TOEFL or IELTS – Which is Better?

TOEFL or IELTS – Which is Better?

Because universities want to make sure you have the English language skills necessary to study at their school, almost all institutes of higher learning require you to take a test of English. And TOEFL and IELTS are the two biggest standardized tests of the English language. One of the most frequent questions I hear is which test is easier or which test is better. The answer depends on what kinds of tests you excel at, as well as where you plan to apply. This article breaks down the differences between the two tests so that you can make your own decision.


The IELTS test is administrated by the British Councils, the University of Cambridge, and IELTS Australia. That is to say, it is associated with the British government and traditionally was used by British universities, as well as New Zealand and Australian universities to determine the language capability of foreign students. TOEFL is administered by ETS, a US-based non-profit and is used widely by American and Canadian universities. However, these days, in order to make it easy on international students, universities all over the world take both TOEFL and IELTS. While you should check with the specific university you want to apply to, in general any school in the US, the UK, Australia or New Zealand will take either test score. So that’s one worry off your mind. Pick the test you think will be easier for you to complete. To do that, you probably need to know the structure of each exam.

Structure of the TOEFL

As of last year, official TOEFL is almost universally given in the iBT (Internet Based Testing) format. It consists of four sections:


The TOEFL Reading section asks you to read 4-6 passages of university level and to answer multiple-choice questions about them (multiple-choice means you choose the answer from provided options). Questions test you on comprehension of the text, main ideas, important details, vocabulary, inferring, rhetorical devices and style.


The Listening Section presents long 2-3 conversations and 4-6 lectures. The situations are always related to university life i.e. a conversation between a student and a librarian about finding research materials or a lecture from a history class. The questions are multiple choice and ask you about important details, inferences, tone, and vocabulary. The conversations and lectures are very natural and include informal English, interruptions, filler noises like “uh” or “Uhm.”


The Speaking section is recorded. You will speak into a microphone and a grader will listen to your answers at a later date and grade you. Two questions will be on familiar topics and ask you to give your opinion and/or describe something familiar to you, like your town or your favorite teacher. Two questions will ask you to summarize information from a text and a conversation–and may ask your opinion as well. Two questions will ask you to summarize information from a short conversation. Again, the topics of the conversations are always university-related.


Finally, there are two short essays on the TOEFL. One will ask you to write your opinion on a broad topic, such as whether it is better to live in the country or the city. One will ask you to summarize information from a text and a lecture–often the two will disagree with each other and you will need to either compare and contrast, or synthesize conflicting information.

IELTS Structure

The IELTS contains the same 4 sections, Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing, but the format is very different.


The reading section of the IELTS gives you 3 texts, which may be from academic textbooks or from a newspaper or magazine–but all at the level of a university student. One will always be an opinion piece–i.e. a text arguing for one point of view. The variety of questions on the IELTS is quite broad, and not every text will have every question type. One question type asks you to match headings to paragraphs in the text. You may be asked to complete a summary of the passage using words from the text. Or you may have to fill in a table or chart or picture with words from the text. There may be multiple-choice questions that ask you about key details. One of the hardest question types presents statements and asks you whether these statements are true, false or not included in the text. You may also be asked to match words and ideas. Finally, some questions are short-answer but the answers will be taken directly from the text itself.

Some questions come before the text and may not require careful reading to answer. Others come after the text and may expect you to have read the text thoroughly.


The IELTS has four listening sections. The first is a “transactional conversation” in which someone may be applying for something (a driver’s license, a library card) or asking for information (say calling for more details about an advertisement or a hotel). The second section is an informational lecture of some kind, possibly a dean explaining the rules of the university. Third is a conversation in an academic context and the final section will be an academic lecture. For all sections you may be asked to fill out a summary, fill in a table, answer multiple-choice questions, label a diagram or picture, or classify information into different categories. You will be expected to fill out answers as you listen.


There are two writing tasks on the academic IELTS. The first asks you to summarize a table or chart in about 300 words. You will have to identify important information, compare and contrast different figures or maybe describe a process. The second task asks you to present your opinion on a statement about a fairly open topic such as: “Women should look after children and not work” or “Too many people are moving to cities and rural areas are suffering.”


