Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Movng to Sydney, Australia - Preparing for the IELTS - English Language test?


If you are applying for one of the many visa's available to you for your migration to Australia and English is not you or your countries first language, you will be required to prove you are English speaking or pass an English test.

Annoyingly, I remember taking the oral part of the IELTS and that they played out a tape recording with questions.  I think it was the overseer who kept coughing at exactly the wrong times! Although I passed quite easily and so did my wife, I missed a good couple of questions because I could not hear them. Please remember, as it's a replayed recording, there is not second chance, you need to focus and focus immediately. The recording churns on and does not wait for you. If you miss a question just focus on the next one so you don't miss anymore.

I recently spoke to someone who is an experienced teacher of 2nd language English speakers and who has been teaching in Australia for 28 years now.  He has actually focused only on exam preparations for IELTS and Cambridge advanced for the last few years.

His advice for the Australian IELTS is :
The reading test of the IELTS is quite difficult. Time is your enemy. Some people spend ages reading the text and run out of time when answering the questions. Native English speakers might be able to read the whole text in detail, but most cant as it takes to much time. (I did this)
Here are some bullet points

1. SKIM the text only looking for the main idea of the text by checking the heading, pictures and their captions. Always look at the firsts sentence of each paragraph. The first sentence is likely to be the topical sentences, telling you what is in the actual paragraph. This is called locating where the information is in the text. Do this in three to five minutes. This will set you up to come back for answers as you go through the questions.

2. For each question note or highlight the key words. You will be please to see that you can already answer a lot of questions already as a result of the initial three minute browse through the passage.

3. Work your way through each left over question by scanning the passage text the correct answers. Please remember that time is the killer here. Rather get the 80 to 90% of answers you know quickly and then when you have time left over go for the hard ones.

4) Once finished, CHECK your work. Those possible questions you answered incorrectly could be the difference. Keep checking until the time is over. Stay calm and focused. DO NOT flip your sheet over feeling satisfied as soon as you hit the last question. Check the hard ones. Sometimes we make the silliest mistakes.

5) In the True, False and Not Given or Yes/No/Does Not Say sections, don't be a clever dick and use your own knowledge, logic or common sense. Since these are  reading tests, the examination is on precisely what is in the text - EVEN if it wrong.

6) Watch out for "bold" defining words like "all, every, no, none, always and never" : These are not quite always true, as there will be exceptions or tricks.

7) DO  NOT skip a hard question, especially in the multiple choice sections. Come back, try to answer it, and then GUESS. Marks or points are not subtracted for wrong answers! Give yourself a chance!

8) Always make sure you read the instructions carefully.
For example -- "Write no more than two words and/or a number". Don't exceed this! Anything else will be wrong. Its a clue to the answer.

9) Check all your pages. Make sure you have not skipped any questions. There are normally 40 questions. check the back page.

Check check check - nothing more painful than doing it again when you could have passed it the first time.

10) Don't be nervous. The stress we went through preparing and at the test was not equivalent to the test itself. This is no university English, just standard English. The Oral tester was very friendly, they are not there to be nasty or trick you, just to see if you can communicate.

I think both my wife and I had a nice conversation with the Oral tester and had a bit of a laugh too. Nerves will kill you, be honest, communicate as clearly as you can. Think about the tester you are talking too, he will ask questions. Talking is communicating so ensure you give him the info he needs to feel his questions are being answered.

Good luck people. Hope it goes well!
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