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(Article) Are you studying for your IELTS exam online? Increase your productivity with these FREE online tools!

Posted on April 16, 2012 by

Thank you to those of you who came out last night to chat with Ben (of http://www.ieltspodcast.com) and I about your IELTS exam questions.  I think we all walked away from the evening with several helpful insights into how to prepare for the exam.  If you missed the session, you can download a PDF copy of the entire conversation by clicking here.

After I logged out and was getting ready for bed (it was about 11 pm here in Shanghai at the time), I was struck by a realization: we had spent almost two hours talking about how to prepare for the IELTS exam and NO ONE mentioned using a textbook!  I think it is safe to say that electronic media make up the core of any modern IELTS exam student’s study resources.

So in this article, I want to summarize and recap some of the resources that were shared over the course of our evening together.  I hope they turn out to be helpful to you and that you make them a part of your daily IELTS routine.  I’ll break this article up by exam section to make it a little more organized:

Reading

Ben’s advice was to learn to speed read, and he supplied a link you can use to help train yourself how to do this.  Zap Reader is a program that takes any text and presents it to you word-by-word at a speed that you can adjust (by WPM, or ‘words per minute’).  Using this tool, you can train yourself to read faster.  I suggest you find a sample IELTS reading on the Internet, stick it into Zap Reader and see how much of it you can understand at varying speeds.  Perhaps consider trying to do two articles a day for the next few weeks and monitor how your reading speed improves (please leave a comment to tell us by what degree your reading speed has developed).

For students who are at around a reading band 5 or lower, you may be interested to try the reading exercises available online from Pearson Longman (http://www.pearsonlongman.com/ae/marketing/sfesl/practicereading.html).  There are several graded articles that provide you with online multiple choice questions to test your comprehension.  For those of you higher than band 5, try the exercises available at ExamEnglish.com (http://www.examenglish.com/FCE/f​ce_reading.htm) for quick feedback on your comprehension level.

Most students wanted to know the answer to the question, ‘What strategy should I follow for True/False/Not Given question types?’  Ben and I concluded that if this is an area you are having difficulty with on the exam, it is most likely that you need to bolster your lexical resources.  It is important to remember that question vocabulary often differs from the vocabulary you see in the passage.  This tricks you into choosing ‘Not Given’ when in fact the answer is given, but worded in a manner you are not familiar with.

Listening

Last night, Ben stated that he feels people learn to listen best when they listen to something they enjoy, and I completely agree.  So to strengthen your listening, consider listening to English podcasts on topics you find stimulating.  Personally, I like to listen to podcasts on the following topics (perhaps these are of interest to you, too):

A History of the World in 100 Objects – I personally really enjoy listening to this podcast, and I guarantee it will introduce you to a plethora of new vocabulary.

Russian Rulers History Podcast – I find this show very interesting.  The host has an American accent (which may not be the most helpful accent for you to study), but I think you will still pick up on a wide variety of English colloquialisms and academic vocabulary.

BBC World Update Daily Commute – This podcast is a digested version of world news that streams daily to your iTunes.  Most episodes are only thirty minutes long and perfect for your trip to work in the morning.

If you are unfamiliar with podcasts or how to use them, you need to download iTunes and read this guide.  As Ben pointed out, search for podcasts on topics you love: sports, economic news, history, the arts, or whatever you fancy.  Doing this will make the daily chore of practicing IELTS listening much more enjoyable.

When you are ready to try some real listenings in the format you will see on the exam, engage the BBC’s Learn English section (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservic​e/learningenglish/).

Writing

During the evening, we talked a bit about the good and bad sides of memorizing cohesive phrases.  Ben and I agreed that memorizing phrases is alright in the beginning, but you’ve got to practice using these phrases over and over again until they become natural sounding.

What do I mean by ‘cohesive phrases’?

I am talking about those little parts of a language that link one idea to another idea.  Some examples of cohesive phrases include:

It is obvious from this that… / On the other hand… / As is apparent… / What is clear from this is… / However, this is not the case when… / Following this trend is…

These are the sorts of phrases that make your writing sound fluent and will help to convince your examiner that you are a master of the language.

I also suggested that students write their own dictionary.  This basically involves getting a notebook and jotting down all new words you see and the context in which you see them.  Before long, you will have a very extensive list of vocabulary words that you can review to keep your skills sharp.

Speaking

Many students last night shared that they do not have access to native English speakers and thus practicing their speaking was a challenge.  To these students, I suggest you listen to the interview Ben did on IELTS Podcast with Berni, an ex-IELTS examiner.  in this interview, Berni shares a number of very helpful tips on how a student can increase their ability to speak.

In addition to these resources, while chatting last night I shared a few of my online favourites:

Rachel (of http://www.rachelsenglish.com) is a great website you can use to hone your pronunciation abilities.  She explains in detail exactly how to shape your mouth to perform certain English pronunciation patterns.

Jennifer (of http://www.englishwithjennifer.com) is an old friend of mine with a huge library of videos on everything ESL related.  You may find many of her videos cater to more basic students, but I think even advanced IELTS students can benefit from her pronunciation-focused material.

Hope to see you at our next online chat session!

3 Responses to “(Article) Are you studying for your IELTS exam online? Increase your productivity with these FREE online tools!”

