Structuring Your IELTS Letter (Part 2)

In a previous blog post, we began exploring a formula called ODAC, which basically breaks up your IELTS letter into four key elements – Opening, Details, Action and Closing. If used appropriately, it could help you structure your IELTS letter effectively, improving your chances of securing a high band score for the task.  

Read on to find out more about the remaining two parts of the formula.

Action

As mentioned previously, there are always three bullet points presented in the question for you to address in your letter. Although there are no hard and fast rules about formulating the bullet points, one of them, which is usually the third, will very often be something action-oriented – for example, say what action you would like the company to take or suggest someone he/she could take in your place. In other words, you will be asked to perform some kind of action, such as making a request, giving instructions, proposing solutions, providing an explanation, laying out a plan or making suggestions.

In order for you to explicitly state what you are intending to do next or what you would like the recipient to do, spend some time learning useful functional language (i.e. set phrases). That way, you will find it easier to finish writing the task in the recommended twenty minutes.

Closing

The opening, as well as closing of your letter, should perfectly fit the tone you’ve used in the letter. The word ‘tone’ refers to the way in which (formal or informal) you write the letter. Generally speaking, the tone is decided on considering who you’ve been asked to write to, the context, and the purpose.

Even though getting the closing of the letter right might seem to be the least of your worries, please be aware that using an inappropriate closing formula will most definitely have an adverse impact on your final Writing score.

So, now that you know how the ODAC formula can help you structure your Task 1 response in the IELTS General Training test, it’d perhaps be a good idea to give yourself some practice using it before test day. Good luck!

Structuring Your IELTS Letter (Part 1)

In IELTS General Training Writing Task 1, test takers are presented with a situation and asked to write a letter in a personal, semi-formal, or formal style. You may be asked to request for or give information and/or explain a situation. The situation is normally a common, everyday one that is easy to relate to.

A wide range of writing skills is assessed, including your ability to write an appropriate response, organise ideas and use a range of vocabulary and grammar accurately. In this blog series, you will learn about an easy way to structure your IELTS letter – the ODAC formula. The acronym stands for Opening, Details, Action, and Closing. 

Opening

It may be stating the obvious, but you should ideally begin by indicating the purpose of writing if it is a formal or semi-formal letter you have been asked to write. It might be a good idea to learn a few functional phrases that will help you do this. Here are a couple of examples:

  • I am writing with regard to
  • I am writing to let you know that

A personal letter, on the other hand, does not always need to have the purpose stated in the very first sentence. Instead, you could begin in a casual manner – for instance, express your feelings or ask about the recipient’s well-being – and then mention the reason for writing.  

Details

Test takers are told what sort of information they must include in their response. This is usually presented in the form of three bullet points, which need to be covered sufficiently in order for your response to receive a high band score. Remember, a single bullet point may sometimes require you to do two things (e.g. explain where and when you left the item). Now that you’re aware of this possibility, do look out for the use of ‘and’ and plural forms. Leaving out any part of the bulleted list will automatically invite a penalty, lowering your score on the Task Achievement criterion. A good way of ensuring that you produce a fully developed response is to see that there is a paragraph written around each bullet point.   

Do read the next part in this series to know more about the rest of the ODAC formula.

IELTS: Special Arrangements (Part 1)

IELTS, the world’s most popular English language test for higher education and global migration, makes every effort to see to it that the language ability of all test takers is assessed fairly and objectively. To this end, special arrangements can be made for test takers with accessibility requirements.

If you are someone who has special requirements, such as visual difficulties, hearing difficulties, speaking difficulties, learning difficulties, medical conditions, or infant feeding, British Council test centres will be willing to help you in different ways. In this series of blog posts, you will get to read about some of these special arrangements.

Visual difficulties

Test takers with visual difficulties can request for enlarged print question papers that make use of Arial 18-point bold font in place of the Arial 11-point font used in regular question papers. Blind individuals who are able to read Braille can opt for Braille question papers. Depending on the severity of visual difficulty, extra time can be allotted to a test taker at the discretion of the test centre depending on their specific needs.

You can request for the assistance of a scribe or reader during the test if you are unable to read or write. If so, your test centre will also have to request for a modified CD for the Listening section from Cambridge Assessment English so that there is enough time available for the scribe/reader to work.

