March 27, 2011

12 things you should know about IELTS listening

Here are some of the basic stuff about the IELTS Listening test. Read on:

1) The test has 4 sections.

2) It has a total of 40 questions.

3) A recording will be played. Candidates will hear the recording only once.

4) Candidates will hear a number of speakers who may have different accents.

5) Sections 1 and 2 of the test relate to everyday social situations.

6) In the said sections, candidates should listen for factual information.

7) Sections 3 and 4 are situated in an academic context.

8) A lecturer may be the speaker in Section 4.

9) Sections 2 and 4 are monologues.

10) Candidates are given time to read the questions, as well as given time to write down and check their answers.

11) Candidates should be careful when transferring their answers to the answer sheet, as grammar and spelling are checked.

12) Main question types are multiple choice, short answer questions, sentence completion, note/summary/flow-chart/table completion, labelling a diagram, classification, and matching.

Check out our other IELTS overview posts:

March 20, 2011

[HOW TO] Check if a pronoun agrees with its antecedent

Chain Linkage
Photo credit: Max Klingensmith on Flickr.

Grammatical Range and Accuracy is a criteria in the IELTS Writing and Speaking Modules. When examiners check for grammatical accuracy, they find out the number of errors in the IELTS candidate's language.

Occasionally, we encounter some errors with regard to pronouns and their antecedents. For a review, an antecedent is a noun that the pronoun refers to. For instance:
"I am Alma."

"I" is a pronoun. Who or what does it stand for? It stands for "Alma". Thus, the antecedent of "I" is "Alma".

There would be times however, when students would get confused. They would use pronouns then commit mistakes when the said pronouns are linked to antecedents.

Consider these examples:
a. "I like Ricky Martin. Her music is very good." (from Mikey Bustos whose video we featured a couple of weeks ago. :) )

b. "If candidates study and practice often, then you could increase the chances of achieving a high score in the IELTS exam."

c. "If candidates aim to get high scores in the IELTS test, then he must study and practice often."

You'll notice that the underlined words are pronouns that do not correctly agree with their antecedents. Mistakes such as these prevent you from obtaining a high score in the IELTS.

How do you determine the proper agreement between pronouns and antecedents? Here's a checklist:

1. Make sure that the pronoun agrees with its antecedent in gender (male or female).

Using the the first example above, the sentence should thus be:
"I like Ricky Martin. His music is very good."

2. Make sure that the pronoun agrees with its antecedent in person (first person, second person, third person).

The second example should accordingly be:
"If candidates study and practice often, then they could increase their chances of achieving a high score in the IELTS exam." ("candidates" and "they" are in the third person)

3. Finally, make sure that the pronoun agrees with its antecedent in number (singular or plural).

The third example should consequently be:
"If candidates aim to get high scores in the IELTS test, then they must study and practice often." ("candidates" and "they" are plural)

March 13, 2011

9 essential things for your IELTS toolbox

Treasure chest
Photo credit: DrBacchus on Flickr.

We highly recommend that you build up your toolkit for your IELTS exam day. Not only would this save you time, but this would also enable you to at least approximate a hassle-free experience during the exam. A number of things mentioned here are the standard things prescribed by the British Council or the IDP. We however added some things that, in our experience, have helped us during special situations and emergencies. Here you go:

1. ID

Make sure that your ID is the same as the photocopy you've submitted when you registered for the exam with the British Council or the IDP.

2. Wooden Pencils

We prefer the No. 2 type. Bring at least 2 or 3 pieces. It's better to be prepared. Who knows... You might be able to gather some good karma should you decide to lend your extra pencil to a fellow candidate who's in need. :)

3. Eraser

Well, some candidates just cross out words whenever they make mistakes. But, an eraser would help keep your written work neat.

4. Sharpener

We love to have this as a sort of insurance against broken pencil tips.

5. Medicines

At times, your body reacts unpredictably to stress. Thus, let your medicine come to the rescue. Bring those which address loose bowel movement and fever.

6. Bottled water

If you need to take your medicine, you'll consequently need to be ready with your bottle of water. Just make sure that you take the label off the bottle, otherwise, you won't be able to bring it inside the test area.

7. Candies

A number of our students have used candies to help them relax during the IELTS exams.

8. Confidence

We can't stress this point enough. Having positive thoughts and thinking that you'll succeed can indeed work wonders.

9. Presence of mind

Remember the things you've learned during your IELTS preparation or review. Also, be mindful and conscious of the errors that you have done during your many practice sessions. Avoid committing these mistakes again during the exams.

To sum it up, be one step ahead. Prepare your way to IELTS success. In the words of self-help author Florence Scovel Shinn, "If one asks for success and prepares for failure, he will get the situation he has prepared for."

We hope you liked our tips for today. Oh, did we miss something? Feel free to add more to the list.


March 6, 2011

IELTS, Pronunciation, and the Filipino "F," "V," and "TH" Sounds

In the IELTS speaking test, one criteria checked by your examiners is pronunciation. Pronunciation is basically the manner in which a person utters a word. In the IELTS, it is about how the candidates can be easily understood. In other words, to get high scores when it comes to pronunciation, IELTS candidates should always pronounce words in the correct manner. They must also make use of proper stress and intonation. And they should also be mindful of their voice, which needs to be strong and clear.

We've been noticing a number of Filipinos who have difficulty pronouncing the letters "F" and "V". They tend to pronounce "F" as having a "P" sound, and have the habit of making the "B" sound instead of "V". With regard to the "TH" sound, some Filipinos either make a "T" sound, or make a "D" sound. Incidentally, we have discovered a video that describes what we are talking about. We're referring to the funny Mikey Bustos video tutorial on the Filipino accent.

Funny and familiar, right? Well, that could be problematic when it comes to the IELTS speaking test. What if you were talking about a "fact," but because of wrong habits you instead utter "pact"? Also, what would happen if you intended to say the word "vote", but the examiner instead hears the word "boat"?

Without a doubt, your score would be adversely affected by your incorrect pronunciation of the words.

How do you correctly produce the "F," "V," and "TH" sounds? Follow these techniques.

Re: "F"

Make the "F" sound by putting your top teeth on your lower lip and blowing air through your teeth.

Re: "V"

You make the "V" sound by also putting your top teeth on your lower lip and blowing air through your teeth. There is however a difference. In this situation you'd also have to use your voice in addition to merely blowing air.

Here's a video that demonstrates how to do them:

Re: "TH"

There are two different "TH" sounds in English - one for words such as "teeth" and the other for words such as "that". However both are similar in that they are made by putting your tongue between your teeth so that the tip of your tongue is touching the tips of your top teeth.

Note the differences though. The first can be done by making a "TH" sound by blowing air through your teeth. On the other hand, the second involves making a "TH" sound by also using your voice.

Once again, here are some videos that could help:

Now that you've learned how to make the "F," "V," and "TH" sounds, practice them often. You'll be on your way to improving your pronunciation.


Special thanks to our friend Joey-Joy Bach for his insights. Attribution to mikeybustosvideos, Sounds of English, JonTeachesEnglish, and JenniferESL for the helpful lessons and videos.

Other IELTS speaking tips: