Monday, October 07, 2013

My IELTS Experience.

Let's get straight to the point.

I am from Malaysia and registered for IELTS (Academic Module) under IDP Subang Jaya. I took IELTS because I had to. Because the university I chose to apply to does not accept Cambridge's CAE and CPE. And so I banked in MYR 610, which does not include payment for the IELTS workshop held by IDP.

May I add that the workshop is not necessary at all. It's expensive and I don't see much of a point, since all they'll do is brief you on the components of the test, give you a couple of past year papers to work on and some quick-yet-obvious tips on how to score.
Doesn't justify having to fork out more money, honestly. You can get enough material to work on off the Internet.
Here is a link to some IELTS practice tests:

There are 4 components: Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking.
The sequence of the components may differ from one candidate to another. In my case, I took Listening, Reading and Writing at one go, had a 4-hour break, and ended with Speaking.

The easiest of the lot, I feel. I've actually not done a single past year test for Listening because I couldn't be bothered to download the .mp3 audio file.
Anyway, you listen to a few recordings in a couple of different accents (the accents are very understandable!), and don't worry, the questions will be in order corresponding to the audiotape.

However, each recording will only be played ONCE, so do not daydream. Two seconds of blanking out is enough to get you disoriented.

I've also noticed a bit of a pattern to the paper. Quite a few questions are what I would call "trick" questions. For example:
A: "Hello, may I get your name?"
B: "Yes, it's Emma Hardie."
A: "Emma Hardy.."
B: "It's -ie."

The question requires you to write down the name of the person. Most people who didn't pay attention would have ended up writing "Hardy" instead of "Hardie".

Exam setters seem to like mentioning every answer possible in the recording to confuse students. Some answers sound rather similar as well.
For example:
QUESTION - Where did Tom and Mary ask for directions?
A. At the train station
B. At the police station
C. At the national museum
D. At the train museum

You really have to be attentive, because the recording is set in such a way that all four possibilities get mentioned, but you'll eventually know which to cross out.

The recording lasts about 30mins, then you get 10mins to transfer your answers onto the answer sheet.

3 long-ass articles. I got an article about the study of butterflies, one on smog, and another on lies.
If you can speed-read, please do so. There is absolutely no need to read the excerpts word-by-word, just skim through quickly to get the gist of it, then jump right to the questions.

In my opinion, this component is rather straightforward except for certain questions where they give you a statement and choices: mentioned, unmentioned, or writer does not express this opinion.
This can get quite frustrating at times, because many candidates end up getting confused between unmentioned and writer does not express this opinion. You might want to do some practice tests prior to the actual day.

This paper lasts for 60mins.

2 tasks. You can write in blue/black pen or pencil.

Task 1 examines your analytical skills and how you express the facts in words. You'll be asked to summarise the chart/graph given. Be sure to mention the general trend before going into details. Use words such as: fluctuated, rise, fell, shot up significantly, dipped slightly, reached its peak, stable, plateau..
The minimum word count for Task 1 is 150.

Task 2 is more of a discussion/argument. They tend to ask you for your view on the statement given.
For example: E-learning should be introduced to kindergarten students. To what extent do you agree?
The minimum word count for Task 2 is 250.

This paper lasts for 60mins.

3 parts. There will be an audio recorder placed on the desk. (Sort of resembles being interrogated at the police station :p)
Do not mumble. Make sure you can be heard.

First part: Introduce yourself. The examiner will ask simple questions like "where do you live?", "could you describe your family to me?", "do you have a pet?". Do not give short answers. You are expected to elaborate slightly to show your proficiency in the language.
Here is a list of rather accurate sample questions:

For the second part, you'll be handed a task sheet, stating the topic you'll be required to talk about for 2mins. The examiner will not interrupt you. There are some points for you to use on the task sheet. A pencil and paper will be provided for you to jot down notes and prepare your "speech". You have 1min to do so.

The third section is where the examiner asks you questions pertaining to the topic from Part 2. The number of questions asked will vary, and depends on how short/long of an answer you give. Again, like Part 1, do elaborate, as this shows that you are comfortable communicating in English.

For this entire component, refrain from trying to be funny. Be casual, but tend more to the formal side. Maintain good eye contact. Stay away from slang altogether! I tried to be punny but the examiner didn't quite like it. (I still think it's unfair though. Hey, you have to have a certain level of English to comprehend puns, okay?!) Anyway, I got a Band 8 so whatever, lah.

This paper lasts for about 15mins, depending on how you answer. 

Although I haven't had the best experience with IDP in terms of university application, IDP conducted the IELTS test very professionally. Everyone knew what to do, and everything started on time.


  • Do bring a heavy-duty jacket. The air-conditioning at my test venue was centralised and I was shivering non-stop throughout the papers. 
  • Please dress decently. (Read: No slippers.) For the Speaking part, I know examiners are there to hear you speak, but looks and first impressions do matter. It's human nature. Dress sloppily and you may be forgoing potential points.
  • Bring pencils. Mechanical pencils aren't allowed. (They'll provide you with a pencil if you forget, fyi.)
  • Bring a form of identification with you, whether it be your national IC or passport (whichever you used to register for the test with).
  • Don't bother bringing a calculator because you won't be allowed to bring that in.

Okey-dokey! My $0.02! Hope this has helped, haha.
Best of luck!



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