Hearing Difficulties

Those who are hard of hearing may be able to put in a request with their IELTS test centre for a modified Listening CD that includes additional pauses and plays the listening extracts twice. Remember, separate invigilation will be required if you opt for this arrangement.

A hearing-impaired version of the Listening section is also available for those who you can lip-read in English, or for those who find processing recorded sound challenging but are able to access human voices. Instead of playing a recording, a trained member of the venue staff will read a script to you out loud so that you are able to access the test content through hearing, lip-reading, or a combination of both.

If you wish to know how IELTS can support individuals with speaking and learning difficulties, do read the next part in this series.

Resitting the IELTS Test (Part 2)

If you are yet to achieve your IELTS goals and need to retake the test, you’ve come to the right place. In the previous part, we looked at the importance of being in a positive frame of mind and discovering all there is to know about the test pattern and marking scheme.  

Read on to find out what more you could do to avoid disappointment when you resit IELTS.

4. Identify areas that need improvement

There is little sense in retaking IELTS without first honing your language skills and improving your ability to use strategies and time effectively. And such improvement is only possible if you identify what went wrong in your previous attempt. Dissect your performance – for instance, think about where you lost time or identify which task types bamboozled you – and you should have all the answers. If targeted feedback is what you’re looking for, you could opt for the official IELTS practice test, IELTS Progress Check. That way, you will get to practise in timed conditions, and receive an official feedback report and indicative band scores afterwards.

5. Set realistic goals

To avoid disappointment, it is extremely important that you remain realistic throughout your IELTS journey, setting yourself attainable goals. Before you have another shot at passing the test, think whether you would want to prepare on your own or seek professional help (e.g. enrol on a preparatory course, get regular feedback from an IELTS expert). It is absolutely imperative that you make an informed decision at this stage so that you don’t falter. If there is a massive difference between your previous IELTS scores and the scores you require, it is best to enlist the help of a trained expert. They can tell you how exactly you would be able to build your test skills and improve your language ability. By assessing your current level of English, they can also determine how long you may have to prepare in order to pass IELTS. Remember, if you don’t make a significant effort to improve your English and/or test skills before retaking IELTS, your scores are unlikely to improve. So, stop feeling frustrated, pull your socks up and set your sights on getting those elusive IELTS scores you need.

Resitting the IELTS Test (Part 1)

IELTS is the world’s most popular English-language test for work, study, and migration, which is trusted by over 11,000 organisations worldwide. With high stakes riding on the results, how you fare in the test pretty much decides the sort of opportunities that are likely to come your way soon after.

Failing to get the IELTS scores you require the first time round is not the end of the world, though: you can apply to sit the test again as soon as you feel up to the task. In this series, we’ve put together some useful suggestions for anyone planning to retake IELTS.   

1. Be in the right frame of mind

In an ideal world, we would pass every test we take at the very first attempt. However, in real life things do not always go according to plan. It is only natural that our confidence takes a hit on such occasions. Don’t feel pressured to make another attempt straight away. Instead, come to terms with what has happened, give yourself enough time to feel relaxed and buoyant, and only then should you sit IELTS again.  

2. Read up on the test format

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt, but as far as language tests go, having a thorough knowledge of the test format boosts your confidence and helps you perform to the best of your ability. So, devour every bit of information you can find about the format of IELTS. Also, knowing the various task types in advance will allow you time to practise the ones you find tricky.  

3. Improve your understanding of marking

No matter how good your English is, understanding how your language skills are going to be assessed is enormously important before you take a test. See to it that you read and understand the IELTS band descriptors so that you know how Examiners award a band score for each of the four criteria in Writing and Speaking. You can find the public version of the IELTS band descriptors here. Similarly, find out how Listening and Reading scores are calculated.

You can find more handy tips for resitting IELTS in the next part, so do read it without fail.

How Does IELTS Prepare Me for US Study?

Do you believe the IELTS test helps you prepare for study in the United States? Believe it or not, your preparation for the test, your focus on spoken, written, read, and heard English, and the steps you must take to do your best on test day all matter. That time, effort, and preparation you are taking now to take IELTS is an excellent preview of what your studies in the U.S. would involve.

