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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IELTS ACADEMIC LISTENING TIPS for the multiple choice section


  1. Underline these keywords and as the listening progresses look only at these words and not everything else. Focus your attention on them.
  2. Pay attention to:
  3. synonyms for words that are included in the various options or ideas expressed in a different way
  4. dates or numbers and any other information that could be very specific.
  5. Also, BE CAREFUL! A lot of times details are mentioned from ALL the options. You have to be alert to distinguish clearly which one is the correct one!
  6. Don’t spend too much time trying to think of an answer. Just move on to the next one.
  7. If you are unsure about an answer, you can guess. Or you can take advantage of the 10 minutes given to you to transfer your answers to think or rethink about a tricky question.
  8. Good luck!

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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!!

New IELTS Speaking Topics (July 2014, Thessaloniki – Greece)

New IELTS speaking topics (July, 2014) in Greece, as our students who sat the exam  remember them :


Part 1

– What is your full name?

– Can I see your ID?

– Where are you from?

– Do you work or study?

– Is it important to know a language other than your own?

– Which foreign language would you like to learn apart from English?

– Is it good to learn a foreign language in school?

Cue Card 

Describe a famous person outside  your county. Please say :

– Who is this person?
– How do you know him/her?
– What is this person famous for?

– Is he/she popular in your country?
– Is it good to be famous? Why?
– Are there any advantages or disadvantages of  being famous?
– Why do some people like to stay famous as long as they can and others don’t?


New speaking topics (June 2014) in Greece

New speaking topics (June, 2014) in Greece, as our students remember them


Part 1

What’s your name?

Do you work/do you study?

What do you do if you want to relax?

Do you prefer quiet places or noisy ones?

Which one do you prefer the most : reading a book or watching tv?


Part 2

Talk about a film that you have seen recently and liked. Please say :

–       What was the name of that film?

–       What was the plot about?

–       What made it memorable to you? Why?

–       When and where did you watch it?


Part 3

–  Is it better to watch films at home or outside? Why?
– What other forms of entertainment do you like?
– What other things do you think people do in their leisure time?




I am happy to introduce a new section in my blog : Interviews with colleagues experienced in IELTS preparation who are kind enough to share their wisdom with us. The first one I asked to interview is a very dear colleague with a vast experience in exam preparation, Paula McIlwaine.

1464601_10202917132002047_1757426822721004297_nPaula has a BA in Interpreting and Translating (English, German, French) from Heriot – Watt University, Edinburgh. She moved to Greece in 1991. Since then she has taught at various private language schools, preparing students of all levels for various English language exams and also has been an examiner since 2001. For the past 5 years she has been working for a well known private school in Thessaloniki, Greece (Mandoulides School) teaching speaking skills, English composition and literature, IELTS, PSAT and SAT English. She was also responsible for the debating team of the school and now prepares the group discussion team .


An Interview with Paula McIlwaine

Vicky: Paula, thank you for agreeing to talk to me. I am very happy to have you here.Can you introduce yourself and talk to us about your work in education?

Paula : Pleased to be here! I moved to Greece in 1992 and have been teaching English as a second language ever since. I have worked at schools, colleges and small language schools.

Vicky : When did you first start preparing students for the IELTS exam?

Paula : Since 1994

Vicky : Which part of the exam do you consider to be the most challenging one?

Paula : The readings – some are long and candidates need speedy skills.

Vicky : What does it take for someone to pass the exam when the score they have to achieve

is 6+? Is it technique? Is it vocabulary? Is it grammar?

Paula : I think it is a combination of many skills – obviously excellent grammar and a wide range of vocabulary are vital, but also a broader knowledge of many subjects in English helps in the reading/writing and speaking sections.

Vicky : Let us say someone can score a 5 when they start studying for the exam and their target goal  is 6.5. How long does it take, in your opinion, for a student to improve his/her level?

Paula : That very much depends on personal time for study and the number of test papers done, corrected and learnt from.

Vicky : Tell us the 5 most important tips for improving IELTS scores.

Paula : Positive attitude/ methodical work / realistic goals / willingness to learn from mistakes / practice under exam conditions – especially where timing is concerned

Vicky : Can you share with us a technique that you have used successfully?

Paula : In the reading section .. definitely read the subtitle to get a broad idea of the subject of the text and skim read quickly to get a feel for it too before tackling any questions.


Vicky :Thank you so much for your time, Paula!

Paula : Thank you!