Finally, the speaking section will be held on a different day from the rest of the test and in the presence of a trained interviewer. The questions are the same for all examinees but some parts may be more in the form of a conversation than a monologue. The first part of the test will be a brief introductory conversation followed by some short questions about familiar topics. The interviewer may ask your name, your job, what kinds of sports you like, what your daily routine is, and so on. In the second part, you will be given a card with a topic and a few specific questions to address. You will have to speak for two minutes on this topic, which may be about your daily routine, the last time you went to the movies, your favorite part of the world or a similar familiar topic. In the last section, the interviewer will ask you to discuss a more abstract side of the topic in part 2–why do people prefer daily routines? Why do people like the movies? How does travel affect local life?

Which is Better for Me?

So now you have some understanding of what each test involves, but you might be wondering which is better for you. Maybe in reading about the structure, you thought, “Wow TOEFL sounds so easy,” or, “Oh the IELTS sounds like it’s kind of fun!” That might be a good sign that one test will be easier for you than the other. More concretely, there are a couple of key differences between the tests.

British versus American English

While both the UK and the US accept both tests, and while British English and American English are not as different as some think, the fact of the matter is the IELTS tends to use British English and the TOEFL uses exclusively American English. On the IELTS, this difference will have a larger effect because spelling counts, and that is one area where Britain and the US do not always see eye-to-eye. Obviously if you have problems with the British accent (and the test may include a wide variety of accents, including Australian, New Zealand, Irish and Scottish). On the other hand, American accents may throw you off. Certain terms are also different and you don’t want to waste time in your speaking test asking what a flat or a lorry is. So whether you are used to British or American English is certainly a factor. If you are more comfortable with US English, the TOEFL is a good bet but if you are used to British English and accents, you’ll do better on the IELTS.

Multiple choice versus Copying Down

For the reading and listening sections, TOEFL gives you multiple-choice questions, whereas IELTS generally expects you to copy down words from the text or the conversation word-for-word. Multiple-choice questions will tend to be require slightly better abstract thinking, but the IELTS favors people who have good memories and think more concretely. The good thing about multiple-choice is that it is easy to pick out wrong answers, whereas the good thing about copying down is that the answer is sitting there in the text. You just have to find it and repeat it. So, concrete thinkers will tend to do better on the IELTS and abstract thinkers will tend to excel on the TOEFL.

Predictable or Different Every Time

Of course, the TOEFL is also more predictable than the IELTS. The IELTS throws lots of different question types at you, and the instructions are often slightly different every time. That makes it harder to prepare for. The TOEFL, on the other hand, is pretty much the same test every time–pick A, B, C, D, or E. On the other hand, the IELTS certainly keeps you on your toes and that can keep you more alert.

Speaking to a Person or a Computer?

Another large difference is in how the speaking section is carried out. For some people, it’s very relaxing to just record your answers into a computer because it feels like no one is listening. You just try your best and forget about it until you get your grades. Because the IELTS test is done in an interview format with a native speaker present, you might get nervous or feel you are being judged. And they take notes: Oh God, did he write down something good or something bad? On the other hand, you might feel more relaxed in a conversation, with a person there to explain if you don’t understand a question, or simply having a face to look at, instead of a computer screen. Getting feedback from a native speaker can be helpful too, in order to correct mistakes and improve during the test. So it depends on what you are more comfortable with. If you like talking to people, the IELTS is a better bet. If you just want to be alone and not feel judged, the TOEFL will be more comfortable for you.

Holistic versus Criteria

Finally, the speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL are graded holistically. The grader gives you a score based on the overall quality of the essay, including vocabulary, logic, style, and grammar. The IELTS by contrast is marked by individual criteria and you are scored individually for grammar, word choice, fluency, logic, cohesion, and a dozen other criteria. In other words, if you write well but have a lot of small grammar mistakes, your TOEFL score might be quite good because graders will ignore small mistakes if the overall essay is logical and detailed. The IELTS will not overlook bad grammar. On the other hand, if your grammar and vocabulary are strong but you have trouble expressing your opinion or organizing an essay, you could end up with a low TOEFL score but the IELTS will give you good marks for language use. So while it may sound like the IELTS is much tougher since it grades you on everything, in fact you can get quite a good score if you are strong in a number of areas. The TOEFL emphasizes the ability to put together a logical and detailed argument (or summary) and looks at clarity, word choice, and style above all. If you don’t feel comfortable writing essays but you think you have excellent grammar and vocabulary and overall are a decent writer, the IELTS will probably be easier for you.