Research Resources

Perhaps most surprisingly, over 3,400 institutions in the United States already accept IELTS. Most importantly, all the top 50 colleges and universities ranked by US News and World Report readily say that IELTS is acceptable for international students needing to document their English language proficiency.

As you may have already found, the Prepare for IELTS section of the British Council website provides excellent online tools to help you get ready for the test, including several free practice tests as well as resources to improve your reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. All four of those skills are absolutely essential for your studies at a U.S. college or university.

Practice the Skills You Will Use

Ideally, as you search for universities in the United States that have the academic subject you wish to study and meet other requirements you have (size, location, climate, costs, etc.), you should research what band scores you will need to meet the English language proficiency standards each institution sets for non-native speakers. Most colleges will have at least an overall score minimum to begin a full academic load of courses in your first term. Some will also set minimum band scores across the four sections of the IELTS test.

As always, you can prepare for test day with practice tests that will share your anticipated individual band scores as well as your overall result. Be sure to check those results to see what areas you may need to focus on before taking the official test.

Fulfil The Requirements

In terms of tips you can use to use IELTS as the key to unlock your door to a U.S. higher education, there are three pieces of advice we can offer:

  • Apply with confidence – have faith in your abilities to succeed.
  • Meet your deadlines – yes, the dates set for application deadlines matter.
  • Achieve your dreams – use your IELTS preparation and testing experiences to realize your goals.

Resources For International Applicants to US Colleges and Universities

For more discussion on this topic, check out our Facebook Live chat from April 2022 on this subject.

Little-known Facts about IELTS (Part 3)

An increasingly mobile international workforce is also a factor that has boosted the popularity of IELTS. It is now the most widely used test for visa and citizenship purposes in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

In this final part, we will uncover for you some more interesting facts about the delivery of the IELTS test.

Test security measures

IELTS adopts a multi-layered approach to test security to protect the integrity of test results. To begin with, there are tight regulations surrounding the storage and handling of test material. Tailor-made biometric systems are used at test venues to verify the identity of test takers, right from when they first arrive till they complete the last section of the test. Strict test conditions prevail at test venues to thwart any attempts at copying or collusion. To help identify imposters, detect fraudulent behaviour and prevent cheating, test centre staff undergo intensive training periodically.

Once a test session concludes, routine inspection of test results has to happen before scores can be released.  Test takers receive a Test Report Form (TRF), which is printed on security-enhanced paper and authenticated by an IELTS validation stamp. The TRF also contains a high-resolution photograph of the test taker. Finally, as an additional safeguard against fraudulent documents, a recognising organisation (e.g. college, immigration authority) can verify online the authenticity of every IELTS TRF presented to them. All they need to do is sign up for the free IELTS TRF Verification Service: it will enable them to check if the results they receive match the results on the IELTS database.

Getting help

While the test is in progress, test takers can seek help from test centre staff if the need arises. For example, if you believe you have received the wrong question paper, or if the question paper you have is incomplete or illegible, immediately raise your hand. An invigilator will then approach you and offer assistance. Similarly, if you experience trouble with your headphones during the Listening section, an invigilator will be at hand to sort it out. However, do not expect test centre staff to provide any explanation of the test questions!

So, if you need proof of your competence in English, then look no further than IELTS, the test that more than 11,000 organisations across the globe trust implicitly.

Little-known Facts about IELTS (Part 2)

The internationalisation of higher education in recent times has been a key factor that has driven the demand for IELTS. Given that the test is recognised for entrance to universities and colleges across the English-speaking world, it is the preferred way for most youngsters aspiring to get a foreign education to demonstrate their English proficiency.   

In this blog post, we will talk about some of the measures that make IELTS fair and highly reliable.

Ensuring quality and fairness

Over the years, IELTS has established itself as an assessment tool that is fair to all test takers, whatever their nationality, cultural background, gender or special needs.

For a start, it assesses language skills, not specialist knowledge, so the topics covered are all quite general in nature. The test measures practical communication ability, which means that learning prepared answers by rote will not get test takers anywhere. One of the pluses of IELTS is that it recognises all standard varieties of native-speaker English, such as Australian English, British English and New Zealand English. You can rest assured that your background will in no way affect the outcome of the test.

