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IELTS Preparation: Why Memorization Is Not Always Useful (And Some Cases Where It Is)

The IELTS Exam is a skill-based exam and not a knowledge-based one. Remember that the examiners are assessing your ability to communicate in English in a natural manner. Your scores are based on your ability to provide sufficient evidence that you do have the required English Language skills. This means that rote learning entire answers will not really help you get the band score that you want. It's all about appearing as natural as possible in all four components. However, that said it is useful to be able to memorise certain pieces of information and then be able to adapt and use whatever vocabulary and phrases you have memorised in a meaningful way. In this article, we will take a closer look at memorisation and the IELTS exam.

Useful Items To Memorise


Having a wide range of vocabulary will help you in all four modules of the exam. You will be easily able to recognise difficult words in the listening and reading exams, and you will also be able to use these words and phrases to improve your speaking and writing answers. This will help you to more effectively communicate and express your ideas. Remember when learning new vocabulary, it is also important to learn more than just the spelling and pronunciation, you also need to be able to understand how to flexibly use a word in different contexts and grammatical structures.

Useful Phrases, Linking Words And Discourse Markers

There are some phrases that are useful to use during your speaking and writing exam. You only need to memorise a few good phrases, since you will only be writing one essay on test day. I suggest you memorise phrases that can be used in a variety of situations, interchangeably.

For example, ‘well, to be honest’,’ from my point of view’ ‘from my perspective’ etc.

Essay Structures And Templates

While it is definitely not useful to memorise entire answers, you can make a note of the different structures and vocabulary needed for different types of essays. This will significantly cut down on the time it takes for you to plan your essays.

Why Memorisation Doesn’t Work

It Can Lower Your Score

Another important point to note is that it is pointless to memorize answers, as this will only count against you. Doing so makes you sound unnatural and the examiners are trained to detect scripted answers. Instead, you could become familiar with vocabulary and phrases related to the common topics for this particular part.

Try memorising useful expressions, structures and vocabulary by practising using them as much as possible.

It Can Make You Nervous

Another downside to memorisation is that if you are asked an unfamiliar question, you might become flustered and unable to answer. It will also be highly suspicious to the examiner if you have delivered previously flawless memorised answers and are now struggling to answer a question that is unfamiliar to you.

Hopefully, by now you have a better understanding of what you can and cannot memorise for the IELTS exam. If you have any further questions about this topic feel free to leave a comment.


Expert Last-Min IELTS Test Prep Suggestions

As the day of your test looms closer and closer, you might feel your anxiety levels increasing, even if you have thoroughly prepared for the exam. While this is completely normal, there are some ways to overcome these feelings. It would be a shame to let your test day nervousness affect your score. In this article, we will look at a few last-minute things before you take your test, that has a big impact on your score.

Take A Practice Test

A few days before your test date, make sure that you take a complete practise test under strict exam conditions. This will help ease your mind and confirm whether you are sufficiently prepared or not. As always take a good and close look at any errors you might have made and think about why those errors were made. Take a quick refresher course in those sub-topics or question types by going over your notes on the subject.

Review Your Notes And Past Tests

Make sure to go through your previously prepared notes and practice tests. Pay particular attention to the areas in which you struggled with or commonly made mistakes. Keep these areas in mind when you sit for the exam.

Prepare Everything You Need For Your Test

The day before your exam gathers all the items that you are allowed to bring with you on test day. Doing this the day before the test will ensure that everything goes smoothly on your test day. You would not want to be in a panicked state just because you forgot where you put your passport or you forgot to buy the necessary stationery needed for the test. Make sure that you have your ID, photo, registration number and water ready. No other forms of beverages are allowed into test centres apart from water, so it is important to bring a clear bottle of water to stay hydrated.

Relax The Day Before Your Test

Do not study or cram the day before your test, this will only add to your anxiety. Make sure that you are well-rested and that you get good night’s sleep so that you will be able to focus and think clearly when you take your exam. Cramming before the exam will only confuse you more since you might not be able to conclusively comprehend whatever you are studying.

Eat Well Before The Test

The morning before the test, make sure you have a good breakfast well. Remember the IELTS exam has no breaks in between and you will be required to sit for the entirety of the test, without being to eat anything in between.

Above all, it is important to stay confident and enthusiastic. Do not let your anxiety about the test overwhelm you. If you have any further questions about the IELTS test, feel free to leave a comment below.