I hope this essay was helpful in making your choice. In any case, I recommend you go to the websites of IELTS and TOEFL and get some more detail on each test, and also try out some practice problems on your own.

Walton Burns is an English language teacher and university placement consultant in Astana, Kazakhstan. Check out his blog with more advice for international students and English language learners at and his website at for games, lesson plans, tests and other cool stuff!

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A Song For IELTS – An Effective 8-Step Strategy For Mastering an English Song

A Song For IELTS – An Effective 8-Step Strategy For Mastering an English Song

Perhaps you are lucky enough to have access to an English-speaking friend who is prepared to help you prepare for your IELTS* exam. She may not have the confidence or the time to coach you with tricky things like spelling or pronunciation.

Here is something fun and easy that most English speakers will be happy to spend some time helping you with – learning an English song.

It sounds simple. It is simple. But there are hidden pitfalls that you need to be aware of. If you go about it in the right way, mastering your own “signature song” can become a real asset to your IELTS preparation. Learning an English song works best if you take on the project as a 10-step process:

Select a song. Ask your IELTS coach for advice about song choices. Listen carefully to the suggestions. Often an outsider will have a better idea than you do of the kind of song that will suit your personality, and which will be interesting or entertaining for listeners.

Locate the lyrics (the words of your song choice). Simple. Just go to Google and enter in the search box the word “lyrics” followed by the name of the song. You might enter something like this: “lyrics Michael Jackson this is it”. Perhaps you do not know the correct title for the song. Don’t worry. Just enter a line from the song that you do know, and clever Google will almost certainly be able to locate the song for you.
Print off the lyrics. But, do NOT start to memorize them yet! There are four more steps you need to follow before you begin memorizing anything.
Before you memorize any words, you need to show the printed lyrics to your IELTS coach. Get her to go through the lyrics and check that she agrees with them. You need to understand that lyrics posted on Google or any other search engine often contain mistakes. There may be a number of different versions posted on the search engines. Here are two examples, both posted on Google, of lyrics for the Carpenters’ classic “Yesterday Once More”:

Version A:

All my past memories

Complicated to me,

Something really make me cry,

Just like before

It’s yesterday once more

Version B:

All my best memories

Come back clearly to me

Some can even make me cry.

Just like before

It’s yesterday once more

Which is the correct version? Ask your coach. She may not agree with either version. She may make some further changes. Here is the important thing: you need to work with the version your coach is happy with. She’ll find it impossible to coach you using words which she believes are incorrect.

Some downloaded lyrics contain little question marks at the end of a line that tell you that the transcriber is really not sure of the words he has heard. If the song you and your IELTS coach are considering has a lot of little question marks, be very cautious. It might be best to abandon that song and look for something clearer.

Highlight any new vocabulary in the lyrics. Get out your dictionary and check the meaning of each new word. Now go back to your IELTS coach and check that the meaning you have translated is correct. Sometimes, in the song’s context, the meaning of a word might be quite different from the meaning your dictionary has given you.
Clarify the meaning. Next, you need to spend time with your coach to make sure you are clear about the meaning of each phrase in the song. Although you might have translated the words correctly, songs usually contain references to items in the local culture,

You may understand the meaning of words such as “cheer”, “captain” and “bleacher”.

But in order to sing Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”:

But she wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts

She’s Cheer Captain and I’m on the bleachers

You’ll also need to understand what a “cheer captain” is – the social prestige of the cheer captain’s role in American teenage culture. You’ll need to know what “on the bleachers” means and what that implies about the singer. Your IELTS coach will be able to explain those meanings to you.

