The side view a human head, with many cogs turning to symbolise the problem of generating ideas for your IELTS essay

How can you develop ideas for your IELTS essay? So, you are sitting in the exam room feeling confident. You have prepared well. You know how to organise all the possible types of essay. You can use distancing, and referencing, and hedging. Your use of transition signals is superb. Everything is good in the world. But then, the exam starts, you open the question booklet, read the task and……………….Nothing 😯…………… You don’t have a single idea 🙄………. Not one 💀……… Your head is totally empty 🤔 ………………….. There’s just you, the question, and a growing sense of panic.😱 What do you do? How can you brainstorm ideas for your IELTS essay when inspiration fails you? 😰

A hand holds a pair of scales to signify the importance of adding balance in an IELTS agree/disagree essay

How can I add balance to my IELTS agree/disagree essay? When you open your exam paper and see the instruction Discuss both views and give your own opinion, it’s obvious that you HAVE TO give equal space to both opinions in your essay to fully address all parts of the task. But, what happens when the instruction asks you To what extent do you agree or disagree? Is it still important to discuss both “sides” of an argument, or are you free to have a “strong” position? And, if you do consider the other position, how and where can you do this in your essay so that your position remains clear? I mean, how can you show “balance” when arguing your own opinion? Well,[…]

The yellow M of Mcdonalds sits on a red background to show that IELTS is a franchise and to assess the question British Council vs IDP?

British Council vs IDP? Many students who are just starting their IELTS journey ask the question:  IDP or the British Council, which one is better? And, I understand why, I mean, it’s logical – there has to be SOME difference between them, right? There can’t be two organisations offering exactly the same service to people, can there? Well, yes, there can! 😲

A cartoon image of 2 hands shaking inside a pink circle on a light blue background symbolise the importance of Subject / Verb Agreement in IELTS essays

So, you’ve finished writing your essay but there’s 2 minutes left in the exam – what do you check for first? ⏱ Well, there are lots of mistakes that students make in their essays – articles, unnecessary passives, fragments, bad use of contrast clauses, etc –  but perhaps none are as costly as  💀 NOT having subject / verb agreement 💀 So, in today’s post I want start by looking at what subject / verb agreement is, and how you can avoid the most common errors made by many IELTS test-takers.

The outline of two heads lit up in neon constantly point at each other in anger. The picture is used to symbolise how a student feels when the examiner interrupts them in the IELTS exam by an examiner

Why did the IELTS examiner keep on interrupting me in the Speaking Test? This is a question that I see time and time again in Facebook groups. Well, actually, it’s not usually a question, but a complaint. An angry complaint that accuses the examiner of ruining the student’s speaking performance.

A skull and crossbones inside a dark grey circle sit on a pink background. The images symbolises the dangers of paraphrasing when writing an IELTS essay

The dangers of paraphrasing in IELTS essays So, if I was allowed to give one ONE tip to an IELTS test-taker before they sat their writing exam, it wouldn’t be to learn how to organise all of the different types of essay, it wouldn’t be make sure they included lots of complex sentences in their work, it wouldn’t even be to make sure they directly answer the question! No, it would be BE CAREFUL OF PARAPHRASING!

A beautifully half-sketched horse is completed with a rough outline of a head. The picture is used to symbolise what to do if you run out of time in the IELTS writing exam.

Imagine this – there’s five minutes left in the exam and you are only halfway through your second body paragraph! What do you do?!   WRITE A CONCLUSION!

A red and white cartoon alarm clock sits on a dark grey background. The image conveys that the post will discuss how long you should talk for in IELTS Speaking Part 1

IELTS Speaking Part 1 lasts between 4 and 5 minutes, during which the examiner should ask you between 7 and 11 questions. Think about that – 5 minutes for 11 questions. That works out at about 27 seconds per question (including the time it takes the examiner to ask them!). It’s not a great deal of time, but it’s such a short amount either. (I mean – it’s a quarter of your cue card time!) Now, I have seen a lot of sites that tells students to answer each Part 1 question in 2 or 3 sentences. In general, I think that this is great advice. 💥 IN GENERAL! 💥

I think that nothing that fills an IELTS test-taker with fear as much as the idea of being handed a Speaking Part 2 cue card and having NO IDEAS. In fact, just the idea of sitting there for 60 seconds with nothing  but the the sound of your own beating heart in your head and the taste of panic in your mouth is the stuff of nightmares 💀. But, fear not, in today’s blog, I want to show you six techniques that you can use to make sure that you ALWAYS have something to say in your two-minute talk.

An image of an eye looks though a magnifying glass. Below the eye there is a stop watch. The photo symbolises how you have to add details in IELTS Speaking Part 2 in order to be able to speak or 2 minutes.

I want to start this post by telling you something that you might find a bit shocking. Are you ready? In IELTS Speaking Part 1, you don’t need to address all of the bullet points on the cue card. That’s right, there is no penalty for missing one, or two or even three!  😲