High Ielts score beats ability in quest for academic results

I thought today I might share an interesting read with you about high IELTS scores. The original article appeared at el.gazetteHigh Ielts score beats ability in quest for academic results

High Ielts score beats ability in quest for academic results

Pre-sessional courses don’t boost academic results for weaker test performers, study finds

By: Federica Tedeschi

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Why do international students do worse than their native-speaker counterparts academically?

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency have shown that they gain proportionately fewer first and upper second-class degrees than UK home students


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Reading section: Prioritizing!

Continuing with the ‘Managing you time effectively’ posts, this time I want to address both the time you should allocate for each task as well as the necessity, sometimes, to prioritize the order in which you complete your answers to increase your final score.

For my first example, I am using IELTS Volume 7, test 3, reading 3.images

There are 3 tasks. The first one is a T/F/NG, the second is a matching exercise and the 3rd one is a general one (multiple choice) asking for a possible title for the reading text. What should your strategy be?

  • Prioritize your answers! We know that, generally speaking, the questions follow the ‘flow’ of the text (this is not always true, especially in the more recent texts but it is generally true – I will address this issue on a different post). If you look at this text, you will see that it takes up 2 pages and it is followed by two long tasks and one last task which is a general question. The T/F/NG task probably covers the first page and the second task covers the second page. The T/F/NG task generally requires some more time because you need to find ‘keywords’, scan the text to locate them and then spend a bit more time to compare the statements with what you have found in the text. In this case, if you read through the 2 tasks you can notice that the 2nd one is definitely easier because it asks for 6 ‘resolutions’. If you then look at the 2nd page, you will find that the page begins with a reference to these 6 resolutions. If you start with this task, you are going to have more chances of answering it quite fast because it is easy to locate the information. So, there you go! The next thing to do would be to decide about your time.
  • Strategically allocate your time: If the questions are divided in this way, then it is easy to decide how much to spend on each of them. You have about 20’ for all of them and 2 tasks with an equal number of questions. So, you should spend less than 10’ on the second one since it seems easier and this will give you more time for the first one.

The last one is a question you can answer after you reflect back on the whole text, so it shouldn’t take you more than a minute to do so. Time yourself, especially when you practice at home!!

What happens if it is not that easy though? How can we make decisions about prioritizing the tasks we answer to achieve the best possible score?

If you look, for example, at Reading 2, again in test 3, same volume, you may have to make different choices. What do I mean? Here, you have to deal with the heading section in the beginning, two more tasks with tables and a general question in the end. The Headings Section is generally considered  a difficult one. So, how are you going to prioritize which one to start with and how much time to dedicate to each? My suggestions would be:

  • Decide where you will not spend time: Start with the Headings Sections because it will give you the possibility to read the text anyway. Yet, because this section tends to be more difficult, chances are that, you are going to miss a few headings anyway (unless your knowledge level is high already). In total, there are 6. The rest of the tasks count for 7 more points. Also, the other tasks offer you more possibilities to track down the correct answers easier. Why? Questions 20 and 21 in the table mention numbers, which makes it easier for you to scan the text and find them. Also, questions 22-25 mention native American names (unusual names and therefore they stand out in a text), which again makes your search easier. The last question refers back to the whole text, so, it should not take up a lot of time to answer.
  • Time yourself : So, how much time should you dedicate on each task? If you are aiming at 6-6.5 overall for the whole Reading section, I would advise you not to spend more than 10’ in the Heading Section. Try to find as many headings as possible but my guess is that, aiming for a 6-6.5, would not give you more than 3-4 correct answers. So, after these 10’, you should make sure you are already on the next tasks because these ones can ensure you a better score! So, read the Headings section, try to match the headings, but if it seems too difficult, just move on!

Concluding, if we needed to summarize our steps, we would have to say that, depending on the texts that we have in front of us, we need to:

  1. Have a good look at all the tasks we have to complete,
  2. Decide which ones will bring us a higher score in total (because of their easiness to trace when scanning your text – clear keywords, for example)
  3. Make sure you do not spend more time than you should on a task that looks already difficult. Spend your time wisely!
  4. And, of course, do not forget to combine your search between the tasks, whenever this is possible, of course!