  1. setareh says:

    hi,i don`t know how can i say thank you.These are more than fantastic.I was really excited when i sow this email.Unfortunately,last night i missed the chatting because i wasn`t wondering the differences between time but at the moment i am really glad.

  2. john parakkattu says:

    thank you very much for arranging this kind of classes ,expect more like this

  3. Isaurateresa says:

    This was fantastic. i was really excited to see and read all those kind instructions and it’s really helpul. many many thanks for you as you made everything became easier than ever. Wish i could join your class.

Leave a Reply

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Ryan's Recent Posts Posts

Memorizing model essays to improve grammatical accuracy on the IELTS

Is grammar what’s holding you back from band 8? Watch this video to learn about a new strategy that can help you improve your grammatical accuracy:

Alisher scores band 7.5! Listen and find out how…

No access to YouTube? Download an MP3 of the interview here.

Is it OK to make up examples on your IELTS essay?

This is a question I’m often asked. In this video, I explain when and how to make up examples in Task 2:

No access to YouTube? Here is a copy of the model essay from the video:

In your opinion, what environmental problem poses the greatest risk to humanity?

The environment today is threatened by many factors. However, among the most concerning is polluted drinking water. Unsanitary drinking water is a growing global problem that impacts the health of millions of people on a daily basis. This essay will suggest two viable ways of improving this situation.

Firstly, governments should uphold strict penalties for companies that fail to operate in environmentally friendly ways. In countries like Canada, for example, the government should loosen regulations that restrict the capping of lawsuits levied against companies with practices that harm the environment. Doing so would make these companies liable for their damages and thus less likely to engage in risky and dangerous activities. Such increased penalties would act as a tremendous step towards improving the world’s drinking water.

Secondly, companies must be made transparent and public when reporting of any possible contaminants that may have leaked into a water supply. This can be achieved by making community meetings mandatory for all companies that operate near a source of drinking water. Examples of the effectiveness of such meetings can be seen in Finland, where companies are required to regularly provide testing results and declare concerns immediately. As Finland is known to have some of the highest quality drinking water in the world, the merits of forced company accountability are clear.

As this essay has shown, the threat of polluted drinking water is a very major concern and can be countered by empowering the legislative ability of people and mandating meetings that hold companies accountable for their actions. It is hoped these strategies are increasingly put into practice in the foreseeable future.

Choose the correct prepositions for this IELTS essay

Watch this video and post your score as a comment:

Here is a copy of the essay with correct prepositions:

Competitiveness among high school students should be encouraged. Do you agree or disagree?

The gradual merging of cultures and economies the world over has led to an increasingly competitive international job market. Recognition of the role competitiveness plays in success has permeated most facets of society, and this includes the institutions that prepare students for adulthood. It is agreed that competitiveness among high school students should be encouraged. The merits of this position will be shown by looking at how a competitive spirit can help train young people to both spot opportunity and cooperate with others.

Firstly, grooming students to be competitive at a young age can help prepare them to seize opportunities down the road. For example, in many countries, high school is followed by a period of intense competition, as students vie for scholarships, internships and career options. Students who are not naturally competitive or willing to improve their skills in relation to others will not achieve the same results as those that approach chance more aggressively. Thus, it is important to encourage competition among students at an early age to provide them with a strong start in life.

Furthermore, competition in team settings breeds cooperation, a trait that often acts as a precursor to success in life. For instance, to overcome an opponent, the members of a high school basketball team must work together to maximize their collective strengths. This acts as an example of how competition in a group setting can teach a young person the importance of teamwork, a valuable skill these young people will need in their future careers. Thus, it is clear that benefits do derive from the encouragement of competition in high school.

As the above shows, competitiveness is beneficial to teenagers because it prepares them to grab educational and professional opportunities and as well instills an understanding of the importance of cooperation. Thus, it can be concluded that there are clear and healthful advantages to encouraging competition among high school students. It is hoped this trait is increasingly instilled in the young people of tomorrow.

Model essay in response to a recent General Task 2 question

Some countries make it illegal to work past the age of 65. Do you think people should be forced to retire at a certain age?

Opinions regarding what constitutes a healthy retirement age seem to vary from one country to another. This is manifest in nations with laws, or lack thereof, that stipulate the age when a person is required to end their professional life. It is felt compulsory retirement should not be legally enforced upon anyone except those working in positions where age could pose a significant safety risk to themselves or others. The following paragraphs will illustrate the merits of this position.

Firstly, it should be remembered that age does not necessarily affect professional performance negatively. In fact, as is the case with writers, age can often bring a certain wisdom that enhances the quality of an author’s work. Noam Chomsky, a topical author now in his mid-eighties, continues to publish relevant and highly respected material despite his advanced years. Were he forced to halt his profession due to his age, his insight and decades of understanding would largely go unheard. Thus, it is clear that certain professions should be allowed to continue regardless of age.

However, there are other lines of work that demand strict ruling with regards to retirement. Pilots, for example, must able to execute decisions clearly without reservation or fatigue. The reduced stamina of pilots over the age of 65 could potentially risk the lives of hundreds of passengers, and this is obviously a serious safety risk. Thus, there are merits to enforcing a retirement age upon people in certain professions.

It can be concluded that the establishing of a mandatory retirement age should be made specific to the profession in question. Such a policy helps to maximize both the productivity and safety of a society.

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