There are safeguards and systems in place to ensure that the delivery of the test is both consistent and secure. Unique test versions, for instance, are created so that test takers will never sit the same test twice. Furthermore, each test version is subject to routine analysis in order to check whether the performances of test materials, test takers and Examiners are in line with expected standards.

Reliability of test results

Not many people know that all active IELTS Examiners receive periodic feedback on their performance. This task is performed by a team of IELTS Principal Examiners and Assistant Principal Examiners, who second-mark selected Speaking and Writing performances to check assessment quality.  Additionally, if there is a significant difference between a test taker’s scores – for example, a band 5 for Reading and band 8 for Speaking – the IELTS computer system flags it up so that double marking is carried out without fail. Do not miss the final part in this blog post series – among other things, you will get to read about IELTS test security regulations.

Little-known Facts about IELTS (Part 1)

If you are looking to work, live or study in an English-speaking country, then the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) can help you do just that by letting you demonstrate your ability to use English effectively in a variety of real-world contexts. The test is accepted by more than 11,000 employers, universities, schools and immigration bodies, including 3,400 institutions in the USA.

In this blog post series, you will get to discover some little-known facts about the world’s leading language test of English for international migration and higher education.

Getting the perfect score

If you count yourself among those who believe that the perfect IELTS score – i.e. band 9 – is something that only a native English speaker can conjure up, then you are gravely mistaken! The truth of the matter is that native and non-native English speakers have an even chance of producing an IELTS band 9.

In IELTS Speaking, for instance, a native English speaker will get a score lower on pronunciation if their accent has considerable effect on intelligibility. On the other hand, a non-native speaker who is able to use a full range of pronunciation features with precision and subtlety, and who is effortless to understand will get rated a band 9 on this criterion. It’s your skill that matters, nothing else!

Test development

Launched in 1989, IELTS has built its worldwide reputation over the years by undertaking extensive research to provide secure, reliable testing that meets the needs of users across a wide range of sectors. Rigorous test design, development and validation processes are in place to ensure that every version of the test is of a comparable level of difficulty.

For example, did you know that test writers from different English-speaking countries, such as Australia, Canada and the UK, are involved in developing IELTS content so that it reflects real-life situations around the world? To ensure that IELTS is unbiased and fair to all test takers, new test questions are extensively trialled with people from different cultures.

We will reveal more surprising facts about the world’s most popular language test in subsequent parts of this series.

Preparing for IELTS on Computer

IELTS, the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and migration, can now be taken on a computer.

In this blog post, we will talk about our online resources that can help you get acquainted with the IELTS on computer test.

Find out how it works

The British Council’s Take IELTS website has several video tutorials that will help you understand how computer-delivered testing works. As well as an introductory video that focuses on some general features, the website has tutorials on different sections of the test. You can also find videos that give step-by-step guidance on using various features of the test, such as highlighting text and making notes.

Where to go: https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/take-ielts/prepare/ielts-on-computer/how-it-works

Access sample test questions

Finding IELTS materials online these days is as easy as falling off a log – there are scores of websites with information, tips and practice tests. Unfortunately, practice tests found on the internet may not contain task types that are similar to the ones used in the actual test, making them unsuitable for test preparation.

You needn’t fret about it, though, as you can access official sample test questions to have an authentic experience of three sections of IELTS on computer – Listening, Reading and Writing. And what is more, you will find sample task types for both IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training.

Where to go: https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/take-ielts/prepare/ielts-on-computer/practice-tests

Attempt the familiarisation test

What better way to prepare for IELTS than by taking an official mock examination, that too for free? The IELTS on computer familiarisation test lets you do just that! Lasting 2 hours and 30 minutes, just like the real test, it is a full sample version that has the Listening, Reading and Writing sections. On completion, you get results for the Listening and Reading sections too. And as there is no need to book or register beforehand, you can take the familiarisation test at a moment’s notice. 

Where to go: https://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/take-ielts/prepare/ielts-on-computer/familiarisation-test

If you need to take IELTS, opting for computer-delivered testing will certainly be a smart move, as it has increased test availability and faster results turnaround times. Just make sure you find out in advance how your test day will look like.

Pin It on Pinterest