Good luck!!

How to manage your time effectively when dealing with the IELTS Reading section

IELTS is a graded test. This is the main reason why the time to complete the reading tasks seems limited, a lot of times, at least to some students who aim to achieve a score between 5 and 6/6.5. Effective time management is of primary importance, therefore, in this particular exam. So, how can we help learners develop the right techniques?


One of these is to find ways to combine  our search for information for all or  most  of the reading tasks right from the beginning.  To the degree, of course, that  this is  possible. Reading text 1 in test 1 of the book Cambridge IELTS 8 (Official  Examination Papers from University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations) is ideal  to illustrate exactly this. The title of the reading passage is “A Chronicle of  timekeeping’.


Before starting to read the text, it is advisable to look at all the tasks first. Always!  We need to make sure we know the types of tasks that each time we are required to answer. DON’T start by reading thecambridge-ielts-8-self-study-pack-students-book-with-answers-and-audio-c-ds-2-17-728 text first! In this particular text, following it are 3 tasks : the first one asks students to identify the paragraphs that contain information similar to the specific statements that follow. The second asks students to match the statements with specific nationalities. Finally, the third one is a flow chart. So, what are the techniques we can apply which can save us time? In short, while we are scanning our text for task 1, we can also do part of the search we need to do for the other 2 tasks and save time, in this way.



cambridge-ielts-8-self-study-pack-students-book-with-answers-and-audio-c-ds-2-19-728In the first task,for example,  we need to read each statement, circle the key words and then scan each paragraph to locate the relevant information. While we are doing this, we might as well ‘partly’ search for the information we also need for task 2 and then also for task 3. What do I mean? Questions 5-8 (task 2)  involve matching the nationalities in the box with each event. So, a suggestion is that, while scanning the text for the 1st task, we can save time by circling the names of the nationalities each time we locate them in the text. Just the names of nationalities! This alone can save us about 1-2 minutes which we can use to answer one more question.  If we need roughly 20’ for each text, you can imagine what difference these 1-2’ can make!


Moving on to the 3rd one, a flowchart, we need to remember 2 facts about this type of exercise. cambridge-ielts-8-self-study-pack-students-book-with-answers-and-audio-c-ds-2-20-728Flowcharts always have headings which can help us identify easily the relevant information in the text. The heading includes a date, a number and/or a name which makes our search even easier. The 2nd fact is that the information related to the flowchart can always be found in a specific place in the text, in one or two paragraphs, usually one after the other, and not sparsely in the text. Plus, since this is the 3rd task, the information we are looking for is probably around the end of the whole text. So, it’s rather concentrated.

So, summarising :

  1. First, we look at all the tasks and try to find ways of combining our search for all our 2-3 tasks simultaneously
  2. While scanning the text for locating the answers to task 1 , we can also scan the text and circle the nationalities for task 2
  3. At the same time, using keywords from the heading of task 3, we try to locate which paragraphs contain the information we will need for the flowchart completion
  4. After these steps, we can focus on each task separately

We always need to make the best use of our time (approximately 20’ for each text). Deciding right from the beginning the ways in which we can combine our search for all tasks involved can save us valuable time which can help us in the end to answer 1-2 more questions that we wouldn’t have time to answer otherwise. Yet, we also need to bear in mind this is not possible with ALL the reading texts. Not only is the process not the same with all texts, but also it is not always possible nor easy to combine our search. Still, we should always try to find ways to organise our time wisely!

My top teaching tip for teaching Ielts (academic English) by Joanna Malefaki


10470644_10152586069087425_398996853_n   It is a great pleasure that Joanna Malefaki, a dear colleague, accepted to write a guest blog post for my IELTS blog. I am sure that everybody will enjoy it. Thank you, Joanna, so much!!!