Work on the pronunciation. Now it’s time for a pronunciation session. Try not to rush this part of the process. Take time to master the correct pronunciation of each word and phrase.
Memorize the words. After all your careful preparation, the time has at last come to start memorizing the lyrics. This is something you can do at your own pace in your own time. You might set yourself the target of memorizing one verse per day.
Now add the music. At last it’s time to put your song to music. You can sing along with your i-pod. You may be able to download a karaoke version of the song.
Perform and enjoy! When the big day comes and you perform your new song for an audience, don’t fret about your performance. Enjoy yourself!

And remember to acknowledge your coach. As the applause dies down, offer a little applause yourself to your coach. She will appreciate your recognition!

Keep in mind that your new song is another possible topic of conversation that you might be able to introduce during your IELTS speaking test. Good luck!

* **IELTS – International English Language Teaching System is the world’s leading test of English for higher education, immigration and employment.

There are thousands of courses and professional resources available for people preparing for the IELTS exam. But what if you don’t have the time or the opportunity to attend a class? Barbara Takase has had more than 20 years working with IELTS teachers and candidates. To find out more about her practical ideas and sources of help to prepare for the exam visit Barbara’s IELTS Help Today blog. Available on

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Information to Get the Best IELTS Test Score Possible

Information to Get the Best IELTS Test Score Possible

So many of my students ask me, ‘How can I get the best IELTS score possible?’

OK, so the most obvious thing is to do lots of practice and make sure your reading, writing, listening and speaking skills are good enough to get the IELTS Band Score you need.

First of all, I suggest that you familiarise yourself with what’s expected in the test on the official IELTS website ( but in the meantime, I’m going to make it really easy for you by giving you some information about what to expect.

In my opinion half the battle is knowing the IELTS test procedure. If you’ve ever had to sit a test more than once, think how much easier it was the second time because you knew what to expect! I should know; I failed my driving test FOUR times!

What is the IELTS test?

The first thing to do is to check that IELTS is actually the test you need.

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System; it is an English testing system which assesses the language ability of people who want/need to study in an English speaking environment. Many employers, universities and immigration authorities require that you have a certain IELTS Band Score before they will accept your application.

When thinking about when you’re going to take the test, it’s important to remember that your IELTS Band Score is only valid for 2 years.

Next, you must decide which version of the test is the best IELTS test version for you. There are two versions of the IELTS test; the Academic version and the General Training version. If you wish to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level, you must take IELTS Academic version, if you wish to emigrate or work overseas, IELTS General Training version is appropriate.

The two versions have four sub-tests or modules; reading, writing, listening and speaking. The IELTS Listening and IELTS Speaking sub-tests are the same in both the Academic version and the General Training version but the IELTS Reading and IELTS Writing sub-tests are different. A certified examiner, who has undergone thorough training will assess your writing and speaking skills and give you a Band Score in those sub-tests.

How do I apply for the IELTS test?

I recommend you go to the official IELTS website and download ‘The IELTS handbook’andIELTS Information for Candidates’. These 2 booklets both explain how to apply to take the test, however I’ll give you a brief overview and some of my own comments here.

1. You apply to your local IELTS Test Centre to sit the test.

You can find your nearest test centre of the official IELTS website; you’ll find the address, contact details and the upcoming test dates.

2. Go to the IELTS Test Centre to get an application form. If it’s difficult for you to go there, you can download an application form from the official IELTS website. You could even ask if the Test Centre would mail one out to you.

3. Decide what date you want to take the test and fill in the application form. Make sure you write the correct module; Academic or General Training, depending on what you need.

4. If possible, get a native English friend to check over your application form for you.

5. Send your completed form to the Test Centre you wish to attend, together with 2 passport sized photos and the test fee.

6. Make sure you provide the same ID on test day as you put on your application form. If the 2 forms of ID are different, you will not be allowed to take the test. If for any reason, this won’t be possible, contact the Test Centre immediately.

7. Once your application form has been processed, the Test Centre will send you a confirmation letter with the date and time of the test and also some instructions for the day.

What do I do on Test Day?
Well, first of all make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before and that you have a good breakfast (yes, I’m also a mum!). If your speaking test is on the same day, remember you will also need to have lunch.

Don’t forget to take your ID with you as it will be checked on your arrival.

Be aware that you can’t take your belongings, including your mobile phone into the test room. There will be a specified area outside the room where you can leave them.