IELTS Speaking: Quick Tips To Improve Your pronunciation

During the IELTS speaking exam, your responses will be assessed on 4 basic criteria, which includes:

  • Pronunciation
  • Fluency and coherence
  • Grammar
  • Lexical resource

Each of these accounts for 25% of your overall speaking score. Many students struggle with improving their pronunciation, mainly because it is such a wide-ranging topic, most students are unaware of where to begin. In this article, we will take a look at a few key areas that you need to focus on to improve your pronunciation for the IELTS speaking test.

According to the publicly available band descriptors to score beyond a band 6, a candidate must be able to ‘Use a range of pronunciation features’

The words “pronunciation features" are difficult to define but they do include:

  • Intonation - Intonation is defined as the way the voice rises and falls. A combination of rises and falls in connected speech makes it pleasant, melodic and easy to follow. Basically, whether your voice goes up and down in the right places, for example when you’re asking a question. It is used to convey the speaker’s mood, to support the meaning or to indicate new information.
  • Word stress - Means putting emphasis on the correct syllables e.g. COMFortable, VEGetable
  • Sentence stress  Sentence stress is used to indicate important meaning by placing more emphasis on one word in a sentence and can often cardinally change the meaning.

It is impossible to change your pronunciation overnight, but here are a few tips that you can use to help improve your pronunciation right away.

Use Contractions

Contractions are also a staple of modern English conversation, and using them during the speaking test will make your speech sound more natural.

Using contractions makes you sound fluent, relaxed and natural.

For example: I’d, I’m, I can’t, I don’t, They’re, It’s, I’ve

When you learn English grammar, you usually learn the full, written forms e.g. ‘I would like a cup of coffee. However, this sounds unnatural when you’re speaking. A native English speaker would actually say “I’d like a cup of coffee”

Make Sure To Practice The Sounds That Are Difficult For You

Most languages have sounds that do not appear in the English language, and similarly, there are certain English sounds that are missing from other languages. For example, the Arabic language does not have a ‘p’ sound. In these instances, these missing sounds might be the toughest for non-native speakers to pronounce, since they are not used to using these sounds. Make sure that you find the sounds that are missing in your language and put extra effort when practising them.

Listen And Repeat

A great way to aid in your preparation is to familiarize yourself with how native English speakers speak. There are many ways in which you can do this. You could watch English TV programmes or News channels, listen to podcasts about topics that interest you or find content that is somehow IELTS related. This will also help acclimatize you to the sounds and unique pronunciations used by speakers. Try getting a hold of the transcripts and repeating what you have just heard, with the same pronunciation and stress. Pay attention to the rhythm & how intonation is used to show attitudes & emphasis. It would be best to record what you say and then listen back to it to see how it compared to the original audio.

Of course, a lot more effort goes into improving your pronunciation and continual practice is required to see any improvement, but hopefully, the above-mentioned tips can point you in the right direction. Improving your pronunciation will get you one step closer to the band score you need to achieve your work, study or migration goals.

IELTS Preparation: Does Practice Really Make Perfect?

A common thing that I hear students say is I’ve been practising for xx months. I’ve been going over past papers, but I’m still stuck at this band score!' If you don’t know what skills you need to master and haven’t actually mastered those skills, practice will never help you improve! This is why you need guidance about how to move forward with your preparation.

Why Just Practice Alone Will Not Help You Improve Your Score

Many students think that the more they practice, the more they will get used to the test and its questions types, and while this is true to a small extent, it does not make up for the fact that simply practising can never really help to develop a skill you don’t have. Think of it in this way, if I decide that I would like to play the piano, and instead of taking lessons of any kind, I decided to just practice playing and playing to my heart’s content. In the end, do you think I will become a master pianist, by using this method? No! of course not, I’d only end up annoying my family members around me! It’s the same idea with IELTS preparation.

Skills vs Practice

Taking mock tests will help you learn more about the format of the test and help you to reinforce the English skills you do already have. However, it will never be able to help you learn the new and necessary skills to conquer the IELTS exam. To do this you will have to use a variety of methods to help improve your language capabilities. This will include thorough preparation for each of the question types as well as a broader improvement of your language communication skills that will involve incorporating English into your everyday life. In other words, you will need to improve the English you use in everyday contexts – speak it with your friends, write notes and email in English, read English newspapers, listen to English radio. If you feel you need help with your English, you should also consider taking an English course.

Why Enrolling In A Course Is Necessary

To be honest most students just go the practice test route because they feel that they don’t have the money to spare on enrolling on an IELTS course. This often ends up being a costly mistake.