My top teaching tip for teaching Ielts (academic English).

First of all let me say, “Thank you Vicky, for asking me to be a guest blogger on your blog. It is my pleasure and I am honored! “ This is so cool : )

Now, let’s get down to business. Why am I here? Ielts for academic purposes of course! But first, a short intro. I have actually taught Ielts academic English classes several times and the thing I like most about these classes is the purpose my learners are taking the lessons. They are preparing for their studies somewhere abroad and I am part of this process. So, apart from being their teacher, the person helping them to pass the Ielts academic test, I also hear about their worries, their dreams, experience their enthusiasm.

My Top tip

One of the first things I tell my students taking the Ielts academic is to get hold of the Academic Word List (AWL). Why? Well, for many reasons.

  • The words (and derivatives) in this list are the words that are most frequently found in academic texts, so knowing what they mean is a good starting preparation point for all the components of the tests. The reading texts in the Ielts academic for example, are quite dense, so knowing some ‘popular’ academic words will help them at least with some of their unknown words.
  • Using some words from the AWL in their writing is another good idea. The vocabulary in their essays becomes richer which gives them more points. They can also use more complex structures whilst using the derivatives on the list.
  • Lots of words are synonymous, so they have the opportunity to avoid repetitions as well.
  • It covers words from different disciplines and does not focus on technical terms, so it is useful for ALL learners.

My go to  resource for the AWL

The website I use the most is Uefap (http://www.uefap.com/materials/matfram.htm)

My learners can find loads of reading, listening and vocabulary tasks to work on during their free time and it is great for self-study because they have access to the answers online. It is a great website and my students can get a lot out of it.

Another advantage of the AWL is that I actually also prepare my learners for their uni studies, so it is actually a win-win situation.

Well, since they are preparing for university studies and they will need to know what these words mean and how to use them, I am kinda preparing them for their uni studies as well, so it actually a win-win.


My name is Joanna Malefaki and I live in Crete, Greece. I spent my childhood in Sydney and came to Greece when I was in my teens. I studied the English language at the University of Athens and hold a M.Ed in Tesol. I have almost finished the Cambridge Delta as well. Apart from teaching, my other passion is blogging which I really enjoy : ). If you want to read some of my posts, you can find them here (http://myeltrambles.blogspot.gr/).

Thanks for hosting my post Vicky!!!



1. Familiarise with the test, the various sections and the different techniques each of them requires to respond successfully. A lot of candidates commit mistakes because they are not very familiar with the test before they sit the exam.

2. Order of difficulty. Usually, the first 2 readings are easier than the last one. So, start with these two since it is quite probable that these sections will be easier to answer and will give you more marks.

3. All of the answers are within the text. If you cannot find an answer, this is probably because you are looking in the wrong place! Look somewhere else in the text. Do not make the mistake of trying to come up with your own answers! Look for them in the text.

4. Read the instructions carefully because a common mistake is that instructions are sometimes ignored! For example : When you are given the TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN questions, a common mistake could be to write YES/NO instead of TRUE/FALSE, even though the instructions are very clear. Try not to rush and read the instructions carefully! Also, in the Fill In The Blanks – Summary section, you have to complete the gaps. A frequent mistake is writing more words when the instructions ask to write only 1, 2 or maximum 3 words. In the same section, also, check your Grammar, before you write your answer. Do not write a plural value when grammatically singular value is needed and vice versa.

5. Spelling is another common problem. Always try to manage your time efficiently and allow 2-3 minutes in the end to review your answers. This might save you from any unnecessary spelling errors.

6. Plan your time wisely! Never spend too much on one single question. In fact, once you realise that you need more time, perhaps you should continue with the next question. A difficult question probably requires more attention and, therefore, time. So, before you realise it, you might have wasted more time than you could afford to answer the easy (for you) questions.

7. Remember that there is no extra time for transferring of answers. You have 60 minutes to answer the Reading section. You must make time to copy the answers from the test booklet to the answer sheet or write directly on the answer sheet.

Good luck!