As with all exams, once the invigilator (the test supervisor) has stated that the test has started, no talking is allowed. If you need to ask something, just raise your hand.

The listening test is first, then reading, then writing (I will give you further details about the different sub-tests in my next posts). Your Test Centre will tell you the time (and date) of your speaking test.

And then what?

Once the test is over, all there is to do is to wait for your results. IELTS test results are posted out on the 13th day after your test so you should receive them 2 weeks after the test. It may be possible to go to the Test Centre on the 13th day after the test to collect your results but you will have to ask them. The Test Centre cannot, however, give you your results over the phone or via fax or email.

You don’t get a certificate after taking IELTS; you get a Test Report Form (TRF) with your results. Look after your Test Report Form, you only get one copy. Remember, however, that you can ask for additional copies (a maximum of five) to be sent to the organisation asking for your result (university, immigration etc.)

Hopefully it’s now time to celebrate! If not, don’t despair; see my post ‘What todo if your IELTS score isn’t high enough’. It may be possible to salvage the situation. In any case, it’s time to move ‘onwards and upwards’!

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

An IELTS Coach – Waiting For You To Ask

An IELTS Coach – Waiting For You To Ask

“I know I need help with my IELTS* exam preparation. But I don’t know anyone I can ask to help me…”

This is a common problem for IELTS candidates.

But often there are people within your social circle who are able to help who would be delighted if you asked them for assistance.

Here are 7 people who you can consider who might hold the key to your puzzle:

1. Your co-worker. A co-worker is an ideal candidate to approach to help you with your IELTS exam preparation. This is someone you see often, possibly every day. She or he will be aware of how important it is to you to pass the exam – what it means to you in terms of career registration, immigration status or job promotion. You also have a lot to talk about – your customers, clients or patients, your work routines. You share a common vocabulary. And you probably have a location to meet without making special travel arrangements. So your co-workers should be at the top of your prospect list.

2. Your fellow club-member. Someone who belongs to the same sports or hobby club is another good prospect. Again, you have plenty in common to talk about or write about. And you’ meet regularly. You will be able to suggest a coaching time before or after your game or meeting and fit it into a regular schedule based on your club activities.

3. A member of your church. If you belong to a church group or a similar society, chances are that you are able to identify a potential coach there. In my experience church members tend to be generous with their time and eager to offer any assistance they can to new immigrants or foreign visitors. If you are not able to work out who to approach at your church, a good idea is to talk to the pastor or priest in charge of the congregation. When he understands what it is you need, he will probably be happy to set up the arrangement for you with an ideal prospective coach.

4. Your relative or in-law. Do you have an uncle or a cousin who is a native speaker of English or who speaks English fluently? Don’t be shy to ask. Or, if you are too shy, ask one of your other relatives to make the approach on your behalf.

5. Your homestay family or your room-mate. The advantage of having a room-mate or a homestay member coach you is that you have plenty of chances to meet and you will have a ready-made location for your coaching sessions. You may want to offer a service in exchange for this help. How about “I’ll wash the dishes for the next 3 weeks if you can spare me an hour a week to help me with my IELTS preparation…”?

6. Your classmate. Don’t target a fellow classmate from your ESL** class. You need someone who is fluent in English. If you are also taking a course in maths, or physiotherapy, or jazz-dancing or flower-arrangement, look for a potential coach among your classmates there. Before you make your approach, work out a number of possible times or locations for your coaching sessions, so that your classmate has some options to consider.

7. Your boss. Don’t be afraid to ask your boss! Chances are, he or she will have a genuine interest in seeing you do well in your upcoming IELTS exam, and will be glad to offer assistance. Think of it this way, even if your boss can’t help, if he says “Sorry, no way. I’ve just got too much to do as it is!” this still will not do you any harm. You have signaled to your boss how serious you are about the exam and how determined you are to succeed. So whether he says “yes” or “no” this is a win-win situation for you. And it is possible that your boss may suggest someone else from the work team who can give you the help you need.

These are my top seven suggestions for identifying a coach to help you prepare for your IELTS exam. Try to think outside the square and you may come up with some others on your own. If you do, let me know!