Most students think of taking an IELTS coaching class as an extra expense, which they don’t have the funds for. Not investing in taking a proper class for your test preparation is not saving money. In fact, you are most probably wasting money and valuable time as well. Failing to score well in the exam means that you will have to take the exam multiple times and you have to pay separately each time. This can easily become hundreds and thousands of dollars. This is not to mention the time lost.

Sure you can try to do it yourself – but do you really have the time do to that? Are you sure that you’ll be able to understand the finer points and details by yourself and what if you need to ask a question? In the long run, is it worth it to use all that time JUST to save the money used to pay for a course?

Unfortunately, there are plenty of candidates who have lost on the admission places or visa applications because they simply failed to produce the required IELTS scores within the specified time. Can you imagine losing out on your life’s dream, simply because you refused to pay a few dollars for a preparation course? It seems absurd but it happens all too often!

IELTS Writing: How To Write An Effective Essay Introduction

As the saying goes first impressions last and this is true for most things including your essay introduction for the IELTS writing module. Unfortunately, most students do not realise this and put very little effort into constructing the perfect introduction. In this article, we will take a closer look at how to write a good essay introduction paragraph and why it is so important to do so.

Why Writing A Good Introduction Is So Important

Your introduction paragraph is your first connection to the examiner. It gives them a clear idea about whether you have sufficiently understood the question or not, and it will also let the examiner know about the rest of your essay will be like. If you provide a messy and unorganised introduction, the chances are that the examiner will assume that the rest of your essay will be the same.

The Trick To Writing A Good Introduction

A good introduction should be 2-3 sentences long, and only 40-60 words long. It should take you only 5 minutes to write. Every formal academic essay introduction should include:

  • Paraphrased question sentence
  • Thesis statement
  • Outline statement (optional)
  • Paraphrase the question:

Paraphrase the question means rewording the question by using synonyms and changing the order of the sentence

  • Add a Thesis statement

A thesis statement is one sentence that expresses the main idea of an essay. It gives the examiner an idea about your viewpoint regarding the essay topic. The examiner can judge by your thesis statement whether or not you have fully understood the question. You will have to reuse the instruction words in your essay. It should be concise and to the point.

To summarise to write a good introduction you need to rephrase (paraphrase) the question statement using synonyms and then write a brief outline of what to expect in the upcoming paragraphs. Make sure that you clearly state your opinion in the introduction paragraph of your essay, in order to straight away give the examiner a clear idea that you have understood the meaning of the question. You could do this by stating something like 'I believe that ……. And in this essay, I will discuss the reasons for my point of view.

Sample question:

“A lot of places in the world rely on tourism as a main source of income. Unfortunately, tourism can also be a source of problems if it is not managed correctly.

Describe the advantages and disadvantages of tourism in the modern world. Do you think that the benefits of tourism outweigh its drawbacks?”

Sample Introduction:

Nowadays tourism generates a significant portion of the national income for many countries, but it has certain drawbacks too. This essay will examine the advantages and disadvantages of tourism and provide a logical conclusion.

How The IELTS Exam Is Developed

Many candidates who have to take the IELTS exam as part of their work or study requirements are often concerned about how accurate the test is. They have some doubt as to whether their scores will be a fully accurate reflection of their true language skills. In this article, we will take a closer look at how the IELTS exam is developed and why this meticulous process ensures that there is no room for error when it comes to evaluating your linguistic abilities.

How Is The Test Developed


The test has a thorough development process and multiple stages dedicated to quality control.

The test is developed by Cambridge University and each year they commission experts from around the world, to participate in this process so that the exam can reflect real-world situations from across the globe. This is done so that there are no biases in terms of which part of the world you take the test in.

Stages Of Development


As mentioned before, a team of language experts are commissioned from different native English countries to prepare the questions for the exam. They base their work on a specific set of pre-determined criteria for the exam. Using these guidelines they begin the process of selecting suitable material for the test.


During pre-editing the material that is initially selected for the test is sent for rechecking in order to ensure that they meet the testing criteria, (e.g. topic, level of language, style of writing, level of task, the focus of task). Items that do not meet these standards are sent back to the writers for further editing.


During this stage, the testing material is re-evaluated and edited until they all meet up the required specifications.


A sample set of test takers from around the world, who also are preparing for the IELTS exam are asked to answer the new test questions. The data from their responses are collated and analysed to determine if the questions were of the correct level of difficulty.

Standard Fixing

Standard fixing involves assigning the correct scores and corresponding band score to the newly tested materials, based on the data analysed from the sample test takers.

