of the citizenry. Besides, over half the people in the study assert that there should be fewer cameras on roads, with 19% and 17% believing that the cameras are too few and there are about right, respectively (in that order). In a nutshell, based on facts and figures in the graphs and the tables, one can easily arrive at the conclusion that the cameras alone didn’t seriously affect the trend. This may leave open the possibility that other factors, including but not restricted to demographic shifts and population trends, have had a role to play.

Format of Speaking Section

IELTS Speaking section is given separate from the rest of the exam. You will have an examiner face-to-face. The examiner will ask a series of questions, gathered from familiar topics. The section is broken down into 3 parts.

Speaking Parts

  1. Part 1 is a dialogue, where the examiner will ask you questions and you will not be able to see them. It is in the form of a conversation.
  1. Part 2 is a monologue that is presented to you as a cue card. You will be given one minute to prepare for the question. Then you will have to speak for 1-2 minutes.
  1. Part 3 is a follow up to Part 2 and is also a dialogue that you will not be able to see. The examiner will ask them the same as Part 1.

Example Question

Part 2: Cue Card

Describe a well-known person you like or admire.

You should say:

Who this person is?

What this person has done?

Why this person is well-known?

And explain why you admire this person.

Strategies for Speaking

  1. Learn new vocabulary.
  2. Learn to use effective transitions.
  3. Implement Feedback to Learn from Mistakes.
  4. Practice.

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