Happy hunting, and good luck with the exam!

There are thousands of courses and professional resources available for people preparing for the IELTS exam. But what if you don’t have the time or the opportunity to attend a class? Barbara Takase has had more than 20 years working with IELTS teachers and candidates. To find out more about her practical ideas and sources of help to prepare for the exam visit Barbara’s IELTS Help Today blog. Available on

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IELTS Exam Becomes a Nightmare For Nurses

IELTS Exam Becomes a Nightmare For Nurses

IELTS exam band score is an important qualifying requirement for immigration purpose. Nurses from other nations should meet the minimum IELTS score for immigrating to Australia, UK, New Zealand and Canada. Majority of nurses migrating to these nations are from India, Pakistan, Philippines and China. Increasing the minimum IELTS score band requirement in Academic section from 6.5 to 7 in all 4 sections has made life miserable for many skilled immigration aspirants from these Asian nations.

The nursing council has increased the IELTS band score to 7 to ensure that nurses with good English language communication works in their hospitals. As per the nursing council, the main part of nursing job is proper communication with the patient and doctors. So increasing the minimum equipment of IELTS will improve the patient care and relationship with other hospital staff.

For nurses from Asian countries, they start learning English from high school level. They don’t have an environment other than their schools and colleges to improve their English communication skills. After obtaining nursing certificates, all these candidates enroll a nearby coaching centre for a month for preparing IELTS exam. Since the band of 6.5 was comfortable score for all aspirants to score, IELTS exam was a exam which can be attended with a 1-2 month training

Now the band is increased to 7, which too in all sections, has made more fine-tuning of English language skills from the student’s side for scoring it. IELTS exam scores are determined based on exponential increase in difficulty. Now the nursing students from Asian nations have to spend 2-3 months of continuous IELTS coaching. Now, many students obtain the score after second and third attempt. Students after passing out directly joins a IELTS coaching centre for a 3 month course, instead of practicing in a hospital, which they are trained for.

The increase in the IELTS score band has not decelerated the ambitions of the nurses from Asian nations looking for immigration for a bright future.


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An IELTS Coach – Wise Choices, Dangerous Choices

An IELTS Coach – Wise Choices, Dangerous Choices

Your IELTS* exam date is set. You have been studying hard. But there is one aspect that you are still worrying about. It could be your weak spelling or your limited vocabulary. Perhaps you know that pronunciation needs urgent attention. You need help – one-to-one help. You need help now.

You have native English-speaking friends and work-mates. One of them will probably be prepared to spend some time with you in the lead up to the IELTS exam. But what KIND of person should you approach to ask for help?

Here are five criteria to look for in your potential coach. And I will warn you about two types of people not to approach.

First, the five important traits to look for:

1. Someone cheerful. Your ideal coach is someone with a sense of humour and a cheerful outlook on life. Look for someone who will not take things too seriously or become irritated with your requests for help.

2. A native speaker of English or someone well-educated in English. Choose someone who is confident and competent in the language. The most cheerful, positive person in your workplace might in fact lack thebasic English education to be able to help you. If you ask someone to help you with your English spelling and if they tell you that their own spelling is hopeless, just have a laugh about it together and let that person withdraw. The best thing now is to move on to your next prospect.

3. Someone positive. Choose someone who has a positive attitude to his or her work, who enjoys taking on a project and seeing it through to completion.

4. Someone patient. Notice people who are patient with their customers and their subordinates. If they are thoughtful and courteous to other people in your workplace, this is the kind of person who may be prepared to make the effort to help with your IELTS preparation.

5. Someone busy. Does this sound strange? Often the busiest person is the one who is the most organized, and, strange as it might seem, the one who will be most generous with his or her help. So don’t eliminate someone from your list of prospects just because she seems “too busy”!

But there are two categories of potential IELTS coach that I would urge you to approach with extreme caution.

1. The first is a professional teacher of English. Don’t get me wrong. If you have the time to join an IELTS class, or if you are ready to pay for professional coaching, this is absolutely a valuable investment of your time and money. Do not hesitate. Get the help you need. My warning is this: do not, as a friend, approach a professional teacher and ask for this kind of one-to-one coaching, free of charge, as a personal favour.