Test Construction And Grading

The final versions of the test papers are developed and take into account the following:

  • mean difficulty of the test version and the range of individual item difficulties
  • range of language skills tested
  • balance of task types
  • balance of topic and genre
  • range of cultural perspectives
  • range of voices and accents in the Listening versions

Apart from this, data from actual IELTS exams are also continually collected to see if the initial conclusions about the levels of difficulty of the test and grading were accurate. Therefore the IELTS test development is an ongoing process.

Now that you know about the great amount of effort that goes into preparing for the IELTS exam so that it maintains its unparalleled level of quality, you can rest assured that your test will be fair and unbiased.

IELTS Speaking: Everything You Need To Know About Discourse Markers

During the speaking test, you will be assessed on 4 main criteria pronunciation, GRA, fluency, and coherence. While the first of those criteria are relatively familiar to most students the last one (namely fluency and coherence) is where students fail to score well.

In this article, we will take a look at one of the aspects of fluency and coherence that you can use to improve your speaking score. We will learn all about discourse markers, what they are and how you can use them.

What Are Discourse Markers?

Discourse markers are words or phrases that we use to manage what we say or write or to express attitude. They are also quite helpful in building a well-organised answer and orienting your listener as you speak. Some discourse markers are used to start and end conversations, while some are used to start new topics or to change topics.

Common discourse markers and their function:


Discourse Marker

To preface what you really think

Actually, I have to say

To confess something is true

I must admit

To give yourself time to think


To start, end or change the topic

Right so anyway,

To say something in another way

What I mean is, in other words

To talk about the knowledge we share with the listener

You know, you see

To introduce personal opinions

My point is, what I’m getting at is, I mean, I guess

Here are some examples of how to use discourse markers in a natural way during the speaking test:

Personal Opinions:

“…. well, besides that I would also say that city life is exciting and full of opportunities - not just in terms of jobs and education, but also in terms of entertainment. Personally, I would always choose to live in a big city.”

Talking About The Future:

Finally, I think that it is highly unlikely that we will use the same kind of fuel in our cars in the future. I am convinced that scientists will come up with a new way of fueling cars.

Talking About Trends:

“In my country, holiday habits have changed a lot over the last twenty years. In the past, only young people went to exotic locations or difficult destinations. However lately, far more people have started going to these kinds of places - families, older people, people with more money.

Why Are Discourse Markers Important?

The publicity available band descripts for speaking state that in order for a candidate to reach a score of band 7 in terms of fluency and coherence they must be able to use discourse markers.

‘Uses a range of connectives and discourse markers with some flexibility.

Even a band 6 score requires candidates to “Uses a range of connectives and discourse markers but not always appropriately".

However, if you use these discourse markers incorrectly, or if you overuse them then your score can decrease to a band 5 as can be seen from what is stated in the official band descriptors. “May overuse certain connectives and discourse markers.”

Discourse markers signal to listeners about the type of information to follow. They also make your speech sound more fluent. Knowing how to discourse markers correctly shows the examiner that you have a high level of fluency and coherence.

If you need to know more about the IELTS speaking section then read more of our blogs on the topic. If you have any further questions about discourse markers then feel free to learn.

How Mind Maps Can Improve Your Score

During the IELTS essay writing question, you will have 40 minutes to write an essay of minimum 250 words on a high level and named topic. Many students struggle with enough words to include in their answer. In this article, we will look at one of the most effective way to brainstorm ideas for the IELTS essay question and that is by using mind maps.

What Is A Mind Map


A mind map is a useful tool that helps you to visually organise information. It helps you to link ideas that are associated with each other in an essay to understand in an organised manner.

I recommend using a mind map to generate ideas. A mind map will help you to organize your ideas in a logical sequence.

Mind Maps For Writing


Once you have thought of some main ideas, you can start to organise your points. Think about which points are important enough to add to your essay. Try to think about the order in which you will mention each main point.

You can also use your brainstorming time to think of topic-specific vocabulary and synonyms that could be useful for your essay.

Making a mind map helps you to logically order your main ideas, supporting points, and examples, as you brainstorm. This means that you will save time on planning your essay, which buys you time to write and recheck your response.

Here is an example of what a mind map should look like:

Mind Maps For Speaking


When you make a mind map for your speaking part two question, the mind map will be a little different. You should place the main topic in the centre of the mind map and then link relevant ideas to the main topic by using the following keywords. What, who, when, where, why and how.

For Example:

This is a useful way to extend your answer while you are thinking of ideas to add to your mind map, you should also think of useful vocabulary related to the topic.

For Example:

The more you practice making mind maps for both your writing and speaking questions, the better and faster you will become at doing so. This will greatly ignore the speed at which you prepare for these questions.

