25 Most Frequently Asked Questions
I get around 100 questions per day from students through email and during my Facebook Live sessions. Nearly all of them are one of the 25 below, so I decided to put the answers all in one post to make it simple and easy for you.
Even if you haven’t asked a question, you will probably find the answers interesting/useful/surprising.
Quick Tip– My website has the answer to nearly every IELTS question you could ever think of. All you have to do is go to Google and enter ‘IELTS Advantage’ + Your Question and you should be able to find the answer. This will not only save you lots of time but my secretary will also thank you for not sending an email 🙂
The first five questions are really general, so I’ve given very general answers. This will take you longer to find the answer, but these first five questions are so broad, that a specific answer is simply impossible.
Also note that there are no ‘quick tips’, ‘tricks’ or ‘secrets’. Why? There aren’t any ‘tricks’ to the test, just solid advice that you have to take time to learn.
Question # 1- How do I prepare for IELTS?
Question # 2- How can I improve my writing?
Go to the pages below and check out the resources there. There are lots of pages to go through, but it is a huge topic, so does require a huge amount of preparation.
Question # 3- How can I improve my speaking?
Go to the page below:
Question # 4- How can I improve my listening?
Go to the page below:
Question # 5- How can I improve my reading?
Go the page below:
Below I’ll give the answers to the most frequently asked specific questions. Again, if one of my articles answers the question better than a short answer from me, then I’ll give you the link to the article.
Question # 6- Should I write a conclusion for Task 1?
No. A conclusion is a summary of YOUR ideas and your opinion. Task 1 is simply reporting what you see, so there shouldn’t be any of your ideas or your opinion.
Instead of a conclusion you should write an overview.
The reason lots of people get confused about this is some teachers, books and even one British Council website call the overview a ‘conclusion’. It’s not a conclusion, it’s an overview.
Finally, it does not matter where you put the overview paragraph. I teach my students to put it after the introduction, but it is also fine to have it as your final paragraph.
Question # 7- Should I try to use a British or American accent?
Absolutely not! You’ll probably sound ridiculous. There are no extra marks for having a ‘British’ accent. The key is to sound clear and for the examiner to be able to understand what you’re saying.
Click the link below for more information on pronunciation:
Question # 8- Can I use all capital letters in the listening and reading test?
Question # 9- Should I use lots of idioms/phrasal verbs to get a high score?
Click below for a detailed answer on this:
Question # 10- Will using ‘academic’/’high level’ language help me get a high score?
This video will help you with that question:
Question # 11- Do you have an online course?
Yes, I do. It is called IELTS Writing Academy and it is a complete step-by-step guide for people hoping to get a 7 or above.
There is lots of help from me, including one on one Skype lessons and personal writing corrections, so the number of people allowed to join is strictly limited. For this reason, I only open it up to the public 2-3 times per year.
If you would like to join, you should go to this link and add your name to the waiting list. I’ll email you when it opens again.
Question # 12- How do I get a Band 7/8/9 in writing?
The key here is understanding what the examiners want. You should check out the article below that outlines the marking criteria i.e. what you need to do to get one of the higher marks.
If you would like me to show you how to get a 7 or above, see question 11 above.
Question # 13- How can I improve my grammar?
You first need to find out what your common mistakes are. You should get a good English teacher to check your work and tell you what your most common 2-5 mistakes are. For example, you might have very good grammar, but you need help with articles, prepositions and punctuation.
You then need to learn the rules for each of your weak areas. When you feel confident you know the rules, practice. There are hundreds of free sites that will allow you to do this, just use Google to search for them.
Finally, you should produce these grammar points in speaking and writing. When you do this, your grammar will really improve.
If you would like me to check your writing and tell you your common mistakes, go here.
Question # 14- How can I improve my vocabulary?
Below is a 5 step plan to help you increase your range of vocabulary.
- Pick a book, TV show, radio show, podcast or magazine you are interested in. Don’t pick something boring because you will not stick to the plan and you will easily get distracted. People learn more effectively when they enjoy what they are doing.
- Buy a special notebook. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just something that you can write in every day.
- Read or listen to whatever you have chosen and pick out 15 words you don’t understand. Listen or read and try to guess what they mean from the context. (This step is very important because it will help you remember them.) Note the 15 new words down in your notebook.
- Look up the new words in a dictionary. You can do this online. Beside each word note the meaning, an example sentence or two, collocations, synonyms, antonyms and pronunciation. You can also draw pictures; whatever will help you remember the word.
- Review the new words after one week, two weeks and then one month. Also, practice using the new words in a sentence.
If you do this five days a week, after a month you will have nearly 100 new words in your notebook. After 6 months you will have at least 500 new words.
Questions # 15- Can you help correct my writing?
Yes, please click the link below to access my writing correction service.
The next question I normally get asked is ‘Can you correct my writing for free?’
Sorry, no. If I did this for free I would have to correct hundreds of tasks per day and this is just not feasible. If you want free stuff, check out the hundreds of free articles on my site. If you want my time, you will have to pay.
Question # 16- Can I use American spelling?
Yes, but you should be consistent.
Question # 17- What is the difference between IDP and BC?
Here’s a very detailed article I wrote that should answer this question:
Question # 18- What books do you recommend?
All of the information you will ever need is on this site (and it’s free), but if you prefer books, here is a list of my recommendations.
Please don’t steal books by downloading them from the internet. Nobody likes a thief.
Question # 19- My exam is in 2 weeks/one month/3 months/next year how should I prepare?
Question # 20- How can I practice speaking at home?
There are hundreds of different ways you can find people online, you just have to look.
To start with you can join my Facebook group. There are thousands of people there that will be happy to practice speaking with you. Click the link and add yourself.
Question # 21- I don’t know where to start. Please help me.
Not really a question, but a very common request. The best thing to do is start with the guide below:
Question # 22- What’s the difference between UKVI and IELTS?
The lovely people at the British Council will explain this to you in the article below:
Question # 23- Can I use personal pronouns in Task 2?
Yes, but only in limited circumstances. In general, personal pronouns should be avoided because the essay should contain more formal language. However, if you are giving your personal opinion, it is fine to use them. Below is an article that answers this question in much more detail:
Question # 24- Can I give a balanced view for an ‘agree or disagree’ question?
You can, but I don’t recommend it. Giving a balanced view requires a higher level of skill than simply agreeing or disagreeing with one side and you don’t get any extra marks for it, so my advice is to keep it simple.
You also risk turning your ‘agree or disagree’ answer into a ‘discuss both views’ answer and this will cost you marks.
See below for my guide on opinion questions:
Question # 25- Help! My test is in 2 days. What can you do to help me?
Probably my favourite question. I wrote an article for you crazy guys that leave it late. Check it out here.
Bonus question- Can you help me?
Sure! I have a website with hundreds of articles that will help you. It’s called IELTS Advantage. You’re already here.