Try to see it from your friend’s point of view. If your friend is an English language teacher, she is spending most of her day in front of a class. In her free time, probably the last thing she will want to do is provide more English language teaching. She might agree to your request, but she will, at some level, begin to resent your taking advantage of her good nature.

2. The second “proceed with extreme caution” category is this: I refer to your husband or wife, your boyfriend or girlfriend. The lead-up time to an important exam like IELTS can be a nerve-stretching time both for you and for the people you are living with. Asking your partner to act as your IELTS coach can add an additional level of stress to the relationship. It is a similar scenario to having your wife or husband teach you to drive a car or play golf – a situation full of pitfalls. I have sometimes seen it cause damage to a once-strong relationship. Avoid this scenario if you possibly can. Find your helper at work or in one of your other social circles.

So now, having taken on my two words of caution, you should have a clear psychological profile of the kind of person you’re looking for to help coach you through your IELTS exam preparation weeks. Someone

· cheerful

· educated

· positive

· patient

· and busy!

Happy hunting, and good luck with that IELTS exam!

*IELTS – International English Language Teaching System is the world’s leading test of English for higher education, immigration and employment.

There are hundreds of courses and professional resources available for people preparing for the IELTS exam. But what if you don’t have the time or the opportunity to attend a class? Barbara Takase has had more than 20 years working with IELTS teachers and candidates. For free practical ideas and sources of help to prepare for the exam, visit Barbara’s IELTS Help Today blog. Available on

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Ielts Twenty20 – Ace The Ielts Exam And Achieve Your Dreams

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Online IELTS Preparation – Why Does It Make Sense?

Online IELTS Preparation – Why Does It Make Sense?

Because IELTS is a difficult test. While most agree that IELTS is a reasonable test, it is generally regarded as one of the most challenging tests of its type.
Because IELTS has question types peculiar to it. Among the ten or so question types IELTS commonly uses, about half are used only by it or in ways unique to it. In particular, the Reading Task questions about identifying the writer’s point of view is unique to IELTS and particularly challenging, since it requires
“reading between the lines,” a skill that usually has to be taught.
Because IELTS uses familiar question types in unique ways. IELTS short answer questions, for example, are asked in three different ways. In all cases, at least at most testing centers, the unwritten rule is that the answers must be no longer than three words each. So, even if you have the write answer but have
expressed it in more than three words, your answer will be
counted as wrong.
Because IELTS sometimes asks even familiar question types in
deliberately tricky ways. IELTS may, for example, provide a
statement expressed in positive language as a true-or-false
question when the answer in the Listening or Reading exercise
appears in negative terms that have the same meaning as the
positive words in the question. IELTS also may ask questions
that require candidates to combine information from different
places to arrive at the correct answer. In the Listening test,
IELTS sometimes asks questions at the end of a section that
require candidates to have been keeping track throughout the
exercise; so, if the candidate has not read the question first,
he or she may not be prepared to answer.
Because IELTS has specific formats it wants followed. It’s not enough merely to write or speak well, for the IELTS Writing and Speaking tasks, it is critical that candidates answer in the
ways IELTS expects them to. That means following often detailed
formats that can be learned only in IELTS Preparation courses.
In particular, there are rules about the Speaking task – and
particular its middle section, during which candidates speak on
their own – that are not explained to candidates in advance.
Because IELTS penalizes candidates as much as whole band point for not answering questions as asked. For example, if the Writing Task 2 question asks a candidate his or her opinion on a topic and the candidate writes about the various opinions pro and con with respect to that topic, there will be a penalty of an entire band point no matter how well the candidate writes.

There is no substitute for good, solid English skills. They are what IELTS measures. But without an in-depth introduction to the many things that are either specific to the IELTS test or the particular ways IELTS expects common tasks to be performed, it is unlikely that a candidate will earn the highest possible score.

Svend Nelson is a university lecturer and internet entrepreneur. He is director of UniRoute Limited, a Hong Kong based company with offices in Bangkok and London providing IELTS Online Preparation, a study abroad program and other web-based courses for university preparation. Svend lived and worked in various countries across Latin America, Europe and Asia before settling in Thailand.

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