If you have any further questions do not hesitate to drop a comment down below.

IELTS Preparation: How To Estimate Your IELTS Band Score

If you need to take the IELTS exam as part of the requirements for your university admission or visa application, you’re probably wondering about how to begin your preparation.

The truth is that students who are at different levels of language proficiency must focus on different aspects of the English language to ensure that their preparation is effective. To refer to understand how to move forward with your preparation, you need to have a good level of your current band score. In this article, we will look at how to determine your current level of proficiency and your current band score.

Why Is It Important To Assess Your Current Band Score

Knowing your current band score will help you identify your weak areas, and help you identify the areas of your language skills that you need to focus more on.

Assessing Your Reading And Listening Band Scores

It is easy to determine your band scores for the IELTS listening and reading sections. All you need to do is to take an authentic mock test under exam conditions. Both sections contain different types of questions and there are 40 questions in total. The answers for this part of the test have fixed answers. Once you have completed your test you can compare your answers and use the following guide to determine your score.

Band Score Chart

Take a close look at the areas of the test that you struggled with, think about why exactly these parts were difficult, did you not understand the question? Did you struggle with the vocabulary or grammatical skills to answer? Were you unfamiliar with the question pattern? Doing this will help you to understand which areas of language skills you need to pay more attention to.

Writing And Speaking Skills

The next step would be to assess your writing and speaking skills. These two skills are a lot more difficult to assess on your own. Since these are productive skills (meaning you must produce language), the answers for these types of questions will vary from person to person. However, there is a strict set of assessment criteria that your responses must meet to score well. A printable copy for these criteria (or band descriptors) can be found on the official IELTS website.

There are different ways in which you can assess your speaking and writing scores. I will mention a few of the common ones. A quick search on YouTube will lead you to find several high scoring IELTS speaking test interviews. You could practice answering these questions yourself and then compare them how you compared them to the speaking test in the video. Again keep in mind, why you struggle more with certain questions. Did you lack the vocabulary to answer or did you not understand what is required in the question.

Another option to assess your current level in terms of writing and speaking, would be to opt for a paid mock test.

As a second language learner, it would be very difficult to score your writing or speaking test on your own in an objective manner.

Taking a paid for the mock test means that you will get valuable feedback about your writing and speaking answers. A detailed analysis of your answers along with individual band scores is only given out to students who pay for these services. Most good mock test sites will also give you a detailed section-wise report card result.

Even just having the answers to the reading passages and listening tests would not be enough to help you figure out where your comprehension skills are lacking. This why I recommend obtaining the services of a trained IELTS  professional tutor. Not only will an IELTS lecturer be able to tell you about your estimated IELTS score, but they will also be able to help you improve it as well.


Both the IELTS and the TOEFL exams are popular language proficiency exams. If you need to prove your language skills in order to secure your university admissions spot or visa application, then you probably need to take either the IELTS or the TOEFL. The question is which one? In this article, we will take a look at how to choose between taking the IELTS or the TOEFL exam.

The TOEFL Exam


The TOEFL exam is a standardized test of English that is a common requirement for entry in higher-level learning institutes like universities. It is a test of a candidate's academic English language skills and cannot be used for immigration proposes. The test assesses a candidate's performance. The TOEFL exam has 4 main areas Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking, and is about 3 hours long.

The IELTS Exam


The IELTS Exam is a language proficiency test that can be used to assess the language skills of a non-native speaker, for both work and study purposes. There are quite a few differences in the way in which the exams are constructed as well as their content.

What Are The Differences Between These Two Tests

The IELTS exam has a wider range of quarter types while the TOEFL questions are mostly just multiple-choice questions. The TOEFL exam is also just 3 hours long compared to the IELTS which is 2 hours and 45 Minutes The major difference between the two exams is how the speaking test is conducted.

The IELTS exam uses a one on one in-person interview between the candidate and the examiner after the speaking test. The TOEFL speaking test is fully computerized, your responses are recorded and then assessed

During the TOEFL listening test is fully you will only hear speakers with American accents, while the IELTS exams use speakers of accents. For the TOEFL writing test, your responses must be typed. However, for the IELTS exam, you have a choice between the Paper-based and computer-based test.

Which Test Should You Choose


In the end, both of these tests are language proficiency tests with high standards. They both require In-depth/thorough preparation. the test that you choose depends mostly on your personal preference such as how comfortable you are with typing or do you prefer to in-person speaking test or to use recordings instead. You also need to consider which type of test the institution you are applying to accepts and what their score requirements are..