Monday, April 17, 2017

What’s in the lAnGuAgE test..?

Show off your English is the best answer

IELTS is the Abbreviation of International English Language Testing System. Everyone I met in the last couple of years especially the urban folks either talks or know about this international standard test, while I had no clue until recently when I got myself registered for the test at a friend’s insistence. I had limited time and did not know what to do for sometime but the wisdom of experienced friends and the superior internet connectivity really helped me prepare and perform. Considering the period of panic and darkness I underwent in the start I thought of sharing the little I learnt from this experience.

Test Format:  There are two versions of the Test, 1. Academic Test 2. General Test. Both test tests all of your English skills- Speaking, Listening, Reading, and writing to reflect the real use of English for study, Work and play and its graded uniquely on 9-band scale.  Since I took Academic Test I will focus on Academic test and formats, I am told that if we plan Diploma courses or vocational trainings in English speaking countries we can opt for General Test but for Undergraduates or postgraduates we are ought to take the Academic Test. The main difference is the writing and reading part. Speaking and Listening are same for all but in regard to writing and reading I am told that that its bit easier for the General module.

 Registration: All you need is a Xerox copy of your valid Citizenship card or the Passport for registration along with test fee (around Nu. 11,000-12,000 changes frequently so check it online) the test can be taken anywhere in the world but mind you verify the authenticity of the test centers. In Bhutan there are two authorized centers 1. Institute for management studies (IMS) website: 2. Royal Institute of Management (RIM) website:

Reading: For many Bhutanese this is the toughest task as we lack reading habits. Three long passages with 40 tricky questions in a matter of an hour actually test you from all holes. Remember there’s no time separately allotted for transferring answer so consider doing it immediately and exactly in 1 hour. The reading techniques like skimming and scanning are a must asset here as you don’t have the luxury to go word by word and mind you it checks your comprehensive power and doesn’t ask for your narration in the end. 

For questions like  paragraph headings and information matching just read the first sentence as this is the information sentence and holds all you are searching for. There’s one question that’s not familiar to Bhutanese education system i.e. Yes/No/Not given or True/False/Not given questions. Yes/true means information matches with content in the passage and not your personal view or prior knowledge, No/False denotes the information in passage and question doesn’t match and not your view and finally Not Given means what’s asked in the question is nowhere in  the passage.
You will be marked based on the number of right answers you wrote and there’s no negative markings so, never leave a question blank, at least write something. I did exactly the same here; I couldn’t finish up some questions so I wrote YES for all Yes/No/Not Given questions and later I realized that I have 3 right responses from my game with luck. There’s no harm in trying your luck but only when that’s the way out.

Writing: writing isn’t a tough trial for Bhutanese as ours is a culture where we do relatively more writing than reading and speaking. You need to write two essays in a span of an hour. First is a descriptive essay reporting the information you are presented in a form of a graph/table/numbers. All you need is translate the data into words and make few comparisons, DONOT include your personal views or hypothesis, save it for the second one; just describe what you see in 150-180 words. Second one is either a discussion essay or argumentative essay usually on current affairs or open ended topics on varying subjects in no more than 250-290 words. Make yourself thorough with the essay formats, don’t worry you will find unlimited resource online. Use variety of vocabulary; include personal experiences and creative ideas.

Be expressive and manage the time judiciously, allot no further than 20 minutes for task 1 and 40 minutes for task 2. Use at least 5-10 minutes for planning as it saves a lot of time, when you have plans in logical sequence you can write well and fast saving lot of time and scoring higher. Always keep time for review because when you write against time you trend to make lots of silly mistakes affecting your overall scores greatly.

Speaking: The speaking module last for around 11-14 minutes conducted separately and consisting of an introductory session followed by three parts, they normally ask for our name and checks nationality and cards. The real test begins with audio recording and questioning. In part one they usually ask simple conversational questions like our personal experiences, likes and dislikes for around 2-3 minutes. In my case they asked me about my home town and if I have any plans to live there or move out. Part two is also called as cue card session they usually give us a paper containing a topic and a pencil. They provide us 1 minute to prepare and ask us to talk about the given topic for around 2 minutes followed by few follow-up questions. Part three is the toughest one as it involves discussions on abstract ideas based on cue card or can be anything. All the questions are pre-written and across diverse field and topics, so only luck may give you a topic of your choice. We must have good speaking culture to score well in this area. The scores are based on our fluency and coherence, structure (grammar) and vocabulary (Lexical resource) in our store and pronunciations’. The best way is to listen to the questions carefully and respond logically using variety of vocabulary, avoid repeating the words and use as many synonyms instead and try to correct yourself anytime you make a mistake like sorry/ I mean to say/pardon me etc it carries mark. The only area you can CHEAT is by making excuses while you seize time to think Example: you may say oh! It’s a tough question/I never thought of it/it’s something I need to think hard etc. By saying so you indirectly organize your response simultaneously at the back of your mind. I had a tough time with Doma Thicken tongue so, it’s wise to stay away of this culture of ours.

Listening: This is a task that last for exactly 40 minutes, 30 minutes of listening and 10 minutes of transferring the response to Answer sheet. The test consists of four sections and 40 questions. The first section is the easiest and 4th section the toughest, each candidate is provided with a head phone and a volume controller, before the real test begins examiner plays some recordings to check the head phone and to adjust the volume for oneself. Make sure everything works before real test because once the test begin there’s no consideration. First sections normally is a conversation between two people asking for personal details/filling up a form/ making a reservation etc. second section too is more or less a continuations of the first part or a social conversation usually a monologue or a conversation involving two to three people. The third section usually involves a group of three, four or five people engrossed in an academic discussion, its one tough test for non natives. Finally the last section is a lecture section or continuation of the previous session typically spoken bit faster by a lone speaker. All the answers are in order of the recordings so don’t lose track, in case you do please don’t panic and move on with next one you still have 39 more questions. You can always guess or try your luck as there’s no negative marking. Make predictions and read the next questions every time they give you time to review.

Listen to variety of accent like British, Canadian or Australian; familiarize yourself with different accents by listening to BBC news, Sport commentaries, take online mock tests or the provided materials, my weekends over EPL (English Premier League) helped me get past this with a relative ease.
Some useful links:

FINAL QUESTION: what’s the secret to success in IELTS?
There’s no magic to IELTS success, practice is the only key


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